Arabic is a Language not a Religion

Know Islam, Know Paradise


Wikipedia’s most recent rating of the most spoken languages in the world has Mandarin (Chinese) top its list. Mockingly, I had in my personal layman judgement (just as many would likely notionally believe) thought that English being the language of the most powerful nation, the United States, would come tops. In lieu of this belief system, for the first time in my research toils, I doubted Wikipedia – one of the globally accepted research and rating websites. I, therefore, had to flip through other sister-research sites only to see that their ratings were 98% in consonance with that of Wiki. Shockingly, English did not even come second, but third.,,,, including Wikipedia, respectively have Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic as the five most spoken languages in the world. Going further in their top ten ratings, French came 8th on Wiki’s list, about two others rated it 7th, while it didn’t make it at all in the lists of the rest.

Apparently, out of the languages aforementioned, the ones that are peculiar to Nigeria which have already been firmly rooted in the nation’s education epoch are the English (the country’s lingua franca), the Arabic and the French languages. What then has the reviewers or revisers of the Basic Education Curriculum done wrong when Arabic and French were made electively compulsory for students? What is the hue and cry about? Why wail over a phenomenon that should be hailed? Isn’t it clear enough? Do French if you don’t want Arabic; do Arabic if you don’t want French – simple!

The claim that Arabic is mostly spoken by Muslims isn’t enough a commonsensical reason to jettison it as an electively compulsory subject in Nigerian schools. After all, French is equally mostly spoken by Christians. Undoubtedly, this is sheer hate, sentiment and retrogressive thinking. The constituted body that saw to the revision of the curriculum comprised informed and enlightened Christians and Muslims, and indisputably, they would have considered necessary variables before arriving at the current stance. Interestingly, the Education Minister as at the time of the review was a Christian – Barr Nyesom Wike. Would he and a host of other Christian Directors in the education ministry have possibly done so to injure their own religion, as being unfortunately touted today by haters of Islam?

Arabic can be learned and spoken by anyone, irrespective of faith. Learning the language is like learning any other language, such as English. For instance, I’raab is Syntax; sarf is morphology etc. It only becomes religious when Islamic knowledge is attached.

Historically, M.S. Cole, a reverend of the Church Missionary Service (CMS), Lagos was the first person to translate the holy Qur’an into Yoruba. That was in 1924. The version was used until 1973 (49 years down the line) when a retranslation was done by Muslims under the sponsorship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is instructive to say that if Rev. Cole didn’t understand Arabic, he wouldn’t have had the courage to dabble into the translation of a Book he didn’t believe in. And it is not on record that he embraced Islam on account of his Arabic knowledge. Similarly and interestingly, too, Isaac Ogunbiyi of the Lagos State University (LASU) made history when he emerged first Christian professor of Arabic in Nigeria. This astute scholar studied the language with no change in his faith.

Nigerian Christians of today should take a cue from their forebears and give peace a space to reign. The revised BEC did not make Arabic a compulsory subject on Muslims, for that matter, let alone Christians – it is elective for all, and by elective, it means that one may choose to do or not to do it – simple!

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Arabic is a language for Muslims, because it is the language in which the holy Qur’an is written. Are there not enough Muslims in the country to justify that? There are, not hundreds nor thousands, but millions of practitioners of the Islamic faith in Nigeria. If Christians are aggrieved, why not agitate for the language (Aramaic or Hebrew) in which the Bible was originally written, perhaps that will balance up the equation, rather than jealously kick against what other people treasure? How is the other person’s favourite food a poison to you? Eat if you like. Leave it if you do not want. It’s a free world, after all.


Written by : Sanni K. Yusuf

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