January 15, 2009

The meaning and evolution of the word ‘Mosque’

Filed under: Islamic Terms,Muslim Urban Legends — abuaisha @ 1:03 pm

There has been in recent times much confusion regarding the origin of the English word mosque.
The word mosque is a translation of the Arabic word masjid (مَسجِد). The word masjid in Arabic comes from the verb sajada (سَجَدَ) which means ‘to prostrate’, and a masjid is the place in which people prostrate. It can loosely be translated more generally as ‘a place of worship’.

The conspiracy surrounding the English translation begins by asserting that the word ‘mosque’ carries with it an islamophobic history with its origins in the Spanish reconquista which saw the end of Islamic Spain.
I am not sure where it first came from, however a book entitled ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam’ (the name says it all doesn’t it?) was the first time I encountered this. The book  claims on page 14:

The English term mosque is derived from the Spanish word for mosquito and came into use during the Christian invasion of Muslim Spain in the fifteenth century. The forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella boasted they would swat out Muslim prayer houses like mosquitoes. Understandably, many Muslims prefer not to use this unfortunate name amongst themselves.

It may have been through this book which the rumour began, and it may be likely as the subsequent rumours all bear similar disinformation almost word for word.

To begin with, to say that the word ‘mosque’ comes from the Spanish word for mosquito is a bit of a no-brainer, considering that mosquito itself is a Spanish word. It is the diminuitive form of the word mosca which means ‘fly’ (like the insect, not the verb) and hence means ‘little fly’. From mosquito, the rumour then suggests that the word ‘mezquita’ evolved. Mezquita of course is the Spanish word for mosque. What could not possibly be explained from a linguistic perspective is how mosquito would become mezquita.
Arabic was spoken in the Iberian peninsula (Portugal and Spain) for approximately 800 years, and there is a rich amount of Arabic words that live on until today in the language. These Spanish words of Arabic origin were introduced during the reign of the Muslims which came to an end in 1942, the time in which it has been purported that the word mezquita was developed.

The problem however is that the word mezquita was being used long before the reconquista which ended in 1492. Mezquita was the word used for mosques in Spanish for the many hundreds of years that Muslims lived in Spain.
The Arabic word masjid may have entered into Europe by any number of means. It is likely though that the form of the word which later became mosque has its origins in either Spain or Italy (Southern Italy was also inabited and ruled over by Muslims for almost 200 years). The changing of the d to a t is indeed a characteristic of Italian adaptations of Arabic, like how Muhammad when translated into Italian becomes Maometto. As for the j in masjid, the Spanish language has no way to say the sound ‘j’, most Arabic words with a jeem (ج) became either:

ch – eg: enchufe < جوف/jawf
– (pronounced as – kh/خ)  eg: jarra <  جرة/jarrah

This is important to pay attention to, because many others have claimed that the word ‘mezquita’ must have come from an Egyptian pronunciation of the word (masgid) which is incorrect, as the vast majority of Muslims who were in Europe were not from Egypt and did not speak any Egyptian based dialect, rather they were from the Maghreb and the patterns of Spanish-Arabic words all show that there was never any Egyptian Arabic influence in Spain or Italy. There are no known examples in Andalusi or Sicilian Arabic of the letter Jeem being pronounced as a ‘g’.
This shift would have occured otherwise, we can see by examples of other words.
The word Spanish word jabalí (pronounced ‘khabalee’ (IPA /xabaliː/)) comes from the Arabic word jabalī (جَبَلِي). The Jīm in Arabic (ج) becomes a J in Spanish, pronounced as ‘kh’ or like the khā’ (خ) in Arabic. This shows how to begin with the j in masjid could have been turned into ‘kh’ sound. From there the sound would easily have became a hard k sound (represented by q and c in Spanish), especially as Spanish does not easily accomodate a kh sound after an s. Many Arabic words which had a ‘kh’ became like ‘k’, an example of this is the word nukhā` (نخاع) which becomes nuca in Spanish.
After all of these letter changes, we are easily left with our new word ‘mesquit’ (note that the Arabic ‘a’ in this case corresponds closer to the Spanish ‘e’ than ‘a’ and hence the e would be understandably used here). Then as with all Spanish words it must be turned into a noun, which means either an o or an a will be added to the end of the word. In this case it was an a, and so we now have the word – mesquita. Why did the s later become a z then? In southern Spain until even today, there is no differing between an s and a z. All letter z’s are pronounced just like an s is. It just may be that as the Spanish language began to re-adopt the latin script that the northern areas of Spain adjusted the s sound to that of a th sound, just like with how sifr in Arabic later became pronounced as ‘sero’ in Andalusia but ‘thero’ in the more northern areas. Many other Arabic words also saw a shift whereby the S sound evolved later into a Th sound, so whilst it may seem rather strange as to why certain words retained the S sound and others evolved into a Th sound, the sheer quantity of words seen to have done this show it was rather common.

