Unraveling the Debate on Reading Quran in Arabic vs. English
Do I have to read Quran in Arabic if I don’t understand it?
Isn’t it pointless to read Quran in a language I don’t know?
We always get these questions at IQRA, and there’s a simple answer!
Yes, reading Quran in Arabic can be difficult for non-native Arabic speakers. Or for those that did not grow up learning to read Arabic from an early age.
It’s brought about a debate on whether there’s any point in reading Quran in Arabic when you don’t understand it.
Do any of these sound familiar:
“Why should we read something we don’t understand, in a language we don’t understand, when we can read a translation we DO understand?!”
“Isn’t the Quran supposed to be a guide? How can I be guided by a language if I don’t understand it?”
While these are valid points from a reasoning point of view, let’s remember what Quran is.
Quran is a book that has far-reaching benefits beyond what our logical minds can grasp.
Quran Is Only in Arabic – Defining The Quran
The Arabic Quran is the only Quran in Shariah because that is how it was revealed. Anything other than that is not Quran; instead, it is a translation of the Quran.
Translations understand the general message of the Quran, but it does not accurately relay all of the Quran’s contents, which can only be derived from Arabic. Any rulings and guidance from Quran are taken from the one and only Quran revealed in Arabic and not in another language.
Other languages of the Quran are merely a man’s interpretation of the general content within the Quran.
Quran, in translation, is a man-made version of a divine revelation. Incomparable comparison.
“And thus, We have revealed it as an Arabic legislation. And if you should follow their inclinations after what has come to you of knowledge, you would not have against Allāh any ally or any protector.”
(Quran 13: 37)
Allah revealed it in Arabic, and He chose that language for all of humanity. It answers the argument: “Why read the Quran in Arabic if I don’t understand it?”
Quran is Dhikr
“We, Ourselves, have sent down the Dhikr (the Qur’an), and We are there to protect it.”
All the virtues attributed to dhikr (remembrance of Allah) include the entirety of the Quran.
When you read Quran in Arabic, it is dhikr.
Whether you memorize a portion of the Quran in Arabic, read it daily, or recite only one verse, it is all considered a remembrance of Allah. There are books on the merits of doing dhikr, from how it impacts our being to the rewards in the afterlife.
A quick search on YouTube will show non-Muslims listening to the Arabic recitation of the Quran. They do it because it’s so peaceful! Reading Quran in Arabic stirs a sense of calm and ease within, and it settles the heart and the mind.
Until you make reading Quran in Arabic a daily part of your life, you won’t fully understand how it alters your internal state. The soul becomes content.
“The ones who believe and their hearts are peaceful with the remembrance of Allah. Listen, the hearts find peace only with the remembrance of Allah.”
Quran Was Revealed in Arabic
“And this (Quran) is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds, which is brought by the Trusted Spirit.
Down to your heart, so that you become one of the warners in plain Arabic language.”
Quran is Allah’s word exactly as it was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
No translations can replace the words of the Quran, and those who study Arabic can tell you the endless depths and layers of the Quran. Just adding or subtracting one letter can create a debate among scholars about the meaning. And the implications of the command changes.
Reading Quran in any other language is not reading THE Quran.
Reading the English Quran (or any other translation) is meant only to grasp its meaning at a surface level. The Quran was relayed to us word for word in Arabic.
It is also preserved precisely in the same manner through the memorization of Muslims across the globe. This is not only the beauty of the Quran but its miracle.
Even if we don’t understand Arabic, we still spiritually benefit just by reading the Word of Allah, word-for-word.
Musa Al-Ash’ari said: “The Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘The parable of the believer who recites the Qur’an is that of a citron, the taste, and smell of which are good. The parable of a believer who does not read the Qur’an is that of a date, the taste of which is good, but it has no smell. The parable of a hypocrite who reads the Qur’an is that of basil, the smell of which is good, but its taste is bitter. And the parable of a hypocrite who does not read the Qur’an is that of a colocynth (bitter-apple), the taste of which is bitter and it has no smell.'” Sunan an-Nasa’i 5038
Rewards For Reading Quran in Arabic
The reward for reading the Quran is for reading it in Arabic, and the merits of reciting different chapters in the Quran are only applicable when reading THE Quran in Arabic. Of course, all rewards and punishments are ultimately with Allah.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah, he will receive one good deed as ten good deeds like it. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim is one letter, but rather Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter, and Mim is a letter.” Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2910
Just as reading salat in English is not permitted or a viable substitute, reading the English version of the Quran is not considered a substitute for Arabic. One does not replace the other, and reading the Quran in English is a supplement to the original.
Ideally, we as Muslims must strive to learn Arabic to understand Allah’s word in the manner He revealed it.
But until then, we can reference a translation simply to grasp the main elements of the Quran. To read Quran in Arabic bears infinite rewards known only to Allah.
Have you always wanted to read Quran in Arabic? Even if you don’t know one letter in Arabic, Quran is for you too!
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