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
Views of Arabs on Arabic lughaat and their usage
The following references shed considerable light on the subject of Arabic lughaat, their compilation and usage.
1. In his book, Al-Naqd Al-Adabi Al-Hadith, Muhammad Ghunaimi Hilal has mentioned a saying of Hazrat Umar ibn Al-Khattabra about the compilation of Arabic literature. It states:
كَانَ الشِّعْرُ عِلْمَ قَوْمٍ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُمْ عِلْمٌ أَصَحَّ مِنْهُ [۔۔۔] فَجَاءَ الإِسْلامُ فَتَشاغَلَتْ عَنْهُ العَرَبُ، وَتَشاغَلوا بِالْجِهَادِ وَغَزْو فارِسٍ والرّومِ، وَوَلهتْ عَنْ الشَّعْرِ وَرِوايَتِه، فَلَمَّا كَثُرَ الإِسْلامُ، وَجَاءَت الفُتُوحُ وَاطْمَأَنَّت العَرَبُ بِاَلْأَمْصارِ، راجعوا رِوايَةَ الشِّعْرِ، فَلَمْ يؤولوا إِلَى دِيوَانٍ مُدَوَّنٍ، وَلَا كِتابٍ مَكْتوبٍ، وَأَلَّفوا فِي ذَلِكَ، وَقَدْ هَلَكَ مِنْ العَرَبِ مِنْ هَلَكَ بِالْمَوْتِ والْقَتْلِ، فَحِفْظوا أَقَلَّ ذَلِكَ، وَذَهَبَ عَلَيْهمْ مِنْهُ كَثيرٌ
“Poetry was a source of knowledge for the [Arab] people; they did not possess any other source more authentic than poetry […] When Islam came, the Arabs turned their attention towards engaging in Jihad, attacking the Persians and Romans, distracting them from the art of poetry and its narration. When Islam became widespread, conquests took place and the Arabs settled peacefully in the conquered lands. It was during this period that they returned to narrating poetry. They did not depend on recorded poetical works or written books; rather, they began to compose poetry. By that time, many Arabs had passed away or been killed. Thus, they recorded a small portion of poetry and a large amount of it was lost.” (Al-Naqd Al-Adabi Al-Hadith, p. 6 [published by Dar al-Thaqafa, Beirut])
2. Abu Amr ibn Al-Alaa, one of Qurra-e-Sab‘ah [the seven reciters of the Holy Quran], a great scholar and an Arab linguists, states:
مَا انْتَهَى إِلَيْكُمْ مِمَّا قَالَت العَرَبُ إِلَّا أَقَلَّهُ، وَلَوْ جَاءَكُمْ وَافِرًا لجاءَكُمْ عِلْمٌ وَشِعْر كَثي
“Only a small portion of the narrations of the Arabs have been passed down to you. If they had reached you in abundance, then you would have indeed received a great measure of [Arabic] knowledge and poetry.” (Tabaqat Fuhul Ash-Shu‘ara‘ Ta‘lif Ibn Salam Al-Jumahi, p. 25 [Tahqiq Mahmud Muhammad Shakir: 1974])
3. Ibn Jinni, a well-known Arabic grammar specialist of the fourth century AH, has written in his book, Al-Khasa‘is, a chapter entitled, Ikhtilaf Al-Lughaat wa Kullaha Hujjah [The differences between the Arabic lughaat and all of them are comprehensive evidence]. Under this heading, he writes about the use of rare and uncommon Arabic lughaat and states:
فَإِذَا كَانَ الأَمْرُ فِي اللُّغَةِ المُعَوَّل عَلَيْهَا هَكَذَا، وَعَلَى هَذَا فَيَجِبُ أَنْ يَقِلَّ اسْتِعْمالُها، وَأَنْ يَتَخَيَّرَ مَا هوَ أَقْوَى وَأَشيَعَ مِنْهَا، إِلَّا أَنَّ إِنْسَانًا لَوْ اسْتَعْمَلَهَا لَمْ يَكُنْ مُخْطِئًا لِكَلَامِ العَرَبِ، لَكِنَّهُ كَانَ يَكونُ مُخْطِئًا لِأَجْوَدِ اللُّغَتَيْنِ. فَأَمَّا إِنْ احْتَاجَ إِلَى ذَلِكَ فِي شِعْرٍ أَوْ سَجَعٍ فَإِنَّهُ مَقْبولٌ مِنْهُ، غَيْرُ مَنْعِي عَلَيْه. وَكَذَلِكَ إِنْ قَالَ: يَقُولُ عَلَى قِيَاس مَنْ لُغَته كَذَا كَذَا، وَيَقُولُ عَلَى مَذْهَبِ مَنْ قَالَ كَذَا كَذَا. وَكَيْفَ تَصَرَّفَت الْحَالُ فَالْناطِقُ عَلَى قِيَاسِ لُغَةٍ مِنْ «لُغاتِ العَرَبِ» مُصيبٌ غَيْرُ مُخْطِئٍ، وَإِنْ كَانَ غَيْر مَا جَاءَ بِهِ خَيْرًا مِنْهُ
“Thus, if this is the case regarding a certain lughah [expression] in a language being used, then such expressions should be used less often and the writer should choose expressions which are more effective and prevalent. However, if someone uses them, then this does not mean they have erred in the usage of the Arabic language; however, it is possible they may have committed the mistake of using an uncommon lughah instead of a more common one. If one needs to use such an expression when composing poetry or rhyming prose, then this is acceptable and is not prohibited.