From our final term Mezquita there would have arisen many of the variations around Europe that exist until today. Mosqueé for example in French, Moschea in Italian etc. It was from the French term mosqueé that the English language adapted the word that we use today – Mosque.

So we may rest assured, a mosquito remains a mosquito and a mosque remains a mosque. Neither Ferdinand or Isabella were ever recorded to have ever stated that they would squash the mosques like mosquitoes, and even if they did, they would have used the word mezquita anyway which was the word already established in Spain for a masjid.
It is unfortunate that I have on many occasions read ‘warning’ chain e-mails informing Muslims to desist in using the English word ‘mosque’ due to its evil origins.. This should serve as a reminder to at least attempt to properly verify such things, and a lesson to not believe everything we read (especially from books which self-describe themselves as being for idiots). Feel free to use the words mosque, mosqueé, mezquita, and ponder over the history of this word and how it carries with it part of our Islamic legacy and is a testament to the great Muslim nation of al-Andalus which for 800 years existed in Western Europe.


November 27, 2008

The Muslim Contribution to Afrikaans

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 12:04 pm

 ان دي كُوْنِڠْ سْكَپْ اس بِيْدِيْ هُوْكَ الله تعالا ان ڨَارْلِكْ اللـه تعالا اِسْ بَاس فِـَرْ اَلْدِيْ اِتْسْ

“En die konungskap is by die hoege Allah ta`ālā en waarlik Allah ta`ālā is baas vir al die iets.”

(A sample of Arabic Afrikaans, quoting from the Qur’ān – Sūrat al-Mulk 67:1)

Afrikaans is a language that is spoken primarily in South Africa and Namibia, which has its origins in the Dutch and German languages. It evolved from the dialect of Dutch that was spoken by many of those Europeans who settled in South Africa around 1650-1700.

For many, it seems almost the antithesis of a ‘Muslim’ language. It was brought by the Dutch, coming from the Netherlands – a nation which historically had no interaction with Muslims, and they settled in the southernmost area of the African continent, which unlike the North, West and East of Africa was for the most part not greatly exposed to Islam. Very few Muslims lived in the South, especially not once you would pass Malawi.

So what then does this European language have to do with Muslims, and how could its history provide us with an insight into just how far Muslims had spread and had an influence in those remote areas to which they went?

Let’s take a look.

Long ago, the Dutch ruled over Indonesia and much of the Malay archipelago. The Dutch, like many European nations were colonialists, they would claim foreign lands as their own to rule over and gain great financial benefit from. These colonial ventures by the Dutch helped to spread the Malay people around the globe. When workers were needed in Suriname, one of the Dutch possessions in South America, many Malays were sent there. Because of this, we find today that 15% of Surinamese are Malays, and 20% of the population are Muslims.

A mosque in Durban, South Africa

When workers were needed then in Africa, the Dutch sent forth many Malays who were basically slaves to work. After some time, South Africa became somewhat of a refuge for many peoples escaping political problems in their own nations. People like Mahatma Gandhi left India to seek work in the new South Africa, also many Malays and Indonesians too left their lands to seek sanctuary there.

The society in which these Muslims lived was not one which granted non-Europeans many rights, they were regularly harassed by the Afrikaners, however they were allowed to live amongst their own societies and to build Islamic schools and mosques. The first ‘madrassas’ were run by the Malays, who we now refer to as the ‘Cape Malays’ due to their location in the Western Cape of South Africa. These Cape Malays were Shafi’īs in fiqh, so the Shafi’ī madhhab was taught amongst the people. Whilst Malay would have been the main language of instruction, the language of the wider public was a localized dialect of Dutch. Whilst all official business was carried out in the same Dutch as would have then been spoken in the Netherlands, the language of the street was what the Malays spoke. This language was non-standardised, it did not have a common way to be written or spoken, so when its speakers would use it there were no clear rules dictating how it should be spoken or spelt.

As Dutch was the formal language of the colonialists, the casual register used by the lower classes was viewed with some level of disdain. It was a slang speech which those running the country were not interested in.

It was at this time when the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz decided to send over to Cape Town a Qādī (judge) and scholar named Abu Bakr Effendi. His role was to act as a teacher and Imam for the Muslims. Abu Bakr Effendi himself was a Hanafī who hailed originally from Makkah, and this fact did cause much confusion as his Hanafī teachings sometimes differed from the Shafi’ī school followed by the Malays. However it was through his teachings that the linguistic innovation which we wish to look at evolved.

