LOVING AND LEARNING… … LANGUAGES AND LYRICS

Ramadan day 8

I said that I was not going to bombard this blog with Arabic songs that might be melodious in nature, but have no meaning to the reader. For the most part, I will hold to that promise. However, we also must talk about the Quran, language and music.

                First, let’s talk about the Quran. Everyone knows that the Quran was written in Arabic. This is not because Arabic is the most superior language. It is just the language that the prophet spoke and the language that most of the companions spoke. It would have been strange and ineffective to reveal the Quran in any other language.

There are key Islamic words and phrases (Yes, Arabic phrases) that everyone who listens to music by Muslim artists should know.

To learn some basic vocabulary, check out these links.

And here is a link for some Islamic expressions.

Here is a more comprehensive link.

http://newmuslimessentials.com/glossary-of-words-and-phrases.html

                I use to love languages and received high marks in Spanish. That was the only language offered at my school. Language was intertwined with culture and I was deeply interested in both. I use to think that I was reasonably good at it. When I married, I embarked on a journey to learn my husband’s language. It is not Arabic, but there are commonalities. I imagined that I could learn his native language and we both could eventually learn Arabic together.  My first kernel of wisdom came quickly. Knowing a thing does not mean that you “are” or “want to be” a good teacher. At one time, I was up to 75 known verbs (Urdu conjugation for the present, present participle and past included), at least thirty adjectives, understood the differences between male and female and I could have small conversations. And, then I went to Pakistan. My husband’s family either genuinely *could* not… …or *acted* as if they could not understand me. I was crushed. This, with the fact that I could not find a good teacher delayed my language learning. I did have a good teacher at the beginning, “thanks Fatima P K.” But, our lives became busy with children and I believe that she noticed that my familial situation was not going to be conducive for productive and continuous learning. My in-laws still don’t understand a word that I am saying, whether it be English or Urdu. They seem to rarely understand a word that I speak in either language. So, I admit that something that I really like is now surrounded by trauma and triggers. I’m working on it.

I didn’t/don’t want either me or my children just to memorize the language. My memory is not that good, anyway, at least not as of late. But, I want a relationship with the language. I want to find someone who will support and give me one-on-one guidance. I want to speak and listen to a couple of people. I need to know that I am making progress. If my sentences bore the individual, this learning process is stalled. My husband is busy and teaching is not necessarily his passion. My in-laws do not want to teach me the language, either. Honestly, they might not have the capability. But, I also think that there is joy in knowing that one can talk freely about another without that person actually understanding what they are saying. Thus, it has been forever stalled.    

My child is taking Arabic classes at a Masjid. I must admit, I am not impressed with the Arabic learning that has been offered. After four years, he is still learning letters and while he might know some prayers or verses from the Quran, the only value he could add to a conversation in Arabic is the greeting “aasalaamu alaikum.” I do admit that I am not that involved in his learning process. Thus, I do take some responsibility for his delayed learning. This just fills me with guilt, but has not helped me to move forward in this learning process.  I saw a comprehensive Montessori system of learning Arabic.  My husband does not want to spend the money. I really want to amerce myself in this curriculum. Since Covid-19, we are doing our Arabic lessons online and my husband is helping him learn the suras (verses) of the Quran. It is still slow going. Right now, the motivation for A is that he is in an introductory class with much smaller children. He wants to be with his friend, Adam. My husband is correct in some way, I’d have a hard time teaching Montessori Arabic. But, if I could get a few parents to teach it with me, it might work. I have lots of ideas for fun games, letter puzzles and interactive learning opportunities. I have put out some feelers, but no one seems interested. I received a recommendation for an Arabic teacher, but I think that I overwhelmed her by asking too many questions about the curriculum and wanting to be UBER involved in the learning process. It was that, or the fact that I divulged my blindness and wanted to talk about making the curriculum accessible so that I could help my child learn. I admit to being a bit too intense sometimes. I am working on *not* being so overwhelming for people. I confess to being passionate about education and the learning process. I have looked for **fun** online Arabic classes. Again, there is a money flow problem. Anyway, Montessori learning and/or interactive game learning is just not happening.

I am perfectly aware of all of the language learning software that is available from various public libraries. I need more one-on-one assistance.  Besides, when it comes to Arabic, I don’t have anyone to speak it with. Some blind friends say that Duolingo is accessible. I tried, but they wanted me to find the correct Arabic letter. That was not very accessible on the phone. Yet, I should look at it, again. These sound like excuses. So, I will continue my efforts to learn. Besides, what is the alternative?

                I know Americans who have said that they heard the recitation of the Quran and was instantly spellbound. This was not the case for me. Yet,  

I admit that when I hear certain songs, I am instantly enthralled, even if I do not understand the lyrics. I have already showcased the song by Ben Ammi called “The glorified ninety-nine names of the prophet.” I would love to learn how to sing this one. If I could do the call to prayer and Ben Ami’s song, I’d really feel accomplished.  Additionally, I have discussed the marvelousness of “Tala al Badru Alayna,” before, so I will not rehash that discussion. However, if you have not read the post, please go back and do so. The links are worth the few minutes. The post is called, “A Lunar look at Ramadan.”

Music, I find is different. It can elicit thoughts and emotions, even if I can’t understand the language. Of course, there have been a few times when I was fooled into thinking that a song was beautiful. Then, when it was translated, the lyrics demoted the song to “just okay” status. It is likely that if any of these songs were properly translated into English, I might find that they hold some Wahhabist views that I would find distasteful. However, I am going on the assumption that they do not and, for that reason, they speak to either me or my children. All that said, here are some other listen worthy selections. I’ll probably put more selections that talk about Ramadan in other languages on the blog, when I talk about different cultures and their celebrations of Ramadan. Take a listen to these.  

  • Haddad Alwi’s tranquil I’diroof is a spellbound piece with an elegant piano introduction.
  • Another selection by Haddad Alwi is Salam Ramadan. This duet with Gita Gitawa is inspiring.
  • A song that gets many artists adding their own flare is “Solatuwasalam.” Here is a version by Raihan that stands out for its acappella harmonies.
  • Raef has a southern inspired version called “Southern Salawat,”
  • La Ilaha ill Allah by Mohammed Haars made me cry the first time I heard it. The beautiful children’s voices are featured on the selection.
  • For a more hiphop/pop version, check out this one by Nadeem Mohammed.
  • Awakening Records has produced this song “Kun Anda” by Humood Khudder. This song makes me want to snap my fingers and smile every time I hear it. It is also featured in Raef’s “Price Tag.”
  • Illahi teri chaukhat par by Junaid Jamshed is a wonderful peaceful meditative selection. This artist grew much more conservative in his later years. That is a travesty. Still, I like this piece.
  • Sami Yusuf’s “Asmaa Allah,” is a great example of a song with a vulnerable crescendo transforming to a strong Allah Akbar ending.
  • Esmaani by Hamza Namira has a strong percussion base with a memorable melody.
  • Keep me true, sung by Hamood Khuddir was one of the first Islamic Nasheeds that I heard during Ramadan. In 2012, we had just moved into a new house and I was still nursing my, now, seven-year-old. This was one of the first that I put on my playlist.
  • Maher Zain and Irfan Maki come together to sing an inspiring “Allahi Allah Kiya Karo.” My children and I get this song stuck in our head and sing it all day long.
  • Nashtesh Belena,” is another song by Maher Zain which is peacefully performed in Arabic

 Are there more? Do you have a song that speaks to you? Please respond with your favorites.

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