I am sitting in the Arabic Class. In addition to the regular students there are many new students who have come to attend a free introductory class to taste the flavor of Arabic and are trying to figure out if it will benefit them.
There are Muslims who are dissatisfied with the twenty-seven translations of the same ayah of the Quran, each one different from the other. They wonder how to learn “Modern Standard Arabic” which is the Arabic of the Quran, and remove the middle man (the translator) between them and their Lord, Allah Subhanawataala.
There are non-Muslims college students who see their future as policy makers of the United States and have wisely come seeking the learning of the language spoken in the richest part of the world. Understanding its complex culture, which is based on the richness of the language and the practice of people based on the commands of the Quran, which is expressed in Modern Standard Arabic.
Understanding the people of Arabia is a challenge for all foreigners. The opening of the cyber highways has exposed the fact that all routes of prosperity lead to Arabia and are available to everyone equally. The winners will be those who can speak understand and feel the language in all its nuances and can sense the subtle yet rich meanings. Only then can they bridge the cultural gap without “foot in mouth” situations.
Mean while the Professor speaks and my reverie breaks. He says:
“There are many people who sit on a show at the National News TV Channels and are cited as “EXPERTS ON THE MIDDLE EAST” these people expound on the intricacies of war and peace and the psyche and reasoning behind the actions of the Arabian people. They do so without having the knowledge of a single word of Arabic in so much that they even do not know what is “Salaam”
Suddenly a light bulb goes on in my brain and everything falls into place. The misinterpretations of intentions of the people in the Middle East based on what the translator said about the feelings expressed by the youth members of the Arab spring……….the sudden rise of Al Jazeera as the prime news source, all fits into what he just said.
None of these “so called experts on the middle east” know anything about Arabic! They do not even know something that an Arab third grader would know, that there are 150 names of a “lion’ and 300 words for “snake” in Arabic. Thus how could they even scratch the surface of what the Arabian people are saying, writing or feeling? How can they assess how the Arab people are going to react? Can they even make a basic distinction between the Arabic word Qalb and Kalb? The first meaning heart and the later meaning a dog?
These commentators who do not know a single word of Arabic, expound 24/7 across the airwaves, disseminating misinformation to the 200 million innocent Americans about a part of the world that is vital, strategically, politically, economically and for several billion people spiritually.
At the heart of Arabia lies the secret of success, spiritually, financially and politically. Success is only going to come to those who not only read and write Arabic but can understand the rich multidimensional manner in which it is used to coax, cajole, compliment as well disparage someone without using a single bad word.
Success will only come to those who will make the concerted effort to understand Modern Standard Arabic well enough to think, write and speak it and perhaps even dream in it!