Umar Ibn al-Khattab on Learning Arabic

“Imam Ibn Taymiyya’s Advice

on Learning Arabic”


Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya commented: “Moreover, the Arabic language itself is from the religion[1] and learning it is obligatory.[2] Understanding the Qur’an and Sunna is an obligation and this is not possible except through the Arabic language and ‘if an obligation cannot be achieved through something then that thing itself becomes an obligation’.[3] Then related to this is an obligation on an individual and obligations on a group of people and this is the meaning of what Ibn Abi Shayba narrated: `Isa ibn Yunus told us from Thawr from `Umar ibn Yazid who said: `Umar wrote to Abu Musa al-Ash`ari (ra) the following: ‘I proceed: attain deep understanding of the Sunna and give to deep understanding of the Arabic language because the Qur’an is in Arabic.’ In another narration from `Umar (ra), he said: ‘I proceed: Learn Arabic as it is part of your religion and learn the obligations as they are also part of your religion’. This is what `Umar ordered of attaining deep understanding of Arabic as well as knowing the rules of the Shari`a combining both which are needed because the religion comprises of knowing statements [of the Prophet] and [his] actions. Knowledge of Arabic is the only way to gaining knowledge of the rulings related to his statements and knowledge of his Sunna is the only to know the rulings related to his actions [saw]…”[4]

وأيضا فإن نفس اللغة العربية من الدين ومعرفتها فرض واجب فإن فهم الكتاب والسنة فرض ولا يفهم إلا بفهم اللغة العربية وما لا يتم الواجب إلا به فهو واجب. ثم منها ما هو واجب على الأعيان، ومنها ما هو واجب على الكفاية، وهذا معنى ما رواه ابن أبي شيبة حدثنا عيسى بن يونس عن ثور عن عمر بن يزيد قال: كتب عمر إلى أبي موسى الأشعري رضي الله عنه أما بعد: فتفقهوا في السنة، وتفقهوا في العربية، وأعربوا القرآن فإنه عربي. وفي حديث آخر عن عمر رضي الله عنه أنه قال: تعلموا العربية فإنها من دينكم، وتعلموا الفرائض فإنها من دينكم. وهذا الذي أمر به عمر رضي الله عنه من فقه العربية وفقه الشريعة يجمع ما يحتاج إليه لأن الدين فيه فقه أقوال وأعمال، ففقه العربية هو الطريق إلى فقه أقواله، وفقه السنة هو الطريق إلى فقه أعماله

And with Allah is all success


[1] See for example “Ibn Taymiyya on Arabic” at

[2] Cf Imam al-Shafi`i’s comment in “Imam al-Shafi`i and the Importance of Arabic” at

[3] On this principle see `Abd al-Karim Zaydan,  al-Wajiz fi Usul al-Fiqh, pp.299-300 for more on the principle

[4] Ibn Taymiyya, Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim, vol.2, p.207.


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