People like to say, “Knowing Arabic language is not a guarantee to be always in the correct path.”
Then usually they will mention some of those who are experts in Arabic but have serious mistakes in ‘aqidah, such as Wasil ibn ‘Ata’. He was very eloquent in Arabic language so much so that he was able, without preparation, to make a khutbah without containing not even a single word which has the letter ر (raa’) in it, to avoid embarrassment in front of many people and other scholars in the audience because he could not pronounce that letter correctly. However, he was the founder of Mu’tazilah, one of the deviant sects in Islam.
But, not knowing Arabic language is even more not a guarantee.
It is because to be in the correct path, we need two components: ‘ilm (knowledge) and ittiba’ (following the Sunnah).
فمن كان أعرف للحق وأتبع له كان أولى بالصراط المستقيم.
“Whoever knows more about al-haqq and more obedient to follow it has more right to be in the correct path.” (at-Tafsir al-Muyassar, surah al-Fatihah, 7)
Those people who know Arabic language, yet they go astray from the correct path, have the first component (which is ‘ilm), but they do not have the second one (which is ittiba’).
And those people who do not know Arabic language, yes they may have ittiba’, but they do not have a very important tool to acquire ‘ilm: the language.
They have ittiba’, so presumably they always try to follow the Sunnah and to stick to it strongly. But, how do they follow the Sunnah while at the same time they cannot read and learn directly from the vast literatures of the scholars that explain the Sunnah?
Yes, they will stick to scholars. In reality, they only have access to a very few number of scholars whom they can ask immediately whenever they encounter a problem. Instead of following the dalil, in reality they are following those scholars’ understanding about the dalil. This will not be a problem if they choose trustworthy scholars and if they attend their lectures regularly.
Not having trustworthy scholars to be relied upon is, just to mention an example, exactly the problem of those who pray to the dead people in their graves. They trust wrong scholars who finally lead them to do such evil shirk.
And not attending the lectures regularly makes us not realising our own mistake although we may have it since many years ago. Since we only ask the scholars whenever we encounter a problem, we will not ask them about the thing that we do not consider as a problem — while in reality that is a problem. We will not know which belief that we have that is actually wrong and which action that we do that is also actually wrong because we only ask the scholars about what we perceive as a problem in the first place.
Therefore, not knowing the Arabic language is even more not a guarantee. It is because we need two components to be always in the correct path: ‘ilm and ittiba’. Making a comparison with those who are experts in Arabic language, yet they go astray from the correct path, is basically only looking at one component only (which is ‘ilm) and neglecting the other one (which is ittiba’). The correct way to make a comparison is to compare between two people who have the same level of ittiba’, but one person is an expert in Arabic language and the other is totally blind in it. Which one has more right to be in the correct path then?
There is a person in Indonesia whose age more than 60 years old who still makes an effort to learn Arabic language. He learns what is ism, fi’l, and harf. He learns about i’rab. He memorises the tables of verb conjugation, which are usually the nightmares for the students.
So, when should we start learning the Arabic, all of us?
Abu Umar al-Maduriy