In learning Arabic for non-Arabic, there is one method of learning that is often targeted by all-out bullies, namely grammar and translation methods (MTBT). For those who have studied formally in college, especially in the study program / major of PBA, may already be filled with sharp criticisms of this one method. Although there are already those who passed this phase by entering the “post-method” phase for example, but to this day it seems that the embedding of bad impressions to the method continues. Usually, this criticism is addressed to the tradition of learning Islamic sciences that adopt interlinear translation systems. In other words, what was criticized was perceived as a process of learning Arabic with MTBT.
In fact, in the context of nusantara, in addition to successfully honing grammatical skills, MTBT itself has been instrumental at least in caring for a very thick locality of harmony. Pegon script and javanese language typical of translated books (which may be many vocabulary that are not used in conversation) are able to survive in the tradition of pesantren in the midst of the eroding of Javanese in communication today. Interlinear translation is not enough only capitalized vocabulary, but also grammatical knowledge that is not simple, also able to make scientific authority in the field of religion remained firmly maintained, because to penetrate it can not rely on the process of karbitan style, let alone the method overnight ala Bandung Bondowoso which is clearly unable to melt the heart of Roro Jonggrang.
Embedding “utawi”, “iku”, “greeting/what” and “ing” for example, which is sometimes done by abbreviation (symbol م means مبتدأ but read utawi, خ means خبر but read iku, etc),it cannot be done without knowing which is the nominal clause subject, where the predicate, which is the subject of the verbal clause and where the object is. That does not include the meaning of the effect of the position of the word, such as the position due to taqdim & ta’khir for example which sometimes affects “hashr”. Here, interlinear translation is able to create a beautiful harmony between the sciences of Arabic and locality. This element is proven to facilitate the santri later when he has to “go home” and convey what he gets, which of course with the oral of his people. This is all — again — if we do perceive that what is going on is a case of “learning Arabic” through MTBT. But what if the process that has been running so far turns out that is not the context? Are the criticisms we usually hear still relevant?
The author here will not enter into the polemic around the MTBT following the barrage of qila wa qala related to it. I just want to invite us to review that there is actually something wrong, or at least something is not right with these sharp insults and criticisms. Especially when there is a generalization due to co-fitting criticism of foreign language learning methods in general, the criticism is directed at the traditions of speakers of certain languages, which is different context to what happens in arabic learning in this country, especially those that run in traditional pesantren.
But unfortunately, excessive criticism that seems “quite often wrong address” is inevitable to lead to a negative attitude that initially only dwells on the method, then begins to spread to learning Arabic grammar itself as a science, by starting to challenge its urgency. I need to underline “as a science”, because in many cases even in certain scientific traditions, Arabic grammar is indeed learned NOT in order for the student to “speak Arabic”, but the target is for him to “know about Arabic”. I hope the reader can distinguish the two targets.
Then is there anything wrong with a target like this in learning Arabic for non-Arabic in general?
No need to go far looking for answers, sifu learning Arabic for non-Arab Rushdi Ahmad Tu’aymah has confirmed in his legendary book that became “wirid” for friends who studied at PBA. He said:
تعليم العربية كلغة أجنبية إذن يعني أن نعلّم الطالب اللغة، وأن نعلّمه عن اللغة، وأن يتعرف على ثقافتها.
Here it is clear that learning Arabic for non-Arabic means teaching students Arabic, teaching them about Arabic, and how they know Arabic culture. Until here, of course we understand that according to him learning Arabic is not only about skills, aka not only about how they can speak Arabic, but also so that they know about Arabic. This knowledge of Arabic certainly includes what we call Arabic grammar, such as nahu, saraf, and balagah, regardless of the grammatical theory version of who wants to be introduced or who wants to be used as a reference. As for the question of which priorities should take precedence between skill and science, it depends on the target proclaimed from a learning & teaching process. Btw, honestly, the term KBBI version for the three sciences is not good in the ears.