Shaykh Abu Bakr wrote a book called Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens which translates as ‘Exposition of the Religion’ (بيان الدين).
This work was written in the language being spoken by the Cape Malays in their everyday lives. In the time in which it was written, the language we know of as ‘Afrikaans’ was still not known. The language was as mentioned, still seen as a lowly variant of the official Dutch language.

The fact that Shaykh Abu Bakr chose to write in this language was then rather innovative, not just for the fact that he wrote in a ‘new’ language yet to have a literary existence, but the Shaykh also managed to write the entire book with the Arabic script.

Just as the Turkish and Malay languages were also written at those times with the Arabic alphabet, Shaykh Abu Bakr developed a system of writing Afrikaans with Arabic letters.

As such, the first book to be written in the Afrikaans language was written not only by a Muslim, but also in the Arabic script.

One of the reasons why this is interesting to learn about is not only does it help to provide us with an insight into how early Afrikaans was spoken, however it also offers a chance to give us a different way of looking at the history of South Africa as a nation.

South Africa of course is a nation which has a dark history in terms of its racial relations. The apartheid system meant that the European Afrikaners maintained a system whereby they subjugated and oppressed the non-Europeans. After many years of campaigning for their rights, the local Africans and the other non-Europeans won their right (on paper at least) to be treated as equals.

Now in historical revision, those people who were once the oppressed are now discovering their own histories within Southern Africa. The Muslim peoples are seeing the literary legacies left by their forefathers who strived to establish a place for themselves to practice Islam, despite the many hardships they faced. From these discoveries there is the opportunity for linguists to discover more about the evolution of the Afrikaans language and a chance to marvel at the fruits of the Muslim scholars wherever they travelled to. The Muslims’ thirst for Islamic knowledge amongst their communities is so evident here and it has helped produce this gem in the field of linguistics. Afrikaans does not have to be viewed only as an oppressive colonialist language, rather we can be proud in saying that the literary founders of the language were Muslim Malays and a Kurdish scholar from Makkah. This helps us to re-evaluate and to better understand the history of Muslims in the world, it is a reminder of the legacy which Muslims leave behind them wherever they go, and a wake up call to eurocentric historians to realise that even in the most seeming European strongholds, one finds that even the ‘second class’ peoples have had so much to contribute to the societies of the past, we just have to dig it up and find it.

A look at Arabic Afrikaans

The script of the language uses Arabic letters and is most similar to the Malay-Arabic (Jawi) script.

Whilst the original texts did not extensively use vowel markings, a standard system has since evolved for writing the vowels.
The system is innovative in combining vowels together to produce the vowels not present in Arabic and hence not able to be presented normally in the Arabic script.

The letters E and O for example have no way to be written in Arabic, however Arabic Afrikaans uses 2 vowels together to represent each.
For E, the letters A and I are both written, meaning that both a kasrah ( ِ  ) and a fatħa ( َ  ) are merged to prodouce the E sound – اَِنْ is the way to write the Afrikaans word ‘en’ (which means and’)


For O, the letters A and U are merged, meaning that the fatħa ( َ  ) and damma ( ُ  ) are merged together to produce the O sound – پْرَُوفَِيت is how to write profeet’ (which means ‘prophet’)



To be continued –  Inshā’ Allāh

October 17, 2008

Manila – Amānillāh (امان الله)

Filed under: Islamic Terms,Muslim Urban Legends — abuaisha @ 2:46 pm

Earlier this year I visited the Philippines. The main port of entry to this country, capital city and most well known destination is as most would know – Manila.
Manila wasn’t a city which I greatly enjoyed, mainly because its suited for Western tourists and hence isn’t the most welcoming place for a Muslim to be in. I did however manage to find a few mosques in the centre of the city as well as a Muslim enclave in Taguig city which was relaxing to be in.

Manila is not a Muslim majority city, its barely populated by Muslims in fact. Almost all of the locals are Christians and other than a few bombings blamed on Muslim rebels in the city, Islam and Muslims are not very ingrained into the city’s identity nowadays.

It was in Zamboanga City however that I was reminded of something that I heard from a few years back – That Manila was once the capital of a vast Muslim Empire in the Northern Philippines, and that even its name has Islamic origins, it is a contraction of ‘Amanillah’ (امان الله) meaning ‘Security of God’.

When I returned to Australia, many Muslims repeated this to me upon hearing that I had been to Manila. Some even talked about the pity that Manila was once a thriving Muslim city and how the Philippines used to be a completely Muslim nation. The key to it all was that name ‘Manila’. It was proof of this secretive Muslim past that seemed to have been covered up by the Spanish conquerors who christianised the Philippines.

