The Origins of the Universe

Essence of Islam – Part 22 – Arabic, the Mother of Tongues

10 The Review of Religions – August 2007 Faculty of Speech is the Basic Reality of Man It is necessary to point out that observation of the book of nature compels us to acknowledge that the principal sign of all that has been created by the hand of God, or has issued from Him, is that it serves to bring about the recognition of God according to its respective rank and station, and that it proclaims in its own peculiar manner that the true purpose of its creation is to serve as a means of the recognition of the Divine. This is confirmed by the study of the diverse species of God’s creation. Thus as the Arabic language has issued from the mouth of God Almighty, it was necessary that it should also display this sign so that it may be established with certainty that in truth, it is one of those things which have proceeded solely from God Almighty without the intervention of any human effort. All praise, therefore, belongs to Allah that the Arabic language displays this sign most plainly and clearly. As the verse: And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me. (Ch.51:V.57) declares the true purpose of the This series sets out, in the words of the Promised Messiah(as), Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a summary of his exposition of four outstanding topics: ISLAM; ALLAH, THE EXALTED; THE HOLY PROPHET(sa) and THE HOLY QUR’AN. The original compilation, in Urdu, from which these extracts have been translated into English, was collated with great care and diligence by Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib, Allah have mercy on him and reward him graciously for his great labour of love. Amin. The English rendering is by the late Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, may Allah be pleased with him, and is quoted from The Essence of Islam, Volume 1. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an. ESSENCE OF ISLAM: Part 22 – Arabic, the Mother of Tongues 11The Review of Religions – August 2007 creation of man and his faculties. In the same way, the same verity is established about Arabic, which is man’s real language and is a part of his creation. There can be no doubt that the creation of man can be deemed complete and perfect only when it is accompanied by the creation of speech also. For that which reveals the true beauty of humanness is the faculty of speech, and it would be no exaggeration to affirm that humanness means speech accompanied by all its essentials. Thus the affirmation of God Almighty that He has created man for His worship and comprehension means, in other words, that He has created the reality of humanness which is the faculty of speech, together with all the capacities and actions that are subordinate to it, for His own service. When we reflect on what is man, it becomes obvious that he is an animate who is completely distinguishable from other animates by virtue of his faculty of speech. This shows that the faculty of speech is the basic quality of man, and that his other faculties are its servants and are subordinate to it. If it were said that human speech is not from God Almighty, it would amount ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). In 1891, he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation, that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent had been foretold by Muhammad, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and by the scriptures of other faiths. The founder’s claim constitutes the basis of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. 12 The Review of Religions – August 2007 to saying that man’s humanness is not from Him. But it is patent that God is man’s Creator and is, therefore, also the Teacher of his speech. Of which language He is the Teacher can be determined by the consideration that it must be the language which can serve man for the purpose of the recognition of God, as the other faculties of man serve him according to the purpose of the verse: ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.’ (Ch.51:V.57) We have already explained that Arabic alone possesses those qualities. Its service is that it possesses such power for conveying to man the comprehension of God as it displays beautifully in its elementary words the distinctions between Divine attributes, which is found in the law of nature. It makes manifest the delicate and subtle distinctions between Divine attributes which appear in the book of nature, and the proofs of the Divine Unity which are indicated in the same book, and the diverse types of Divine designs relating to His creatures which are also discoverable from it, in such manner as to present a delightful picture of them. It illustrates very clearly the subtle distinction between the attributes and qualities of God Almighty on one side, and His designs and works on the other, which are testified to by His law of nature. It thus becomes obvious that God Almighty has created the Arabic language as an adequate servant for the manifestation of His attributes, works and designs, and for illustrating the accord between His words and His works, and has from the beginning appointed this language as the key for resolving the mystery of all that relates to the Divine. When we appreciate this wonderful and majestic characteristic of Arabic, all other languages appear to suffer from darkness and