Arabic – The Mother of All Languages?

UCLU AMSA in association with UCLU Arab Society presents “Arabic – The Mother of All Languages?”

What is the original language of Homo Sapiens, of which all other languages are derivatives? How did other languages derive from it and most importantly, is that original language still with us today?

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be on him) of Qadian in his book “Minan Ur Rahman”, declared that Arabic is that first language from which all other languages are derived.

He proposed a strong piece of evidence to support this claim by pointing to the highly organised system of “Mufradaat” possessed by Arabic. These “Mufradaat” are the so-called “root-words”, the “simples” or the elementary symbols of speech, which are the basis of all human articulation, and which are so varied and of such a comprehensive character as to serve the needs, not only of ordinary speech, but also the demands of all knowledge, religion, philosophy, culture and science.

Abdul Ghany Jahangheer Khan, French translator of the Holy Qur’an, presented the theory that Arabic is the Mother of All Languages which was followed by a Q&A panel discussion. The session closed with a recitation of Arabic poetry by Hani Tahir.

RESOURCES

Research by Dr. Muhammad Ahmad Mazhar (late)

Other Resources

  • Elementary Arabic: a grammar; being an abridgement of Wright’s Arabic Grammar: V. IV. IIV. IIIV. IV

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38 thoughts on “Arabic – The Mother of All Languages?

  1. AOA,

    JazakAllah Khair for this. I wonder why is that Shaikh Hamza Yusuf being such a wonderful scholar is still ignorant about the coming of Messiah (as)? May Allah SWT bring all the righteous souls under the flag of real Islam. Ameen.

    Wassalam.

  2. On March 14th, 2011, The UCLU Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association held an event entitled “Arabic-The Mother of All Languages” in conjunction with the UCL Arabian society, in which Maulana Jahangeer Khan sahib was invited to give a logical appraisal and presentation of the theory proposed by the Promised Messiah(as) in his book Minan Ur Rehman and as taken further by the work of Hazrat Muhammad Ahmad Mazhar (ra) in his numerous works tracing various langauges back to Arabic.

    The talk began at approximately 18:25 and continued for approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. The talk began by tracing out the journey that early humans made approximately 100,000 years ago out of West Africa and into the Arabian peninsula. This was followed by the presentation of the Quranic verse drawing attention to the diversity of tongues and diversity of colours as a Sign of the Unity of Mankind and thus of the Unity of Allah. Thus, from the outset, it was highlighted that the roots of this theory originate in the word of Allah the Almighty. Thereupon the five distinctive qualities of Arabic as set out by the Promised Messiah(as) in his book Minan Ur Rahman were presented and an explanation of each feature with examples was set forth. Finally, the ten formulas Hazrat Muhammad Ahmad Mazhar (ra) set out in his works by which any language can be traced back to Arabic were presented with extensive examples.

    The Q&A that followed consisted of Maulana Jahangeer Khan sahib, Hani Taher Sahib, chaired by a representative from the UCL Arabian Society. The Q&A continued for 35 minutes. Questions particularly focussed on how it was possible that while other languages had diverged so thoroughly over the years as to become unrecogniseable between one another, while Arabic had not yet changed in so many thousands of years. Our speakers highlighted that which the Promised Messiah’s(as) answer to this very question was: that the system of roots in Arabic meant that most combinations of words were taken up by another word and so no word could shift into another word, as the place of that word was taken up.

    The session ended with a recitation of the first twenty three verses of Al-Qaseedah by the Promised Messiah(as), by Hani Taher sahib and a translation was read by Jonathan Butterworth Sahib. Alhamdulilah, 22 non Ahmadi guests attended and 50 Ahmadi Muslim guests attended. The Arab desk also presented a bookstall of the Arabic books of the Promised Messiah (as).

  3. as-Salamu ‘Alaykum wa RahmatAllahi wa Barakatuh

    I have seen that video before. Shaykh Hamza is undoubtedly a great scholar, one of the more progressive-minded traditionalist scholars who doesn’t pass takfir of Ahmadi-Muslims.

    The Arabic language is a beautiful language to learn especially in its classical form (fus’ha).

    The Promised Messiah (as) indeed said that all Ahmadis should endeavour to learn this classical Arabic.

  4. Salam.

    I was not present at this event, but I wanted to post a brilliant video which covers this topic and will support the truth that Arabic indeed is the mother of all languages. Here is the link for the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0FwXmf5RTM

    Although the video is entitled “The Beautiful Names of Allah”, the scholar, who goes by the name of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, explains the beautiful intricacies and secrets of the Arabic language in an extraordinary way. Regardless of the fact that he is not a native speaker, having lived and studied Islam in the Middle East for at least fifteen years, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s knowledge (not only of the Arabic language, but in general) is formidable.

    At the start of the video he is talking about the event at which he is delivering the talk, so if you want to dive straight into the topic of the Arabic language you should start listening at around 04:15.

    Wassalam, ReedFlute.

  5. Assalaamu Alaikum

    I would just like to say this has got to be the best talk so far. JazakAllah

    May Allah reward you for all your efforts and Bless you all with His choicest Blessings.

