On the last Eid day, we were listening to a religious khutba by an Imam, along with around 7,000 people who stood for prayer at Kolatia Eidgah ground, Keraniganj.
The speech was full of emotion. But, within a short span of time, my heart was filled with grievances and questions such as: What type of a nation are we, who cannot understand the religious sermons delivered in mosques?
So passionately the Imam was presenting his lecture, that even the movement of his hands demonstrated his fervent spirit, but what a sorry audience, because we could hardly understand the lecture delivered in Arabic.
The same thing is repeated on every Friday, during khutba while crores of Muslims across the country -- young and old -- pass the time by only looking at the Imam as part of religious obligation but understanding nothing. Every day, almost every Muslim is reading or reciting the holy Quran and the hadith but most of us don’t understand, let alone learn anything from these great sources of knowledge.
The purpose of this writing is to show some rationale of learning Arabic.
One of the causes of religious misconceptions, extremism, and militancy is the failure to learn and develop proper religious concepts from our scriptures written in Arabic, which are recited in our regular salat (prayer) and ibadat (servitude). We, such an ignorant nation, regularly read, as well as listen to sermons and lectures, but we do not, or even try to, understand its meaning.
Bangladeshis residing in the Middle East form the largest community of Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Out of the 3,975,550 Bangladeshis abroad, approximately 2,820,000 live within the Middle East, 0.075% of the Middle East population, with half of them in Saudi Arabia, and a quarter of them in the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia alone has been the largest source of remittance as non-residents Bangladeshis (NRBs) living there sent $2.694 billion from the kingdom in 11 months until May of the 2015-16 fiscal year.
To be a conscious Muslim, one must learn the language of the Holy Qur’an and the hadith as well, as Muslims believe that it is also the language of hereafter
According to available statistics at Bangladesh Bank, Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE, are the highest contributors to our remittance. Bangladesh received a total of $7.72bn from all eight countries in the Middle-East, including the two countries (Saudi Arabia and UAE) in 2014-15.
If the government, the NGOs, and agencies teach Arabic in short or long courses in a planned way before sending our workers to Middle East countries -- then our unskilled workers would face much less hassle in setting up since they can communicate with native people.
In the school, college, university, and madrasa curricula, the government should include communicative Arabic lessons beside Bangla and English. Moreover, because of the Arabic language skill, the demand of Bangladeshi workers obviously will augment in Arab countries as well as other Arabic-spoken places of the world.
Language and history
We got the English Language as a colonial legacy, but earlier, during the Muslim rule in India, its official language was Farsi as well, as its source of law was Islamic sharia law written in Arabic.
For the long rule of Muslim Nawabs and Sultans along with the arrival of Arabian merchants and Islamic preachers in Bengal, the Bengali language is a fusion of Arabic words.
Given that out of all foreign words in the Bengali language, Arabic words contribute to it the most -- learning Arabic should be easy for us.
Arabic, which is a very rich and easy language amongst all other dominant languages in history, reminds us of the glorious Islamic civilisation that led half of the world for 1,400 years.
Communication, especially language skill, is one of the most important factors for all sorts of economic activities in this age of globalisation. Above all, to be a conscious Muslim, one must learn the language of the Holy Qur’an and the hadith as well, as Muslims believe that it is also the language of hereafter.
Khan Sarifuzzaman is an MPhil researcher on Middle East Politics in Dhaka University, and Assistant Professor of BGS, Social Science Faculty, Scholars School & College, Dhanmondi.