deficiency. No language possesses the quality, inherent in Arabic that serves as a mirror for Divine attributes and ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 13The Review of Religions – August 2007 Divine teachings, and presents a simple reflective diagram of the natural pattern of all aspects of Divinity. When we observe, with the aid of sane reason and clear intellect, the division between Divine attributes, which is naturally reflected in the book of the universe from the beginning, we find the same division in the elementary words of the Arabic language. For instance, when we consider many aspects the mercy of God Almighty is elementarily divided, according to intellectual research, the law of nature instructs us that His mercy has two aspects: before any action on our part and after our action. The system of providence clearly testifies that Divine mercy was manifested for mankind in two aspects according to its primary division. Two Aspects of the Mercy of God First is the mercy which was manifested for man without any action having proceeded from man. For instance, the creation of the earth, heaven, sun, moon, planets, water, air, fire, and all other bounties upon which man’s life and survival are dependent. Without doubt all these bounties are a mercy for man bestowed upon him without any right, through pure grace and beneficence. This is a grace which came into operation even before the existence of man who did not even have to ask for it …. ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES ‘IT THUS BECOMES OBVIOUS THAT GOD ALMIGHTY HAS CREATED THE ARABIC LANGUAGE AS AN ADEQUATE SERVANT FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS ATTRIBUTES, WORKS AND DESIGNS, AND FOR ILLUSTRATING THE ACCORD BETWEEN HIS WORDS AND HIS WORKS, AND HAS FROM THE BEGINNING APPOINTED THIS LANGUAGE AS THE KEY FOR RESOLVING THE MYSTERY OF ALL THAT RELATES TO THE DIVINE.’ 14 The Review of Religions – August 2007 The second type of mercy is that which follows upon the good actions of man. For instance, when he supplicates God earnestly, his prayer is accepted, and when he cultivates the earth laboriously and sows seed, Divine mercy fosters the seed, with the result that a large quantity of grain is gathered. In the same way, careful observation would show that Divine mercy accompanies every one of our righteous actions whether they are religious or secular. When we labour according to the laws prescribed by God, Divine mercy comes into operation and makes our labour fruitful. These two types of mercy are such that we cannot survive without them. No one can doubt their existence. These are the bright manifestations which support the whole pattern of our lives. When it is established that Almighty God has caused the springs of two mercies to flow for our sustenance and perfection, and they are two of His attributes which are manifested in two aspects for the watering of the tree of our being, we must find out how these two springs are designated when they are reflected in the Arabic language. By virtue of the first type of mercy, God AImighty is called Rahman in Arabic, and He is called Rahim by virtue of the second type of mercy. It is in order to illustrate this quality of the Arabic language that we have mentioned the expression Rahman in the very first line of our Arabic discourse. As the attribute of mercy by virtue of its elementary division comprises two types according to the Divine law of nature, the Arabic language has two elementary words for it. A seeker after truth would find it most helpful to adopt as a criterion the Divine attributes and works that are visible in the book of nature, for the purpose of discerning the subtle distinctions of the Arabic language, and to seek for these divisions, which appear according to the law of nature in the elementary words of Arabic. Whenever it is desired to ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 15The Review of Religions – August 2007 highlight the distinction between such Arabic synonyms as are related to the attributes or works of God, attention should be directed towards the division between those attributes and works which are exhibited in nature, inasmuch as the true purpose of Arabic is to serve Divinity, as the true purpose of man is the enlightened recog- nition of God Almighty. The qualities of any thing can be appreciated only by keeping in mind the purpose for which it has been created. For instance, an ox is created for the purpose of ploughing or transport. If we overlook this purpose and seek to use it as a hunting-dog, it would fail utterly and would prove useless and valueless. On the other hand, if we try it in the field of its true purpose it soon proves that it carries a great respon- sibility within the system of the means of maintenance of human livelihood. In short, the worth of everything is proved by its being utilised for its true purpose. Thus the true purpose of Arabic is to illustrate the bright countenance of all manifestations of Divinity. As the proper carrying-out of this delicate and subtle operation, and to be safeguarded against mistakes, was beyond human capacity, God the Noble and Merciful revealed the Holy Qur’an in the Arabic language, a miraculous illustration of the qualities of the Arabic language, and of the delicate distinction between the different elementary words, and the extraordinarily rich connotations of its compounds, in