Interview with Dr. V. Abdur Rahim:Madrasas Do not Teach Arabic as a Living Language

Bismillah arRahman arRahim

This is an interviewed by Muqith Mujtaba Ali with the scholar of Arabic Language and the author of the famous “Madina Books”: Dr. V. Abdur Rahim (Bio)


Madrasas Do not Teach Arabic as a Living Language

Mr. Muqith Mujtaba Ali met this distinguished scholar in Madras (Chennai, India) in July 1997 and interviewed him for Islamic Voice.(This interview was published in August 1997 issue of the Islamic Voice, a popular Islamic Monthly published from Bangalore, India)

Muqith: What led you to Arabic language scholarship?
V. AbdurRahim: Arabic as the language of the Holy Qur’an had fascinated me. When I was young, my father took me to a ‘Maulana’. The way he taught me was totally disgusting. Ha failed to tell me the Arabic word for ‘flower’. I deserted this ‘teacher’ and purchased books to learn Arabic through English. From then on, it was entirely my own effort that kept propelling me.

Muqith: Muslims consider Arabic a sacred language. Don’t you think that this fosters a complex among them which keeps them from serious learning of the language?
V. AbdurRahim: This should be rather the precise reason for which Muslims must learn the language of the Holy Qur’an. It is the method of teaching that keeps them away from the language.
Arabic is taught more or less in a traditional way. We don’t have the modern methods and aids to teach the Arabic language. We don’t have language laboratories with audio-visual aids. Here in the Islamic University at Madinah, we have full-fledged laboratories and we have produced about 100 video films and a lot of charts.
But in Indian Madrassas it will be considered a sacrilege to allow television sets.

Muqith: What best Audio-visual aids would you suggest?
V. AbdurRahim: The simplest aid is the blackboard with chalkpieces in different colours. These can create a very good effect. Unfortunately, even this aid is not put to use in madrassas.
Charts, slides, skits, language games, all these could be very effective tools for Arabic teaching.

Muqith: What does your rich experience suggest about the approach to Arabic language teaching?
V. AbdurRahim: The best approach is the Direct Method. From the very first lesson you start speaking Arabic. The teacher has to guide the students. In language class, the students have to work more. The teachers need not lecture. Lecturing in language has no meaning.

Muqith: How do you see the ‘Translation Method’ adopted in the deeni Madaris?
V. AbdurRahim: By translation you cannot learn a language. Arabic is a living language. Unfortunately, it is approached as if it is a dead language. The teacher and the taught don’t use Arabic as a vehicle of communication.

Muqith: What about the ‘Grammar Method’?
V. AbdurRahim: Grammar is the basis. Without grammar one can’t learn any language. But, then, grammar should be taught according to the student’s need. The problem is that the whole grammar is taught in the beginning itself. Without application! without thought!
Through this method, the students know only one example. And that too old-fashioned. We need to teach diction which is used today.

Muqith: In literature too, the students are taught things which do not bear any relevance to Islam, e.g. Diwan -e- Mutanabbi?
V. AbdurRahim: In Islamic schools we want students to learn the language plus Islam. Diwan-e-Mutanabbi is neither relevant to Islam nor is its language a hujjah (authoritative source), Mutanabbi comes after the period of Hujjah. For me teaching this book in Islamic schools is a sinful act.
Students are not taught what they need today. Instead of teaching what Islam and Muslims need, we teach something which is of no use. Take the case of Kalila Dimna. It’s a translation of Panch Tantra written by a person whose ideology clashes with Islamic ideology. I don’t know why we teach such cock and bull stories in Madrassas where we need to mould the character and mind of the students.

Muqith: In addition to classical language, there is a need to teach Arabic as a modern language.
V. AbdurRahim: Yes, modern language is nothing but the usage of modern terminology along with classical language. We want the students to learn current language, to speak and write relevant Arabic. We also need people who can write for Islam, send rejoinders to anti-Islamic writings etc. Such combined talents of Muslims knowing Islam and Journalism is rarely found in our midst.

