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Why do prayers need to be said in Arabic?

Question: Why do prayers need to be said in Arabic - does it have something to do with the harmonics of the word sounds? Allah will understand no matter what language is used, or even if thought is used. Is it something to do with harmonics? I mean do the sounds of the words themselves have an effect? Like how the "OM" is all sounds in one? 

Reply: Here's some of what I understand in answer to your question. There are many more deep and profound answers. One phrase recurs throughout. That is: English is a definitive language. It is not a language of "meaning in form". 

To begin: It's fine to say your prayers in English as long as you intention is to learn their meanings to make it easier to learn them in Arabic. In reality, all that is required for completion of prayer is presence and form, i.e. going through the motions. But who wants to be satisfied with minimums? After getting the habit of the form, next comes the meaning of the words. For this, a really well done and elaborate translation into English will often suffice, but again, only temporarily. So eventually, the wisdom and perfection of learning the prayers in Arabic comes clear. 

(I'll try later to provide my understanding of what I'm saying in my prayers, as an example of how rich the Arabic is and how much work needs to go into any attempt to represent the feeling and wisdom in English that is expressed so simply and eloquently in Arabic.)

Arabic is one of the few truly divine languages. It is the language that Allah created especially for revealing the Qur`an. It is a complete language because it is capable of holding and expressing all the subtleties of language by which Allah reveals His Will. 

So yes, the sound vibrations of the language definitely open energy passages within the human body and heart that cannot be opened otherwise. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that Arabic is the language of Paradise. He did not mean by this that only by speaking Arabic would we attain the Garden. You are correct in knowing that Allah looks only to hearts, and not to tongues. But why not learn the prayer in the language of its revelation? He did mean, however, that "the heaven on earth" could be known through the openings provided in the recitation of the Qur`an (in Arabic). In that respect you're right in comparing it neuro-phonetically to the "OM". If the "OM" is the primal sound, or the "sound" of God, such as the air from the lungs produces a deeply resonant tone in the chest that soothes and opens energy passages in the body, then I can continue this analogy that the Qur`an is the "Speech" of God. I would call it the "OM" syllabicated (with syllables), complete with consonants, vowels and lucid meaning. 

Also, there is a very specific science to the use of the names of God (Allah) in Arabic. It is one of the spiritual subtleties of Tasawwuf (Sufism), the science of learning our Reality. English is a definitive language. It is not a language of "meaning in form". Although a true gnostic might know the reality of that to which he or she is referring by mentioning the word "God'”, there is nowhere in the English language a science to bring that realization to the unaware seeker.  One of the basic Sufi practices, dhikr (remembrance), is exactly this science. 

Compare simply the effect of repeating the word 'God' over and over again to the effects of repeating the name 'Al-llah'.  English simply cannot accommodate the tonal qualities that can be experienced in the Arabic language. Nor can it encompass the comprehension of subtle spiritual differences in the meanings and the intended use of words. This same principle holds true for all of the names of the attributes of the Divine Reality and is another manifestation of the principle of Barakah (blessing). If we were to discover that one practice 'works' and the other doesn't, or that one method is manifestly more 'effective' than the other, what we would be comparing is the Barakah received. We would simply say that yes, of course, English may work, but Arabic works better. 

English is a definitive language. It is not a language of "meaning in form". In English the Divine Attributes are objective descriptions, i.e. nouns and adjectives, words pointing to meanings, whose true meanings are hidden to all but the gnostic who has a clear understanding of the distinction between ordinary definitions and True Meanings. There is of course benefit from the contemplation of the definitions of the Divine qualities, but there is no established science for total realization using only the English language. There is no place in the language for such a concept except within the realm of therapeutic techniques, (such as NLP - Neuro-Linguistic Programming).  There is, however, such a science in Arabic, and this is the science of Dhikr (remembrance) as revealed by the Prophet Muhammad and taught by all Sufi masters. 


Say, "Al-Hamdu li'llahi `ala Ni`mati l-Islami, wa kafa biha Ni`mah."

The Praise is due to Allah for the Supreme Gift and Favor of Islam, and sufficient it is as a Favor.

Islam is the healing and the Mercy unto all the worlds. With the Revelation come all of the aids and assistances we need on the road to Surrender, to overcoming all the fears and doubts that hold us back from the complete the miraculous healing that is our due. The Revelation has come to lead many to Surrender and to guide the rest in Surrender. 

The Divine Purpose of Divine Revelation is to guide those who need Surrender and want Surrender to Surrender, and to guide those who have Surrender in Surrender to the Author of Surrender. Within the Way of Surrender all prosperity and all good things are promised. Within the teachings of the Sufi way to Surrender (Islam), one will find all that one needs in the way of balms and salves to console and heal the heart. The best and most wonderful of these is knowing about the three stages for a perfectly healed heart. The first stage is this knowing, i.e. hearing about it, the second stage is the witnessing, i.e, seeing it in the hearts of others, and the third stage is having it for yourself. 

Allahumma Anta s-Salaam (O Beloved Allah, You are the Author of my Surrender,) 
wa Minka s-Salaam, (and by Your Grace I am allowed to know my Surrender,) 
wa Ilaika Yarji`u s-Salaam, (and my Surrender is what returns me unto You.) 
Hayyina Rabbana. Bi s-Salaami, (Give us our lives, O Gracious Lord, in Your Surrender,) 
Wa adkhilna Dar us-Salaam, (and admit into the Safety of Your Peace.) Tabarakta Rabbana, Yaa Dhu Jalali wal Ikhram. (Blessed and Holy art Thou, our Creator. O Owner of Magnificence and Honor.)


I ASK OF THE DIVINE - That we live a palpably and reliably Blessed Life - Free of the need to expect or defend against harm of any sort. Rich in the Abundance that only You can provide. In other words, A Nice Life, one that we can share and invite people into, that will outlast us when we are gone, and carry on the tradition of hospitality, security, and Love that we can establish.