    Wasalaam

  6. Pingback: [Pls RT] The BIG University Event [Pls RT] « Islam is Peace

  7. MTA International will Insha’Allah be recording this event so please don’t worry about missing a great event.
    I will try to live tweet/stream it if there is an internet connection but no promises.

  8. AOA,
    Please someone make a video of the event and kindly post it on youtube.
    JazakAllah Khair.

  9. Our poster designer is not an expert in other languages. He used tools on the internet to get the other language names and as far as he could research they look fine. If there are errors then he is not to blame.

    The poster looks fine – any errors are too minor and can be ignored.

  10. Red Star, the book was published in 1895 and you are trying to judge it in present day scientific paradigm. I can try to answer your criticism but here is an approach that is likely to be more fruitful.

    I have borrowed my arguments from the same book of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani and coined them in recent scientific nomenclature. So, here is the abstract and then the link. Take on a debate with me if you must:

    Evidence that there is a mother of all the 6000 known human languages is beyond doubt and no one will question this any more. But, which language is the mother, is the billion dollar question?

    There is overwhelming evidence that languages change over time and they do not become more organized and complex but less so over time in their structure, even while the vocabulary grows. In other words they devolve and do not evolve even though terminology is less than precise in literature. If this premise be correct then the most organized and complex language is the mother of all and that was the argument of the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani for Arabic. Also remember that it is a scientific principle that present is the mirror of the past. So, by learning about present we can extrapolate to the past. If languages are devolving and not truly evolving then birth of language cannot be completely explained by Darwinian evolution, based on small incremental improvements, and one has to invoke revelation. This also makes language a proof of Guided Evolution against Blind Evolution. Read your Darwin!

    Sir Charles Darwin suggested a testable hypothesis for his grand theory: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” If we consider human language and human mind as an organ, then here lies a means to test the details of theory of evolution. Darwin is right in as much as all life forms on earth have a common ancestry, but, the evolution of life forms, is guided by a Transcendent Intelligence and is not blind and completely random and study of languages, I believe, serves as the best proof for it.

    http://islamforwest.org/2012/03/06/arabic-a-revealed-language-and-the-mother-of-all-languages/

    Also eyeball some of the other materials, I have gathered against atheism in the website, Islam for the West.

  11. A base response. Anthropologists across the world would be banging their computer screens if they read your comments. The sociology of humankind if far more complex than you have presented it.

  12. I have been reading the book you linked me to (‘The Source of all the languages’). To say that it is unimpressive would be a gross understatement.

    It claims to be a ‘scientific’ study and yet makes utterly ludicrous remarks such as:

    ‘The social bonds necessarily unite one man with his fellow beings in numerous ways. In fact, sociability distinguishes man from other creatures. Says a Persian proverb:

    “A man reaches a man, but a mountain does not reach a mountain.”

    ‘If man was speechless in the beginning of the world how could he fulfil his daily needs. Practically speaking, he would have been unable to live unaided without speech.’

    1) Virtually all other mammals, and many other ‘creatures’ are social and sociable. So ‘sociability’ certainly doesn’t ‘distinguish man from other creatures’.

    2) A ‘mountian is not a creature’.

    3) A man doesn’t reach a man by language, he does it by walking. In the same way a crocodile reaches a wildebeest or a heron reaches a fish. Plenty of creatures reach other creatures. Even in the context of ‘language’ or phonic communication, birds sing to other birds, whales sing to other whales, even crickets and grasshoppers can attract each other’s attention with vibrations of their knees.

    4) Man was a hunter-gatherer; just like most apes and monkeys, as well as bears and foxes and badgers and the like. A pack-hunter, just like wolves, or orcas, or dolphins, or lions, or wild dogs. These animals survive perfectly well without Arabic. The notion that man requires it to ‘fulfil his daily needs’ is nothing short of tripe. One could see these animals have ‘language’ after a fashion, but that then obliterates any notion that God revealed ‘Arabic’ as the ‘first language’ to human beings.

    5) Such books and the abismal intellectual material they contain demonstrate, quite clearly and shockingly, how far religion goes in subverting human intelligence and inquiry. Reality is contorted or in many cases comletely ignored in order to comply with the necessities of theological dogma.

    Appalling.

  13. “Evidence that there is a mother tongue is beyond doubt and no one will question that. But, who is the mother?”

    No, it isn’t. I agree it is most probable that there was a proto-human language, but there is insufficient evidence for us to make a definitive statement like that.

    “If languages are devolving and not truly evolving then birth of language cannot be completely explained by Darwinian evolution and one has to invoke revelation. This also makes language a proof of Guided Evolution against Blind Evolution. Read your Darwin!”

    I hope this a joke…?

    There is no such thing as ‘devolution’ in Science (only in politics!).

    Just because something was more complex doesn’t mean it can’t evolve into something less complex. Natural selection chooses that which is fittest for survival. If a language has developed which has become too unwieldy or has too many inflections, then it is quite natural for it to be simplified (or ‘dumbed down’) over time.

    English today is a prime example. Read some Shakespeare, or even the KJV Bible, and you will see what I mean.

