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Gleanings from Recent Muslim English Writing

DR.PASHA | April 16, 2016 | Section: Articles | 1052 reads

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Gleanings from Recent Muslim English Writing

Dr. Pasha

Over the decades, Muslim Western learning and scholarship, and Muslim mastery of English language, had hit such low that by and large it was excruciating pain to read Muslim writing in English, especially on so-called Islamic subjects.

As a result, one is conditioned, over the years, to shun, as a rule, Muslim English discourse on matters purporting to be Islamic. One develops, as it were, an almost instinctive fear of Muslim writing in English and seeks to avoid exposure to material that would result in not just simple waste of time, but in considerable disappointment and deep personal anguish and frustration.

But the curve appears to have bottomed out and it is, apparently, on the rise again. New generations of Muslims seem to be emerging in the West with better-than-average competence levels in English language skills.

Muslims and Arabic Language

Time was when we Muslims took the Arabic language and made it what it became. Of course, we had Allah’s own words on our side in the vanguard, with the golden words of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, bringing up the rear.

Writers in between filled the world with compositions and treatises, over a period spanning nearly 1400 years, in both prose and poetry, that became, and remain, the ultimate in what the human mind and pen have been able to achieve and produce.

Muslims and Persian Language

The wonders we Muslims worked with the Persian language were no less.

Over a span of a thousand years and more, we filled the world with the beauty, thrills and joys of Farsi or Persian prose and poetry which remain, and shall do so forever, should that be the will and pleasure of Almighty God, the pride and joy of the human race as a whole.

Muslims and Urdu Language

Over the past half a millennium, or thereabouts, we Muslims, working in tandem with our Hindu friends and compatriots, invented, on the glorious Indian subcontinent, a whole new language, borrowing from Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Turkish and other languages. We called the new language Urdu and, within the blinking of historic time, made it an envy of all those who would want to express themselves in what is perhaps one of the finest and most touching and powerful forms of prose and poetry in any language.

Muslims and Turkish Language

And we Muslims, in the plains, prairies and hills of Asia Minor, picked up a nomadic Turkic language and leavened it with our very unique and powerful blend of Arabic and Persian and everything else and within a very short period of time turned it into a Lingua Franca for the then civilized world.

And that language – and the Muslim and Islamic culture that went with it, was beaten out of us by brute force and barbaric terror in the early part of the 20th Century. Even the Arabic-Muslim script was chiseled out of our bones on pain of death and torture and replaced with Roman-Christian script.

Waiting for Better Days

But we Muslims soldiered on. Waiting for better days for the Nation of Islam to come. For basic human justice to happen and envelop Muslims within its reach. For God Almighty’s mercy to pour. And for Islam to rise again. As it must, the way the sun does the next morning, even as it sinks into darkness the previous night.

As the Qur’an says:

Wa Tilkal Ayyaamu Nudaawiluhaa Bayinan Naas!

“As day and night alternate in the lives of nations.”

Culture and Politics and Economics

Culture and language are intertwined with political and economic power. As Muslim fortunes declined politically and economically, their culture also became more effete and lifeless. Perhaps, nowhere was this more evident than in regards to Muslims’ use of English language.

The struggle of the writers in English tongue, whether Qur’an Translators (with the exception perhaps of Yusuf Ali, who had the English language well under control), or authors of Muslim and Islamic books in general, or the broad swath of writers and editors in Muslim publications, was obvious; and the resultant fare was often painful reading, both in terms of substance and style.

Have We Bottomed Out?

But, as I said earlier, things appear to have bottomed out. New generations, Allah bless them, of young Muslims, both men and women, seem to be knocking at the doors of Muslim culture in the English-speaking West. Writing in English language that bespeaks a high level of quality and competence is dawning on the horizon.

How can a Muslim, who has hankered for this day for decades, suppress her or his joy and excitement at this burst of new sunshine among Muslims in the West?

Our response: Alhamdulillah! Thank God Almighty for quality and merit and sheer competence and excellence. For, that is what Islam is all about at bottom.

I am not talking content. For, content is a very different issue. And we still have miles to go on that score. I am talking purely about linguistic capability and virtuosity so far as the English language is concerned.

Allah’s Promise of Better Days

We knew this day was coming. Allah told us it will and undoubtedly so.

Allah said it in the Qur’an:

A-laa Inna Nasrallahi Qareeb!

“Allah’s help is near.”

But, we being who we are, and always shall be, frail humans of uncertain faith and wobbly beliefs, always acted and carried on as if we had trouble believing Allah.

Even though we went on record every opportunity we got to reiterate our official and studied Muslim position that we did not doubt the veracity or authenticity of anything Allah says in the Qur’an.

But that is our DNA, just like the Qur’an says with regard to our progenitor Adam, Alaihis Salam:

Wa Lam Najid Lahu ‘Azmaa.

Paraphrase:

“Adam had trouble being constant and steadfast in his belief.”

“Adam appeared to be weak in his faith.”

More Recent Years

Apparently, in more recent years, young Muslim men and women in the West have attended colleges and universities and acquired high levels of competence in English and in analysis and expression.

 

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