The Holy Qur'an

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) describes the special characteristics of the Arabic language and expounds upon two aspects of the mercy of God. Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. II, 11-25. This is the second part of a multi-part series.

Special Characteristics of Arabic

There are five special characteristics of Arabic, which prove conclusively that Arabic is a revealed language, which we shall expound in detail in their proper places. These are:

First Characteristic: Arabic has a perfect pattern of roots, which is suited to human needs. Other languages lack this pattern.

Second Characteristic: The names of God, and of heavenly bodies, vegetables, animals, solids, and human limbs in Arabic comprise great wisdom. Other languages cannot compete with Arabic in this respect.

Third Characteristic: The Arabic system of elementary words is perfect, and comprises all nouns and verbs of the same roots, and illustrates their mutual relationship by arranging them in a wise pattern. This characteristic is not found in other languages in the same perfect degree.

Fourth Characteristic: In Arabic idiom a few words comprise extensive meanings. Arabic conveys extensive connotations through the use of the definite article and vowel points and sequence, for which purpose other languages have to employ several phrases and sentences.

Fifth Characteristic: Arabic possesses such roots and idioms as furnish a perfect means for the expression of the most subtle of human thoughts and reflections.

As we have undertaken to prove and illustrate all these special characteristics of Arabic, it is necessary that we should do so in Arabic, thereby furnishing illustrations of all of them in that language, so that we might require anyone, who may claim another language to be revealed and the mother of tongues, to illustrate these characteristics in the same way… If we should be proved false in our claim that Arabic possesses those five characteristics to a special degree, and any scholar of Sanskrit or any other language should succeed in proving that their language partakes of these characteristics to the same or even to a greater degree than Arabic, then we make a firm and definite promise that we shall immediately pay him five thousand rupees…

What we demand from the advocates of other languages is that they should prove that their respective languages possess the qualities that we have established in the case of Arabic. For instance, it is indispensable that a language, which is described as revealed and the mother of tongues should comprise a full stock of roots, for the purpose of transmuting human thinking into words in such a manner that when a person should desire to make a detailed exposition of a subject, for instance, of the unity of God, or polytheism, or the obligations due to God, or the rights of man, or religious doctrines and the reasoning supporting them, or love and human intercourse, or rancour and hatred, or the praise and glory of God and His holy names, or the refutation of false religions, or stories and biographies, or commandments and penalties, or the hereafter, or commerce and agriculture and employment, or astrology or astronomy, or physics, medicine, or logic, etc., the roots of the language should be capable of helping him in such a way that there should be available a root against every idea that may arise in his mind. This is necessary so that it may be established that the Perfect Being Who created man and his ideas also created from the very beginning roots for the expression of those ideas. Our sense of justice would compel us to acknowledge that if this characteristic is found in a language – that it comprises in itself a beautiful pattern of roots corresponding to the natural structure of human ideas, and is capable of illustrating in words every subtle distinction between acts, and its roots are adequate to fill all the needs of ideas – then that language is, without a doubt, a revealed language, inasmuch as it can only be the act of God Almighty that, having invested man with the capacity of expressing a complex diversity of ideas, he should have been supplied with a stock of verbal roots corresponding to his ideas, so that the word and the work of God Almighty should correspond to each other at the same level. However, to possess the quality of utilising roots in particular formations in the expression of ideas is not the speciality of any particular language. Many languages suffer from the defect that they are compelled to employ compounds in place of elementary words, which shows that those compounds were formed at the time of need by those who used those languages for the conveyance of their ideas. Therefore, the language that is secure against such deficiencies, possesses the capacity of filling its needs with its roots and elementary words, and is capable of matching its words to the works of God Almighty – that is to say, to the upsurge of ideas at their proper level – would doubtless deserve to be called a revealed language in accord with divine nature, on account of its extraordinarily high level and its possession of a speciality which is not shared by other languages. Honesty would require the affirmation that the language that is characterised by the high rank that it had issued from the mouth of God Almighty, possesses extraordinary qualities, and is the mother of tongues, is the only language which truly deserved that the highest and the most perfect revelation should be clothed in it. Other revelations are only branches of this revelation as other languages are branches of this language. Therefore, we shall at a later stage expound that the Holy Qur’an alone comprises the true, complete and perfect revelation that was to be sent to the world. We shall also develop the thesis that, by acknowledging Arabic as a revealed language and the mother of tongues, not only must we acknowledge that the Holy Qur’an is the word of God, but we have also to acknowledge that it is the Qur’an alone which is the complete, perfect and true revelation which should be designated Khatam-ul-Kutub [the Seal of the Books]. We will now proceed with the Arabic part of this book to demonstrate the system of roots and other qualities.

قُلْ لاَ حَوْلَ وَلاَ قُوَّةَ إِلاَّ بِاللَّهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْعَظِيْم

 — Minan-ur-Rahman, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 9, pp. 128-142 [1]

Faculty of Speech is the Basic Quality 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:

وَمَا خَلَقۡتُ ٱلۡجِنَّ وَٱلۡإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُونِ

[2] declares the true purpose of the 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 man is, 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 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:

وَمَا خَلَقۡتُ ٱلۡجِنَّ وَٱلۡإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُونِ

[3] 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, which is inherent in Arabic, that it serves as a mirror for divine attributes and 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 into how 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, which have been 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 didn’t even have to ask for it…

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 Almighty 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 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 is exhibited in nature, inasmuch as the true purpose of Arabic is to serve divinity, as the true purpose of man is the enlightened recognition of God Almighty.

The qualities of anything 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 responsibility 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 linguists, 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 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 which other people must conform to; 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, the Holy Qur’an, by using every word in its proper place, [shows] how the Arabic elementary words can be manipulated, how they serve the subjects of divinity, and how subtle their mutual distinctions are…

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:

ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ

[4] 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. 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 distinction 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 ‘Sayyeduna’ (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 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 the 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:

وَمَا خَلَقۡتُ ٱلۡجِنَّ وَٱلۡإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُونِ

[5] 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 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:

رَبُّنَا ٱلَّذِيٓ أَعۡطَىٰ كُلَّ شَيۡءٍ خَلۡقَهُۥ ثُمَّ هَدَىٰ

[6] 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.


1. ‘There is no strength or power except through Allah, the Exalted, the Almighty.’

2. ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.’— The Holy Qur’an, 51:57.

3. Ibid.

4. ‘All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.’—The Holy Qur’an, 1:2.

5. The Holy Qur’an, 51:57.

6. ‘Our Lord is He Who gave unto everything its proper form and then guided it to its proper function.’ — The Holy Qur’an, 20:51.