How Does Islam Teach Arabic to Its English Speaking Followers in Canada?
The below question and answer are just a sample of the questions that were sent to the Editor after a 5-week course titled, “Islam 101: Between Myth and Reality” that was delivered by the Editor to students of the Ottawa School of Theology & Spirituality, located at the Dominican University College, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
The other questions and answers will be published one at a time subsequently.
* * * * *
When I was growing up the Jewish students in my public school went to Hebrew classes in the synagogue after 4:00 pm one afternoon a week. How does Islam teach its English speaking students in Canada Arabic so that they learn the true meaning of Scripture?
* * * * *
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Thank you, dear G. J., for your question.
It is well known that Arabic is the language of the Qur’an and the religious language of all Muslims. It is usually ranked among the top six of the world’s major languages. As the language of the Qur’an, the divine Book of Islam, it is also widely used throughout the Muslim world and elsewhere.
There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world; about 24.1% of the world population. Only 15% are Arabs which means that most of the remaining 85% do not speak Arabic. Still, they need to understand the fundamental sources of Islam, namely the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet. Surely, they can resort to translations of the original Arabic texts. However, this is not enough for two main reasons:
- The translated works are never enough, in terms of number, to transfer even a portion of the knowledge related to Islam.
- Translations, especially those of the text of the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet, are never equal to the original texts in terms of eloquence and precision as no translation, no matter what the skill and/or the experience of the translator might be, can replace these original texts in any way.
Given the above, non-Arabic speaking Muslims should endeavor to learn the Arabic language, especially the children and youth. As the task is not that easy, they are not left alone. Many institutions, here in Canada, provide such services for either free or with a symbolic fee.
Foremost among these institutions are the mosques. Nearly in all mosques, one can find at least one weekend school for teaching Arabic, if not more. Many mosques which I have visited and participated in the teaching of the Arabic language there have more than one Saturday and/or Sunday school. They are managed and attended to by mostly volunteers.
Another source is the Islamic schools which offer Islamic studies as well as the Arabic language to their students besides the Canadian curricula. These services are not limited to their registered students but also extend to serve other members of the community.
Non-Profit Islamic institutions
Besides the mosques and Islamic schools, many non-profit Islamic institutions offer similar services to Muslims.
As for pre-schoolers
As for pre-schoolers (3-5 year of age), their Muslim parents shoulder the responsibility of introducing them to the Arabic language through teaching them short chapters (surahs) of the Qur’an, oft-repeated supplications in Arabic, memorable Arabic baby songs, etc., to make them accustomed to hearing and using the Arabic sounds, alphabet and basic simple expressions.
Non-Muslims are never forgotten!
Remarkably, the matter does not stop at this point, as academic and professional Muslims, including the author of these lines, volunteer with public institutions such as the Ottawa Public Library to provide Arabic classes for non-Muslims who are interested in learning the language as they can get the flavor the Muslim culture through learning the language of Islam.
I hope this will answer your question.
November 26, 2019
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.