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Islamic Society ( 12 May 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Profundity of Arabic Language and Its Encapsulated Wisdom

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam

13 May 2022

Monotheistic Arrogance of Semitic Faiths Plagued Islam As Well And Muslims Thought That Pagan And Polytheistic Arabs Were Absolute Jahilaan (Plural Of Jahil), Not Being Aware That Pagan Arabia Produced The Finest Odes (Qasidah)

Main Points:

1.    Think twice before calling them (Arabs) uncultured and unsophisticated.

2.    The advancement of a race is judged by its ability to use and create proverbs.'

3.    List of superlative Arabic proverbs is endless.

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I've always wondered as to why Arabs are often perceived as uncouth, boorish and desert-dwellers and their language (Arabic) is viewed as phonetically inferior? Agreed, Arabic, like Pashto, may not sound phonetically euphonic like Persian, it's a magnificent language and a repository of great wisdom. As for its robust hoarseness and being guttural, the existing geographical reasons can be adduced for that.

Both Pashto and Arabic are guttural-fricative tongues as both originated from geographically harsh terrains; Arab Peninsula and Afghanistan. The problem with the world is that Arab culture and civilization is always seen with respect to the advent of Islam in the 7th century. Any development in any sphere in the Arab world, prior to Islam, is deliberately not considered worthwhile. Muslim 'scholars' are responsible for that as they concocted a pejorative term like Pre-Islamic Jahaliya (Qable-Islam Jahalat).

The rest of the world thought that it was a benighted period for that region and Arabs had no significant history before Islam. The greatest western scholar of Arabic, Professor Sir Hamilton Gibb, who taught Arabic at Oxford and Cambridge, never liked the contemptuous term Pre-Islamic Jahiliya and eschewed using the word Jahiliya for Arabs throughout his life. Muslims may fallaciously think that it was Islam which 'educated' and 'enlightened' the desert yokels just like the condescending Brits thought that they 'educated' the 'savage' Indians and humanised the 'feral' non-whites of the continent of Africa. Totally wrong.

The indigenous Indians and Arabs were already advanced before the marauding Muslim invaders attacked and spread Islam by all means in the sub-continent in 712 CE (when Muhammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh) and Islam took roots in the Arab Peninsula a little over 1400 years ago. Sorry for the (relevant) digression, let me focus on Arabs. The Monotheistic arrogance of Semitic faiths plagued Islam as well and Muslims thought that Pagan and Polytheistic Arabs were absolute Jahilaan (plural of Jahil), not being aware that Pagan Arabia produced the finest odes (Qasidah): Seven Odes of Pre-Islamic/Pagan Arabia and the greatest Greek philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Diogenes, among others were either atheists or Pagans. Even the earliest Arab philosopher Moshef was a Pagan.

Such patronising demarcation between the polytheists and monotheists was further strengthened by the sub-continental poet Dr Muhammad Iqbal's disparaging couplet in his Shikwa (Complaints): Tujh Se Pahle Tha Ajab Jahan Ka Manzar/Kahin Ma'abood Thay Patthar, Kahin Masjood Shajar (The world was in a state of veritable shambles before you/ People were worshipping and genuflecting before stones and trees.......a totally unnecessary and highly disdainful Sher that demeans all idolaters; whereas Iqbal's own ancestors were Sapru Brahmins from the Valley). So, Arabs were woefully Jahil (ignorant/benighted) in terms of not knowing Islam and its perceived 'greatness'. But the Arabs have always been intelligent people.

By the way, Arabic is considered a West Semitic language, and it belongs to the family of languages with alphabetic scripts (such as Hebrew, Aramaic and Ethiopic) that all ultimately descend from ancient Phoenician. British scholar of Arabic literature and Persian Studies, Sir Arthur John Arberry collected thousands of Arabic sayings prior to Islam and also a cornucopia of Arabic aphorisms after Islam. It's very interesting to know that Arabs have always been adept at using Kahvatein (Masal in Arabic) and maxims. And according to philologists like Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, ' The advancement of a race is judged by its ability to use and create proverbs.' Arabs were very advanced on this count.

Can you believe that there've been more than 2,600 sayings in Arabic that are based on fools and their foolishness! My personal favourites are: Stupidity is contagious! Even Iblees refrains from arguing with a fool. One must follow the sense and spirit of this proverb in toto and never argue with those whose craniums are filled with the essence of bovine. Look askance when a fool speaks (a 5th century Arab saying). Compare this with Jawaab-E-Jahilan Baashad Khamoshi in Persian (The answer to ignorant is silence) or when you argue with a fool, you become two. It needs elaboration.

The infectious stupidity of one will invariably rub off on you and you too will become like that. In other words, as if one wasn't enough that you've added yourself as well (Yak Na Shud, Do Shud in Persian)! Ponder over this brilliant Arabic proverb: He who doesn’t know, says “lentils.” Explanation: Those who don’t know the true story will just say anything as an explanation. This is particularly true about believers of any man-made faith, whose understanding (of faith) is awfully limited, but who try to defend it tooth and nail. Remember this in a larger context that there's no worldview so dangerous as the worldview of those who've not viewed the world.

They've a cognitive dissonance with their own worldview. Or cogitate over this 6th century (before Islam) Arabic saying: Blood doesn't become water (Blood is thicker than water in English) or a pebble can support a barrel (Even a small effort can go a long way). The Crown of all is this 8th century Arabic idiom: Those without a pedigree, argue and abuse (English equivalent: A bumpkin is forever ready to fight).

The list of superlative Arabic proverbs is endless. I gleaned just a few gems out of the ocean to make the readers realize the profundity of Arabic language, culture and civilization. Now think twice before calling them (Arabs) uncultured and unsophisticated. 

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An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian.


URL:       https://newageislam.com/islamic-society/arabic-language-encapsulated-wisdom/d/126996


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