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There are many that think Arabic language is all the same. They express surprise when told that actually Arabic is of various types. So how does someone who is not trained in the language of Arabic know what type of Arabic they are listening to? Well obviously without getting inside Arabic you will always be a stranger to Arabic.
Once you find out how many different types of Arabic there are then the tricky part is to decide which one to study or which one to learn first. There are really only three types of Arabic, Classical, Modern and Colloquial/regional. Classical and Modern are usually called fusha but real fusha is actually Quranic and other classical texts.
So if you want to use Arabic for holidays and speaking with friends then learn the colloquial of the region you want to visit or learn the colloquial of your friend. If on the other hand it is for something which requires a lot of contact with newspapers, books and fusha speakers then stay away from colloquial in the beginning of your study, as it can mess you up.
When someone wants to learn Arabic they are faced with an array of different methods and systems for learning Arabic, each one competing under slogans such as ‘learn Arabic the fast way’ or ‘Arabic in 30 days’. The truth is that Arabic like any other language takes time, why should it be any easier? You have to find a way to get to grips with the language which, for most people will take a while. So supposing you don’t have that much time and you really do want to learn as quick as possible, or maybe you need to for an important deadline or appointment, what to do?
Follow the above advice on the type of Arabic you wish to study. Also don’t believe that if you don’t learn from a particular method or system you wont be able to learn Arabic. There are many methods claiming various levels of success but don’t be drawn by too much hype, take time to research or speak to us for extra clarity. If you really want to learn Arabic is there anything that can stop you?
(See Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam)
AL-HAMDU LILLAHI RABBIL ‘ALAMIN
This is a verse from the Qur’an that Muslims recite and say many times per day. Other than being recited during prayers, a Muslim reads this expression in every activity of his daily life. The meaning of it is: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”
A Muslim invokes the praises of Allah before he does his daily work; and when he finishes, he thanks Allah for His favours. A Muslim is grateful to Allah for all His blessings. It is a statement of thanks, appreciation, and gratitude from the creature to his Creator.
This statement is said by Muslims numerous times. It is used during the call for prayer, during prayer, when they are happy, and wish to express their approval of what they hear, when they slaughter an animal, and when they want to praise a speaker. Its meaning: “Allah is the Greatest.” Muslims praise Allah in every aspect of life.
This is an expression Muslims say whenever they meet one another. It is a statement of greeting with peace. The meaning of it is: “Peace be upon you.”
Muslims try to establish peace on earth even through the friendly relation of greeting and meeting one another.
The other forms are:
“Assalamu ‘Alalikum Wa Rahmatullah,” which means: “May the peace and the Mercy of Allah be upon you”
“Assalamu Alalikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh,” which means :”May the peace, the mercy, and the blessings of Allah be upon you.”
This is an expression used by a Muslim when he wants to ask Allah forgiveness. The meaning of it is: “I ask Allah forgiveness.” A Muslim says this phrase many times. When a Muslim wants to abstains from doing wrong, or even when he wants to prove that he is innocent of an incident he uses this expression.
A’UZU BILLAHI MINASHAITAN NIRRAJIM
This is an expression and a statement that Muslims recite before reading Qur’an, before speaking, before doing any work, before making a supplication, before taking ablution, before entering the wash room, and before doing many other daily activities. The meaning of this phrase is: “I seek refuge from Allah from the rejected Satan.
The Qur’an states that Satan is not an angel but a member of the Jinn, which are unseen beings created by Allah. So the belief that Satan is a fallen angel is rejected in Islam.
ALLAHUMA SALI ALA MUHAMMAD WA AHLI MUHAMMAD
“Oh Allah send your peace and blessings on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad”.
This is an expression which means: “May the blessings of Allah (be upon you).” When a Muslim wants to thank to another person, he uses different statements to express his thanks, appreciation, and gratitude. One of them is to say “Baraka Allah.”
BISMILLAHIR RAHMANIR RAHIM
This is a phrase from the Qur’an that is recited before reading the Qur’an. It is to be read immediately after one reads the phrase: “A’uzu Billahi Minashaitanir Rajim.”
This phrase is also recited before doing any daily activity. The meaning of it is: “In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.”
