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Learning Sign Language

Saturday, 24 July 2010

In the name of God, Compassionate, Merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

In the name of God, compassionate & merciful بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

I've been learning sign language for a couple of years and wanted to promote it. If you're reading this, take the time to appreciate your naturally gifted communication skills: You can speak loud, mutter, debate for yourself, correct another, call for attention and tell a person you love them. You can also hear every sound, whether listening to rustling leaves, a sweet melody, Qur'an recitation, your children's conversations, thunder or your own name being called out to you. Many, many people cannot. And while the deaf and mute community do live full and active lives and beautifully express their emotions through movement and facial expressions, they can be discriminated against socially.

I have learnt more of ASL - American Sign Language - than BSL - British Sign Language, because I found it easier! Learning sign language is a very important communication skill and will come into use at some time in your life, trust me, it will. It's not difficult, requires repetition and the confidence to expose yourself more in your body language and expressions.

Below is a children's book I have of BSL. The first step is learning your country's alphabet in sign language, then the numbers, as you would with all languages, before going onto nouns, verbs and stringing it all together to make sentences. Unlike spoken communication which of course is complex, sign language has extra hidden nuances depending on social situations and people's interpretations. My name - Zaufishan Iqbal, which would take me 3 minutes to spell early on (I mean come one! FOURTEEN letters!) can be broken down into 'sounds' such as as 'zo' + 'fish'. Eventually you get a customised sign for your own name. And of course, cursing in sign language is simply exquisite (!) Frowned upon *tut tut* but very amusing to watch.

Pointing at people and outlining the shapes of objects (table, chair, food) with questioning faces is used to ask for help. To say 'where is the car?' for example in BSL you waggle your index finger in the air left to right for 'where', and imitate turning a car steering wheel in a circular motion with both hands. This becomes where + is the + car?

Here you see that to sign for mother in BSL you tap the letter M twice on your open palm, forefingers are used for father. In contrast, American sign language requires you to place your right thumb under your chin for mother; take that thumb onto your forehead and you have the sign for father.

What's more spectacular is how Allah has provided deaf Muslims with a universal sign language that I would say is more superior in its simplicity than our evolving speech. There is a hadith of a woman who was mute (dumb) and her faith was questioned by her community, which she could not prove or defend. People brought her to the Prophet and he asked her, 'who is your Lord?' She took her index fingers and pointed them up at the sky. 'Allah is my Lord'. He then asked her 'who am I?' She pointed up at the sky and swung her hand down to point at Prophet Muhammad ; 'you are Allah's Messenger'. Prophet Muhammad told the companions: 'she is a believer, let her go free'. Those exact signs are used today.

If you're interested learn the alphabet first insha'Allah. This guy on Youtube helps with ASL. Happy signing. *signs to screen* May Allah protect you, guide you and help you stay strong in faith.

More on deaf Muslims:
Muslim Deaf (UK)


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rukhparmor said...

I've actually wanted to get a certificate in sign language...I think I will start this fall..=)

Me said...

wow this is amazing.

Knox said...

Awesome! I think 'where' is circling your hands, palm up, though, like an Italian saying 'ma, que cosa fai?!'; i think you've described what (*runs to check book*)

Now, tell me about this cursing...

Zaufishan said...

Maybe I got BSL muddled with ASL. That's what happens when you at once learn try to many things, together.

Colleen Tracey said...

Hey Zauf!  Glad that you kept ur signings up ! 

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