What Books Do You Recommend for Improving One’s Arabic?


Answered by Ustadh Tariq Abdul-Rasheed
Question: Asalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,
Can you recommend books for the beginner student of Arabic (someone who has completed Madinah, bayna yadayk, kitab al asassi series)?
I’d also like recommendations for books that might be good to read before (or while) delving into the classical mutun or commentaries to increase one’s vocabulary base and get a feel for that particular subject.
Jazakumullahu khayran
Answer: Wa laikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barkatuh,
In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
May Allah (the Exalted) bless you in your effort to seek knowledge. The merits of seeking knowledge are well known and the excellence and benefit of studying the Arabic Language is clear.
The books you mentioned will generally provide a student with a very solid foundation in Arabic Grammar, reading comprehension and vocabulary. However, other vital skills should be part of the serious students repertoire and should not be ignored. Namely; speaking, writing and listening skills should also be considered at this stage and should not be forgotten in your planning. Many students make the mistake of grammar-focused studies at the expense of other critical language skills.

Recommended Books for Reading Arabic

Regarding recommended reading, scholars (depending on locality) generally recommend students read books such as the following. This by why advice and not an “end-all” list:
The books of Shaykh Abul Hasan an-Nadawi (Allah have mercy on him)
· Qasas an-Nabiyeen (قصص النبيين)
· al-Qira’āt ar-Rashīdīyah (القراءة الرشيدية)
· al-Mukhtārāt min adab al-ʿArab (المختارات من أدب العرب)
The books of Professor Abdur-Rahman Basha (Allah have mercy on him)
· Sur min hayāt as-Sahābah (صور من حياة الصحابة)
· Sur min hayā at-Tābiʿīn (صور من حياة الطابعين)
The books of Shaykh ʿAli Tantāwī (which are many) (Allah have mercy on him)
· Abu Bakr as-Sidīq (أبو بكر الصديق)
· Akhbār ʿUmar (أخبار عمر)
· Qasas min at-Tārīkh (قصص من التاريخ)
· Mʿa an-Nās (مع الناس)
Ultimately, there are various books for beginning readers as the late scholars became very concerned with ensuring that students were able to access classical Arabic in a relatable fashion.
The benefits of these books are many. The following are some main benefits:
1. Provide the student intimacy with Classical Arabic.
2. Build reading skills and pronunciation as the scholars encourage students to read aloud.
3. Increase the vocabulary of the student.
4. Provide the student with practical and sound expressions to benefit speaking and writing skills.
5. Teach morals and ethics from Islamic History and Heritage instead of less meaningful subjects.
Classical Texts
Classical mutūn should be read with qualified scholars and teachers. This is particularly important in the beginning stages of learning and simply cannot be replaced with self-study. If you find yourself at the point where you cannot achieve the growth you aspire towards on your own or in your locality. You should consider seeking opportunities to study with qualified scholars elsewhere.
In any case, please remember the advice of scholars, “Generalize before you specialize!” That is, study a broad range of topics rather than a narrow yourself to one topic such as; fiqh or aqeedah. Scholars usually recommend a core curriculum that help ground the student and prepare them way for a life-time of seeking.
Overspecialization in the beginning can stunt intellectual growth and is one of the major mistakes made in our time.
Two Gems
Setting out to seek knowledge has many challenges, particularly in our times. Lands that were once open to students are now in political, social and economic turmoil. However, Allah (The Exalted) in His vastness and grace opens doors for those who persist in sincerity.
If you find difficulty in accessing to scholars. Then, there are two books that I highly recommend in the meantime. I believe that you will benefit from beautiful vocabulary, rich expressions and a vast range of knowledge’s and sciences.
In the Tafsīr of Shaykh as-Sabūnī (صفوة التفاسير) you will find a clear lucid tafsīr that will give you good insight into the meanings of the Noble Quran, which is the storehouse of all knowledge. Shaykh Ali Hani, Head Instructor of the SeekersArabic Program, recommends this tafsīr to beginning students.
Secondly, al-Hāfidh ibn Rajab’s (جامع العلوم و الحكم) will guide you through the comprehensive collection of Prophetic narrations compiled by the great scholar Imam an-Nawawi (Allah be please with them all). Ibn Rajab’s commentary is one of the best commentaries on the 40 Hadith of Imam an-Nawawi and truly lives up to its title. It has been ably translated into English, by Ustadh Abdassamd Clarke, and can be used as a guide to help you along in your Arabic reading.
Seeker’s Arabic Program
New courses in Arabic will be starting soon, for both English-speakers and Arabic-speakers.
Continue throughout your path of knowledge to consider SeekersGuidance Global as we continue to grow and expand to provide students a place to connect at various levels in their studies. New courses and expanded curricula are being added in the future both in the Islamic Sciences and Arabic Language.
With Allah’s (Most High) facilitation and prayers from dedicated seekers such as you we will continue expand on-line and on- the-ground.
I pray this is of benefit and Allah (The Exalted) is the best of those who know.
Your brother,
Tariq Abdul-Rasheed
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