That’s if we speak in the context of learning Arabic in general. However, is it true that the teaching of Arabic grammar that occurs in this archipelago following the interlinear translation system was, especially in traditional pesantren-pesantren which then often becomes the target of criticism that the context is “learning Arabic”? According to the author, this is where there is often an inaccuracy of embedding criticism by perceiving that what applies in many institutions (especially traditional pesantren) the context is the learning of Arabic. Then from here, imported various criticisms that are actually “different addresses” earlier due to misperceptions about context.
Where’s the misperception?
When we sit the learning of grammar and Arabic sciences that have been rooted in traditional pesantren -pesantren “only” to the context of “Learning Arabic”, then there has been a kind of “ikhtizāl” aka dwarfing and reducing context. Why? Because Arabic grammar in such institutions is studied in depth not in the context of “Arabic language learning” alone, but the context is indeed greater than that, namely the learning of Islamic sciences that are intertwined with each other, closely connected by the system in accordance with the function of each of these sciences. Next, let me call this context a “macro” context.
The author is aware that this macro context seems to be very difficult to understand by a limited circle of scientific literacy, especially those who are already “drunk on specialization” or by those who only pursue Arabic just outside the macro context. For example, it would be very difficult to understand the words of Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni at the beginning of his book “al-Burhan” that the science of ushul al-fiqh is abstracted from three other sciences, namely kalam science, Arabic science and jurisprudence. For those who only learn Arabic but have never studied the other three sciences in depth that he mentioned (ushul al-fiqh, jurisprudence and kalam science) as a connected system, it is certainly impossible for him to be able to properly imagine the connection of the Arabic sciences with these sciences, again in an inseparable system. Simply put, a partial tashawwur would be difficult (even impossible) to reach out and photograph clearly the interrelationships.
To help understand this difference in context, it helps us look at what Ibn Khaldun said in his preamble. On vol. 3 page 1147 (edited by Ali Abdul Wahid Wafi, 2019) he stated in the title of an article:
فصل في أن ملكة هذا اللسان غير صناعة العربية، ومستغنية عنها في التعليم.
Ibn Khaldun’s statement asserts that there is a fundamental difference between “malakah” and “shinā’ah al-‘arabiyyah”. For more easily – tajāwuzan – we call this “malakah” which we later better known as “mahārah”, and “shinā’ah al-‘arabiyyah” as the science of Arabic grammar. Ibn Khaldun was well aware that arabic proficiency did not depend on the knowledge of Arabic grammar. Because according to him, this “shinā’ah al-‘arabiyyah” is “the science of Arabic kaifiyyah”, not “kaifiyyah” itself, so it is not a language skill. Even more extreme he asserted that this science is actually not needed in the context of “teaching Arabic proficiency”. Where do we understand the context of “ta’lim” here is the context of teaching Arabic proficiency? From the previous chapter in which Ibn Khaldun spoke of “ta’līm al-lisān al-mudharī” the context of which is to teach “malakah” as he explicitly stated. So it’s a micro context.
What about the macro context? Ibn Khladun himself affirmed in several chapters before the above chapter, with the title “‘Ulūm al-Lisān al-‘Arabī” (p. 1128) which according to him there are four saka teachers, namely lughah, nahu, parrot and adab. There he firmly stated”ومعرفتها ضرورية على ألل الشريعة”. So it is in this context that the Sciences of Arabic are studied as part of very diverse Islamic sciences, in a series of interconnected systems, in the framework of the process of printing scholars who understand sharia, not just in the context of learning language skills as above. As in the other chapter (p. 931) when discussing the classification of science, Ibn Khaldun again confirmed the position of the Arabic sciences in”الشرعيات”.
This macro context can once again only be understood if the interrelationship was really realized. Interrelated is not only in the component of science as exemplified by al-Juwayni earlier, but also in the writing of the teaching books themselves. The form of al-kutub al-madrasiyyah in the classical tradition of a series of matan – sharah – hasiyah sometimes still with taqrirat, able to strengthen this character. Just try to take one sharah in a certain science, jurispruding for example, I am sure to understand it is not enough capital only with the knowledge of jurispruding alone, not even just Arabic alone. Especially if you’re into the book. The use of technical terms that are commonly studied in the instrumental sciences will force you to also learn these sciences. In addition to the language sciences such as the absolute nerve and balagah must be learned, you also need to learn the logic of syllogism (mantiq) for example, then the knowledge about ushul al-fiqh will also greatly determine the extent of the quality of your understanding of the book in your hands.
