What is the scholarly opinion regarding the priority of hifz vs. learning Classical Arabic?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
Memorizing the entire Qur’an and learning the Arabic language are both communal obligations. As long as some people in each community fulfill this need, the obligation falls off everyone else; in such a case, memorizing the Qur’an and/or learning Arabic is encouraged but in no way an obligation.
With that being said, you have full discretion to choose which you would prefer to do within the time period at your disposal.
One of our teachers would say that if you must choose between good deeds, then use the following method to decide:
1) If you can do both without causing yourself any undue difficulty, that is ideal
2) If not, give preference to the one you are less likely to do later.
3) Give preference to that which benefits more people over that which merely benefits yourself
4) Give preference to that which is obligatory or mandatory
The Prayer of Seeking Guidance
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) taught us the prayer of seeking guidance (istikhara). This is a gift to this community by which we can consign our decisions to the One who has all-encompassing knowledge, Allah Most High.
See this link for the method of performing this prayer.
It is personally obligatory on every Muslim to seek knowledge that allows them to fulfill their duties to Allah Most High (i.e., fulfilling all obligations and abstaining from all prohibitions that directly relate to one’s circumstances). Such knowledge should be prioritized over any other knowledge or pursuit, no matter how virtuous the knowledge or pursuit may be. [Birgivi; al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and some texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.