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Dr. V. Abdur Rahim has to his credit, honours and positions for his tireless service for the cause of Arabic language and literature. His refreshingly innovative ideas for the teaching of Arabic language have taken him to innumerable destinations in the Arab World and the West. Holding an ‘Afzalul Ulema’ from Madras University and M.A. from Aligarh Muslim University, Dr. V. Abdur Rahim acquired a doctorate in Arabic from Al-Azhar University of Cairo.
Having taught Arabic Language at the Islamic Universities at Omdurman (Sudan), Germany, Washington D.C., British Guyana and the Islamic University of Madinah, Dr. V Abdur Rahim today heads the Qur’an Translation Centre at the King Fahd Qur’an Printing Complex in Madinah as its Director.
(This interview was published in August 1997 issue of the Islamic Voice, a popular Islamic Monthly published from Bangalore, India)
What led you to Arabic language scholarship?Arabic as the language of the Holy Qur’an had fascinated me. When I was young, my father took me to a ‘Maulana’. The way he taught me was totally disgusting. Ha failed to tell me the Arabic word for ‘flower’. I deserted this ‘teacher’ and purchased books to learn Arabic through English. From then on, it was entirely my own effort that kept propelling me.
Muslims consider Arabic a sacred language. Don’t you think that this fosters a complex among them which keeps them from serious learning of the language?This should be rather the precise reason for which Muslims must learn the language of the Holy Qur’an. It is the method of teaching that keeps them away from the language. Arabic is taught more or less in a traditional way. We don’t have the modern methods and aids to teach the Arabic language. We don’t have language laboratories with audio-visual aids. Here in the Islamic University at Madinah, we have full-fledged laboratories and we have produced about 100 video films and a lot of charts.
But in Indian Madrassas it will be considered a sacrilege to allow television sets.
What best Audio-visual aids would you suggest?The simplest aid is the blackboard with chalkpieces in different colours. These can create a very good effect. Unfortunately, even this aid is not put to use in madrassas. Charts, slides, skits, language games, all these could be very effective tools for Arabic teaching.
What does your rich experience suggest about the approach to Arabic language teaching?The best approach is the Direct Method. From the very first lesson you start speaking Arabic. The teacher has to guide the students. In language class, the students have to work more. The teachers need not lecture. Lecturing in language has no meaning.
How do you see the ‘Translation Method’ adopted in the deeni Madaris?By translation you cannot learn a language. Arabic is a living language. Unfortunately, it is approached as if it is a dead language. The teacher and the taught don’t use Arabic as a vehicle of communication.
What about the ‘Grammar Method’?Grammar is the basis. Without grammar one can’t learn any language. But, then, grammar should be taught according to the student’s need. The problem is that the whole grammar is taught in the beginning itself. Without application! without thought! Through this method, the students know only one example. And that too old-fashioned. We need to teach diction which is used today.
In literature too, the students are taught things which do not bear any relevance to Islam, e.g. Diwan -e- Mutanabbi?In Islamic schools we want students to learn the language plus Islam. Diwan-e-Mutanabbi is neither relevant to Islam nor is its language a hujjah (authoritative source), Mutanabbi comes after the period of Hujjah. For me teaching this book in Islamic schools is a sinful act. Students are not taught what they need today. Instead of teaching what Islam and Muslims need, we teach something which is of no use. Take the case of Kalila Dimna. It’s a translation of Panch Tantra written by a person whose ideology clashes with Islamic ideology. I don’t know why we teach such cock and bull stories in Madrassas where we need to mould the character and mind of the students.
In addition to classical language, there is a need to teach Arabic as a modern language.Yes, modern language is nothing but the usage of modern terminology along with classical language. We want the students to learn current language, to speak and write relevant Arabic. We also need people who can write for Islam, send rejoinders to anti-Islamic writings etc. Such combined talents of Muslims knowing Islam and Journalism is rarely found in our midst.
I have been sharing some cartoons and also books, Someone can certainly come up and make some criticism on this as there are some nasheed in the cartoons and also pictures in the books.
I found these to be very beneficial in Learning Arabic and understanding so i want to share these in case anyone finds any satisfaction inshaaAllah.
# 1: I finally realized having pictures in the books we read helps us understand the texts so much better. I prefer having cartoon pictures then real life taken pictures, that bothers me a lot. Sometimes, i can narrate a story without reading anything but when i read alhamdulillah many things become so much clear, and to understand many unknown words pictures help me so much. I usually do not have to look up any words due to that reason.
# 2: Cartoons gives me a way to see how Arabic is used in real life and understand many "statements" that one says while talking and how to use them and how to understand them and when to use them etc. And hearing conversation helps a lot to learn vocabularies. and seeing images helps understand which word means what but i think having text written helps know the words better than hearing often as we may not be able to understand a word here and there due to hearing it first time and can't figure out how to spell it etc.
# 3: as for anasheed you can avoid those in a way that is if you convert the videos to audios then you can edit the audio and cut those nasheed out, i did that for some but it is not easy but i found those nasheed free of any filth, they are in the context of the cartoon theme but i do not recommend you listen to them paying attention because melody goes into your ahead and comes back to you. YOu can forward the audio/video and move to the conversation or mute vol etc to avoid listening to them.
So combining both reading and listening and seeing and watching helps a lot to absorb new words and it helps you get better in understanding arabic and talking in arabic as well and Allah knows best.
*** i certainly do not promote listening to anasheed and pictures etc, and all cartoons i watch are free of music and have an islamic theme where they teach you lots of morals maashaaAllah. I benefit from those reminders a lot. And you certainly have to hold yourself when watching cartoons as you may become so eager to see the end of the story and walk to haram to do that, and thus you have to know your stance and your place and hold yourself and have sabr. Shaytan is there to fool you always. So be wise how you use and what you use for your learning.
when i compare books against cartoons i find books to be better but you do not hear the sound so matching both is great but books are certainly better in many ways that's how i feel.
and Starting from something small is the best as you all know.
i like to find books with islamic morals and manners and not otherwise. alhamdulillah. there are a tons out there for free alone.
I hope you benefit and any objects and advice are always welcome