Shedding light on the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas with regard to his knowledge of the Arabic language, this series of articles seeks to answer major allegations raised against the Promised Messiah’sas use of Arabic phrases, his God-given eloquence and his command over the language and the usage of sentences taken from past literature.
Muhammad Tahir Nadeem, Central Arabic Desk
What was the claim of the Promised Messiahas about his absolute proficiency in God-given knowledge?
In addition to the unique insights and extraordinary pearls of wisdom mentioned in the Arabic books of the Promised Messiahas, the lughaat, idioms of Arabic, literary points, and unique expressions and styles etc. signify that he was blessed with absolute proficiency in Arabic language by God Almighty. The Promised Messiahas said:
“How can a person write so many Arabic books, containing insightful pearls of wisdom and knowledge, without absolute proficiency in [Arabic] knowledge?” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 440)
The above statement substantiates that the Arabic works of the Promised Messiahas were a reflection of his proficiency in the language of Arabic and to understand the truth about his claim of Arabic eloquence, one must have a deep literary recognition and comprehensive study of vast literature.
What is absolute proficiency in knowledge of Arabic?
Expounding on this matter, the Promised Messiahas said:
“A person cannot understand the Arabic idioms and acquire complete knowledge of their sarf wa nahw [morphology and grammar] unless, firstly, one is well-versed in the language of Arabs; secondly, one has gone through all the couplets of pre-Islamic poets; thirdly, one has carefully studied the vast early literature of language, which contains Arabic idioms and has reached the pinnacle of proficiency in [Arabic] knowledge.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 436)
Hence, if we want to understand the said claim of the Promised Messiahas and carry out a research, or if someone is keen on objecting to it, then they have to acquire knowledge of all the above-mentioned aspects, otherwise such objections will indicate one’s own lack of knowledge.
The knowledge of Arabic lughaat, dialects, usage of different idioms and styles automatically solves the objections that are raised due to a lack of understanding in this field of study.
Complete command over every aspect of the Arabic language is among the miracles of prophets
It is quite possible that certain individuals, by their own effort, cover all the stages of the necessary elements mentioned by the Promised Messiahas for the attainment of absolute proficiency in knowledge of Arabic, but it is not in their power to gain complete command over it. This is because absolute command on every aspect of the Arabic language is from among the miracles of prophets.
In this regard, the Promised Messiahas has presented the prophetic words of Hazrat Imam Shafi‘irh. The Promised Messiahas states:
“The lughat of Arabs, which is the real key to sarf wa nahw [morphology and grammar], is a limitless river and Imam Shafi‘i’srh saying in this regard is very accurate:
لا يعلمه الّا نبيّ
“That is, ‘No one can acquire complete knowledge of this language and understand its variety of idioms, save a prophet.’ This statement also proves that it is not in everyone’s power to gain command over every aspect of this language, and grasping it in its entirety is from the miracles of prophets, peace be upon them.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 437)
On the one hand, Hazrat Imam Shafi‘irh said that only a prophet could have full command over Arabic language and on the other hand, after presenting his claim of prophethood, the Promised Messiahas announced that God had given him the said miracle. Hence, only one person was worthy of achieving complete mastery in Arabic language in this age and that was the Prophet of God, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas.
What was the claim of the Promised Messiahas about the Arabic lughaat?
The Promised Messiahas also presented another extraordinary and unique claim with respect to his knowledge of Arabic. The Promised Messiahas said:
عُلِّمْتُ أَرْبَعِينَ أَلْفًا مِنَ اللُّغَاتِ العَرَبيَّةِ
“I have been taught 40,000 Arabic lughaat.” (Maktub Ahmad, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 11, p. 234)
There is a great need for explanation and clarification of this sentence. It is written in the well-known book of Arabic lexicon, Al-Munjid, that the word, lughat is used in every nation to signify popular speech. The word ilm al-lughah is also used to refer to all types of knowledge of Arabic.
The words of the Promised Messiahas, أَرْبَعِينَ أَلْفًا مِنَ اللُّغَاتِ العَرَبيَّةِ, are mostly translated as “40,000 root words of Arabic,” which is not wrong. However, if we read this sentence in its context, we will come to know that it means a lot more.