The mosque of Karim al-Makhdum today

Is it all true though? Did the Philippines once belong to a Muslim empire which stretched throughout the entire archipelago?
Well, yes and no.. Some parts of the Philippines were under Muslim rule, mostly the southern parts where Islam first entered the country when Karim al-Makhdum established Islam in Tawi-Tawi and in the general Sulu region (Southern Philippines), and there were also sultanates established in the Visayas (Central Philippines) and then there was also the sultanates of Rajah Sulayman and Rajah Matanda which were based in Luzon (Northern Philippines) and actually did cover what is today the city of Manila.
Islam was definitely well established, and Muslims held rule in much of the country until the Spanish conquerors came along. However much of the Philippines was still not under Muslim rule, especially in Luzon and those areas still until today have never really been exposed to Islam or Muslims. Modern day Philippines is of course the only Christian majority country in all of Asia and much of the population knows very little of their Islamic past.
I guess it is the Filipino populace’s ignorance of their history that drives Muslims to find relics of that past to remind people of this Islamic history, and what greater example than of their capital city having an Arabic name? Especially now as the Filipino army is waging a war against Muslims in the south and much of the population are not entirely sure why this is happening. Are the Muslims foreign to the Philippines? Are they a threat to the Filipinos? Or are they in fact the original inhabitants of the islands who were deposed and oppressed by the invading Spanish and Americans?

There is much available to see the history of the country and its Islamic past. The hero of the nation Lapu-Lapu who fought against Magellan and has a city named in his honour was a Muslim chief. The Tagalog language (which is the most widely spoken language in the Philippines) is littered with Arabic words such as Salámat (which means thank you). Muslim cultural practices and are widespread and have been integrated into Filipino society, and one will find many place-names which are drawn from Arabic (such as Curuan, from Qur’an). Add to that the fact that Muslims make up approximately 8% of the population and that the whole nation has a public holiday on Eid ul-Adhā and you will easily see that even on face value, the Muslim history of the Philippines is easily seen.

Mangrove trees

So what about Manila?

Well.. It actually comes from the word ‘Maynilad’ which is the original Tagalog name which means ‘place of mangroves’, as they grow abundantly in the Manila Bay.

I’m not sure how this legend spread so vastly without people actually reading up and checking it, but I guess that’s what also happened with the Filipinos who forgot their Islamic past and have not read up on it either.
It is knowledge and education which will let us reclaim our past and establish our future. So let’s remember the first word to have been revealed of the Qur’an and act upon it – اقراء Read!

September 9, 2008

Ramaḍān Glossary

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 6:00 am

Ramaān (رمضان) –Ramaān is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is considered as a sacred month in which fighting should be stopped and focus should be on worship to God. During this month Muslims fast from before sunrise until sunset.
Ramaān comes from the word ram (رَمض) which coming from Arabic means ‘to become hot’ and refers especially to the stones in the desert which would become hot from the intense sunlight. When the months of the Islamic/Arabian calendar first fell, the month of Ramaān was especially hot, and that is how its name came about. In a general sense from the view of the fasting Muslims, Ramaān is a month in which during the daylight hours no food or drink is intaken, and as such parallels are drawn with the notion of the hot and dry desert setting from which the name of the month was drawn.

Eid ul-Fiṭr (عيد الفطر) – Eid (ʿĪd) denotes any event that occurs annualy or at regular intervals. In Islam, there are 2 annual Eids, Eid ul-Fiṭr and Eid ul-‘Aħā. Eid ul-Fiṭr marks the end of the month of Ramaān and also the end of compulsory fasting, which is where it gets its name from (Fiṭr – Breaking of the fast). The day falls on the 1st of Shawwāl, which is the month which follows Ramaān. On this day an Eid prayer is held and it is common for there to be festivities and families will go out to visit one another. It is forbidden to fast on the day of Eid.

Fidyah (فدية) – Fidyah refers to an amount payed in ransom for not having properly completed a task. In the case of Ramaān it refers to an amount payed by somebody who did not complete their fast for any day during the month. The fidyah depends on what it was that broke the person’s fast. A list of rulings regarding the fidyah can be found here. The most common fidyah is feeding the poor and needy.

Hilāl (هلال)The new moon. The hilāl is also known as the crescent moon, as when a new moon appears it is seen as a thin crescent. Because of this, the crescent moon is commonly used in depictions of Ramaān. More information on the new moon and the phases of the moon can be found at

Ifṭār (إفطار) Ifṭār literally means ‘breaking the fast’ and refers to the time at sunset (maghrib) in which fasting ends for the day and one may eat and drink. It is encouraged to eat immediately rather than delaying it, as this was the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and it is also preferrable to break one’s fasting with dates and water.

