Is knowledge of Arabic necessary for understanding and practicing Islam?
I offer prayers in Urdu, apart from the compulsory Quranic part. I have not made any effort to learn Arabic yet. I do not find enough motivation for it because at the back of my mind I think that believing in God, doing good deeds and believing in the Hereafter is all one needs to do to get closer to God. Secondly, since I cannot become an expert of the language, why should I not just follow Ghamidi Sahib’s translation of the Quran in order to understand the Book?
It is not a sin not to learn Arabic when you are discharging your religious duties well. However, I believe that you are missing a higher level.
The Quran when understood in Arabic directly is a book very different from what its translation would make it appear. Our prayers would still be valid without knowledge of Arabic language. But the advantage of knowing directly what we are reciting is immense. You need to experience it to appreciate it.
No translation of Iqbal’s poetry can come anywhere near his original words in their effect, likewise Ghalib’s or that of any author or great poet of any language. God’s very own words can’t be compared with those of any other: They are deeply rich and moving.
I have no doubt that if I was given a choice to learn God’s book through its own language or any other opportunity of learning something else, I would not hesitate in going for the former. The reward of it in terms of even the worldly experience of spiritual joy is so immense that it should be high on one’s list of priorities.
I made it a point to teach Arabic to enable people to learn Quran directly immediately after learning it myself and feeling the deep impact it had on the quality of my prayers and recitation of the Quran. I cannot imagine a better experience in life than that of reciting a passage of Quran in formal prayer or otherwise and understanding its meaning directly. When a few of my students who had learned Arabic from me shared their special feelings they had when they heard a good Quranic recitation, my commitment of continuing to teach was enhanced.
Some people may not find learning Arabic to the full extent a realistic possibility, but they should not be completely deprived of this opportunity. People can learn enough to read and understand the Quran. Those who wish to learn it can refer to my Lectures “Learn Quranic Arabic in English”