such manner that all heads bowed to it in acknowledgement. All these qualities of the Arabic language were not only acknowledged by the highest contemporary lin- guists, but their failure to match them established that human faculties are not able to set forth those verities and insights, to illustrate the true and real beauty of the language. We have learnt the distinction between Rahman and Rahim from the same Holy Book which we have cited, as an instance in our Arabic discourse. Every language contains many synonyms, but until we become ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 16 The Review of Religions – August 2007 aware of the distinctions between them, and so long as those words do not relate to subjects pertaining to Divinity and religious teachings, we need take no account of them. It should also be remembered that man cannot invent these elementary words, but once they are created by Divine power, man can, by study, discover their subtle distinctions and their proper use. For instance, the grammarians have not discovered anything new, nor have they framed any rules to which other people must conform; but, having studied this natural language they discovered that it was illustrative of a system of rules, and they proceeded to formulate those rules in order to facilitate the study of the language. Thus, by using every word in its proper place, the Holy Qur’an illustrated how the Arabic elementary words can be manipulated, how they serve the subjects of Divinity, and how subtle are their mutual distinctions …. The Connotation of Some Arabic Words Now we proceed to set forth some of the connotations of another Arabic word which we have selected from the Holy Qur’an and which is Rabb. This word occurs in the very first verse of the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an where Allah, the Glorious, says: All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. (Ch.1:V.2) Lisan-ul-’Arab and Taj-ul- ‘Urus, which are the two most reliable Arabic lexicons, have set forth that the word Rabb comprises seven connotations: • Master or Owner (Malik); • Master or Chief (Sayyed); • Regulator (Mudabbir); • One who nurtures (Murabbi); • One who safeguards (Qayyim); • Bestower (Mun’im) and; • Perfector (Mutammim). Of these seven, three refer to the personal grandeur of the Almighty. Of these, one is Malik. ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 17The Review of Religions – August 2007 In Arabic lexicon, Malik connotes that He owns the universe and can use it as He likes. His ownership of it is not shared by any other. This word in its true meaning cannot be applied to anyone except God Almighty, inasmuch as full control and complete power of disposal and perfect rights cannot be attributed to anyone except God Almighty. Sayyed, according to Arabic lexicon, is one who has subordinate to him a large number who should serve him out of sincere eagerness and natural obedience. The distinc- tion between a sovereign and Sayyed is, that a sovereign subdues people by his might and the strictness of his laws, while the followers of a Sayyed obey him voluntarily out of their sincere love and eagerness and inclination and call him ‘Sayyedana’ (our chief) out of sincere affection. A sovereign can be obeyed in that spirit when he becomes a Sayyed in the estimation of his people. This word can also not be used for anyone beside God Almighty, inasmuch as true and eager obedience which has no personal purpose in view cannot possibly be accorded to any beside God Almighty. He is the only One before Whom the souls prostrate themselves, for He is the true source of their creation. That is why every soul naturally bows down to Him. The worshippers of idols and of men have also the same eagerness to obey Him as has a righteous person who believes in His Unity, but they fail, on account of their error and faulty desire, to recognise the true spring of life, and on account of their blindness they direct their inner eagerness towards a wrong object. That is why some of them deify stones, or Ramchandra, or Krishna, or the Son of Mary, under the mistaken belief that the object of their worship is the True God. They ruin themselves by investing creatures with Godhead. In the same way, those who pursue their own desires have been misled in their spiritual search for the true beloved and Sayyed. Their hearts also sought a beloved and a true Sayyed, but ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 18 The Review of Religions – August 2007 having failed to recognise the true desire of their hearts, they imagined that the true beloved and Sayyed, whom the souls seek and whom they are eager to obey, are worldly wealth, properties and delights. This was an error on their part. The true Cause of spiritual desires, and the source of pious sentiments, is the Being Who has said: And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me. (Ch.51:V.57) Meaning that: I alone am the purpose of the creation of Jinn and men and all their faculties, which have all been created so that I should be recognised and worshipped. This verse indicates that man, by his very creation, has been invested with the search and recognition and obedience of God. Had man not been invested with these, there would have been no pursuit of passion, no idol worship, and no worship of men in the world, inasmuch as every error results from pursuit of the discovery of truth. Thus