Is There a Benefit in Learning Languages Other Than Arabic?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul Sami‘ al-Yakti


Is there a benefit to learning languages other than Arabic?


All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and blessings and peace be upon the Master of the Messengers, his family, and all his companions.

Undoubtedly, learning other languages – after mastering Arabic – offers numerous religious and worldly benefits for the Muslim Umma and its individuals. These benefits include spreading its religion and message, meeting its needs in all aspects of life, fostering mutual understanding, coexistence, cooperation, and cultural and knowledge exchange with other nations, and safeguarding against the harm and deceit of its enemies. This is supported by many Quranic verses and prophetic traditions. And Allah knows best.

Explanation and Detail

Language represents a nation’s identity and culture. It preserves a nation’s personality, human and religious heritage, and moral values. Hence, we understand the importance of languages in general and, specifically, the importance of the Arabic language for us as Muslims. Arabic represents the Muslim Umma’s identity as the religion’s language and the Holy Quran. Preserving it means preserving the religion, moral values, knowledge, culture, scientific heritage, customs, and societal values.

This does not mean neglecting other living and spoken global languages. Learning them is considered a collective duty (Fard Kifaya) for the Umma. This is to spread its religion and message, meet its needs in all aspects of life, foster mutual understanding, coexistence, cooperation, and cultural and knowledge exchange with others, and safeguard against the harm and deceit of its enemies. These are the greatest benefits of learning other languages.

Therefore, sacred law, as reflected in many Quranic verses and prophetic traditions, supports this view. Among them are:

Benefits of Learning Other Languages

Allah (Most High) says, “O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may (get to) know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [Quran, 49:13]

Kharija bin Zaid bin Thabit said that Zaid bin Thabit said, “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered me to learn the writing of the Jews. I even wrote letters for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) (to the Jews) and also read their letters when they wrote to him.” [Bukhari]

Important Hadith

When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) arrived in Medina, Zaid said: I was brought to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and he was impressed with me. They said: “O Messenger of Allah, this boy from the Banu al-Najjar has memorized about fifteen Suras that Allah has revealed to you.” This pleased the Prophet (peace be upon him), and he said, “O Zayd, learn for me the scripture of the Jews, for by Allah, I do not trust the Jews on my scripture.” Zayd said: “I learned their scripture for him, and it was not fifteen nights before I had mastered it. I used to read their letters to him when they wrote to him, and I would write the responses for him.” [Ahmad]

Shaykh Muhammad Abu Shahba comments in his book on the biography, “This demonstrates extraordinary intelligence and strong memory. Learning to write necessitates learning the language, and it is established that (Zayd) knew Syriac and Hebrew… The command of the Messenger of Allah to Zayd to learn the language and writing of the Jews indicates that Islam encourages Muslims to learn other languages and their scripts, to understand their sciences and knowledge, especially when there is a necessity for it.” [Abu Shuhba, al-Sira al-Nabawiyya]

The jurists have derived an important legal principle from this hadith: “The translator’s statement is accepted unconditionally.” [Majallat al-Ahkam]

This underscores the significance of translation, indicating that it stands in place of the original (what is being translated from).

Furthermore, the Islamic conquests and the accompanying rise in Arabization, translation, and documentation of knowledge – especially during the golden age of the Umma, which spanned from the 10th to the 15th century CE – are the greatest evidence of the importance of learning languages, spreading knowledge, and preaching among all nations.

Very Important Note and Caution

It is imperative for parents and guardians to immediately, without delay or procrastination, initiate the teaching of the Arabic language to their children in reading, writing, and speaking, especially the Holy Quran. This includes correcting pronunciation and script, understanding the articulation and characteristics of letters, and devoting their attention and resources to this endeavor. The Arabic language forms the foundation and base upon which all sciences, cultures, heritages, religious values, moral principles, and Islamic legal rulings of the Muslim community are built.

Imam al-Suyuti, in his book “al-Iqtira”, quoting Razi in “al-Mahsul”, says: “Know that knowledge of the language, grammar, and morphology is a collective duty because knowledge of the religious rulings is obligatory by consensus… Therefore, one must know their evidences, which are based on the Quran and the Sunna, both conveyed in the Arabic language, its grammar, and morphology. Since knowledge of the rulings depends on the evidence, and understanding the evidence depends on knowing grammar and morphology, and what is required for an absolute obligation that is achievable for the accountable person is itself obligatory. Therefore, knowledge of the language, grammar, and morphology is obligatory.”

Shawkani states in his book “Irshad al-Fuhul”: “Know that since the Quran and Sunna were revealed in the Arabic language, and knowledge of them depends on knowledge of this language, learning it is among the most important obligations.”

After Mother Tongue

Once children are proficient in their mother tongue, they can then learn other languages and skills as they wish. The early stages of a child’s life are crucial in shaping their personality, traits, behavior, religious and moral culture, and inherited societal values and norms.

Utmost caution should be exercised not to mix up priorities in language learning or to blend languages during a child’s early developmental stages, regardless of what promoters advocate or speakers claim. Those who teach the mother tongue with other languages to children are like those altering the genetic code, tampering with the original settings of personality formation, identity definition, religious and moral culture, and even speech patterns. This is evident in many children raised by nannies or maids from different nationalities, languages, and cultures, or those who grow up in educationally diverse linguistic and cultural environments from their earliest years.

Imam al-Shafi‘i, emphasizing the importance of adhering to the Arabic language and not following others, said, “The people most deserving of excellence in language are those whose tongue is the tongue of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). It is not permissible – and Allah knows best – for the people of one language to follow the people of another language in even a single letter. Instead, every language should follow his language, and all people of religions before him should follow his religion. Allah has clarified this in several verses of His book, saying:

‘This is certainly a revelation from the Lord of all worlds, which the trustworthy spirit (Gabriel) brought down into your heart (O Prophet)—so that you may be one of the warners—in a clear Arabic tongue.’ [Quran, 26:192-195; Shafi‘i, Kitab al-Risala]


Learning other world languages is essential due to the great benefits and advantages they offer and the need of the Umma for this, as we have explained. However, I draw your attention to the need to first teach children the language of their religion and the book of their Lord and then to proceed to other languages and skills. Allah is the Guardian of success, and all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul Sami‘ al-Yakti

Shaykh Abdul Sami‘ al-Yaqti is a Syrian scholar born in Aleppo in 1977. He obtained his degree in Shari‘a from the Shari‘a Faculty of Damascus University, a Diploma in Educational Qualification from the Faculty of Education at Aleppo University, and a Diploma in Shari‘a and a Master’s in Shari‘a from the Faculty of Sharia, and Law at Omdurman University in Sudan. He is currently writing his doctoral thesis.

He studied under esteemed scholars such as Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Shaghouri, Shaykh Mustafa al-Turkmani, and Shaykh Dr. Nur al-Din Itr, among others. Shaykh al-Yakti has worked in teaching and cultural guidance in orphanages and high schools in Aleppo. He served as an Imam, Khatib, and reciter at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and as a certified trainer for Khatibs in Abu Dhabi’s Khatib Qualification Program.

He is involved in developing and teaching a youth education program at Seekers Arabic for Islamic Sciences.

Among Shaykh al-Yaqti’s significant works are “Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni: Bayna Ilm al-Kalam Wa Usul al-Fiqh” and the program “The Messenger of Allah Among Us (Allah bless him and give him peace).”