by Brother Eric R. Muhammad
“The Holy Qur‘an’s readings are not the kind that will lull one to sleep, but to get a real Qur’an one should know the Arabic language in which it is written. However, you can find a good translation of it by Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Ali.” (The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Message to the Blackman, pg. 93)
In the 1964 interview with Buzz Anderson, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad stated “He (His Teacher, Master Fard Muhammad) gave me a Holy Qur’an in English and Arabic… I studied The Holy Qur’an from what He gave me.”
I have been inspired for many years to write a column and offer translations of the chapters of The Holy Qur’an based on the above quotes by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. What moved me from just inspiration (thought) to practice (doing it, smile) was a statement made by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan addressing the Muhammad University of Islam 5th Annual Educational Conference. He said, “The Muhammad came to make us equal to the scientist or scholars of Islam, not only equal, but superior…”
I will begin by expressing the importance of Grammar. The grammar of any language is primarily the study of forms of words and how these words relate to one another to give specific meanings. Therefore, examine how The Honorable Elijah Muhammad studied the Holy Qur’an. This is powerful because language is suppose to live; and we should see each word in a living situation. For example, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “2/3 of the Holy Qur’an was for him; and 1/3 was for another fellow…”. What allowed him to see that about himself and the other fellow; and what and who will help us to identify the other fellow?
Here are a few important concepts about “grammar”:
1. People best relate to each other when they are able to communicate and convey their thoughts and ideas in the most perfect way.
2. We study “grammar” to find out how to put words together so they express ideas and thoughts clearly and effectively.
3. To better understand “grammar” we should see it as the law and order of the sentence structure and language.
There are three main terms that are used for grammar in the Arabic Language.
1. The first is (As-SARF) and this word shows how words are formed in language, its inflection, derivation, and conjugation.
2. The second term used is (AN-Nah- wu) and it refers to the syntax (word order and sentence structure.) It gives direction, course, manner, and the method in which words are to be placed.
3. The third term is (Al Qawaa ‘id), which in its root meaning indicates foundation, fundamentals, morphology, and syntax. This word encompasses both As-Sarf and An-Nah wu.
In your studies, dear fellow students, you will see the word, “Qawaa ‘id,”. In the Qur’an, this word is related to Abraham and Ismael laying the Foundations (Qawaa ‘id) of the Kabbah. Also, when Iblis is having a conversation with Allah when he says, (Iblis) said: “Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait (Qawaa ‘id) for them on Your Straight Path.” (7:16)
The purpose of this writing, as we conclude, is to bear witness to why we must learn the Arabic of the Holy Qur’an. Let’s say you are reading the following verse from Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation:
“O you who believe, surely of your wives and your children there are enemies to you, so beware of them. And if you pardon and forbear and forgive, surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 66:14
It starts off with “O you who believe” then it states, “among your wives…”. How do you interpret that as a Muslim Believer, Sisters? And most of all, how do we as Muslim Brothers interpret that? The word “wives”, translated by Maulana Muhammad Ali, is “Azwaaji” (kum, you plural); and it means husbands, wives, or Spouses. You must use the appropriate word in a translation based on the contextual meaning. For instance, look at the next verse same word, same As-Sarf (grammar term above), but different ending, Azwaaji (Ka, you singular, referring to the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH):
“O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself) that which Allah has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives (Azwaaji ka)? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” 66:1
Now, in the translation of the above verse, it’s appropriate to use “wives” as the English word; because it’s a direct statement to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) concerning his wives. In Surah (chapter) 66:14, is a direct statement to the Believers (any Believer whether male or female) because there are some husbands that are enemies to some Believing wives. A better and clearer translation for the reader of Surah 66:14 would be:
“O you who believe, surely of your spouses and your children there are enemies to you, so beware of them. And if you pardon and forbear and forgive, surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”
Lastly, in my years of translating and studying, I realized that you don’t have to force The Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as the tafsir, (meaning or explanation). It is the Tafsir. I was watching a video lecture by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan years ago, and he said, “My English is more precise than your Arabic.” I said, “Wow!” I asked myself, “How can a man as The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan travel the Muslim World with the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and make the most powerful impact that he is making with an English translation of the Holy Qur’an?” Then I thought, “because One came and taught one; and that One that came spoke 16 languages and wrote 10 of those languages. Surely, He could translate the Arabic into English in the Most Perfect way; and call it the Supreme Wisdom.”
Brothers and Sisters, this is why I strongly suggest to us that even when we get the Holy Qur’an in Arabic, we must Always study it from what was given to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad by His Teacher; and what They both are giving to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, today. This method of study brings the content (Ayah, verses) to the present time and gives it the energy that is needed for us, as the reader, to accomplish The Work in our time. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan stated while in Houston, “You must know how the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, established Islam 1400 years ago in Arabia, in order to understand how the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is establishing Islam today.” Because what The Teacher of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad gave to him; and what They are both giving to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan; and in turn, what he is giving to us, is the Tasfir, meaning or interpretation.
Thank you for reading these few words and may Allah reward our efforts to be better students in Islam, “Everything”.
(Brother Eric R. Muhammad is a Nation of Islam Student Assistant Minister at Muhammad Mosque No. 45 in Houston. To order his new book “Understanding and Applying the Qur’anic Principles of Justice…Or Else!” visit www.justiceorelsesouthwest.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @qudus)