God alone is the true Sayyed. Another of these attributes is Mudabbir. This means the keeping in mind, with reference to every enterprise, the whole system of events in the past, and of consequences in the future, and the putting of everything in its proper place having regard to that system, and not to embark upon anything outside it. This attribute also cannot be applied to anyone beside God Almighty, inasmuch as perfect planning demands knowledge of the hidden, and that belongs to God Almighty alone. The remaining four names – Murabbi, Qayyim, Mun’im and Mutammim – indicate those bounties of God Almighty which are bestowed upon men on account of His Perfect Mastership, Leadership, and Planning. Murabbi means he who nurtures, and perfect nurture means that all aspects of man, like his body, soul, faculties and capacities, should be nurtured ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 19The Review of Religions – August 2007 and the system of nourishment should extend to the climax of man’s physical and spiritual progress. The manifestation of the point at which the name of humanness or its elements begin, and its features begin to move from nothingness towards existence, is also nurture. This shows that in Arabic idiom Rububiyyat has very wide connotations, and that it covers the whole expanse from the point of nothingness to the climax of perfection. The name ‘Creator’ (Khaliq) and the like are derivatives of Rabb. Qayyim means one who safeguards the system. Mun’im means one who bestows all bounties, which man or any other creature can receive, according to its capacity, and is desirous of obtaining, so that it might arrive at its climax, as Allah, the Glorious says: …Our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function. (Ch.20:51) Our Lord, Who invested all things with appropriate form and then guided them to the realisation of their requisite goals. Mutammim means that the system of beneficence should not be left deficient in any respect, and should be carried to its climax in all its aspects. Thus the term Rabb, which has been used in the Holy Qur’an comprises all the diverse connotations that we have set out briefly above. We have to record with great sorrow that an ignorant European Christian writer has set out in one of his books that Christianity possesses this superiority over Islam, that it has named God Almighty ‘Father’, which is a very dear and lovely name, and that this name has not been applied to God in the Qur’an. We are surprised that this critic has not considered what honour and greatness the lexicons have attributed to the expression ‘Father’, for every word acquires ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 20 The Review of Religions – August 2007 true honour and greatness from the position assigned to it by a lexicon, and no one is entitled to bestow such honour upon a word as the lexicon does not bestow. That is why even the Word of God does not disregard the lexicon, and according to all sensible people, in order to determine the honour and greatness of a word, recourse must first be had to the lexicon, in order to ascertain what robe of honour it has bestowed upon that word. Keeping this criterion in mind, we find that all that the lexicon discloses is that when a person is in fact born of the seed of another, and he who drops the seed has no further connection with his birth, it is said that that other is his Abb (father). If it should be desired to indicate that Almighty God is Himself the Conscious Creator of a person, and Himself leads him towards perfection, and out of His great mercy bestows appropriate bounties on him, and is Himself his Guardian and Supporter, the lexicon does not permit that these connotations may be expressed by the employment of the word ‘Father’; the lexicon provides another term for the expression of this concept, and that word is Rabb, the true meaning of which we have just set out on the authority of the lexicon. We are not at all entitled to invent our own lexicon, and must follow the division of words established by God from the beginning. The Word ‘Father’ is Derog- atory to God This would show that the application of the word Father to God is disrespectful and derogatory to Him. Those who have invented against Jesus the charge that he was in the habit of calling God Almighty ‘Father’, and in fact believed that God was his father, have been guilty of accusing him of a false and hateful offence. Can any sensible person imagine that Jesus was guilty of such stupidity as to have applied to God, the Glorious, a name, the etymological meaning of which should be so low and humiliating and indicative of weakness, powerlessness and helplessness from every point of view? ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 21The Review of Religions – August 2007 The word Abb (father) is so low and humiliating that it does not necessarily import any kind of design or nurture or love. For instance, a goat that covers a she- goat and drops its seed or a bull that satisfies its lust with a cow and then turns away from it without any thought of a calf being born of its action, or a pig which under the surge of its lust is constantly occupied in satisfying it and has no notion that through its repeated action whole litters of piglets might be born and spread in the earth, would no doubt, if its lustful activities produce its young, be called their father. According to all the lexicons the word Abb does not in the least imply that a father after dropping the seed should take any further action so that a child may be born, or that this should be his design at the time of cohabitation; indeed the word Abb does not necessarily imply desire for progeny, and all that it imports is that he should drop the seed, and it is only on that account that lexico- graphically he is called Abb. Then how can it be permissible that such a worthless word, which is so appraised in all languages, should be applied to the All-Powerful One, all of Whose works are manifested by virtue of His perfect designs, perfect knowledge and perfect power? How can it be right that the same word, which is used for a bull and for a pig, should be used for God Almighty also? What impertinence is this, which the ignorant Christians persist in committing? They have been left with neither shame nor modesty nor any understanding of human values. The doctrine of the atonement has affected their human faculties like paralysis, so that they have been rendered utterly worthless and without feeling. Here we consider it proper to dispel some of the doubts and misconceptions of Max Müller which he discusses in the first volume of his book on the science of languages. His statement: One factor that has blocked the progress of knowledge is that in order to expose other people to ridicule ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 22 The Review of Religions – August 2007 and contempt, some people employed contemptuous epithets to them, and thus failed to learn their languages. So long as the words wild and dumb (‘Ajami) as applied to those people were not excluded from human dictio- naries, and did not give place to the expression ‘brother’, and so long as it was not acknowledged that all mankind are of one species, a beginning could not be made with the science of languages. My statement: The above statement shows that the writer is critical of the Arabs and imagines that the expression ‘Ajam’, applied by them to those whose language is other than Arabic, is used out of bigotry and contempt for those people. He fell into this error because his Christian bigotry stood in the way of his finding out whether the expressions ‘Ajam’ and ‘Arab’ were devised by man or by God Almighty. He has himself acknowledged in his book that man has not the capacity to formulate the elementary words of a language on his own. Arabic has two words in juxtaposition to each other. One is ‘Arab’, which connotes those who are eloquent and possess mastery of expression; and the other is ‘Ajam’, which means non- eloquent and tongue-tied. If Mr. Max Müller thinks that these two words are not ancient and Islam has invented them out of bigotry, he should specify the original terms which were used in these connotations, for it is not possible that a people should not have had any appellation in ancient times. If it is found that these two expressions are ancient, this would mean that they were not coined by man, but that the Almighty, Knower of the unseen, Who has created man with diverse capacities, has Himself applied these two names to different peoples corresponding to their respective abilities. Another consideration is that if these two expressions, ‘Arab’ and ‘Ajam’, have been coined by some human being out of bigotry and contempt, then doubtless they would be contrary to fact and would be altogether false. ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES 23The Review of Religions – August 2007 But we have established in this book that the word ‘Arab’ expresses a reality, and that it is true in fact that the Arabic language, on account of its system of elementary words and its delicate structure and other wonders, occupies so high a position that one is compelled to affirm that in comparison with it other languages are like the dumb. Moreover, we observe that other languages are motionless like solids and are so bereft of any movement towards development as if they are lifeless, and we are compelled to acknowledge that they occupy a very low position. The Arabic language describes non-Arabs politely as ‘Ajam but in truth they did not deserve even this appellation. Had the low condition of their languages been correctly described the most appropriate expression to be applied to them would have been that they were dead languages. (Minan-ur-Rahman, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.9, pp.145-161) Glory be to Arabic, how beautiful is its countenance, looking out of perfectly illumined mantles! The earth has been brightened with its exalted lights, and it has been proved to possess the climax of the yearnings of man. In it are found wonders of the All-Wise and Powerful Maker, as they are found in everything which proceeds from the Great Creator. Allah has perfected all its limbs and has not left out anything from its beauty and splendour, and no doubt you will find it perfect in expression, comprising all the objectives of man. There is no action that begins at any period of time, nor is there any attribute out of the attributes of Allah, the Bestower, nor is there any doctrine out of the doctrines of mankind, but there is in Arabic an elementary word apposite to it. Should you have a doubt about it, let us know the contrary. (Minan-ur-Rahman, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.9, pp.193-194) ESSENCE OF ISLAM – ARABIC, THE MOTHER OF TONGUES