The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Verily, Allah does not withhold knowledge by snatching it away from his servants, but rather he withholds knowledge by taking the souls of scholars, until no scholar remains and people follow ignorant leaders. [Bukhari]
إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون
The Ummah mourns the passing of a great teacher, Sheikh Dr. V. Abdur Raheem who passed away at the age of 90. The Sheikh was from Tamil Nadu in India, and despite having no initial support, resources, background or the atmosphere for learning Arabic, went on to become a master of the language. He dedicated his life to helping open the doors for millions to learn the Arabic language over his 50+ years of teaching.
Sheikh was born in 1933 in Vaniyambadi, Tamil Nadu in India. He did:
- B.A in English from the University of Madras, India in 1957
- M.A in Arabic from the Aligarh Muslim University, India in 1962
- M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Arabic Philology from Al-Azhar in Egypt.
The Sheikh was a teacher in the truest sense of the word. While in India, he self-taught himself Arabic from the scarce resources available. He would try talking and practising the language with any Arabic-speaking scholar or person visiting India.
He is most well known for this Madinah Arabic book series that he developed to teach non-native speakers when he came to Madinah in 1969 and taught there for over 3 decades. He also taught in multiple countries while authoring 35+ works. He did not like Arabic being taught as though it was a dead language. This was one of the reasons that led him to put together his Madinah Book series as he knew the pain points a student faced from his own personal experiences. He was conferred the National Award from the President of India in 1997 for his services.
Allah ﷻ chose Arabic as the language of Islam. Allah says,
إِنَّآ أَنزَلْنَـٰهُ قُرْءَٰنًا عَرَبِيًّۭا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
“Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.” [Surah Yusuf, 2]
Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه said,
تَعَلَّمُوا الْعَرَبِيَّةَ؛ فَإِنَّهَا تُثَبِّتُ الْعَقْلَ، وَتَزِيدُ فِي الْمُرُوءَةِ
“Learn Arabic for it strengthens the mind and enhances one's noble conduct.” [Shu’ab al-Iman]
Imam al-Shafi'i رحمه الله said, “It is obligatory upon every Muslim to learn from the Arabic language what allows him to make effort in fulfilling his obligations”. [Irshad al-Fuhul]
Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله said, “For the Arabic language itself is from the religion, having knowledge of it is an obligation because understanding the Book and the Sunnah is an obligation. And (the religion) cannot be understood except by understanding the Arabic language, and that without which an obligation cannot be fulfilled is itself obligatory. Then from it is that which is obligatory upon everyone individually, and from it is that which is a collective obligation”.
Imam Ibn Shubrumah رحمه الله said, “Men have never worn a garment more beautiful than Arabic.” [Shu'ab al-Iman]
When we understand Arabic, the language of Quran, we can quickly eliminate any misconceptions and incorrect facts, especially about our religion. There are many words in the Quran that cannot really be translated into another language without losing some of their meanings and beauty. When the middle-man is cut out, it reduces dependencies, errors, and we can interact directly with the Book of Allah primarily.
Decades have passed and anyone who has passed through the doors of Madinah University would have benefitted from his works. Not just Madinah, his works surpassed borders and all different groups of people. Despite so many new books, courses, and methods being launched, most non-native speakers have been using his books as a stepping stone to start their journey in learning Arabic.
The Sheikh was also later appointed as the Director of the Translation Centre at the King Fahd Quran Printing Complex in Madinah. He would also guide and advise multiple programs and centres in India and around the world.
If there is one person we should be jealous of today it is our Sheikh here. He truly left behind a legacy and a sadaqah jariyah that changed the Ummah and will continue reaping benefits for decades to come InshaAllah. Despite being so well known, Sheikh was always soft-spoken, humble, and ever willing to help everyone. Even as you read this, someone somewhere is teaching or benefiting from his works.
Sheikh did not get married as he dedicated his life to teaching and benefitting the Ummah.
It is said,
موت العالِم موتُ العالَم
The death of a scholar is the death of the world.
May Allah have Mercy upon him and Forgive his shortcomings. May Allah grant our Sheikh al-Firdaus al-A'laa and reward him for all his great efforts in serving the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger ﷺ.
One of the teachers of Imam Muslim and Imam Abu Dawud was a man named Imam Khalaf ibn Hisham رحمه الله. He said, “I found some parts of Arabic grammar difficult. So I spent 80,000 dinars until I mastered it.” [Siyar A’lam an-Nubala]
Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani رحمه الله said, “I received 30,000 Dirhams from the inheritance of my father. I spent half of it in the pursuit of luġah (Arabic grammar and its sciences) and poetry, and half in acquiring al-hadith and al-fiqh.” [Tareekh al-Baghdad]