Iṭʿām (إطعام) – Iṭʿām literally means ‘to feed’ and this is one of the things which Ramaān is known for. It is a great deed to feed others and it is narrated that when one feeds another person who was fasting, the reward gained for fasting is granted also to the person who fed the one who had fasted. As such Muslims in Ramaān strive to invite others for Ifṭār seeking the reward in it as well as increasing brotherhood and sisterhood.

Iʿtikāf (إعتكاف) – Iʿtikāf refers to a voluntary isolation within the mosque. This is most commonly performed in the last 10 nights of Ramaān in an effort to increase one’s chances of gaining full benefit on Laylat ul-Qadr. One who performs Iʿtikāf stays within the confines of the mosque and does not leave at any time. They spend their time in worship, be it praying, reading the Qur’ān or making rememberance of God.

Laylat ul-Qadr (ليلة القدر) Laylat ul-Qadr means ‘The Night of Decree’. It is a night which falls in the last 10 nights during Ramaān. It is on this night that the decree for the coming year is descended to the lowest heaven. This night is specified in the Qur’ān is being ‘better than 1,000 months’.
As is mentioned in Sūrat al-Qadr, the 97th Surah of the Qūr’ān:

إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ . وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ . لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ . تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ مِنْ كُلِّ أَمْرٍ . سَلامٌ هِيَ حَتَّى مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
Verily! We have sent it (the Qur’ān) down in the Night of Decree. And what will make you know what the Night of Decree is?  The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. Therein descend the angels and the Rūħ (the Angel Gabriel) by God’s Permission with all Decrees. Peace, until the appearance of dawn.

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) informed us that on this night we should make the following (supplication) –
اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عني
Allāhumma, innaka ʿafuwwun, tuħibbul-ʿafwa, faʿfu ʿanni
Oh Allāh, verily You are Forgiving, and You love to forgive, so forgive me.

There are differing opinions as to the exact date on which Laylat ul-Qadr falls. This is due to differing narrations concerning its occurence in the past. It was narrated from the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) that it falls in the last 10 nights of Ramaān and that it is also on an odd night (21st, 23rd etc.) The fact that different reports from the companions of the Prophet appear is understood to mean that Laylat ul-Qadr does not fall on any one specific night however that it moves from year to year. As such one is encouraged to seek the night on the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th and 29th of Ramaān.

Qiyām (قيام) – Qiyām literally means ‘standing’. It refers to the optional prayers offered throughout the night, especially in the month of Ramaān. These prayers usually last longer than normal prayers and are prayed in a large number (usually 8 rakaʿāt + 3 witr). Many congregations aim to recite 1 juz’ (portion – approx. 1/30th) of the Qur’ān in each night of Qiyām, and as such much of the time is spent standing, listening to the Imām as he recites. This is where the name of Qiyām (standing) is evolved.

Raṭab (رطب) – Ripe or soft dates. These were the dates which the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) used to eat when he would break his fast.

Ṣawm/Ṣiyām (صوم / صيام) – Ṣawm translates as fasting, and Ṣiyām is its plural. Fasting in Islām is regulated clearly in the Qur’ān and the Sunnah and is prescribed for Muslims throughout the whole month of Ramaān. Its importance is immense, in fact it is considered as one of the five pillars of Islām.
When Muslims fast, they cease eating or drinking from before sunrise until sunset. The exact times are defined by the morning prayer (Fajr) and the evening prayer (Maghrib). This equates to just over half the day in which no food or drink may be taken, and one may not engage in any sexual relations or to abuse others. Whilst the Muslim fasts, he or she are urged to maintain good manners, desist from unnecessary arguing or fighting and to exert extra effort in performing good deeds.

Shahr (شهر) – Shahr is the Arabic word for ‘month’. Ramaān is one of the twelve months of the Islamic calendar. A common name for Ramaān is ‘Ash-Shahr ul-Mubārak’ – ‘The Blessed Month’.

Suħūr (سحور) Suħūr is the name for the meal which is eaten before the time for fasting begins, in the time before the early morning prayer (Fajr). The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) urged the Muslims to have this meal, as in it there are blessings.

تسحروا فإن في السحور بركة
Eat Suħūr, for verily in the Suħūr there is blessing.

Tahajjud (تهجّد) – Tahajjud is another term used for qiyām. It is sometimes used to refer specifically to the prayer performed late in the night or just before Fajr.

