Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Some scholars hold the view that all the words of the Qur’an are Arabic and that foreign words found in the Qur’an are nevertheless part of Arabic speech.
2- Other scholars maintain that there are non-Arabic words in the Qur’an such as Al-Qistas, but those words have become Arabic as the Arabs softly used them and they had subjected them to the rules of Arabic grammar.
Shedding more light on the issue, Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, states the following:
The early Arabs used to use words of non-Arabic origin due to the impact of other cultures on them.
The Arabs, like any other people, used names that were alien to their culture but those words were easily integrated with the passage of time, and they became part of Arabic words that can be easily subjected to the well-known rules of Arabic grammar.
Allah Almighty says, “And We never sent a messenger saves with the language of his folk, that he might make (the message) clear for them…” (Ibrahim 14:4)
He Almighty also says, “Lo! We have revealed it, a Lecture in Arabic, that you may understand.” (Yusuf 12:2)
It is clear from the aforementioned verses that the Glorious Qur’an was revealed in Arabic as Arabic was the tongue of the target people of Arabia. Revealing the Qur’an in Arabic was necessary for the Arabian people to fathom the message of the Qur’an and understand it easily.
However, it is well known that there is an interchange between words of different languages due to the close contact between individuals and groups. Such interaction has become a necessity in our social life. Thus, such interpolation of words may be the product of shifting from one language to the other, or due to the fact that two languages share the same origin. Hence, as long as the non-Arabic word(s) are easily adapted into the Arabic language, they are considered Arabic words.
The same rule applied in regard to the Arabic language does apply to the Qur’an. According to some Muslim scholars, there are non-Arabic words in the Qur’an such as Al-Qistas, but those words have become Arabic as the Arabs softly used them and they had subjected them to the rules of Arabic grammar.
In his Tafseer, Imam Al-Qurtubi, states, “There is no difference among the four Imams of Jurisprudence that there are non-Arabic words and proper names in the Qur’an such as Nuh, Lut, `Imran, Gabriel.”
However, this does not imply a consensus on the part of scholars concerning this issue. Rather, the point is very controversial, as will be clarified in the following:
There is some difference of opinion among scholars whether the language of the Qur’an includes foreign words. Some scholars, including Al-Tabari and Al-Baqillani, hold the view that all the words of the Qur’an are Arabic and that foreign words found in the Qur’an are nevertheless part of Arabic speech. This makes it clear that some words are of non-Arab origin they have become Arabic words through constant usage.
However, it is conceded that there are non-Arabic proper names in the Qur’an, such as `Imran, Nuh, etc.
Others maintain that the Qur’an does contain words not used in the Arabic language, such as:
Al-Qistas (17:35), derived from the Greek language.
Al-Sijjil (15: 74), derived from the Persian language.
Al-Ghasaq (78: 25), derived from the Turkish language.
At-Tur (2:63), derived from the Syriac language; and
Al-Kifl (57: 28), derived from the Abyssinian language.
Some scholars have written books on the topic of ‘foreign vocabulary in the Qur’an’, e.g. Al-Suyuti who compiled a small book with a list of 118 expressions in different languages.
Allah Almighty knows best.
The above quotation is excerpted, with slight modifications, from www.youngmuslims.ca
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.