The Three Levels of Studying Arabic

Arabic

Source: Samir Hussein

Learning Arabic consists of three steps:

1) Learning basic language skills (can take 1-3 years depending on student)
2) Studying Arabic as a science (can take 2-4 years depending on student)
3) Intensive Academic expertise/research (Lifetime)

First Step

For the first step, the entire step consists of one word: Practice. Practice, Practice, Practice your reading, listening, speaking and writing skills as much and as often as you can to get to to fluency. It can take 2-3 years to obtain full fluency (or more) don’t despair. The key is consistency in practice, even if its only 1/2 hour everyday (although more is better).

Important books for this are:

Bayna Yadayk series (preferably with a teacher who can give you speaking and writing practice). The book is in three parts (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3).

– My personal favorite for self study: a book called An Introduction to the Arabic Language through Islamic Texts by Syed Iqbal Zaheer.

Qasas-ul-Nabiyin lil-Atfal for reading practice.

Suwarun min Hayatis-Sahabah for reading after Qasas.

– Other things you can use for practice include Arabic Youtube (like the Omar series, Arabic cartoons, etc.)

al-Nahw al-Wadih – [a partial translation of it available here]

Do not cross over to the next stage until you have achieved at least 80% or so fluency. Ask around for additional resources for practice.

Second Step

Studying Arabic as a science – this should be done with a teacher.

If you are a natural at languages, any teacher who has studied these texts will suffice, otherwise a teacher skilled and fluent in these sciences is highly preferred (doesn’t have to be a specialist in the Arabic language though, some scholars of fiqh and hadith can also teach language very well).

There are 4 sciences – Nahw (grammar), Sarf (morphology), Balagha (prose/rhetoric/style) and Adab (literature).

The most important books are:

In Nahw:

– al-Ajrumiyyah (with a lot of basic I’rab practice)
– Qatr-ul-Nada (With I’rab practice from the Qur’an)
– Qawa’id ul-I’rab (with I’rab practice from the Qur’an)
Alfiyyatuibnu Malik (With I’rab practice from the poem that forms the text of the book).
– Mughni al-Labib

In Sarf:

– Imam al-Taftazani’s explanation of Tasrif ul-Izzi – (with some basic practice in I’lal and Ibdal)
– Lamiyyatul-Af’al – I prefer the sharh of the author’s son for the student – although the teacher can use others to reference from.
– Alfiyyatuibnu Malik (with a lot more practice in I’lal/Ibdal etc)
– Taysir-ul-I’lal wal Ibdal – can be studied on one’s own after the alfiyyah – excellent book for practice.

In Balaghah:

– Durus-ul-Balaghah – an easy, comprehensive introduction
– Al-Balaghatul-Wadihah – Important to learn Balaghah on a practical level.
– Sharh Mukhtasar Sa’d (or Mukhtasar-ul-Ma’ani) – Very important text to study, will really make the connection for you between logic and balaghah, as well as opening up advanced balagah texts for you.

In Adab:

– Any text in Urud/Qawafi with a teacher.
– Sharh Mu’allaqat al-Sab’ or Ashr
– Selected study from al-Mutanabbi
– Maqamat Al-Hariri – extremely important for building vocabulary
– Al-Umdah – a comprehensive text on the sciences of poetry. I forgot the author but I think his nasab was al-Qazwini.

Third Step

Intensive Academic expertise/research – a specialist in the Arabic language will know way more than I do.

In Nahw –

– Other explanations of the Alfiyyah such as Imam al-Ushmuni’s, Abu Hayyan, al-Shatibi, Ibn-Aqil
– Explanations of Imam ibn Malik’s Tashil – Abu Hayyan’s is a famous one and his students rebuttal is not bad either.
– Imam al-Zamaskhari’s works (and their explanations)
– Kafiyatu-ibn-il-Hajib and its famous explanation.
– Kitab-al-Sibawayh if you’re feeling adventurous.

In Sarf-

– Shafiyyatu-ibn-il-Hajib and it’s explanation.
– Al-Munsif
– Al-Mumti by ibn Usfur.
– Al-Mustaqsa by Dr AbdulLatif alKhatib

In Balaghah-

– Abdul-Qadir al-Jurjanis books
– Mahmood Shakir’s books
– Muhammad Abu Musa’s books – I wonder if anyone has tried to teach from these instead of classical texts?
– Tafsir Al-Zamaskhari
– Tafsir ibn Ashur

In Adab (better to ask a specialist)

– Maqamat al-Hariri (yes again)
– Imam al-Jahidh’s books especially Al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin
– Al-Kamil by Imam al Mubarrid.
– Al-Khasa’is of Ibn al-Jinni

Conclusion

This list seems dauntingly long, but the question you need to ask yourself as an Arabic learner is: Why do I want to learn Arabic? If you want to become a scholar, the whole list applies. If you don’t then the length of the list varies depends on what you want to achieve. For those who want only a basic grasp of the Qur’an in Arabic so they can read small tafsirs on their own, or to engage in Modern Arab culture, then the first stage will suffice.

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Categories: Arabic Language

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4 replies

  1. Salam alaykum

    Nice post. I believe I’m at the end of step one. And, I’ve followed almost the same things you listed in step 1. However, my teacher is not very proficient, although he is an Egyptian. I would like to move on to someone else to start step 2. Do you know people who would teach online through skype or some other online program?

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