IN SHA’ ALLAH
When a person wishes to plan for the future, when he promises, when he makes resolutions, and when he makes a pledge, he makes them with permission and the will of Allah. For this reason, a Muslim uses the Qur’anic instructions by saying “In Sha ‘ Allah.” The meaning of this statement is: “If Allah wills.” Muslims are to strive hard and to put their trusts with Allah. They leave the results in the hands of Allah.
INNA LILLAHI WA INNA ILAHI RAJI’UN
When a Muslim is struck with a calamity, when he loses one of his loved ones, or when he has gone bankrupt, he should be patient and say this statement, the meaning of which is : “We are from Allah and to Whom we are returning.”
Muslims believe that Allah is the One who gives and it is He takes away. Everything is a trust from Allah and we are tested with everything that surrounds us, therefore a Muslim submits himself to Allah. He is grateful and thankful to Allah for whatever he gets. On the other hand, he is patient and says this expression in times of turmoil and calamity.
This is a statement of thanks and appreciation to be said to the person who does a favour. Instead of saying “thanks” (Shukran), the Islamic statement of thanks is to say this phrase. Its meaning is: “May Allah reward you with good.”
It is understood that human beings can’t repay one another enough. Hence, it is better to request Almighty Allah to reward the person who did a favour and to give him the best.
“Talk” or “speech” as in “kalamu Allah”; has also been used through the ages to mean “logic” or “philosophy”.
LA HAWLA WA LA QUWWATA ILLA BILLAH
The meaning of this expression is: ” There is no power and no strength save in Allah.” This expression is read by a Muslim when he is struck by a calamity, or is taken over by a situation beyond his control. A Muslim puts his trust in the hands of Allah, and submits himself to Allah.
LA ILAHA ILLALLAH
This expression is the most important one in Islam. It is the creed that every person has to say to be considered a Muslim. It is part of the first pillar of Islam. The meaning of which is: ” There is no lord worthy of worship except Allah.”
The second part of this first pillar is to say: “Muhammadun Rasul Allah,” which means: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
MA SHA’ ALLAH
This is an expression that Muslims say whenever they are excited and surprised. When they wish to express their happiness, they use such an expression. The meaning of “Ma sha’ Allah” is: “Whatever Allah wants.” or “Whatever Allah wants to give, He gives.” This means that whenever Allah gives something good to someone, blesses him, honours him, and opens the door of success in business, a Muslim says this statement of “Ma Sha’ Allah.”
It has become a tradition that whenever a person constructs a building, a house, or an office, he puts a plaque on the wall or the entrance with this statement. It is a sign of thanks and appreciation from the person to Almighty Allah for whatever he was blessed with.
This statement is the second part of the first pillar of Islam literally meaning “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” The meaning of this part is that Prophet Muhammad is the last and final prophet and messenger of Allah to mankind. He is the culmination, summation, purification of the previous prophets of Allah to humanity.
These letters are abbreviations for the words “Peace Be Upon Him” which is the meaning of the Arabic expression ” ‘Alaihis Salam”, which is an expression that is said when the name of a prophet is mentioned. Muslims also include the family of the Prophet and some even mention the Sahaba (companions).
This expression is widely used by English speaking Muslims. It is to be noticed here that this expression does not give the full meaning of “Salla Allahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam”. Therefore it is recommended that people do not use (p.b.u.h.) after the name of prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.); they should use “Salla Allahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam” instead, or they may use the abbreviated form of (s.a..w) in writing.
This is an expression to be used by Muslims whenever a name of a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is mentioned or used in writing. The meaning of this statement is: “May Allah be pleased with him.”
Muslims are taught to be respectful to the elderly and to those who contributed to the spread and success in Islam. They are to be grateful to the companions of the prophet (s.a.w.) for their sacrifices, their leadership, and their contributions. Muslims are advised to use this phrase when such names are mentioned or written.
This is a statement of truth that a Muslim says after reading any amount of verses from the Qur’an. The meaning of it is: “Allah says the truth.”
The Qur’an is the exact words of Allah in verbatim. When Allah speaks, He says the truth; and when the Qur’an is being recited, a Muslim is reciting the words of truth of Allah. Hence, he says: “Sadaqallahul ‘Azim.”
SUBHANAHU WA TA’ALA (Abbrviated as: S.W.T.)
This is an expression that Muslims use whenever the name of Allah is pronounced or written. The meaning of this expression is: “Allah is pure of having partners and He is exalted from having a son.”