    This is especially true of oral cultures who have very sophisticated languages (e.g. the bedouin Arabs). Once they begin to write things down, they find it very difficult to represent their complex language and and therefore seek to simplify the language.

    The age of electronic communication takes this even further; hence why in the world of email and text and tweeting the sophistication of language is severely depleted.

  14. Red Star has raised some questions. I do not have time right now to engage in a full fledged dialogue or a debate. But, if people read materials that I have linked above, here is the crux of the matter.

    1. Evidence that there is a mother tongue is beyond doubt and no one will question that. But, who is the mother?
    2. There is overwhleming evidence that languages change over time and they do not become more organized and complex but less so. In other words they devolve and do not evolve even though terminology is less than precise in literature. If this premise be correct then the most orgazied and complex language is the mother of all and that was the argument of the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani for Arabic. Also remember that it is a scientific principle that present is the mirror of the past keep that in mind also.
    3. If languages are devolving and not truly evolving then birth of language cannot be completely explained by Darwinian evolution and one has to invoke revelation. This also makes language a proof of Guided Evolution against Blind Evolution. Read your Darwin!

    As I find time I will defend some of my points here over coming weeks and months. So, please, stay tuned and please be patient.

  15. So Arabic existed before Arabs who spoke it? Just like Greek existed before Greeks, and Hebrew existed before Hebrews, and Chinese existed before Chinese, and Lakota existed before Lakota i suppose?

    Hmmm…not really convincing, is it?

    But I do look forward to the evidence you are going to provide in support of this claim.

    There is plenty of evdience to the contrary.

  16. Thanks for the multiple links to the same source. I shall read it with great enthusiasm 🙂 …should prove interetesting…

  17. Red Star,

    We don’t believe that the Arabs were the first people, rather that the language that is now known as ‘Arabic’ was the first human language of that original people in Africa. As for all your other objections, why not wait to be presented the evidence and then judge the merits of the argument. A video will hopefully be taken.

  18. Red Star, do you come here just to disapprove of very nearly everything we say? What is your aim in coming here? If it’s to voice your opinion, by now everyone has already understood what that is. Basically almost whatever the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community declares, you are opposed to it. Your interventions here are so predictable!

  19. As-salam Alaykum Warahmatullah Wabarakatahu,

    I second that. Please record the event. That would be great.

  20. You are kidding me, right? Arabic – the oldest language…based on what evidence?

    Even your own religious/scriptural history attests that Hebrew would have, by necessity, predated Arabic (as the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael).

    Moreover, there is no evidence (certainly no written evidence) of Arabic being the ‘mother of all languages’.

    Sanskrit is at least 5,000 years old. Archaic Greek is pretty old. Tamazight and Tamil are also pretty old. Arabic doesn’t even qualify for the competition!

    It is, admittedly, difficult to know if there was a ‘first’ human language. Doubtless, if there was, it would have originated long before writing and long before the remit of either written history or oral tradition. We’re talking tens of thousands of years, at the least.

    If the current evidence (from a wide range of disciplines) is accurate, which there is little reason to doubt at the moment, then we originated in Africa. Tamazight, an African language (ancestor of Berber) is therefore a far more worthy candidate.

    What is certain (and I do mean CERTAIN) is that that far back, there were no ‘Arabs’, who are actually a relatively recent people when compared to many others (the American Indians, for example, contain many nations which predate them by thousands of years.

    The descent of Arabic from proto-Semitic languages, in particular Assyrian, Hebrew and Aramaic is also well documented.

    It is, therefore, logically and linguistically impossible for Arabic to have been the ‘mother of all tongues’.

    Unless you have radically new evidence (which I would be more than happy to examine if you were able to present it), I suggest you take a breath…and a step back, before jumping into a very big hole…

  21. Arabic a revealed language and the mother of all languages
    By Zia H Shah MD

    “It is not that I doubt that language evolved only once,” Steven Pinker a famous linguistic confesses, “one of the assumptions behind the search for the ultimate mother tongue.” A gradual consensus seems to building among the linguists that all languages have come from one source. If the 5000 extant languages of the world were coming from divergent sources they would show varied degree of organization and complexity. But that does not seem to be the case. According to the famous linguist Merritt Ruhlen, “All extant human languages are today considered of equal ‘complexity’ by virtually all linguists.” Guy Deutscher writes, “Small tribes with stone-age technology speak languages with structures that sometimes make Latin and Greek seem like child’s play.”

    Edward Sapir, has been described by Encyclopedia Britannica as, “One of the foremost American linguists and anthropologists of his time, most widely known for his contributions to the study of North American Indian languages.” According to him:

    “There is no more striking general fact about language than its universality. One may argue as to whether a particular tribe engages in activities that are worthy of the name of religion or of art, but we know of no people that is not possessed of a fully developed language. The lowliest South African Bushman speaks in the forms of a rich symbolic system that is in essence perfectly comparable to the speech of the cultivated Frenchman.”

    I have a collection of articles on this theme published in Alislam-eGazette and the Musllim Sunrise:
    http://islam4jesus.org/2011/03/22/arabic-a-revealed-language-and-the-1qhnnhcumbuyp-122/

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