Some dates stuffed with almonds

Tamr (تمر)Date. Dates are recommended to be eaten when one is breaking their fast. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) would break his fast with dates and water and so Muslims all around the world fulfill this Sunnah (tradition of the Prophet) when it comes time for breaking the fast.

Taqabal Allāhu minnā wa minkum (تقبل الله منّا ومنكم) – “May Allāh accept from me and from you”. This is a duʿā’ (supplicaton/prayer) made on the day of Eid. It is asking Allāh to accept the deeds of one’s self and also of the person to whom one mentions this duʿā’ to. Other greetings are commonly used on Eid, such as ‘Kullu ʿām wa ‘antum bi-khayr’ however these greetings are not from the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and as such it is preferable to many to use what was narrated from his tradition.

Tarāwīħ (تراويح) – Tarāwīħ is another term used for qiyaam and is used especially to refer to the qiyām of Ramaḍān. Tarāwīħ comes from the word راحة ‘rest’ as it is common for the Imām to rest after praying 4 raka’āt before continuing.

Zakāt ul-Fiṭr / Sadaqat ul-Fiṭr (صدقة الفطر / زكاة الفطر) – Zakāt ul-Fiṭr is a charity given to the poor and needy at the end of Ramaān. It is usually given in the form of food (rice, barley etc.) however in many countries it has become common to pay a set amount of money which would then be donated to the needy.

August 15, 2008

Arabic Transliteration… So many difficulties!

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 8:15 am

As-Salāmu `Alaykum wa Raħmatullāhi wa Barakātuhu

or as I sometimes write:

As-Salaamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuhu

or maybe even

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

All of them are intelligible as being transliterations of ‘السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته’

It makes one wonder.. If there is only 1 way of spelling things in Arabic, then why are there so many ways to do so in Latin script (English)?

Well, the problem is that English is simply not the same as Arabic, Arabic has sounds that English does not have, and it has letters which have no equal in English.

Let me attempt to explain this.

When transliterating from another language, one would see that most languages contain many common sounds. For example almost every language I could think of has the sound ‘B’ and a letter (or letters) to write it. To use Russian as an example, one would write Б which when transliterated into English would simply become B. To look at Greek however there is no letter used for the sound ‘b’ rather 2 letters are placed together to represent it – M and P (M and Π in Greek) so the sound B is written as ‘ΜΠ’. When transliterating this one would simply still use ‘B’ as transliteration (as opposed to transcription) represents the sound and not the letters. If one were transcribing letter for letter they might write MP however this is obscure for the average person and requires a knowledge of Greek language to be able to comprehend it.

It is this distinction between transliterating and transcribing that causes many of the issues of Arabic transliteration which we commonly see. Many people tend to use a mix of both systems which ends up really only being intelligible to an advanced reader of Arabic, who doesn’t need to have a transliteration in the first place.

To take it further – As we mentioned Latin script lacks many of the sounds and cognate letters which Arabic has. Other languages however also contain such sounds and letters, so why is Arabic the one which causes the most hassles? Let’s use Russian again as an example to compare to. Russian contains the letter ‘Ж’ this is represented in the IPA as /ʒ/ (this is also known as the letter ‘ezh’). The sound exists in English, however there is no set letter to signify it. The d is found in the word ‘pleasure’. As there is no 1 letter available in English, what we find is that a letter H is added to a Z to act as a modifier, so we end up with ZH to transliterate Ж. The letter H is commonly used as a modifier, as in SH, CH, TH etc. This perhaps stems from its use in Classical Latin to aspirate a letter.

So what does this have to do with Arabic? Well, when we find Arabic letters with no Latin equivalent, this is what is usually done, a H is added to another letter to form a diagraph representing that sound. For example, the Arabic letter ذ is usually transliterated in the more orthodox transliterations as ‘dh’ probably stemming from the common transliteration from the similar sounding Greek letter Δ (Dhelta). So the word ذِكر would be written as ‘dhikr’. This works well and fine, until we realise that there are 2 other letters which are commonly transliterated with ‘dh’ of them are – ض and ظ. These 2 letters are both used only in Arabic, so there are no well known ways of transliterating them, so we must invent a new way to write them with Latin script.

If we follow the system of finding its common Latin equivalent and adding a H to it, we are in a mess, as the letter ظ is the pharangealised version of ذ so we cannot write now dh+h (dhh) as it becomes unnatural having so many h’s in a word, let alone if that letter were followed by a ه (h), then we would see ‘dhhh’!

