I have been thinking about why some people are averse to undertaking a deeper study of the Quranic Arabic. After all, it would seem to me that a better understanding of the language in which a text you are studying would be something to aspire to. There seem to be various reasons for this, and I can understand why some people may be intimidated by the notion of having to learn a new language, but I am at a loss as to why there is at times such a strong push against pursuing any kind of in depth study of Arabic roots.

I would be very interested to know from those who marginalise the study of Arabic and its roots when studying the Quran, why they feel it is not an important part of such study.

There are those out there who would like to study Arabic roots but feel it is beyond them, and this is what I would like to address here. The most concise way that I can address this is by saying: “Don’t shy away from studying the Arabic of the Quran because you feel that it is difficult or you don’t have the credentials”. It is much easier than you may think.

We sometimes see people discussing things (any subject), and feel out of our depth, forgetting that they started somewhere, at a beginning and developed stage by stage as much as they put in to it.

I am not an Arab, nor do I have no formal tertiary Arabic training, but I think that it is important to learn the Arabic of the Quran and would like to create a friendly, easy environment for those who want learn some of the basics of studying Arabic roots. For this, I have started a facebook group called QuranRoots. It hasn’t been active because I have been trying to figure the best way to move forward with it. I’ve finally decided how I would like to approach this.

The discussion group will utilise the chat function in a kind of class environment at a set time, when any members interested can join the “class”. This group will be focussed on QuranRoots and will not put too much emphasis on the grammar aspects. It will require volunteers who are willing to share their methodologies for studying Arabic root words. These volunteers would “lead” the class by taking people through the process of examining a particular root, which could extend over a few sessions. Once the root has been explored this way, further discussions on the root can take place on the forum.

Would anyone be interested in this, especially volunteering to share your methodologies for exploring the roots? Once we have a few volunteers I will post it on Quranology group and others.

Desperately Seeking: Divine Guidance

I remember a long time ago (before my conversion to Islam) I wanted to lose weight and my belief was that I could only really effectively achieve that goal by 1. Reducing my fat and sugar intake and 2 increasing my physical activity. Essentially that’s all I had to do.

Anyone who has ever tried to do this will know that sticking at something that you know is good for you is sometimes not that easy. Sometimes we are tired or lazy. We are only human after all. What I personally found to be of benefit was reading magazine articles about nutrition, getting readers’ tips on what kinds of low-fat food items are out there on the supermarket shelves,  people’s opinions on what is tried and tested as tasty AND low calorie, suggestions to spice up the exercise routine. I read lots of magazines from different publishers, each with reader contributions – unbiased, genuine personal experiences and sharing what they found worked for them. I read personal testimonials, and saw before and after photos. I even got a training buddy so that when we made an appointment to go running together or to the gym, we actually stuck at it. Sometimes there were adverts at the back of the magazine for magic pills claiming they were THE only way to lose weight. Or special machines that were THE only way to get the perfect flat stomach. The magazine articles and reader’s contributions never claimed to be THE only way; the information was there to muse upon, be encouraged by, be tried out, tested for yourself, or rejected. The goal (lose weight) was always the number one focus.

I recently invited someone to join the Quranists Network forum and the invitation was politely declined with “Thanks for your invitation but I don’t think I can guide myself. I’ll trust God and let him be my guide.”

It was a statement that made me go into analysis mode. The reply seemed to suggest that being in a forum and trusting God were mutually exclusive. I am in online forums, but I let God guide me don’t I? I trust God don’t I? I analysed my suggestion and the reply I received. It seemed to me that my suggestion to join a forum was understood to mean an invitation to “seek Divine Guidance” from other than the Quran. Of course that was not what my invitation was. What was my invitation? To join a forum. For what purpose? I had to then analyse my own reasons for using online forums.

I suppose that if I knew people in my own community I would be talking to them, socialising with them, talking passionately about the Quran with them, studying Quran together, instead of doing all this online. Does joining an online forum automatically mean you are “seeking Divine Guidance” from other than God? I have thought about this and I really think there is a difference between “seeking Divine Guidance” and having a network of friends who share a common goal, who encourage, support and urge one another to keep up the striving for the goal.

See Chapter 90:17 and Chapter 103:3 noticing in particular the word “watawāṣaw

I think it is important to try to understand the differences between “seeking help” and “seeking refuge” in the Divine sense and the different words for supporting / exhorting / enjoining / encouraging / urging each other ; other believers.

InshaaAllah, it is my intention to seek Divine Guidance from God: His Words in the Quran. It appears to me that this is the common goal of the forum users / other believers. Not to project or persuade others of their own understanding, but to share experiences and Quran study conclusions / reasoning. No one is saying a contributor’s interpretation is the only way. No one is saying that if you do not agree, then you can’t participate in the forum. It’s sharing, it’s discussing, it’s having a common goal and being passionate and enthusiastic about it, then going away and reading for yourself, reflecting, pondering, investigating, studying…and sharing again. I’d like to think that by participating in the discussions I am fulfilling “watawāṣaw bil-ḥaqi” from 103:3, inshaaAllah.

Does the Quran forbid people studying together in groups? Does the Quran forbid believers from getting together to find ways of applying the instructions and teachings? Does the Quran forbid discussion or reasoning in groups whether online or in person?   My understanding is that it does not forbid any of these. And Allah knows best.

In the Quranists Network forum we are sharing study tips and advice on how to access Quran information, study tools and databases online, investigating ways to study Quran, seeing how Quranic Arabic grammar works. Anyone can start a thread. Maybe you could find a study / reading partner and resolve to read a chapter (surah) per week and discuss it, taking notes of the new Arabic words / themes  you have come across, and share on the forum? I see it as a place to question our own beliefs and analyse why we believe what we believe, based on Quranic evidence, which helps to keep an open mind and try to see things from different points of view.  We can try to verify information together, use collective resources, share experiences, and share verses we find particularly inspiring.

Is that so bad?

2:146 الذين ءاتينهم الكتب يعرفونه كما يعرفون ابناءهم وان فريقا منهم ليكتمون الحق وهم يعلمون

6:20 الذين ءاتينهم الكتب يعرفونه كما يعرفون ابناءهم الذين خسروا انفسهم فهم لا يومنون

Quranists Network projects include setting up an online live Quran Study Circle, organising real life meetups, publishing a magazine and organising an International Conference inshaaAllah. To keep informed of updates to these projects, please subscribe (free) via the Quranists Network newletter page.