Muslims believe that Allah is the only real and true God, the Creator of the Universe. He does not have partners or children. Sometimes Muslims use other expressions when the name of Allah is written or pronounced. Some of which are: “‘Azza Wa Jall”: He is the Mighty and the Majestic; “Jalla Jalaluh”: He is the exalted Majestic.
WA ‘ALAIKUMUS SALAM
This is an expression that a Muslim is to say as an answer for the greeting. When a person greets another with a salutation of peace, the answer for the greeting is an answer of peace. The meaning of this statement is: “And upon you be peace.” The other expressions are: ” Wa Alaikums Salam Wa Rahmatullah.” and “Wa ‘Alaikums Salam Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.”
Meaning “Oh Allah”.
Everyday Arabic Expressions
The Arabic script evolved from the Nabataean Aramaic script. It has been used since the 4th century AD, but the earliest document, an inscription in Arabic,Syriac and Greek, dates from 512 AD. The Aramaic language has fewer consonants than Arabic, so during the 7th century new Arabic letters were created by adding dots to existing letters in order to avoid ambiguities. Further diacritics indicating short vowels were introduced, but are only generally used to ensure the Qur’an was read aloud without mistakes.
A panel of international researchers was commissioned six months ago by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to investigate the state of Arabic.
The team presented their findings to the Ruler yesterday in a report, Arabic for Life.
“Arabic is not in danger or on the verge of disappearing,” Dr Farouk El Baz, the chairman of the commission, said.
“We have seen people bring back languages that have been dead for thousands of years. Arabic is not dead, so it should be much easier to improve it.
“We need to teach it as you would a science – start with the basics and slowly build on that,” added Dr El Baz, a former Nasa scientist for the Apollo missions who is now a research professor and director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University.
Arabic for Life outlined five key areas in need of attention to revive the Arabic language.
The first suggestion was to improve the curriculum in schools.
Teachers should also be retrained to teach Arabic and teach other subjects in the language. A culture of reading Arabic should be fostered and the media should play a bigger role in supporting the teaching of the language.
The final area highlighted was the need to teach Arabic to non-native speakers.
“Governments must reflect their concern about the education sector by allocating a substantial part of their budget for it,” Dr El Baz said.
Another member of the commission, Dr Yasir Suleiman, a professor of modern Arabic studies and fellow at King’s College at the University of Cambridge, said schools had to implement better administration, hire better teachers and encourage parents to get involved.
“Arab countries are in a situation where we give our teachers the fish rather than teach them how to fish, and we want them to teach how to make fishing rods,” Dr Suleiman said.
The material used to teach the language may be putting students off at an early stage, according to Dr Mohsin Al Ramly, a philosophy professor at St Louis University in Madrid.
“What we do traditionally is we start with the old texts that can be hundreds of years old, which can surprise students and alienate them, then we advance to modern texts,” Dr Al Ramly said. “This should be the other way around.
“We should start with the modern terms that students can recognise and relate to, then advance to the old texts.”
The commission also recommended the strengthening of Arabic as a universal language and a language of science and culture.
“In 1974, I came to the [Arabian] Gulf to conduct a lecture in Arabic on lunar travel and exploration,” Dr El Baz said. “I had just spent eight years of my life without using the Arabic language, so I was nervous and asked myself if I could even give a lecture in Arabic – never mind one that had so many difficult technical terms.”
He went over his presentation and tried to replace the technical terms with Arabic words.
“It was much easier than I thought. The language had simple terms that could clearly explain the functions of these terms,” he said.
Dr El Baz said the community should not be afraid to embrace foreign words.
“Arabic has terms that were adopted by other languages and old scholars took knowledge from other cultures and adopted the terms to Arabic as well,” he said. “This is part of the evolution of the language.”
An Emirati children’s author, Qais Sedki, agreed with the commission that Arabic was not in danger or on the verge of extinction.
“I am with the optimists. So long as there are people working to solve this, there is hope,” he said.
But he warned that the efforts would require partnership and participation.
“Yes, there is a problem and we all have to pitch in to face this problem,” he said. “I want to see what comes out of this report, what are the deliverables. I’m sure that with this great experience we will have good outcomes.”