Below is the complete statement of the Promised Messiahas:
إنَّ كَمَالِيْ فِيْ اللِّسَانِ الْعَرَبِيّ، مَعَ قِلَّةِ جُهْدِيْ وَقُصُورِ طَلَبِيْ، آيَةٌ وَاضِحَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّيْ، لِيُظهِرَ عَلَى النَّاسِ عِلْمِيْ وَأَدَبِيْ، فَهَلْ مِنْ مُعَارِضٍ فِيْ جُمُوعِ المُخَالِفِيْن؟ وَإِنِّي مَعَ ذَلِكَ عُلِّمتُ أَرْبَعِيْنَ أَلْفًا مِنَ اللُّغَاتِ الْعَرَبِيَّةِ، وَأُعْطِيْتُ بَسْطَةً كَامِلَةً فِيْ الْعُلُومِ الأدَبِيَّة
“My distinction in the Arabic language – despite little effort and aspiration on my part – is a clear sign from my Lord, in order to manifest my knowledge and literary ability to people. Thus, is there anyone from among the opponents who can challenge me? Despite little effort, I have been taught 40,000 Arabic lughaat and granted complete knowledge of the literary sciences.” (Maktub Ahmad, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 11, p. 234)
If we consider that 40,000 Arabic lughaat mean 40,000 “root words” of Arabic, then this will only allude to a part of the comprehensive knowledge of Arabic bestowed to the Promised Messiahas. This also indicates that the meaning of 40,000 Arabic lughaat is something else and we need to know more about Arabic lughaat to understand the matter.
What are Arabic lughaat?
These lughaat are different words, alphabets, structures, idioms, styles and the ways of their usage by the Arabs, which were employed in different forms, in different Arab tribes. Sometimes, differences in these lughaat between various Arab tribes would occur by differences in the use of harakaat (diacritics) of certain words and at times, by differences in the sequence of letters of a word. In some cases, a tribe would create new words by adding some letters to the existing form and on other occasions, differences of feminine and masculine forms would give rise to different lughaat.
Sometimes, combining certain letters with similar sounding alphabets would produce different lughaat and in certain instances, using the same word in contrasting meanings would create a new lughat. Moreover, different usages, styles and idioms are part of these lughaat, which were used differently by different tribes for similar situations.
From these Arabic lughaat, the Promised Messiahas was taught 40,000 words, structures, usages, styles and idioms etc. by Allah the Almighty.
This explanation is also confirmed by the words of the Promised Messiahas, who says:
فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ وَفاةَ عِيسَى ثابِتٌ بِالْآيَاتِ الَّتِيْ هِيَ قَطْعِيَّةُ الدَّلالَةِ، لِأَنَّ القُرْآنَ مَا اسْتَعْمَلَ لَفْظَ التَّوَفِّي إِلَّا لِلْإِمَاتَةِ وَالْإِهْلَاكِ، وَصَدَّقَ ذَلِكَ المَعْنَى رَسولُ اللّٰهِ وَشَهِدَ عَلَيْهُ رَجُلٌ مِنَ الصَّحابَةِ الَّذِي كَانَ أَعْلَمُ بِلُغَاتِ قَوْمِهِ
“Let it be known that the death of Isa [Jesus] is evident from such verses that are absolute in their meaning, for the Quran has not used the word tawaffi except to signify death and passing away. The Messengersa of Allah has himself confirmed this meaning; furthermore, the one [Hazrat Abu Bakrra] who was the most knowledgeable amongst the Companionsra in the lughaat of his people, also gave testimony to this meaning.” (Hamamatul-Bushra, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 7, p. 311)
In other words, Hazrat Abu Bakrra had more knowledge of different usages of words, idioms, styles and meanings, and therefore knew that when the word tawaffi was used in that particular situation, it meant nothing but death. Hence, such usages or styles have been called lughaat by the Promised Messiahas.
In order to shed some more light on lughaat, we present some examples from Arabic literature and lexicon.
In the book, Al Muzhir, it is stated:
قَالَ الفَرّاءُ: كَانَت العَرَبُ تَحْضُرُ المَوْسِمَ فِي كُلِّ عَامٍ، وَتَحُجُّ البَيْتَ فِي الجَاهِلِيَّةِ، وَقُرَيْشٌ يَسْمَعُونَ لُغَات العَرَبِ، فَمَا اسْتَحْسَنُوهُ مِنْ لُغَاتِهِمْ تَكَلَّمُوا بِهِ؛ فَصَارُوا أَفْصَحَ العَرَبِ.
“Al-Farra states, ‘The Arabs would gather every year during the days of Hajj and perform the pilgrimage to the Sacred House in the pre-Islamic period. The Quraish would hear various lughaat [expressions, phrases and dialects] of the visiting Arabs and would adopt those lughaat which they liked. Thus, they became the most eloquent people among the Arabs.” (Al Muzhir, Al-Nau‘ al-Hadi Ashara: Marifatu ar-Radi‘ al-Madhmum min al-Lughaat)
The above description shows that the Arabic lughaat refer to different usages and idioms etc. which differed from tribe to tribe. However, since all the Arabs used to gather in Mecca for the pilgrimage, the Quraish listened to the lughaat of all of them and adopted the best idioms and usages of their language. It is for this reason that the Quraish were called Afsah-ul-Arab (the most eloquent among all the Arabs).