So we then see that either we find an alternate way of writing ظ or we find another way of writing ذ. Some of the common alternatives are using đ, ð or δ all of which are used to write this sound in other scripts. One of the problems though is that they are not immediately recognisable, and adding a h after them seems extremely obscure (ðh ?), so one of the alternatives found being used is to underline the letter, so đ for example would be used for ذ, and đ for ظ. Following this scheme, ض then would become d.
One of the benefits of abandoning the use an added h in these cases is that its lessens the likelihood of encountering double h’s in words, for example a common sample of this seen is when transliterating the word مَذهَب, it is seen as madhhab. To make it clearer some break up the h’s with symbols such as – or ‘ (madh’hab, madh-hab) however this too causes issues especially as the ‘ symbol is used to transliterate the letter ء by almost all systems!

As you can see.. This is just a small sample of a few letters and why Arabic is just so hard to transliterate well into a well organised, sensical and aesthetic way. There are many complexities to take into account. Before I even think about diving into the deep end and tackling them, I will supply a list of commonly used ways to transliterate each Arabic letter, sorting them from most obscure to most common. This might help in demonstrating how certain letters are the reasons for all of the difficulties in transliteration.

(To be continued Inshaa’Allaah)


ب b


ثTH θ t th th

The letter Theta θ is taken from Greek as well as the IPA. Whilst it is accurate, it is also not well known and as such is too obscure to properly use.


حch x hh H h ħ

The letter ħ is used in both Maltese as well as the IPA. If one wants to avoid dots or underlining, it is an excellent choice due to its academic acceptance and precedence in Maltese. X is used in Somali, but is not well known and hence too obscure for wide use, as well as the fact that it is better known as a transliteration of the Arabic latter خ.  Ch is the common transliteration of the Hebrew letter Chet ח which is equivalent to the Arabic letter ح although it is also pronounced as Kh in modern Israeli pronunciation, so as such is not suitable, as well as obscure to most Arabic speakers who might confuse ch with the French transliteration of ش.

خKH x kh kh

The letter x is used in Chechen, Greek as well as the IPA, it is however still rather obscure. X is also used in Somali to represent the letter ح, in Oromo for t’, Latin/English for ks as well as Maltese and Catalan for sh. As such it is too ambiguous too take on any serious role in Arabic transliteration.


ذDH z dh dh ð đ

ð is used in the IPA as well as scandinavian languages and resembles the Greek letter dhelta. However it is still rather unknown and obscure looking. As such đ is a good replacement in that it resembles that letter as is only ambiguous to speakers of Vietnamese who use it for the letter d. Z should be completely avoided as it is a mispronunciation common amongst some Arabic speakers as well as most Turkish, Central Asians and Sub-continent speakers.




شSH ch š sh sh

š is common to eastern Europeans to represent sh, it is also used in the official Saudi French translation of the Qur’an, which means it is widely known, however it is still seemingly obscure and does not have any other cognate in Arabic transliteration eg. č ž

صS ş s s

s (or with a dot below) is by far the most commonly used and widely understood. ş should be avoided as it is used in Turkish to represent sh.

ضZ DH D đ dh dh d

Z should be avoided as it is a mispronunciation. dh and d are the most common and widely understood.

طT th ţ t t

ظDH DH Z Z D D TH TH th th dh dh đ

Whilst Z is perhaps the most commonly used, it is based upon a mispronunciation of the letter (as a Z). đ is perhaps the most accurate if one uses đ for ذ as the 2 are related (it is the pharyngealised version of  ذ)

عAA ^ ‘ c ³ ` ʢ ʽ ʿ ˤ ˁ `
3 is used, however it is very informal, part of a ‘chat alphabet’ more than any serious transliteration scheme. c is used in Somali however seems obscure, even though ʿ (superscript c) is used by linguists regularly for the `Ayn (reverse glottal stop). ˤ is becoming common and is good to be used, however ` being easily accesible on keyboards is perhaps the easiest and most commonly used and hence understood.

غGH ĝ ġ g gh gh


قK k q


ل l





when preceded by an Aai ay
when preceded by an Iie ē ee ii i î í ī
when preceded by a Uui uy

ى when preceded by an I ie ē ii i ĩ í î ee ī
when preceded by an AA ã â aa ā

ةH T ʰ t/h

ء – ‘

َ (fatħa)a

ِ (kasrah)i

ُ (dammah)u

July 14, 2008

The Linguistic Meaning of the Word Qur’ān

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 2:14 pm

The following is taken from the book ‘An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan‘ by Sh. Yasir Qadhi. It is published by Al-Hidaayah Publishing.

From Chapter 2 – The Qur’ān

The Linguistic Meaning of the Word Qur’ān

There are a number of different opinions concerning the linguistic meaning of the word Qur’ān.

