GOD’S LANGUAGES

GOD’S LANGUAGES
Saleem Ahmed, Ph.D. President, Pacific Institute of Islamic Studies, Honolulu and author Islam: A Religion of Peace?

The Qur’an clarifies that God sent messengers to all parts of the world. Consider, for example, the following verses:

To every people was sent a messenger (Qur’an 10:47);

We assuredly sent among every people a messenger (with the command): ‘Serve God and eschew evil’ (Qur’an 16:36);

To those who believe in God and His messengers and make no distinction between any of the messengers, We shall soon give their (due) reward (Qur’an 4:152);

Each one (of the men of faith) believes in God, His angels, His books and His messengers. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers (Qur’an 2:285);

Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians, and the Sabians – any who believe in God and the Last Day and work righteousness – shall have their reward with their Lord (Qur’an 2:62);

Nothing is said to you (O Muhammad) that was not said to the messengers before you (Qur’an 41:43); and

We did, afore time, send messengers before you (O Muhammad). Of them, there were some whose story We have related to you, and some whose story We have not related to you (Qur’an 40:78).

Reinforcing these broad-minded affirmations, the prophet clarified that God sent 124,000
messengers the world over (Masnad Ibn Hambal 21257, quoted by Muzammil Siddiqi, www Pakistan
Link, Nov. 24, 2007).

All these 124,000 messengers probably spoke in their local language. For example, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and the other Old Testament prophets must have spoken in Hebrew. Similarly, other messengers (such as Amida Buddha, Lao Zi, Mahavira, and Zoroaster?), must have spoken in their own local language. Similarly, other messengers, in (what we now all) the Americas, Africa, Australia, Europe, Polynesia, etc., must have spoken in their own language. Thus shouldn’t all these other languages, spoken possibly by other “People of the Book,” be also considered to be God’s languages?

Since all languages have evolved out of human experience, none of them can be considered to be “perfect” – be they Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Niger–Congo, Afroasiatic, Austronesian, Dravidian, Altaic, Japonic, or belonging to any other language family. Each language has its idiosyncrasies, strengths, and weaknesses.

For example, while Arabic is a very rich and expressive language, it does not have two very common sounds — “p” and “v” – commonly used worldwide. Thus, you can never “park” your car; you can only “bark” it. Similarly, you cannot play a “violin;” you can only play a “wiolin.”

Recognizing this deficiency in the Arabic language, scholars of Persian, Urdu and many other Arabic-based scripts added a “p” alphabet. But, in the process, they replaced (at least in Urdu) the “w” sound with “v”. Thus, in Urdu, while you correctly “park” your car, you don’t say “what”, “when”, and “where”, you say “vot”, “ven”, and “vere”.

To overcome a similar problem, the Japanese developed an entirely different set of characters (called Katakana) for foreign words to distinguish them from “pure” Japanese (hiragana) characters.

I believe Arabic linguistic scholars might consider including “p” and “v” sounds in Arabic also. This will not, in any way, minimize Qur’anic language; it will only open up an excellent way to add two other common sounds used in conversation worldwide. Similarly, other languages might consider including the special sounds found in Arabic.

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