Materials about cultural events and health services, and even street signs, are often written in Hebrew and English only, ignoring the 20 percent of Israel’s citizens who are native Arabic speakers. ‘It shouldn’t be this way; Palestinians, as an indigenous national minority, should feel at home in the state that was established on the land we have called home for centuries.’
By Khalil Mari
Last week I attended a concert in Acre of Andalusian music performed by a group from Ashkelon. The concert itself was enjoyable but the whole experience left a sour taste in the collective mouth of many Palestinian residents of Akko and the surrounding area who were in attendance. While the concert featured exquisite musical compositions in Hebrew and Arabic, the event was advertised solely in Hebrew.
A reminder: Acre, Akko in Hebrew and Akka in Arabic, is one of the country’s five mixed cities. Thirty percent of its residents are Palestinian Arabs. Yet the vast majority of cultural events are advertised in Hebrew only – completely ignoring the fact that 15,000 Palestinians call this ancient Mediterranean city home. Sadly, this is highly typical of the treatment that Palestinians receive in Israel by the authorities, and only the tip of the iceberg.
Many of the Palestinians in attendance at the concert shared their collective frustration at the fact that the ads placed in their mailboxes by the city were entirely in Hebrew. Many of them nearly dismissed the ads as junk mail and were about to throw them out (because they have become accustomed over the years to being excluded from such events) when the word Andalusian caught their eye. Upon inspection they realized what was being advertised and decided to attend.
The feeling of being ignored by one’s own city, state and ruling majority group can scarcely be put into words. Frustration and anger do not begin to convey the explosive emotional reaction to being sidelined, marginalized and treated as completely transparent. The message that our existence is not worthy of recognition is an extremely dangerous one in the best of circumstances – and we live in a political and social reality that is far from normal.
However, this reality permeates every level of Israeli society: most services are offered in Hebrew, Russian and English – but no Arabic. The website of Egged (the national bus carrier) boasts options in Hebrew, English and Russian, but not Arabic. Israel Railroads calls out the stations in Hebrew and English – but not Arabic. Even road signs boast Hebrew and English in large and legible script while Arabic is crammed in between and in such small script as if it were an afterthought or something embarrassing. Once again, the message that tourists are more worthy of recognition and attention than 20 percent of the country’s population is highly discriminatory, humiliating and quite dangerous.
Even a city like Haifa, which is the self-proclaimed seat of co-existence in Israel and takes every opportunity to boast its uniquely harmonious fabric of Jewish and Palestinian populations living side by side in peace, is guilty of negligence despite the pains it takes to be more inclusive than others. Haifa’s children’s theater festival has for many years been advertised in Hebrew only. When Sikkuy (an organization for the advancement of civic equality in Israel) approached the city through Sikkuy’s Shared Public Space Project regarding advertising the festival in Arabic also, the response was a very ignorant: “But the Arabs don’t come anyway.”
The city’s leadership actually needed to be told that if they wanted Palestinian children to attend they might try reaching out to them in their own language. This, it turns out, was a revolutionary idea, and this from a city that really does make an effort to be inclusive – at least more than others.
The fact that Arabic is (still) an official language in Israel doesn’t even need to be mentioned; I do mention it because we Palestinians often use this argument as we feel it is our last recourse. The state makes it clear that we are not wanted here and the only argument at our disposal, so many of us feel, is the legal one. It shouldn’t be this way; Palestinians, as an indigenous national minority, should feel at home in the state that was established on the land we have called home for centuries. Yet the state continuously makes us feel unwanted. A long list of discriminatory laws makes this feeling inevitable and unavoidable; the latest amendment to the Governance Lawand the continued attempts to disqualify Arabic as an official language of the state are only the most recent examples.
My assertion that this trend is dangerous entails no threats. It is simply the expression of the honest fear that continued discrimination and marginalization cannot end well. It requires no genius or sociological scholarship to conclude that long term frustration is a dangerous mechanism – with the potential to make losers of all of us, Jews and Palestinians alike. Absurdly, it seems that many Jews with settler and right-wing affiliations would consider this loss a twisted victory of sorts.
Khalil Mari of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, is a co-director of the “Equality Zones” project advancing Arab-Jewish municipal cooperation on a regional scale in Israel.
Source: www.972mag.com published August 23, 2013. Entitled Who speaks Arabic anyway.
For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine.