The Bible and the origin of languages

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“After the flood of Noah, God Almighty had desired that humanity should quickly multiply by the process of procreation. Divine providence in its absolute power had left them to enjoy, for a length of time, good health and peace. As a result of it, they multiplied and prospered and made extraordinary progress.

“Thereupon, some of the communities, not finding enough room in their own countries, moved towards Sinaar [Shinar], the land of Babel and reaching there, populated that city, increasing in numbers, such that no parallel of it could be found in any age. Then, they dispersed to other cities and thus became the cause of the differentiation of so many languages of the world.” (Arabic: Mother of all Languages, pp. 15-16 [English Translation of Minanur-Rahman])

Referring to the above extract, opponents of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian assert that if we suppose that the birth of Noahas took place a thousand years aft er Adamas, then the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat is suggesting that the flood of Noahas occurred 2,000 years aft er Adamas, i.e. 4,000 years from today.

Opponents consider this idea, which they have themselves assumed from the excerpt, to be irrational because it indicates that the inhabitants of today’s world are the progeny of Noahas and of the few who survived along with him, and that 4,000 years ago, there was no other civilisation except for the handful of people who escaped the catastrophe. In order to comprehend the actual meaning of the aforementioned extract, we ought to know its background and context.

The Promised Messiahas substantiated that the Arabic language is the source of all languages and other languages are its derivations which resulted from different influences and varying circumstances. According to him, Arabic is the mother of all languages and it is also the divine language which was taught by God Almighty to mankind.

Moreover, it is for this reason that the Holy Quran was revealed in Arabic for all nations of the world. The Promised Messiahas has laid down these details in his book Minan-ur-Rahman [The Blessings of the Gracious God]. Language experts and scholars of various nations hold different views in this regard. Some consider Sanskrit to be the first language, while others consider Persian or Hebrew to be the mother of all languages. One of the arguments presented in book Minan-ur-Rahman, in order to convince the Jews and Christians of Europe that Arabic is the mother of all languages, is chapter 11, verse 1 from the book of Genesis, which clearly indicates that there was only one language in the world.

The same chapter further states:

“As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there … So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel – because there, the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:2-9)

It is stated in chapter 9 of Genesis:

“The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.” (Genesis 9:8-9)

According to the Bible, only Noahas, his wife, three sons and their wives were aboard the ark and only they were saved from the catastrophe, while the remainder of mankind was annihilated. Hence, the progenies of Noah’sas three sons populated the whole of the earth.

The Promised Messiahas presented this statement of the Bible before the Jews, Christians and the European nations as a general argument, as he stated:

“Christians and Jews have no option but to admit that Arabic is the mother of languages, for it is established by the clear authority of the Torah that in the beginning there was one language; then, God Almighty cast differences into them at Babel, vide; Torah Genesis, chapter 11. All agree that the city of Babel was located in the region where Karbala is located today. Then the conclusion derivable from the statement in the Torah is no other than that Arabic is the mother of all languages. British and Muslim scholars agree that after the destruction of Babel, the suburbs of which sprawled over 200 miles in length, which, in point of population, was equal to the population of five cities like the city of London, which had also wonderful and elaborately laid out gardens, and through which flowed the river Euphrates, was located in Iraq in the Arabian Peninsula, with its debris were built the cities of Basra, Kufa, Halla, Baghdad and Midian. All these cities are situated near its boundaries. This, therefore, proves that Babel was located in the Arabian Peninsula.” (Arabic: Mother of all Languages, pp. 13-14)

Citing the first verse of chapter 11 of Genesis, which mentions that the entire world had only one language, the Promised Messiahas states:

“It ought to be clear that ‘the whole earth’ cannot mean the soil only of Babel, which is known by the name of Sinaar [Shinar], for this verse relates to the stories set out earlier in chapter 10. Therefore, the verse aforesaid means that all the nations inhabiting this world had one and the same language, up till the time a group of them reached Babel. After they had reached Babel, God Almighty made their languages different from one another. Differences were cast into the languages by the inhabitants of Babel having been pushed out into different countries, as is borne out by the eighth verse of this same chapter, which is, ‘God dispersed them from there over the whole earth’.

“Evidently, these people, having been dispersed from Babel, migrated to different countries … It becomes clear that the meaning of these verses is that before the event of Babel, the world had only one language, which is the agreed creed of the Jews and the Christians. Whoever doubts this statement is very much mistaken. This creed is one of the clear authorities of the Torah, which is deemed to be agreed to by the people of the book from ancient times.