Source: Muqith


May Allah preserve Dr. V. Abdur Rahim and have Mercy on him!


11 Responses to “Interview with Dr. V. Abdur Rahim:Madrasas Do not Teach Arabic as a Living Language”

  1. 1 adam January 18, 2010 at 5:02 am

    It seems Dr. Saab is quite distressed at the madaris’ predicament! Cock and bull? Hah.

    It shows that he is rather passionate about the subject and can no long bear the erroneous methods of traditional maulwi training.

    I concur.

  2. 2 Aaishah al-Husayn, (London, UK) March 5, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum Brothers and Sisters,

    I wholly understand our respected Shakykh, Dr. V. Abdur Rahim’s sentiments about current-day madrasas (schools, etc) who lack sufficient teaching methods as well as suitable Arabic teachers to teach us what is from the most fundamental aspects of our Diin : Arabic.

    I also hope the teachers will take our Shaykh’s sound advice where he encourages speaking Arabic with the students, from day one. I myself, dislike it when Arabic teachers constantly revert to speaking English when teaching, or when writing notes etc, while knowing their students are of a level where they can understand some spoken Arabic.

    I would also like to hear Arabic being spoken by the teachers, beyond the classrooms, Islaamic Centres and language Institutes – rather, wishing it would extend to, and reach our homes, circles of friends etc. This way, Arabic would remain with us even if we are outside of the classrooms. There are Arabic teachers who – once they leave the Arabic class – revert to speaking the language of the natives, even with fellow teachers. How strange!

    Finally, I very much value our Shaykh’s point about the correct methodology of teaching Arabic. He mentions in another one of his biographies that the fundamentals of the language are to be taught before the details, and that this is a step-by-step process, done according to the needs and abilities of the student. If our teachers were to put this golden advice into practice, they would have helped the student, not only to acquire the Arabic language with ease, but also with enjoyment and a continuous desire for more of it.

    May Allaah preserve our Shaykh Dr. V. Abdur Rahim, and benefit it with his wisdom, profound knowledge and deep insight of the Arabic language, of the Qur’aan and of the Sunnah.



  3. 4 mohammad muzammelu hoque June 26, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Dear brothers and sisters,
    assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah
    I neither critsize classic nor modern arabic. way of teaching in classic period and that of the present obviously different. but student’s attitiudes towards learning is the main. learning a language needs hardworking, paintaking,strong willingness and devotion. dr. v. abdurrahim was my teacher in madina islamic university. i do respect him and thank him a lot for his deeds and contribution towards arabic language.
    cross-culture and clash of civilizations are actively working in making the things upside down. islam is being tought by those who are having very shallow knowledge of it, fatwa are being made by those who are not elligible for doing so, similarly arabic are tought by the people who are not adequetly qualified.
    i am a M.A in arabic linguistic science, also specialized in islamic dawah and teaching areas but the up-side-down situation kept me out of being involved in my expertise.

  4. 5 Dr.Mohammad Saleem August 9, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I fully agree with the views expressed by Dr Sahab.We need to develope allthe four components reading ,writing ,listening and speaking at the same time.
    I have desigened,in collaboration with many Arabic experts, a very simple,innovative and learner friendly self instructional study material for the learners infar flung areas of the country as well ss professional working in Gulf countries at the school of Foreign Languages INDIRA GANDHI NATIONAL OPEN UNIVERSITY NEW DELHI
    I think we should adopt sme modern methods and Techniqs for teaching Arabic.Dr Sahab has already pointed out some of them.Idont think learners can afford to spend many years learning Arabic in particular institution.Time has come to refrm the Arabic language learning system and bring it in tune with the needs and hoes and aspirations of the millions of the young ,enthusiastic learners across the world,so that Arabic fourishes as a global language.

  5. 6 Dr.Mohammad Saleem August 9, 2010 at 10:45 am

    notify me of follow up comment via email.