There is a unique experience that the author has experienced in one of the discussions related to the harakat letter nun from the word رمضان on the pronunciation of fasting intentions which al-Mahallī briefly describes”بإضافة رمضان”. For those who are accustomed to uslūb al-kutub al-madrasiyyah ala turats certainly understand that indirectly he has explained the harakat nun. Even so, in hasiyahnya we can easily find an explicit and detailed explanation of the reasons of the choice. It’s just that my discussion partner seems unfamiliar with enjoying such a dish of knowledge, so he immediately “jumped” to another level that might be more delicious for him, which he immediately stated that this harakat cross indicated that the pronunciation was not taught by the Prophet. Until there I was silent and no longer interested in continuing the discussion.
Well, for mtbt critics and maybe critics of the teaching of Arabic sciences, you all certainly understand very well that to understand such information it is impossible for us to get from books teaching Arabic skills, as good as the book is, such as “al-‘Arabiyyah Bayna Yadayk” or legendary ones such as “al-‘Arabiyyah Li al-Nasyi’īn”. Although we recite the last volume of the book, not necessarily we will be competent to understand the “fakk al-‘ibārāt” which is the peculiarity of al-kutub al-madrasiyyah ala turats, if we do not study the instrumental sciences earlier. It was in this context of interconnectedness that centuries ago Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi said in the treatise Marātib al-‘Ulūm:
“فالعلوم كلها متعلق بعضها ببعض كما بينا قبل، محتاج بعضها إلى بعض”
For more about the interconnectedness of knowledge in this turats you can read the review of Taha Abdurrahman, a moroccan philosophy scholar in his book entitled “Tajdīd al-Manhaj Fī Taqwīm al-Turāts”, especially in chapter two entitled
“النظرة التكاملية إلى التراث الإسلامي العربي والاشتغال بآليات التداخل المعرفي”
By reading this book, the author hopes that the false perceptions surrounding the letter, including the classical Arabic sciences that to this day – alhamdulillah – are still being studied, can be straightened out. Especially if we can feel the strong characters of “tarātub al-‘ulūm” and “tafā’ul al-‘ulūm” in turats as concluded by the author of the book. Do not let because we misperception and then we repeat the tragedy of Muhammad Abduh’s blasphemy against the classic teaching books as told by Mahmoud Muhammad Shakir in the introduction to the edited edition for Asrār al-Balāghah by Abdul Qahir al-Jurjani. Just because the two sharah Sa’d al-Taftazani for Talkhīsh al-Miftāh in balagah following his hawasyi is “difficult to conquer”, does not mean it becomes an excuse to discredit him even labeled as having killed balagah, then casually jumped straight into the book al-Jurjani. May the disease “istihānah” against the turats that had plagued in that era not contagious infect us here today, just because we do not understand the character of the interrelationship between the science earlier. Furthermore, please read mahmoud shakir’s preamble.
So, if anyone is struggling to unlock “secret codes” in books by scientific giants that may appear to you as “learning Arabic only” and it is done in a way that does not fit the ideal theory and methodology that you learn in the lecture hall in the context of “Learning Arabic”, it could be that you are just misperception. Remember that the context that you make a theoretical reference of your criticism and you perceive the ideal is micro context, while what you see and you make the object of criticism actually refers to macro context. Without understanding the more complicated macro context, we will not be able to digest al-Jarmī’s famous expression, “Since thirty years ago, I have fatwaed in jurispruding from the book of Sībawayh”
Again, this article only invites us to be wiser in addressing criticism. Not to agree to the learning process that is off the rails, such as learning whose target is skill but in its implementation is precisely the portion of knowledge is more dominant. Such cases are certainly not what this article intended. Plus, actually the two contexts above perfect each other, and it seems that many pesantren-pesantren have started to apply it.
Happy World Arabic Day