The importance of and need for Arabic literature

By Mawlānā ʻAbd Allāh Patel Kāpaudrī
Translated by Mawlānā Mahomed Mahomedy

The following article is a transcript of a speech delivered by the honourable Mawlānā ʻAbd Allāh Kāpaudrī at Dār al-‛Ulūm Chāphī, Pālanpūr, Gujarat on 20th March 2006, entitled: “The importance of and need for Arabic literature”.

We are not paying the needed attention to Arabic literature. Hadrat Maulānā Muhammad Yūsūf Sāhib Kāndhlawī rahimahullāh went for the Bhopal ijtimā‛. So we proceeded from Dhābel to go and meet Hadrat. We presented ourselves before him at the house where he was staying. Hadrat was very happy to see us, he got up from his place, embraced us, and said: “My heart is most delighted at meeting teachers of the jāmi‛ah.”

We then began conversing with him, and at one point he said: “Maulwī Sāhib! I studied adab (Arabic literature) very well. Maqāmāt Harīrī, Mutanabbī, Hamāsah and so on are in the syllabus [so we obviously studied these books]. But in addition to these, I also memorized Qasīdah Burdah, Sab‛ah Mu‛allaqāt and so on.”

Consequently, Hadrat rahimahullāh had very good control over the Arabic language. If you were to read Amānī al-Ahbār (an Arabic commentary of Sharh Ma‛ānī al-Āthār), you will notice his sentences flowing. Normally, our Indian ‛ulamā’ cannot write in this manner. We are in the habit of writing in a rhyming style. Because we study Maqāmāt, we write in that style. I noticed that Hadrat Maulānā’s speeches used to be very simple and flowing. This is because he undertook a deep study of literature, and memorized these books. This is how Allāh ta‛ālā gave him this ability.

Hadrat Shāh Sāhib [Maulānā Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī] rahimahullāh was an expert in Arabic literature. When Rashīd Ridā, an Egyptian scholar, came to India and heard Shāh Sāhib’s speeches on the topic of Hadīth, he was most pleased, and said: “Had I not met these ‛ulamā’ of Deoband, I would have went back [to Egypt] despondent about India.”

From among Hadrat Shāh Sāhib’s students, Maulānā Yūsuf Sāhib Binnaurī rahimahullāh was a powerful expert in the Arabic language. In like manner, Maulānā Idrīs Sāhib Kāndhlawī rahimahullāh was an expert in the Arabic language. Many of Hadrat Shāh Sāhib’s students had an affinity with literature.

Hadrat Binnaurī’s proficiency in Arabic literature

There was a farmer in Dhābel by the name of Sulaymān Bhāi Wājā. It was his habit to go to his farm in the paunk (a type of barley/wheat seed which is eaten as a snack) season, and light a fire. He would then have a paunk party there. He would take all the teachers of the jāmi‛ah to eat paunk. Hadrat Maulānā Yūsuf Sāhib Binnaurī rahimahullāh, Muftī Ismā‛īl Bismillāh, Maulānā Muhammad Kāndhlawī, Maulānā Anwār al-Haq Sāhib and others were teachers in Dhābel at the time. When we were in our early years of study, we used to accompany them to see to their needs – to bring water for them, run certain errands for them, and so on. All the ‛ulamā’ were seated there, and someone asked Maulānā Binnaurī rahimahullāh: “Hadrat, how many words of the Arabic vocabulary do you know from memory at the moment?”

Hadrat rahimahullāh replied: “Al-hamdulillāh, alhamdulillāh, 90 000 words are presently in my mind.” Since he knew 90 000 words, that is how he could write books like Nafhatul ‛Arab and other books in the Arabic language.

Several years later, when I completed my Daurah (final year of ‛ālim course), I took my maternal grandmother to the Hijāz in 1953. I had completed in that very year. Hadrat Binnaurī rahimahullāh was in Makkah Mu‛azzamah at the time. Hadrat rahimahullāh had left Dhābel for Pakistan when I was in my Mishkāt year. I saw Hadrat at the Musallā Hanafī with Shaykh Amīn al-Qutbī (a very senior
Hanafī scholar). Shaykh Amīn was about to conduct his lessons there. Hadrat Binnaurī rahimahullāh was conversing with him on a particular issue. So I sat at a distance to listen to their conversation. I saw Hadrat talking to him in Arabic without any hesitation. I could not perceive in the slightest way
that this was an Indian or Pakistani ‛ālim. He sounded as if he was a scholar from Syria. Hadrat rahimahullāh was conversing with him in very eloquent Arabic. I was astounded at the capability which Allāh ta‛ālā bestowed to him despite the fact that he studied the same books which are taught in one of our Dār al-‛Ulūms. However, he did not restrict himself to a few maqāmāt of Maqāmāt Harīrī. In those days, about 20-25 maqāmāt used to be taught in Dār al-‛Ulūm. This was followed by Mutanabbī and then Hamāsah. All these books were studied by these personalities. Then when he travelled to Syria, he had opportunities to converse with the ‛ulamā’ there. Consequently, Hadrat Binnaurī rahimahullāh could converse with Arab ‛ulamā’ with full confidence.

Shaykh ‛Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah rahimahullāh was so impressed by Hadrat Binnaurī rahimahullāh that whenever he made reference to him, he would refer to him as:

أستاذنا الجليل المحدث الكبير الشيخ محمد يوسف البنوري

“Our grand teacher, the great Hadīth scholar, Shaykh Muhammad Yūsuf al-Binnaurī.”

Shaykh ‛Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah rahimahullāh referred to him in these glowing terms despite being a very erudite scholar himself. He was a Syrian scholar whose mother tongue was Arabic, and he used to speak very eloquent Arabic.

I heard Shaykh ‛Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah’s speech at Dār al-‛Ulūm Zakarīyyā in Johannesburg. I was astounded at the words which flowed from his tongue. He sat down to deliver his speech, praised Allāh ta‛ālā and sent salutations to Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‛alayhi wa sallam. Immediately thereafter, he said:

كنا نسمع أن هناك معادن الذهب، ولكن رأينا هنا معادن العلم والمعرفة

“We heard that you have gold mines here [in South Africa], but we see mines of knowledge and ma‛rifat (cognition) here.”

This is what he said about the madrasah. I was left astounded at hearing his expression. I thought to myself, these are Arab scholars, we must listen to their speeches.

There is a weakness in Arabic in our madāris because we gave up studying hard on Arabic as was done by our elders. Consequently, our best ‛ulamā’ who teach Hadīth cannot converse with an Arab ‛ālim and express what is in their hearts.

My dear friends! There is a need to turn our attention towards this. We must work hard on the Arabic language. Correct understanding of the Qur’ān and Hadīth only comes after learning the Arabic language. We cannot know the eloquence of the Qur’ān without proficiency in Arabic. Writing articles is still something very far off. We should at least be able to understand the books of our elders.

An echo from the heart, Vol. 3, p. 249-254

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