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Islam and Pluralism (09 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)


Arabic Imperialism Vs. Islamic Pluralism: Has The Time Come For Islam To Go Local?



By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam

9 Feb 2019

A Turkish lawmaker, Öztürk Yılmaz, has proposed that the Muslims in Turkey be called to prayer in Turkish, and not Arabic. His Republican People’s Party threw him out for the demand, though when the party, which now leads the Opposition, was in power, the azaan was in Turkish.

Not just azaan, even namaz was offered in Turkish during 1932-1950. But the Arab colonisation of Muslim minds was so comprehensive that it was a very unpopular decision, and was rolled back when the party lost the election in 1950.

The first time prayers were said in Turkish in an Istanbul mosque was on 19 March, 1926 — the first Friday of Ramzan that year. Cemaleddin Efendi, who was leading the prayer, noticed that most of the people left without completing their prayers.

The issue of prayers in local languages came up the moment Islam crossed the Arabian Peninsula into the Sasanian Empire. In the second half of the seventh century CE, Islam was spreading in what is today Iran and the proud Persians asked for prayers in their language.

Language Barrier

This was fair and in consonance with instructions in the Quran that prayers be said in the language people understood. The Quran says god’s messengers went to different parts of the world, conveying His message in local languages. God showed no preference for Arab hegemony. Jurists, too, weighed in. Imam Mālik ibn Anas, Imam Muhammad al-Shāfi’ī, and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, all Arab jurists, opposed the idea.

A senior jurist of Persian origin, Imam Abu Hanifa, the founder of Hanafi jurisprudence, favoured the change but several of his followers didn’t agree with him.

Officially adopted by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century, the Hanafi School is followed by many in West Asia, South Asia and the Far East. And yet, the idea of prayers in local languages has not taken off.

The push for languages arose from two sources: a pride in local culture and a desire to have a closer connection to god.

Not only god in the Quran, even Prophet Mohammad in his final sermon made clear that the Arabs don’t have superiority over others.

But the Arabs, who used Arabic to further imperialistic ambitions, have not only sought to impose the language but also their dress code, architecture and other cultural identity-markers. The result is that some of the respected clerics in India feel honoured to call themselves slaves (Ghulam) and even dogs (Kalb) of Arab spiritual masters.

Talk To Me

Does this mean that Islam does not have a regional colour? No. Indian Islam has features that the Arabs would not be able to identify with. For instance, our caste-system, the practice of dowry and married women wearing sindoor and bindi. But clerics have made every effort to obscure the syncretism of Indian Islam.

The word used for worship in the translation of the Quran by Shah Rafiuddin is pūjnā, associated with the Hindu ritual. In the 18th century, both the indigenous pūjā and the Arabic ibādā were permissible substitutes. It was only a century later, when the boundaries of Muslim identity began to tighten, that the Arabic word became mandatory.

The world’s largest movement for preaching Islamic uniformity and exclusivism, Tablighi Jamaat, was started by Deobandi scholar Maulana Ilyas Kandhlawi in 1927 after he noticed that Muslims in Mewat continued to be well integrated with their original Hindu culture.

Tablighi efforts have been aided by an injection of Saudi petrodollars. The familiar Muslim greeting of Khuda Hafiz is now Allah Hafiz. It is no longer unusual to see a Muslim woman in a hijab or a man dressed in an abaya or sporting a keffiyeh. It’s all right in West Asia, where these clothes protect from sun, dust and sandstorms, but in Kolkata, Jakarta, London, Paris or Boston? It is nothing but a sign of a colonised Muslim mind.

Transition to local languages has not been easy for other religions too. A certain holiness does attach itself to some languages. Vedic Sanskrit, for instance, is sacred for Hindus, Hebrew for Jews. Christianity’s struggle to retain the Bible in Latin and Greek was intense and bloody, with a powerful Church putting up a stiff resistance. Eventually, the Bible did speak to the people in their language.

The Ulema in India refuse to accept as Quran an Urdu or English translation of the holy book. Mosques, too, do not display translated copies of the Quran, but in Europe and the US they do. In fact, much of Islamic literature is now easily available in translation on the Net.

In South Asia, there has never been a call for azaan or namaz in local languages. How can Muslims come close to Allah if they don’t understand the language they are praying in? Maybe the debate in Turkey will open our hearts and minds.

Sultan Shahin is the founder-editor of a Delhi-based progressive Islamic website, NewAgeIslam.com

Note: This article first appeared in the Print edition of the weekly Firstpost, New Delhi on February 9, 2019.