“However, it has to be admitted that when, according to verse 1 of chapter 11 of Genesis, the language of the whole world was one, it would be absurd to suppose that all mankind, having migrated from their respective lands, came to stay in Babel. There appears to be no reason for why they had left their countries. The truth, however, appears to be that as after the flood of Noah, God Almighty desired that humanity should quickly multiply by the process of procreation. Divine providence in its absolute power had left them to enjoy, for a length of time, good health and peace.

As a result of it, they multiplied and prospered and made extraordinary progress. Thereupon, some of the communities, not finding enough room in their own countries, moved towards Sinaar [Shinar], the land of Babel and reaching there, populated that city, increasing in numbers, such that no parallel of it could be found in any age. Then, they dispersed to other cities and thus became the cause of the differentiation of so many languages of the world.” (Arabic: Mother of all Languages, pp. 14-16)

Muslim opponents should express delight for this Divine disclosure upon the Promised Messiahas and consequently, admit to the truth and honour of the Imam and Mahdi of the age. On the contrary, they misquote the statements of the Promised Messiahas and raise objections by drawing absolutely wrong meanings from them.

Pondering over the extract under discussion, we can easily find out that there is no mention of the earth being deprived of all mankind some 4,000 years ago. Moreover, the Promised Messiahas can never express such an idea because it contradicts with the details laid down in the Holy Quran, as Allah Almighty states:

وَ لَقَدۡ اَرۡسَلۡنَا نُوۡحًا اِلٰی قَوۡمِہٖ فَلَبِثَ فِیۡہِمۡ اَلۡفَ سَنَۃٍ اِلَّا خَمۡسِیۡنَ عَامًا ؕ فَاَخَذَہُمُ الطُّوۡفَانُ وَ ہُمۡ ظٰلِمُوۡنَ

“And We certainly sent Noah to his people, and he dwelt among them a thousand years save fifty years. Then the deluge overtook them, while they were wrongdoers.” (Surah al-Ankabut, Ch.29: V.15)

The above verse clearly expresses that only the transgressors from the people of Noahas were punished by the catastrophe and not all the civilisations of the world. As previously explained, referring to the sacred book of Jews and Christians, the Promised Messiahas put forward that even the Bible attests to the fact that there was only one language in the world after the deluge of Noahas.

That language, according to the Promised Messiahas, is Arabic, the mother of all languages and the divine language, in which the final book, the Holy Quran, was revealed. The Bible verifies the viewpoint of the Promised Messiahas on various occasions, as it stated in the book of Genesis:

“Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.” (Genesis 7:23)

“So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.’” (Genesis 6:13)

“So make yourself an ark of cypress … and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.” (Genesis 6:14-18)

After the deluge of Noahas came to an end, it is stated in the Bible:

“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’” (Genesis 9:1)

The Bible further states:

“These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.” (Genesis 9:19)

Discussing the verses of the Bible cited above, the Promised Messiahas stated those lines that are questioned by the opponents. By doing so, he drew the attention of the followers of the Bible who consider it to be a holy book and supported his argument that Arabic is the mother of all languages. On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that the Promised Messiahas was not of the opinion that all mankind is the progeny of one Adam and this fact refutes all the objections raised by the opponents.

Hence, in response to a question, the Promised Messiahas stated:

“We do not follow the Bible in holding that the world began with the birth of this Adam six or seven thousand years ago, and that before this, there was nothing and God was as if idle [or without work], nor do we claim that all mankind who are now present in different parts of the earth are the progeny of the same last [known] Adam. [On the contrary,] we hold that mankind existed even before this Adam, as is indicated by the words of the Holy Quran [when] God Almighty said:

اِنِّیْ جَاعِلٌ فِی الْاَرْضِ خَلِیْفَۃً

[‘I am about to place a Khalifa in the earth’].

Khalifa means a successor, and this clearly explains that man existed even before Adam. Hence we cannot say whether the natives of America or Australia etc. are the progeny of this last Adam or some other Adam [who existed before him].

“There is a saying of Hazrat Muhiyuddin ibn Arabi which responds to the situation of your question. He states, ‘I went to perform Hajj. A person met me there. I thought he was the Adam. So, I asked him, “Are you the Adam?” He replied, “Which Adam do you ask about? Thousands of Adams have gone by.”’” (Malfuzat, Vol. 10, pp. 432-433).

(Research conducted by a panel of scholars at the Research Cell. Translated by Al Hakam)

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