It can be intimidating for a new Muslim to be told that the Qur’an has to be read in Arabic when he or she can’t make heads or tails of the Arabic script in the first place. So learning not just letters but pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary seems a daunting task.
But if I may say so, it is one of the more rewarding endeavors in which a person can dedicate his time. And in actuality, it’s not as difficult as it might seem at the start.
In fact, throughout the Qur’an, Allah describes Arabic and the Qur’an as easy:
So, (O Muhammad), We have only made the Qur’an easy in the Arabic language that you may give good tidings thereby to the righteous and warn thereby a hostile people. (Maryam 19:97)
Verily, We have made this (Qur’an) easy, in thy tongue, in order that they may give heed. (Ad-Dukhan 44:58)
And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember? (Al-Qamar 54:17)
So before we start complaining about it being hard, we should remember that Allah (the Lord of the Worlds) is making it easy for us; making it easy to learn to read Arabic, to speak it, and to understand it in the Qur’an.
Now, for some people the motivation for learning Arabic is more to learn spoken Arabic, perhaps to communicate with Arab Muslims, maybe new family members. In that case, I can’t promise it will be as easy, but the person whose intention is solely for the sake of Allah, to learn the Qur’an, I know will have the help of Allah.
I think it’s sad that to see Muslims who have had years of opportunities to learn and still haven’t made any progress regarding the Arabic language.
Do they know the blessings they are missing out on, that they can’t even read the Qur’an in the original Arabic?
Moreover, I know many converts struggle in trying to memorize the Qur’an, and we know from a hadith that Allah will reward their struggle. But for years, they go by having memorized only one or two surahs (chapters)!
Is it necessary to spend hours listening to audio over and over and over to try to pick up the sounds?
For anyone who wants to start memorizing more Qur’an, I would say they should focus their energy on learning to read Arabic. I can say from my own experience that memorizing became much faster, easier, and fulfilling, once I could read the Arabic. Sounds became words, words became phrases and phrases took on meaning. Being able to read the Qur’an in Arabic, while trying to memorize it, can only facilitate memorization.
So I have come to the opinion that one essential component of any program for helping new Muslims must be helping them to learn the Arabic language–not for speaking, not for conversation, but to start reading the Qur’an. And the minimum responsibility should be to teach them the letters–recognition and pronunciation–and proper recitation of the Qur’an.
A class for new Muslims to teach Arabic, starting with letters, should actively involve the students reading writing words as soon as they know the relevant letters. Seeing letters on a board or in a book is not enough to learn them.
Worksheets, tests and quizzes are good motivational tools to keep the students practicing the letters consistently. Consistency is the only way to make it stick constant use.
For students trying to learn the Arabic alphabet, flashcards are an exceptionally useful tool. Correcting the pronunciation requires a teacher with a good ear and lots of practice. The articulation of some letters is an acquired skill children can learn easily, but with dedication adults can become equally proficient and should not be deterred because a letter is difficult or not present in their native language.
But a person cannot stop their Arabic after learning the letters. They must progress immediately to learning tajweed (rules of Qur’anic recitation). This is to correct and improve their articulation, and to help them begin in reciting Qur’an.
When able to actually read and recite the Qur’an even without understanding, a person is at least establishing a connection with the Qur’an, and is consistently practicing the Arabic already learnt.
This ‘practice‘ keeps the knowledge (of the alphabet, articulation, tajweed, etc.) in the front of a person’s mind, building a skill that will undoubtedly brighten his or her heart and mind. It is a skill that opens up the Qur’an, and opens the heart to the Qur’an.
So I would suggest for new Muslims who haven’t started learning any Arabic yet, to make it a priority. And for anyone involved in educational programs for new Muslims, to incorporate some Arabic into those programs to help our communities build and strengthen their relationship with the Qur’an.