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Fatima is Fatima

by : Dr. Ali Shari'ati

Back You are here: Home Books Miscellaneous Islam, the Qur'an and the Arabic Literature

Islam, the Qur'an and the Arabic Literature - Conclusion

Article Index

The Arabic language has without doubt served as a very effective medium for the communication of the message of Islam, and as the Prophet's strongest argument against the challenges of his articulate and eloquent contemporaries. It has also served as a means for preserving the cultural and religious heritage of Arabic-speaking and Muslim peoples.

In this sense, the language has been extremely useful to the religion. However, in its role as the language of the Qur'an, Arabic has benefited enormously. There is a clear legitimacy to the claim that Islam and the Qur'an have helped to preserve Arabic from decay and deterioration, for it was mainly due to the need to preserve the accuracy and pronunciation of the verses of the Qur'an that efforts were instigated towards refining the Arabic alphabet.

Subsequently, the Qur'an was instrumental in the codification of Arabic grammar in the second the third Islamic centuries. Furthermore, the need for Muslims, whether native or non-native speakers of Arabic, to memorize and recite verses from the Qur'an in their daily worship has helped to keep the Arabic language alive. It was due to its association with Islam and the Qur'an that Arabic gained a good deal of prestige as the language of a young faith, a faith that was gaining more and more followers with each new day.

The interest in the new faith this brought with it interest in the language of that faith. It was under the banner of Islam that Arabic spread beyond the borders of the Arabian Peninsula to far-off areas in Europe, south-east Asia, and Africa.

From literary, structural, and stylistic points of view, the Qur'an added immeasurably to the beauty of the language, introducing new styles, forms of expression, figures of speech, and structures. The Qur'an also enriched and expanded the vocabulary of the Arabic language by employing hundreds of words of foreign origin, thus demonstrating the legitimacy of lexical borrowing as a linguistic device.

The Qur'an similarly presented Arab scholars with a higher criterion of literary excellence and set new and more rigid standards for literary composition for subsequent generations of Arab scholars. The model that the Qur'an provided, while remaining inimitable, has sharpened the literary skill and kindled the talent of generations of scholars in their attempts to emulate the style and literary excellence of the Qur'an, the first book in the Arabic language. Interest in the Qur'an, its language, and its exegesis gave rise to a number of related disciplines, which include philological, religious, and linguistic studies. There is no doubt that the Arabic language was extremely useful as a medium for the revelation of the Holy Qur'an and for communicating God's final message to the pre-Islamic Arabs of the seventh century.

It is, however, the conclusion of this paper that the Arabic language underwent drastic changes in its structure, content, and status due to its association with Islam and the Qur'an, changes that the language would not have undergone had it not been for the new role it acquired in its bond with Islam and the Qur'an.
1. See, for this view, 'Abbas Hasan, Al-Lugha wa-l-nahw bayn al-qadim wa-l-hadith, Cairo, 1966, and Ibrahim Anis, Min asrar al-lugha, Cairo, 1970.

2. Anwar Cheyne, The Arabic language: its role in history, Minnesota, 1969, ch. 4,pp. 53 ff.

3. Ibid.

4. On this subject, see Taha Husayn's excellent argument in his Mir'at al-Islam, pp. 125 ff., and Sayyid Qutbs Al-Taswir al-fanni fi l-Qur'an, chs. 1-3.

5. Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, London, 1967, pp. 87 ff.

6. Cheyne, Op. Cit., ch. 4, pp. 52 ff.

7. Ibid. ,ch.4,pp.52ff.

8. Ibid.

9. Hitti, Op. Cit., pp. 90 ff.

10. Ibrahim Anis, Fi l-lahajat al'arabiyya, Cairo, 1962, ch. 2, pp. 33 ff.

11. Vicente Cantarino, Arabic poetics in the golden age, Leiden, 1975, pp. 17 ff.

12. Ibid., ch. 1, pp. 9 ff.

13. Al-Jahiz, Kitab al-Bayan, Cairo, 1965

14. Ibn Rashiq, 'Umda, Cairo, 1934, vol. 1, 65; also in al-Suyuti, Muzhir,Cairo, n.d., vol. 2, 203.

15. Ibn Qutayba, 'Uyun al-akhbar, Cairo, 1964, vol. 2, 185.

16. Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddima, vol. 3, 375.

17. Al-Suyuti, Op. Cit., vol. 2, 291.

18. All Qur'anic quotations are taken, with some modification, from the translation of Yusuf A. Ali, The Holy Qur'an, London, 1983.

19. Hitti, Op. Cit., pp. 90-91.

20. Ibid.

21. Cheyne. Op. Cit.. pp. 56 ff

22. A number of excellent works were devoted entirely to this aspect of tne Qur'an, e.g., al-Suyiti, al Itqan, and al-Baqillani, I'jaz al-Qur'an, Beirut, 1979.

23. Abu Ja far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Qur'an.

24. Mahmud b. Umar al-Zamakhashari (d. 1143).

25. Nasr al-Din al-Baidawi (d. 1286)

26. Al Baqillan, Op. Cit.. pp 45 ff

27. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Kitab al-Fawai'id al-mushawwig ila ‘ulum al-Qur'an wa'ilm al-bayan, Cairo, 1909, pp. 7, 246.

28. Ibn Khaldun, Op. Cit., vol. 3, 338

29. Ibn Qutayba, Kitab Ta'wil mushkil al-Qur'an, Cairo, 1954, p. 10.

30. Ibn Khaldun, Op. Cit., vol. 3, 1266

31. Taha Husayn, Op. Cit., p. 129.

32. Ibid., pp. 130 ff.

33. Ibid., pp. 129 ff.

34. Ibid., p. 125

35. Arthur Jeffrey, The Foreign vocabulary of the Qur'an. Lahore, 1977, pp. 5 ff.

36. Ibid., pp. 6 ff.

37. Al-Suyuti, al Itqan, vol. 1, § 38, p. 136.

38. Ibid., p. 136.

39. Ibid., pp. 136 ff.

40. Ibid., pp. 137 ff.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid., pp. 138 ff.

43. Al-Suyuti, Itqan

44. 'Abbas Hasan, Op. Cit., pp. 72 ff.

45. Sayyid Qutb, Op. Cit., pp. 34 ff.

46. Ibid., pp. 87 ff.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Cheyne, Op. Cit., pp. 5 ff.

50. Anwar al-Jindi, Al-Fusha lughat al-Qur'an, Beirut, n.d., p. 31.

51. Ibid, p. 45.

52. Ibid., p. 72.

53. Ibid., p. 72. See also Cheyne, Op. Cit., p. 1.

54. Al-Jindi, Op Cit.,p. 77

55. In a discussion with Dr Baynurza Hayit, a prominent Turkistani scholar who lives and writes in West Germany, at the third annual meeting of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies held at Villanova University in May 1986, he informed me that Turkic languages enjoyed a high degree of mutual intelligibility and interaction during that period in which the Arabic script was in use, and that this feature began to disappear following the switch of writing system in some of these languages.

56. Al-Jindi, Op. Cit., p. 81.

57. William H. Harris and Judith S. Levy, The New Columbia Encyclopedia, New York and London, 1975, p. 1670.

58. Banilmadina is a large resort on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, Guadalquivir is a river which runs through the ancient city of Seville, and the Alcazar is the famous palace in that city.