Part 51

The urban population is generally deficient in linguistics

December 28, 2021

The more remote urban people are from the Arabic language, the more difficult 1392 it is for them to obtain it.

This is because the student has previously obtained a habit incompatible with the desired Arabic linguistic habit, since he has grown up speaking the sedentary language which was influenced by non-Arab speech to such a degree that, eventually, the original habit of the Arabic language was replaced by another.

This other habit is the language of the present-day sedentary population.

This is why teachers try to teach children the Arabic language 1393 first. The grammarians think that this is done through grammar. But this is not so.

It is done through teaching them the linguistic habit through direct contact with the Arabic language and Arab speech. It is true that grammar comes closer than anything else to bringing about contact with those things.

The more firmly rooted in non-Arab speech habits an urban language is and the more remote it is from the language of the Mudar, the less able are its speakers to learn the language of the Mudar and to obtain the habit of it. In such cases, the forces that are incompatible with acquisition of the habit of the Mudar language are firmly entrenched.

Ibn ar-Raqiq 1394 tells the story of a secretary in al-Qayrawan who wrote to a colleague of his= “O my friend and whose loss I may indeed be denied, Abu Sa’id taught me word that you had been mentioning that we was to be with those who was to come, 1395 but it hindered us today, and it was not possible for us to go out. The people of (my) house, those dogs, concerning the straw 1396 lied this falsely; there is not a single letter of that (true). ”

Such was the habit of the Mudar language that those (people possessed). The facts we have mentioned explain why.

Likewise, their poems did not show the (correct linguistic) habit and were inferior. This has continued to be so to this time. There have been no famous poets in Ifriqiyah, except for Ibn Rashiq and Ibn Sharaf. 1397 Most of the poets there have been recent immigrants. Down to this day, their eloquence has inclined to the inferior.

The Spaniards came closer to obtaining the (linguistic) habit (than the people of Ifriqiyah), because they were greatly interested in it and saturated with poetry and prose they had memorized. They had the historian Ibn Hayyan 1398 as their leading craftsman in matters of language and standard-bearer of the (Arabic linguistic) habit.

They also hadIbn ‘Abdrabbih, 1399 al-QastallI,1400 and other poets in the (time of the) reyes de ta’ifas. Language-and literature flourished in (Spain). They were cultivated there for hundreds of years, down to the time of the dispersion and exile when the Christians gained the upper hand. Thereafter, the (Spaniards) had no leisure to occupy themselves with such things. Civilization decreased. As a result, (language and literature) decreased, as is the case with all crafts (under such conditions).

The (linguistic) habit among (Spaniards) was then no longer adequate to its purpose.

Eventually, it sank to the lowest point. Among the last (of the Spanish litterateurs) were Salih b. Sharif 1401 and Malik b. al-Murahhal 1402 (who was) a pupil of the Sevillian community in Ceuta, when 1403 the dynasty of the Banu al-Ahmar (the Nasrids of Granada) was just beginning.

Spain (at that time) sent its most treasured (children and best) speakers of Arabic into exile on the (African) shore. From Sevilla, they went to Ceuta, and from eastern Spain to Ifriqiyah. But soon, their time was up.

The tradition of teaching Arabic philology as cultivated by them, came to an end. (Arabic) was too hard and difficult for (the people of) the (African) shore to learn. Their tongues were too twisted, and they were too firmly rooted in non-Arabic Berber (speech habits), which are incompatible with (the Arabic linguistic habit) for the reasons we have stated.

Afterwards, the (Arabic linguistic) habit came to exist again in Spain, as it had been before. There appeared there Ibn Shibrin, 1404 Ibn Jabir, 1405 Ibn al-Jayyab, 1406 and (other men of) their class. After them came Ibrahim as-Sahili at- Tuwayjin 1407 and (other men of) his class.

They were followed by Ibn al-Khatib,1408 who recently died a martyr’s death as the result of denunciation by his enemies. He possessed an unequaled linguistic habit. His pupils followed in his footsteps.

In general, the (Arabic linguistic) habit plays a greater role in Spain, and instruction in it is simpler and easier (there than elsewhere), because the (Spaniards) are nowadays greatly interested in, and concerned with, philology and literature and the teaching tradition in those (subjects), as we have mentioned before. 1409

Also, non-Arabic speakers with a corrupt (linguistic) habit are only recent immigrants in (Spain), and non-Arabic (speech habits) are not the basis of the language of the Spaniards.

On the other hand, the Berbers on the (African) shore constitute the (native) inhabitants of the region. Their language is the language (of the country), except in the cities. (The language there) is entirely submerged in the non-Arab native idiom of the Berbers. It is difficult for them, therefore, in contrast to the Spaniards, to obtain the (Arabic) linguistic habit through instruction.

The situation (of the people) of the East at the time of the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid dynasties was the same as we find it in Spain, with reference to the perfection and refinement of their (linguistic) habit. At that time, apart from rare cases, they were remote from contact with non-Arabs.

Therefore, the (linguistic) habit was at that time more firmly entrenched (than at any other time). Excellent poets and secretaries existed in abundant numbers, because the number of Arabs and their descendants was abundant in the East. Glance (in this connection) at the poems and prose texts of the Kitab al.

It deals with their language, their history, their battle days, the Arab religious organization and the biography of their Prophet, 1411 the remarkable deeds of their caliphs and rulers, their poems and songs, and all the other conditions (of the Arabs). 1412 There is no book that gives more complete information about theconditions of the Arabs. 1413

During the rule of the (Umayyad and ‘Abbasid) dynasties, the (linguistic) habit remained firmly established in the East. (Poets and litterateurs of that period) were often superior to the pre-Islamic (poets and litterateurs) with regard to (their linguistic habit), as we shall mention later on. 1414

Eventually, however, the Arabs lost power. Their language was wiped out. Their speech was corrupted. Their power and dynasties came to an end.

The nonArabs seized power. They gained royal authority and superiority. This happened under the dynasty of the Daylam and the Saljugs. They had contact with the urban population and 1415 exceeded them in number.

The earth came to be full of their languages, and non-Arab (speech habits) gained power over the urban and sedentary population. Eventually, people came to be remote from the Arabic language and the habit of it. Those who studied it were not able to obtain it. This we find to be the condition in which their language finds itself today.

It affects both their prose and poetry, even if much is being produced by them in (both fields).


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