“Similarly, if someone refers in his writing to the lughah [dialect] of a certain tribe, stating that ‘I have used this expression on the measure of this dialect’, or ‘I have written this according to a certain grammatical school of thought’, then, in this case, they are correct in their usage of the Arabic language. However, it would have been better for them to use a common expression instead of an uncommon one.” (Al-Khasa‘is, Juz‘ 2, Bab fi al-Arab Yasm‘u Lughah Ghairahu Ayara‘iha wa Ya‘tamiduha Am Yalghaiha wa Yatrahu Hukmaha, p. 14)
Hence, Ibn Jinni says that the use of uncommon lughaat should be minimal and the writer should choose the best and the most popular lughaat from the lughaat of the Arabs. However, if someone uses uncommon lughaat instead of a well-known lughat, they will not be considered mistaken in their usage of the Arabic language.
On the other hand, they may have committed the mistake of using an uncommon lughat rather than a more common one. However, if they use an uncommon lughat in poem or prose, then it is acceptable and not forbidden. Moreover, if someone refers to a certain lughat of an Arab tribe and writes in accordance with it, then that is also justified usage of uncommon lughaat. In a nutshell, if someone bases his Arabic work on any Arabic lughat, it will be considered correct and such a person will not be called erroneous.
Surprisingly, the Arabic words or usages of the Promised Messiahas which are objected to are mostly taken from his poetry and prose, and Ibn Jinni says that in these two Arabic works, the use of uncommon lughaat is acceptable and there is no prohibition about it.
Moreover, research on many Arabic lughaat used by the Promised Messiahas proves that they are correct according to the lughaat of various Arab tribes.
On the other hand, if opponents object to some other Arabic lughaat, styles or usages of the Promised Messiahas by saying that there are no similar examples in Arabic literature, then this fact confirms his claim that Allah the Almighty taught him 40,000 Arabic lughaat. And since very little has been done to preserve the Arabic lughaat and very few of these lughaat have reached us, no one has any tangible proof or justification to refute the claim of the Promised Messiahas.
4. In his book, Al-Muhtasib, Ibn Jinni states:
لَيْسَ يَنْبَغِي أَنْ يُطْلَقَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ لَهُ وَجْهٌ فِي العَرَبيَّةِ قائِمٌ۔ وَإِنْ كَانَ غَيْرُهُ أَقْوَى مِنْهُ۔ أَنَّهُ غَلَطٌ
“It is incorrect to assert that an expression which can be found in the Arabic language – even if another expression is more effective – is wrong.” (Al-Muhtasib fi Tabyin Wujuh Shawadhdh Al-Qira‘at wa Al-Iddahu Anha, Juz‘ 1, p. 236)
5. The famous Allama Abu Hayyan Al-Andalusi of the seventh century AH, in his book, At-Tadhyil wat-Takmil, writes:
كلُّ ما كان لغةً لقبيلةٍ قِيسَ عليه
“If a certain usage of Arabic can be found in the dialect of a tribe, then it is possible to measure and adopt a similar style.” (Al-Tadhyil wat-Takmil fi sharhit-Tashīl, 2/28)
Thus, a deep study and knowledge of the lughaat of Arabs strengthen the claim of the Promised Messiahas and proves the magnitude of his proficiency in Arabic lughaat. Any objection to the words and phrases related to this subject only attest to the lack of knowledge in Arabic of the opponents.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam, with special thanks to Ibrahim Ikhlaf Sahib, Arabic Desk UK)