Salam (Peace) Dear Jason,
Thanks for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
First of all, it is important to correct a very common misunderstanding that some people have about Islam and Muslims. Not every Muslim is an Arab, and not every Arab is a Muslim.
It is true that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an Arab by birth. At the time of his prophethood, many of his people worshiped idols. Some other Arabs were Christians and some were Jews. Others were monotheists who followed what remained of the religion of the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). Yet all of them were native Arabic speakers.
It is common today to find many Arabs living in the Muslim world and in the West who are Christians and Jews. Although the majority of the world’s Arabs are Muslims, not every Muslim is a native Arab. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are not Arabs.
The largest Muslim country in the world by population is Indonesia with approximately 200 million Muslim citizens, most of whom do not speak Arabic. There are also over 100 million Muslims in China that make up the one of the largest Muslim minorities of any country in the world. Millions of Muslims live in many non-Arab countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran, to name but a few.
It is true, as you mentioned, that Arabic is a distinguishing feature of Islam, but this is only because it is the language that the Quran was revealed in, and obviously because it is the language of Prophet Muhammad and his people.
There are many important reasons why Allah chose Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Arabic language for his final message. However, Muslims of all cultural backgrounds strive to learn Arabic so that the depth of the message of Allah is best understood and implemented in our daily lives.
So as you can see, Islam is a way of life that all people can follow, regardless of the language they speak or the traditions they follow, so long as those traditions do not go against the teachings of Islam as revealed in the Quran and as taught to us by our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).
Regarding your point about the English language being the language of Christians, most Christians around the world are not native English speakers. There are millions of Spanish, French, German, Russian and even Arab Christians, to name a few, around the world. Also, the earliest books of the Bible and other scriptures were not written in English, but were written in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek.
The Bible was then translated into Latin over 400 years after the time of Jesus (peace be upon him) for use by the Roman Catholic Church, which remains the official language of the church until this day. Jesus (peace be upon him) even spoke Aramaic, not English as some might think.
A Latin Bible was later used to produce an English translation in the 1380s by John Wycliffe. The original Hebrew and Greek translated versions of the Bible are not commonly used today by the vast majority of the world’s Christians, except perhaps in research by Christian scholars of religion.
In Islam, there are no translations that are considered to be authentic versions of the Quran. The Noble Quran remains unchanged as it was at the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Quranic translated versions we see in different languages are more properly called interpretations, since it is impossible to translate the Quran into other languages without losing some of its meaning.
This is because the Arabic language is a much broader language than most other languages. Also, there are no equivalents in other languages for many words and ideas that we find in Arabic. These specific linguistic features — among others — are behind the choice of the Arabic language to be the vehicle of the last Divine message to mankind.
I hope this makes things clearer for you. Keep up your study of Islam. You seem to be a sincere person and I am sure that Allah will guide you to the truth, insha’Allah (God willing).
If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to send us again.Thank you and please keep in touch.