Source: firstpost.com/india/time-may-have-come-for-islam-to-go-local-6048201.html

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/sultan-shahin,-founder-editor,-new-age-islam/arabic-imperialism-vs-islamic-pluralism--has-the-time-come-for-islam-to-go-local?/d/117702

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TOTAL COMMENTS:-   28


  • دماغوں پر پڑے پتھر ہٹانا بہت ضروری ہوگیا ہے.  بہت اچھا کام کررہے ہیں آپ. 
    By Anwer - 2/17/2019 10:55:04 PM



  • It is an attempt by the people who suffer from the dangerous disease called "ZEHNI IRTIDAD" to distance the people from the DEEN bcoz they can't do it openly...The ARABIC as medium to communicate with the people has been chosen by the Allah Subhana Taala...Moreover no exact translation of any language is not possible....
    By Suhail Reshi - 2/17/2019 11:14:50 AM



  • Quran in Arabic is much more effective than than in other languages so don't try to convince people
    By Sheikh Shaheen - 2/17/2019 11:14:19 AM



  • Until black gold explored Arab world was backward, but today's sinario Hindi is accepted as a language of instructions in UAE.Being Hindu I had opportunity to preserve and read Quran in English which was presented to me by my friend Prof Musluddin Shahee who was head of department of Economics.There are elements in every religion does not want change.
    By Mp Naik - 2/17/2019 11:13:44 AM



  • It is vary sad for us,we want to known the Quran but ,
    By Tapan Chowdhury - 2/17/2019 11:13:09 AM



  • Rashid sb, you say -“We will end up with another failed attempt like Turkey tried for 18 years”. Allow me to say that it failed not for the reason that you seem to suggest, but the fact that 14 centuries of Arab/Arabic reverence implanted in the system could not be removed in mere 18 years or even 180 years. Turkish danishwar Fatheullah Gulen may be able to elaborate.

     You seem to miss the obvious point that while there may be millions who will support offering prayer in a local language, these are not from among the worshipers which is why the experiment failed in Turkey and will fail anywhere. Why are those who will not offer the ritual prayers come what may, bent upon changing those who do? Why don’t they mind their own business?

     Everyone remembers Allah, sitting standing, lying etc but this is not the ritual prayer. What is Salat or Prayer? It is performed facing Kabaa (2:149 and 150), celebrating “Allah´s praises in the manner Allah has taught you, which ye knew not before” (2:239). Congregational prayer is implied in most verses “bow down with those who bow down in worship.” Obligatory prayers are to be performed at stated time (4:103). The prayer timings for regular prayers which are obligatory are contained in verses 2:238 (Asr), 11:114 (fajr, maghrib, isha), 17:78 (Zuhar +), 24:58 (fajr and Isha), 50:39 (fajr, asr, isha). Wudhu need to be performed in the manner described in verse 5:6 or Tayamum in 4:43.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/15/2019 11:15:29 PM



  • Dear Naseer Saheb, your fixation with “5 times a day” of worship/namaz, glued to the Arabic language as prayers has me in knots., in spite of your concession - “From a religious/theological point of view, there can be no objection if you offer your ritual prayer in another language”.

      I believe that it is the reverence to a language-Arabic, that has, thanks to the religious industry, made the followers of ad deen into monastic worshippers. It has played Iblees's agency to the hilt when he ordered them : pukhta tar kardo mijaaje khaankahi may isay; as the poet said.

      You know and I know that there are scholars/Daanishwar among us who would argue that there are … … three, five, six and yes, even seven times namaz in a day.

      We rang a lady friend teacher once at 10am. She did not pick up the phone then but rang few minutes later with an apology – “I was praying”, she said. What! namaz at 10am? “Don't you know that there is a mid morning namaz of duhaa?” she chided me – a person of twice her age, in holier than thou voice and proceeded to recite a 'Rasullah's hadis', the details of which I will spare you.

      I reminded her that in the same hadis book the 'concerned and worried' Rasul ran to and fro, nine times to the “throne room” to have 45 namaz reduced from 50 given to him as a gift to his people by God. Thus he came back with only 5 a day; and that people like her have added two more – that of midnight and mid morning! Lo! Since then I have found 2 more!

      So what number makes a person “a devout Muslim” even if praying in Arabic?

      Yes I worship many times a day standing, sitting and lying down 3-190 without the physical calisthenics of namaz in Arabic. My old body does not let me forget my Maker for the aches and pains it goes through.

      I am afraid we will get into the language wrangle of “dihkar”, salaat and “ibadah” in Arabic, which I have no idea of. I am struggling to work out the recent fad of Arabic standard reply of “al hamdullillah” really means when I ask somebody in English “how are you” or in Urdu “keysey ho”? How does one reply when one is NOT well?

      "I don't know' is the reply!

      You say -“We will end up with another failed attempt like Turkey tried for 18 years”. Allow me to say that it failed not for the reason that you seem to suggest, but the fact that 14 centuries of Arab/Arabic reverence implanted in the system could not be removed in mere 18 years or even 180 years. Turkish danishwar Fatheullah Gulen may be able to elaborate.


    By Rashid Samnakay - 2/15/2019 7:15:49 PM



    • Dear Ghaus Saheb,

      This is an example of linguistic wrangling and shows – ehle-Danish ney buhot soch kay ulzhayee hai.

