Tools to learn and study Quranic Arabic to enhance your engagement with, and experience of, the Book of Allah s.w.t.
In Part 1, we agreed that Quranic Arabic is a worthwhile endeavour (and quite a different undertaking than learning Conversational Arabic). If you are as keen to learn as I am, it's time to get our materials and tools ready.
1. Phone or tablet to run apps with
I use mainly applications (apps) for my Quranic Arabic study. I am an Apple fan, and make use of my iPad for this purpose. Feel free to use whatever device you already have, provided you are able to download and run the apps. One is only available on iTunes, but the other two are available on both iTunes App Store and GooglePlay (see more details below).
2. For the beginner: Quran Study Workbook app (USD 6)
I started off using the Quran Study app first, as it has a nice table that breaks down each sentence word for word. At a glance, you can see the word, the transliteration (how to pronounce it), the English translation and the root word (the three letters).
Click on each word, and it will take you to another page to explain in more detail the various meanings that word could possible have, and the verses in which it occurs. I sometimes amuse myself looking at the often random and contradicting words the same 3 letters could make.
The app is also able to play audio files of recitations by the reciter of your choice, and has bookmarking and note-taking abilities to boot.
3. For the more advanced: Bayan Quran app (free!)
After I became a bit more comfortable with the language and no longer needed tables to help break down sentences for me, I moved on to Bayan Quran, which imitates the look and style of a physical Quran book (I like!).
There is a sliding window with the English translation at the bottom of the screen. It used to have the translation by Yusuf Ali, which I preferred, but then took it out, leaving me with a translation by Marmaduke Pickhall (who?). Not ideal, but not a big deal either.
The app has similar functions to Quran Study – press on a word, and a pop-up window will, well, pop up, with the English translation, the word root, the various meanings of the word, and a little extra: Word Morphology. This is more for grammar Nazis – people who actually know and care about grammar terms, though once you get advanced enough, it does becomes very useful.
It also has audio files (for when you do not want to hear your own wobbly and strangled recitation), bookmarking and note-taking abilities. If so inclined, you can even Facebook or Tweet your favouritest verse by clicking on ‘Share’!
Compared to Quran Study, Bayan Quran looks cleaner and is easier to read as it doesn’t have clunky tables to navigate through. If you do not need the crutch/comfort of having the sentences split up into individual words in nice little columns (because you can already do that on your own in your mind), then I recommend using Bayan Quran straight away – it’s free!
4. OPTIONAL: Quranic Words app (USD 7; the Lite version is free)
I find the apps above, along with constant use and enough repetition, are enough to build your vocabulary. But if you would like to actively work on vocabulary, this is the app for you:
The app lists the most common words in the Quran (you’d be surprised at how only 569 words make up 80% of the Quran!), and acts as pimped up flash cards. It displays the word, the English translation and an example of a verse containing the word.
5. OPTIONAL: 80% of Quranic Words PDF Booklet (free!)
For a break from staring at screens, or for the non-techies, there is a wonderful booklet you can print out and keep in your back pocket to pull out during down times throughout the day.
Here’s my printed, cut, bound and abused copy of this PDF booklet that I carry with me when I anticipate a boring day. They come complete with an elephant clip and a bird clip to hold the pages together.
6. OPTIONAL: Subscription to Bayyinah TV (monthly subscription: USD 11/ month; yearly subscription: USD 112/ year)
When you reach a point where you are ready to commit more time and resources to learning Quranic Arabic, I highly recommend Ustadh Nouman Khan’s Bayyinah TV and his Arabic with Husna course. Classes are only 10-25 minutes long (which suits people with short attention span) (i.e. me), and you get to watch the funny antics between father and daughter.
You can either subscribe monthly or yearly (the latter is cheaper overall), and one subscription provides you with access to all the other courses on offer, not just Arabic with Husna. Well worth the money, I think.
Got the ones you want? Let's put it all together into a fail-proof system to get you started and learning fast: Part 3.