The Arabic lexicon, Lisan al-Arab, states:
نَزَلَ القُرْآنُ عَلَى سَبْعَةِ أَحْرُفٍ كُلُّها شَافٍ كَافٍ، أَرَادَ بِالْحَرْفِ اللُّغَةَ قَالَ أَبُو عُبَيْدٍ وَأَبُو العَبّاسِ: نَزَلَ عَلَى سَبْعِ لُغاتٍ مِنْ لُغاتِ العَرَبِ
“The Quran has been revealed according to seven ahruf, each one sufficient and complete. By using the word harf, [the Holy Prophetsa] intended lughah. Abu Ubaid and Abul-Abbas stated, ‘The Quran was revealed according to seven lughaat from among the lughaat of the Arabs.’” (Lisan al-Arab, under the word, “Harf”)
وقال الحافظ ابن جرير الطبري: معنى قول النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: نزل القرآن على سبعة أحرف، إنما هو أنه نزل بسبع لغات
“Al-Hafiz ibn Jarir al-Tabari said, ‘The statement of the Holy Prophetsa that the Quran was revealed in seven ahruf,means that it was revealed in seven lughaat.’” (Tafsir ibn Jarir, Al-Qaul fi al-Lugha allati Nazala biha al-Quran min lughaat al-Arab)
Here, the seven lughaat do not mean that they were seven completely different languages, but rather seven tribes differed in the usage of some words, phrases and expressions in their distinct dialects. This is the concept of lughaat of the Arabs.
For further explanation of lughaat, the statement of Layth has been cited by the author of Lisan al-Arab. It states:
وَيَكُونُ أَمْ بِمَعْنَى بَلْ، وَيَكُونُ أَمْ بِمَعْنَى أَلف الِاسْتِفْهامِ كَقَوْلِكَ: أَمْ عِنْدَكَ غَداءٌ حاضِرٌ؟ وَأَنْتَ تُرِيدُ: أَعِنْدَكَ غَداءٌ حاضِرٌ؟ وَهِيَ لُغَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ مِنْ لُغاتِ العَرَبِ
“The article ‘am’ (أَمْ) can be used to mean ‘bal’ (بَلْ). ‘Am’ can also be used instead of alif-ul-istifham (the interrogative particle); for example, you may say أَمْ عِنْدَكَ غَداءٌ حَاضِر [am indaka ghadaa‘un hadir? (Do you have any food ready?)], instead of saying أَعِنْدَكَ غَدَاءٌ حَاضِر [a indaka ghadaa‘un hadir?] This is also the correct use of lughat from among the lughaat of the Arabs.” (Lisan al-Arab, under the word: “Amam”)
In the above example, the use of the word am for a different meaning, contrary to its common usage has been considered a separate lughat.
At another place in Lisan Al-Arab, it is stated:
وَطه قَالَ: وَقَوْلُ الشّافِعيِّ نَفْسُهُ حُجَّةٌ لِأَنَّهُ – رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ – عَرَبيّ اللِّسانِ فَصيحُ اللَّهْجَةِ. قَالَ: وَقَدْ اعْتَرَضَ عَلَيْهِ بَعْضُ المُتَحَذْلِقينَ فَخَطَّأَهُ وَقَدْ عَجلَ وَلَمْ يَتَثَبَّتْ فِيمَا قَالَ. وَلَا يَجُوزُ لِلْحَضَرِيِّ أَنْ يعجلَ إِلَى إِنْكارِ مَا لَا يَعْرِفُهُ مِنْ لُغاتِ العَرَبِ
“Taha said: ‘The statement of Al-Shafi‘ira is in itself a proof, as he was a native Arab and eloquent in speech.’ He (Taha) states, ‘A pedantic person raised an objection against his statement out of haste without ascertaining the accuracy of his own objection. However, a city-dweller should not hasten to reject those lughaat of the Arabs which he does not know.’” (Lisan al-Arab, the letter “lam”, under the word: “Aul”)
Hence, the above statement also demonstrates that the subject of Arabic lughaat is very vast and it is impossible to get complete command over it with personal effort because all the Arabic lughaat have not been preserved. Consequently, it is unreasonable to object to a word, idiom or usage etc. without having complete knowledge of that language.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk, UK. Translated by Al Hakam, with special thanks to Ibrahim Ikhlaf Sahib of the Arabic Desk)