The Case for Teaching your Kids Arabic
When my daughter was born, I thought her father would take on the role of teaching her Arabic. After all, he was born and raised in an Arabic-speaking country and I wasn’t. At best, my Arabic sounded rather embarrassing whenever I attempted to speak.
When my husband passed away, I looked at this baby staring at me with ready-to-learn eyes and thought to myself: how will I ever teach her this language when I can barely speak it myself?
I threw myself into speaking Arabic to her, even though the words sometimes felt sticky and strange in my throat. I rifled through many bazaars at Islamic conferences and tons of bookstores for good Arabic books to read to her. I scoured the internet for decent Arabic cartoons and resources. And I continued to speak to her in Arabic, prying the words from my distant memories and delivering them as clearly as possible.
At times I wanted to give up and just start speaking English again. At times the effort didn’t seem worth the trouble to me. After all, plenty of amazing people don’t understand Arabic.
But at each of those times when I was the most exasperated with the language, I would come upon something that would make me understand why I was so adamant about teaching my daughter Arabic. Here’s one of those examples:
A few months ago I bought Ruqaya an Arabic book about a little girl named Nada who broke her leg. In the picture posted here, you see the doctor wrapping Nada’s leg – the text explains that he put a “jabeera” on her leg – meaning in this context, a cast/bandage.
One of Allah’s Beautiful Names is Al-Jabbar. The Arabic root word of “jabbar” is “jabeera” like in the story above, meaning a “splint.” Allah (swt) is the One who mends and heals!
Sometimes we go through devastating experiences that make us feel like mere broken versions of ourselves. We can never imagine recovering or returning to a sense of normalcy. And then it is Al-Jabbar who comes and restores what was once broken within us, transforming those scattered pieces into something whole and sound again.
If my daughter is able to understand the word “jabeera” from this children’s book, then as she grows, she can also begin to comprehend Allah’s beautiful Name “Al-Jabbar.” And if she knows that it is Al-Jabbar who heals hearts, then she will know that He is the only One she should turn to.
Teaching my daughter Arabic is not about wanting her to maintain her culture or giving her the ability to speak with extended family members overseas. Those are all fine goals to have, but the one true and meaningful goal is to have her to understand the depth of this beautiful faith. (Knowing Arabic doesn’t make you a good Muslim, but it does equip you with powerful tools you can use to understand Islamic texts if you so choose.)
And so I continue struggling to teach her Arabic in the hopes that one day she will pick up the Quran, read it with ease, and understand how to apply it to her life. That is my only necessary and meaningful goal with this language.
If you’re struggling with kids who don’t want to put an effort into understanding Arabic letters and words, don’t give up. Revisit your goal and understand the greater purpose of what you’re trying so hard to teach them.
Your kids will thank you when they’re older, and more importantly, it’s all a part of your sadaqah jariyyah.