  6. 7 Kamal Mustafa September 28, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    These books are easy to understand and teach. I have read sevel arabic language books, however I did not find ones like these books. May Allah reward the writter.

  7. 8 Aaishah al-Husayn January 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum Brothers and Sisters,

    It gives me great pleasure to inform everyone whose passion for learning Arabic continues, and who long to learn with those firmly gorunded in knowledge so that we obtain the correct and thorough understanding of the language of al-Qur’aan – based on this, I wish to inform everyone that our respected Shaykh of Arabic, the renowned Scholar – Dr. V. Abdur Rahim – has recently set up his own personal blog-site to teach Arabic.

    Currently, the Shaykh is teaching Arabic through:

    Arabic Poetry
    Grammar duruus.

    Please visit:

    The site also directs to where many of the Shaykh’s Arabic language books, Qur’aanic Arabic courses, and entire 2-year Arabic language syllabus for schools, colleges and universities, can be obtained absolutely free.

    Hope you benefit and share the good news with everyone.

    Aaisha al-Husayn
    Student of Arabic

  8. 9 maan.diran October 10, 2011 at 7:44 am

    Assalamualaikum, w.b.t.

    Thank you very much to Ms. / Mrs Aaisyha on such information. I really need this information Bolg Dr.V. Abd. Rahim.

  9. 10 abdelxyz August 10, 2012 at 5:55 am

    read my post about the importance of the arabic language to muslims

  10. 11 bersihwajah December 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    nice interview
    thanks alot

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Fiqh As Sawm

Islamic Rulings Surrounding Ramadhan and Fasting. Based on “Manar As Sabeel Fi Sharh Ad Daleel” Of Shaykh Ibraheem ibn Duwaiyan (d. 1353 AH) as explained by Br. Salim Morgan. Transcribed and Edited By Ibn Al Hyderabadee

Prologue Introduction

Chapter 1: Fasting in Ramadhaan
1. A pillar of Islam 2. Obligation of Fasting 3. Sighting of the Moon for start of Ramadhaan 4. One reliable witness' presence is sufficient 5. Conditions that make Ramadhan Obligatory for an Individual 6. Expiation for the inability to fast due to age or illness 7. Requirements of a valid fast 8. Obligations to fulfill during fasting 9. Recommended acts of fasting

Chapter 2: Permissions and Prohibitions

1. Impermissible to break fast during Ramadhan 2. Prohibited to fast for a woman in her menstrual or post-partum bleedin 3. Obligatory to break it when it is required to save a person’s life 4. Recommended to break fast for one who is ill and fears harm from fasting. 5. Recommended to break fast when one is traveling 6. Permissible for one to break fast who begins a journey while fasting 7. Permissible for a pregnant or nursing (breast feeding) woman 8. Change of condition of a person doesn’t obligate one to refrain from eating and drinking the rest of the day. 9. Prohibited to fast a voluntary fast instead of an obligatory one.

Chapter 3: That which Invalidates Your Fast

1. Intentional Intake of anything into the abdomen 2. Intention to break fast 3. Fluctuating Intention to fast 4. Vomiting intentionally 5. Menstruation or Post Partum Bleeding 6. Masturbation 7. Marital Relations 8. Cupping for both parties 9. Death 10. Apostasy 11. Above are Exempted in some cases

Chapter 4: Repayment
1. Missing a day of fast in Ramadhan
2. When does one make up a missed fast
3. If missed fast are not made up until few dats before next Ramadhan
4. Missed fasts first or voluntary?

Chapter 5: Recommended, Disliked, and Impermissible Days of Fasting
1. Recommended Every Other Day Sawn Dawood
2. The three white days of every Islamic month
3. Six days of Shawwaal
4. Month of Muharram and the 10th
5. Ten days of Dhil Hijja and that of Arafat
6. Disliking of the month of Rajab
7. Disliking of the day of Friday
8. Disliking of the 30th of Shabaan
9. Impermissibility of fasting on the two Eids
10. Completing of a voluntary fast is not Wajib



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