      You quote,“وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ” “keep fearing Allah and know well that Allah knows everything” (2:231)

      According to you and other scholars and danishwar of Arabic language “wattaqu =and keep fearing. But for me who has no idea of Arabic, it is not so. Deducing from many translations and hundreds of al-rehman al raheem in Quran, it is not “fear” that God wants attributed to Himself. The word for fear in there is “khof” eg 2-38. For me, I go with a like minded poet who said- 'bandaa hun' jaantaahun' tu bandaa nawaz hai'.

      Then you quote;

      إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ” “Allah knows well what lies within the hearts.” (3:119)

      Since He knows well what is in my heart then what does it matter in what language I store it there as He knows every language, as you believe so too?

      You also say - 'Our primary goal should be to learn Arabic so as to understand the Quran in its original text'. Are you then saying that the 'scholars – the Danishwar/A'lim' who have translated the Arabic Quran none of them understand Arabic as you do, and hence the differences therein? It must be then a case of “zubaane-yaare-man Turki, man Turki nami daanum”!!


    By Rashid Samnakay - 2/15/2019 3:27:54 AM



  • Sultan Shahin,plz for Allah's sake,dont be a weapon in the hands of neofacists of Inda.
    By Hussain Rabi Gandhi - 2/14/2019 10:05:28 AM



  • Mr Rashid, 
    From a religious/theological point of view, there can be no objection if you offer your ritual prayer in another language.
    My question to Shahin sb earlier, and to you now is, whether you offer your ritual prayers in a language other than Arabic. If you do so, then that is certainly a subject of interest to me. 
    If you are a devout Muslim who prays 5 times a day in Arabic but would like to do so in another language, then also I am interested in your opinion.
    But if your not a devout Muslim praying 5 times a day, then I understand very well that such people will lend support to praying in a local language but will not turn worshipers if this is done. So, how does their opinion matter? We will end up with another failed attempt like Turkey tried for 18 years.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/13/2019 11:20:42 PM



  • @ Mr Rashid,
    Divine Knowledge of God Almighty signifies that Allah is Omniscient. He knows everything, be it manifest or hidden.
    Allah Almighty says;
    وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ  “He knows everything” (2:29)
    إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ “indeed Allah is the All Capable, (His powers and reach are limitless), the All Knowing” (2:115)  
    “وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ” “keep fearing Allah and know well that Allah knows everything” (2:231)
    “إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ” “Allah knows well what lies within the hearts.” (3:119)
    The word عليم, or Alim meaning All-Knowing is mentioned as a Divine Attribute in numerous Quranic verses. Some of them are Surah Baqarah 2: 158, 181, 215, 224, 227, 244, 246, 261, 268, 273, 282, Surah Ale Imran 3: 115, 119, 154, Surah Nisa 4: 12, 26, 176, Surah Maida 5:54, 97 and so on.

    When He knows everything, He knows every language. 

    He descended down the Quran in Arabic. 

    Our primary goal should be to learn Arabic so as to understand the Quran in its original text. 

    However if there is any problem with anyone to understand the Quran in Arabic, he can go through the translations easily available online and offline in multiple languages.

    In India you can find out translations in Urdu, Hindi, English etc very easily. 

    Personally I prefer reading the Quran in Arabic to understand it and while doing this I  do get much better feeling than while doing it in any other languages, be it Urdu or English. I have got an experience of teaching Arabic. A colleague of mine had done MBA and was eagerly interested in learning the necessary Arabic so as to understand what is uttered during Namaz. He tried and learnt Arabic necessarily to understand Namaz within five months, with spending 2 hours every day. As for those knowing Arabic to understand the Quran should thank God Almighty and always be humble.
    The one who does know Arabic can learn it necessarily and if one can't do it, one can still be able to establish proximity with God Almighty, provided one is humble and with good intentions as He Almighty knows what is in heart and intentions. 

    By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي - 2/13/2019 8:03:00 AM



  • No, Mr Naseer Ahmad, that is not the right question to ask as the topic is specifically the 'language'. The question should be  - “Is God monolingual and understands only Arabic?”


    By Rashid Samnakay - 2/13/2019 2:22:32 AM



  • On a topic like this, the author and the commentators must declare whether or not they observe the ritual prayers 5 times a day. Without this declaration, their opinions do not matter. How does it matter what someone who is not punctilious about his prayers says on the subject of prayer?

    I may be wrong and would happy to be proven wrong, if there is even one person who unfailingly prays 5 times a day, every day of the year,  concur with the article.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/12/2019 10:53:42 PM



  • Making people recite words they do not understand must have some tangible purpose. And when people are made to do it for 100 generations, it becomes the preferred option.


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/12/2019 12:21:11 PM



  • Translated version of Quran can be understood by all,which the mullahs do not want.for the reason best known to them.

    By Jamshed Jamshed - 2/12/2019 7:34:44 AM



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