The Origins of the Arabic Language

Omar Ibrahim
Feb 24 · 3 min read

The Arabic language is one of the most ancient languages in the world. It has been around for over 1000 years, it is believed to be originated from the Arabian peninsula. For instance, Arabic means “nomadic.” Arabs (aka nomads)

During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a driving force of culture in Europe, especially in mathematics, philosophy and science. As a result, many European languages have Arabic words embedded into their vocabulary. It is worth mentioning that the Sicilian language has about 500 Arabic words as result of Sicily being progressively conquered by Arabs from North Africa, from the mid-9th to mid-10th centuries. Other languages like Spanish and to a lesser extent Portuguese, and Catalan have also been influenced, due to the proximity of Christian European and Muslim Arab civilizations and 800 years of Arabic culture and language in the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in Arabic as al-Andalus.

The Arabic language has more than 400 million speakers around the world, and it is one of the six most spoken languages in the world. Arabic was adopted as one of the six United Nations official languages, along with Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Over one billion Muslims in places like India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tanzania study Arabic as a foreign or second language for scholarly use. Egyptian Arabic is the most widely spoken variety of Arabic.

Much of what is known of written, classical (or old) Arabic comes from the events recorded in the Qur’an, the holy book of the Islamic faith. Prior to the Qur’an, much of the Arabic language was spoken and scarcely recorded in a written form. The Qur’an has served as the basis of the Arabic language to this day.

Different Dialects

Several regional dialects of Arabic exist, some of which may be understandable, however other dialects are difficult to comprehend. For example Moroccan Arabic Dialect is hard for Egyptians to understand, however Moroccans can understand the Egyptian quite well, due to the influence of Egyptian media, music and cinema. Big movie companies such as Disney use the Egyptian Arabic dialect for its films shown in the Arabic-speaking world. There is also two types of Arabic, classical and colloquial. The colloquial depends on the region and each with a unique dialect as mentioned before, however the classical Arabic is one form which is learned through formal instruction.

Poetry

Arabic to many is the language of poetry, due to its eloquence and artistic value. Here are some examples:

By Al-Mutanabbi

الخَيلُ وَاللَيلُ وَالبَيداءُ تَعرِفُني، وَالسَيفُ وَالرُمحُ وَالقِرطاسُ وَالقَلَمُ

I’m well-known to the Horse knight, dreary nights, desert hazard, and to the scimitar, the spear, the paper and the pen

وَمُرهَفٍ سِرتُ بَينَ الجَحفَلَينِ بِهِ، حَتّى ضَرَبتُ وَمَوجُ المَوتِ يَلتَطِمُ

How often I strutted between two mighty armies; Smiting with a thin blade claymore While the billows of death surged in full brawling roar

By Zuhair ibn Abi Salma

وَ مَنْ يُوْفِ لاَ يُذْمَمْ وَ مَنْ يُهْد قَلْبُهُ، إِلَى مُطْمَئِنِّ البِرِّ لاَ يَتَجَمْجَمِ

“He who keeps his word, will not be reviled; and he whose heart is guided to self-satisfying benevolence will not stammer”

وَ مَنْ هَابَ اَسْبَـابَ المَنَايَا يَنَلْنَـهُ، وَ إِنْ يَرْقَ اَسْبَابَ السَّمَاءِ بِسُلَّمِ

“And he who dreads the causes of death, they will reach

him, even if he ascends the tracts of the heavens with a ladder”

Arabic remains one of the most beautiful languages around the world, renowned for its eloquence, in its beauty it is hard to really give the exact meaning of the words. So if you are not an Arabic speaker, learn Arabic and be ready to delve into its beauty.

Omar Ibrahim

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An aspiring writer whose interests include writing about politics, especially in the Middle East. Please follow me at twitter https://twitter.com/omaribrahim5