Ahmadiyyat History

Arabic, the Mother of Tongues


Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Promised Messiah & Imam Mahdi

The Promised Messiah (as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic. The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. Here, the Promised Messiah (as) explains how Arabic is the Mother of all languages and explains what makes this language superior over all others.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 1-11. This is the first part of a multi-part series.

It is not true to say that language is the invention of man. Research has established that the inventor and the creator of human languages is God Almighty, Who created man out of His perfect power and bestowed upon him a tongue that he may be able to speak. Had language been the invention of man, it would not have been necessary to teach a baby to talk. It would have invented its own speech, as it grew mature. But it is patent that if a child is not taught speech, it will not be able to speak. Whether it is nurtured in a Greek forest or in the British Isles or at the equator, he has to be instructed in the art of speaking, and in the absence of such instruction he would not be able to speak. The notion that languages undergo changes under human influence is an illusion. These changes do not result from conscious human effort, nor can we determine any rule or principle whereby the human mind brings about changes in languages at certain times. Deep reflection would reveal that linguistic changes also take place under the direction of the Causa Causans like all other heavenly and earthly changes. It cannot be established that at any particular time the whole of mankind collectively, or its different sections separately, had invented the different tongues that are spoken in the world. It may be asked why should it not be supposed that, as God Almighty constantly brings about changes in languages, in the beginning languages might have been originated in the same way without the need of revelation? The answer is that in the beginning God had created everything simply through His power. Reflection on heaven, earth, sun, moon and on human nature itself would disclose that the beginning and origin of everything was through the pure operation of Divine power, in which no physical means were involved. Whatever God created was a manifestation of His supreme power, which is beyond the concept of man…. The circumstances of today cannot serve as a precedent for the beginning and origin of creation. For instance, today no child is born without the agency of parents, but if in the beginning the same condition had been essential, man could not have come into being. Moreover, there is a world of difference between changes that naturally occur from time to time in languages and the birth of speech itself in the original void. The two concepts are entirely different.

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 358-404

Are Languages the Invention of Man?

Some ignorant Aryas, holding Sanskrit as the language of Parmeshwar, consider all other languages, which comprise of hundreds of Divine wonders and curiosities, as the invention of man; as if while Parmeshwar revealed one language, men invented scores of languages better than that one. We would inquire from the Aryas that if it is true that Sanskrit was issued from the mouth of Parmeshwar, and all other languages are the inventions of men and have no relationship with Parmeshwar, what are the particular characteristics of Sanskrit which are not to be found in other languages; for the speech of Parmeshwar must have superiority over the inventions of men. He is called God because He is Matchless and Supreme in His Being, attributes and works. If we are to suppose that Sanskrit is the language of Parmeshwar, which was revealed to the ancestors of the Hindus, and that other languages were invented by the ancestors of other people who were cleverer and wiser than the ancestors of the Hindus, then could we also suppose that those other people were somewhat superior to Parmeshwar of the Hindus in that they, through their perfect power, invented hundreds of languages and Parmeshwar could invent no more than one? Those whose very natures are permeated with polytheism consider Parmeshwar to be an equal entity with themselves in many respects, perhaps because they esteem themselves as uncreated and, therefore, partners in the Godhead. The objection as to why God did not content Himself with the creation of just one language, results from lack of reflection. If a wise person were to observe the diversity of modes and temperaments of people of different countries, he would be convinced that one language would not have suited all of them. The people of some countries can easily pronounce certain letters and words, but for the people of some other countries the pronouncing of those letters and words would be a great hardship. How was it then possible that the All-Wise One, loving only one language, should have ignored the principle of:

وَضْعُ الشَّيْءِ فِى مَوْضِعِهِ [i]

and should have abandoned that which would have been appropriate for the diversity of temperaments. Would it have been proper that He should have confined people of different temperaments in the narrow cage of one language? Moreover, the creation of a diversity of languages would have been proof of the multiple power of God Almighty. The praise of God offered by His humble creatures in a variety of languages is in itself a most attractive spectacle.

—Barahin -e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 447-456

Announcement for the Book Minan-ur-Rahman

This book is a wonderful production to which we have been directed by some of the verses of the Holy Qur’an which are replete with wisdom. Among its other bounties the Holy Qur’an includes one whereby the true philosophy of the diversity of languages has been set forth, and we have been apprised of the deep wisdom underlying the source of all languages. We also learn therefrom how greatly those people are mistaken who do not admit that all languages have developed under Divine direction. In this book it has been established as the result of research that the Holy Qur’an is the only revealed book which has come down in the language which is the mother of tongues, which has been revealed by God, and is the source and fountainhead of all other languages. It is patent that the whole beauty and superiority of a Divine book consists in its being in a language that has proceeded from the mouth of God Almighty and possesses higher qualities than other languages, and is perfect in its pattern. When we find such qualities in a language that are superhuman and beyond human skill, and of which all other languages are bereft, and we discover in it such properties as cannot be invented by any human intellect and proceed only from God’s true and eternal knowledge, we are compelled to confess that such a language has proceeded from God Almighty. Our perfect and deep research has revealed that Arabic is that language. Many people have spent their lives in such research and have made great efforts to discover which language is the mother of tongues, but as their efforts were not rightly directed, nor were they bestowed the relevant capacity by God Almighty, they could not achieve success. An additional reason was that they were prejudiced against Arabic and did not pay due attention to it. Thus, they failed to discover the truth. Now we have been guided by the Holy Word of God Almighty, the Holy Qur’an, to the truth that the mother of tongues, to which the Parsees, the Hebrews and the Aryas have laid separate claims, is Arabic, and that all other claimants are in error….

Why Arabic is Superior to Other Languages?

In contrast with Arabic words, the words of other languages appear lame, maimed, blind, deaf and leprous, and entirely bereft of a natural pattern. The vocabulary of those languages is not rich in roots, which is a necessary characteristic of a perfect language….

If any Arya or other challenger of ours is not convinced by our research, we wish to inform him by means of this announcement that we have set out in this book, in detail, the reasons in support of the superiority, perfection and excellence of Arabic which fall under the following headings:

(1) The perfect pattern of the roots of Arabic words.

(2) Arabic possesses an extraordinarily high degree of intellectual connotations.

(3) The system of elementary words in Arabic is most complete and perfect.

(4) In Arabic idiom, a few words convey extensive meanings.

(5) Arabic has the full capacity for the exposition of all human feelings and thoughts.

Now everyone is at liberty after the publication of our book to try, if possible, to prove these qualities in Sanskrit or any other language.

—Dia-ul-Haq, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 9, pp. 250,320-321

Characteristics of the Holy Qur’an

The Holy Qur’an is such a brilliant ruby and a glorious sun that the rays of its truth and the flashes that indicate its Divine origin are being manifested not only in one aspect, but in thousands of them. The more the opponents of Islam strive to put out this Divine light, the stronger becomes its manifestation, and the more it attracts the hearts of those who possess insight, with its beauty and loveliness. Even in this dark age, when the Christian missionaries and the Aryas have spared no effort to denigrate it and to bring it into contempt, and have on account of their sightlessness attacked this light in every form that could be employed by the bigoted and the ignorant, this eternal light has furnished every type of proof of its being from God. One of its grand characteristics is that it sets forth its claims with respect to its guidance and its excellent qualities and itself furnishes the proof of those claims. This grand characteristic is not possessed by any other book. Out of the reasons and proofs that it has set forth in support of its Divine origin and its high-grade superiority, one great proof is that for detailed exposition of which we have compiled this book. It is a product of the holy spring of the mother of tongues, whose water shines like the stars, slakes the thirst of those who are thirsty for comprehension, and washes out the dirt of doubt and suspicion. No previous book has set forth this proof in support of its truth. If the Vedas or any other book has set forth such proof, then the followers of such a book should present the claim for such proof in the words of that book. The purport of this proof is that a comparative examination of different languages discloses that all languages are related to each other.

Further and deeper study establishes that the mother of all these related languages is Arabic, from which all these languages have emerged. A complete and comprehensive research then discloses that its extraordinary qualities compel the acknowledgement that Arabic is not only the mother of tongues but is a revealed language which the first man was taught by the special design of God Almighty, and that it was not invented by any man. This leads to the conclusion that Arabic alone is suited for the complete and perfect Divine revelation, inasmuch as it is necessary that the Divine Book that has been revealed for the guidance of the whole of mankind should be expressed in a revealed language which should be the mother of tongues so that it should have a natural relationship with every language and the speakers of every language, and that being revealed it should possess the blessings with which everything that proceeds from the blessed hands of God Almighty is invested. But as the other languages were also not deliberately framed by men and have all emerged under Divine direction from this holy language, and have been corrupted but are all the progeny of this language, it was not inappropriate that for particular people guidance should have been revealed in those languages. Yet it was necessary that the highest and most perfect Book should be revealed in Arabic because Arabic is the mother of tongues and is the true revealed language, having issued from the mouth of God Almighty. As this proof is presented only by the Holy Qur’an and it alone claims to be from God, and no other Arabic book makes this claim, we are compelled to acknowledge the Qur’an as manifestly proceeding from God and its being a Guardian over other books. Therefore, I have compiled this book so that with God’s help I may establish the mutual relationship of all languages, and may thereafter set forth the proofs of Arabic being the mother of tongues and the true revealed language; and then, on the basis of the speciality that it alone is the perfect, pure and revealed language, should expound the certain and conclusive proof that out of all revealed books the Holy Qur’an alone is the highest, most exalted, most complete, most perfect and Khatam-ul-Kutub, and that it alone is the Mother of Books as Arabic is the mother of tongues. In this research project we would have to pass through three stages:

First stage: Proof that all languages are interrelated.

Second stage: Proof that Arabic is the mother of tongues.

Third stage: Proof that on account of its extraordinary qualities Arabic is a revealed language….

The interrelation of languages has been established so clearly in this book that no further research in this respect can be imagined….

The second issue is that out of interrelated languages, Arabic alone is the mother of tongues, the proof of which has been set out in detail, and we have established that one of the special qualities of Arabic is that it possesses a natural pattern and displays the beauty of Divine manufacture in the same way as the other works of God Almighty. We have also established that all other languages present a distorted picture of the Arabic language. To the degree to which this blessed language has been preserved in those languages in its true form, to that degree they shine like a ruby and attract the hearts with their charming beauty. But to the degree to which a language has been corrupted, to that degree its beauty and attractions have been reduced. It is obvious that a thing that proceeds from the hand of God continues to display extraordinary characteristics so long as it retains its original form, and man is not able to produce its match. But as soon as it falls away from its original condition, its shape and beauty are debased….

The Arabic language operates like the wise person of refined taste who can express his meaning in diverse ways. For instance, a clever and intelligent person can sometimes accomplish with the movement of a brow, nose or hand that which normally requires expression in words; that is to say, he can convey his meaning through delicate nuances. This is a method also employed by Arabic. Sometimes by the use of the definite article it conveys a meaning that would need several words in other languages. Similarly vowel points often serve a purpose which would require long phrases in other languages. Some brief words have surprisingly rich connotations; for instance, ‘aradtu means ‘I have visited Mecca and Medina and their environs’, and tahfaltu means ‘I am accustomed to eating bread made of Cheena [ii] and have decided not to eat any other kind’….

One of the characteristics of Arabic is that all the miscellaneous qualities of other languages are comprised in Arabic…. Thus as careful study and deep research reveal that Arabic is comprehensive of all the miscellaneous qualities of other languages, it has to be acknowledged that all other languages are branches of Arabic.

Some people raise the objection that if one language is acknowledged as the root of all languages, it becomes difficult to accept that within three or four thousand years languages, which had emerged from one root, became so diverse. This objection is an instance of a fallacy upon a fallacy. In the first place, it is not definitely established that the world is only four or five thousand years old and that heaven and earth had no existence before. On the contrary, there are clear indications that the earth has been peopled since a very long time. Besides, distance in time or place is not the only cause of diversity in language. A powerful cause of this diversity is that every region of the earth affects the throats, tones and pronunciation of its inhabitants in a particular way in consequence of its latitudinal situation, or its juxtaposition visà-vis other planets, or on account of some other unknown causes, and these factors produce a particular form of speech. That is why the peoples of certain countries are not able to pronounce Z or R properly. As complexions, spans of life, manners, morals and constitutions differ from country to country, likewise speech also differs, for the same causes affect speech also; and the degree of difference is determined by the degree of the causes. This difference is not arbitrary but is determined by physical laws. Thus a change, which occurs in the shape, or manners, or morals, or thinking of people under the influence of earthly or heavenly causes, also affects their speech. If a foreign word or phrase finds its way into their language, they change it about. This is clear proof that speech is affected by earthly and heavenly causes.

The Jews and the Christians are compelled to acknowledge that Arabic is the mother of tongues as the Torah clearly affirms that there was only one language in the beginning…. Some people raise the objection that the relationship of some languages with Arabic, for instance that of Hebrew, is much closer than that of other languages like Sanskrit or European languages. The answer is that despite this difference it has been ascertained that the elementary words and phrases of these languages have been derived from Arabic and have been further developed through natural changes.

[i] Putting a thing in its proper place. [Publisher]

[ii] A kind of cereal. [Publisher]