The most popular opinion, and the opinion held by atTabarī (d. 310 AH), is that the word qur’ān is derived from qara’a, which means, ‘to read, to recite.’ Qur’ān then would be the verbal noun (masdar) of qara’a, and thus translates as ‘The Recitation’ or ‘The Reading.’ Allah says in reference to the Qur’ān

وَقُرْآناً فَرَقْنَاهُ
And it is a Qur’ān which We have divided into parts… [17:106]

and He says,

إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ فَإِذَاقَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ
It is for Us to collect it and to Recite it. When we have recited it, then follow its Recitation. [75:17-18]

On the other hand, Imam ash-Shafi’ī (d. 204 AH) held the view that the word Qur’ān was a proper noun that was not derived from any word, just like ‘Torah’ or ‘Injīl’. He recited the word without a hamza, such that ‘Qur’ān’ would rhyme with the English word ‘lawn’. One of the qira’at also pronounced it this way.

Another opinion states that the word Qur’ān is from the root qarana, which means ‘to join, to associate’. For example, the pilgrimage in which ‘Umrah and Hajj are combined is called Hajj Qiran from the same root word. Therefore the meaning of the word Qur’ān would be, ‘That which is joined together’, because its verses and sūrahs are combined to form this book. In this case, the word would be pronounced the same way as Imam Shafi’ī pronounced it, without the hamza.

A fourth opinion is that Qur’ān comes from the word qara’in, which means ‘to resemble, to be similar to’. Hence, the Qur’ān is composed of verses that aid one another in comprehension, and sūrahs that resemble each other in beauty and prose.

Yet another opinion is that Qur’ān is from qar’, which means ‘to combine’. It is called such since it combines stories, commands, promises and punishments.

However the opinion that is strongest, and the one that the majority of scholars hold, is the first one, namely that the word Qur’ān is the verbal noun of qara’a and therefore means ‘The Recitation’. The proof for that is that it is named such in the Qur’ān (and most of the qira’āt pronounce the word with a hamza), and the word conforms with Arabic grammar is the verbal noun of qara’a.

It may be asked: how does one explain the fact that some qira’āt pronounce the word Qur’ān without a hamza, as it is well known that all the qira’āt are equally authentic? The response to this question is that this particular pronunciation is due to the peculiar rules of recitation (tajwīd) of those qira’āt and affects many words. In other words, the qira’āt that pronounce the word Qur’ān without a hamza do not intend to change the pronunciation of the word Qur’ān itself, but rather this occurs due to a particular rule of recitation (tajwīd) that effects many words in the Qur’ān, including the pronunciation of the word Qur’ān. Therefore, even though the pronunciation of the word Qur’ān is different in the qira’āt, the actual word is still the same.

July 13, 2008

The Muzlim Fallacy

Filed under: Islamic Terms,Muslim Urban Legends — abuaisha @ 3:46 am

Some time ago I sat through a Jumu’ah Khutbah which while for the most part was good and beneficial, one thing that I heard from the Khateeb sounded a bit odd. This Masjid (or university musalla rather) was known to on occasion produce some weird khateebs however what this one said struck me as amazingly odd, for it was not true what he had said and was rather irresponsible, or at least that’s how I felt when I heard it. Usually Jumu’ah khutbas are known for ‘playing it safe’, its when the khateeb will address general issues and will not stray away from the generally expected themes of every other Jumu’ah.
On that certain Friday, the Khateeb was talking about dealings with non-Muslims and the need to inform them of our beautiful religion of Islām. All was well until he began to mention that whilst we must be polite with non-Muslims, if they were to offend us, we should not take their offence with simply a smile but rather we should correct them. All good and well, still no problems with what he was saying. Then he said – If a non-Muslim by chance refers to you as a ‘Muzlim’ as most non-Muslims tend to do, rather than a ‘Muslim’ you should immediately correct him, for even though he may not know it, he has actually offended you oh dear brother! I then began to wonder… Is this khateeb as pedantic as I when it comes to proper pronunciation of Arabic words? So much so that he would reprimand a non-native speaker for such a small error as this?! No.. Rather he explained to us, that this way of pronouncing Muslim as Muzlim changes the meaning of the word drastically. As we know a ‘Muslim’ is somebody who follows Islam, which translates approximately as ‘Submission unto God’. A ‘Muzlim’ however is somebody who is an oppressor. For you see he said, the word Muzlim comes from the word ظلم (Dhulm) which is commonly mispronounced as ‘Zulm‘. This word of course is not a not a nice word at all, it roughly translates as ‘Oppression’. Therefore the Khateeb was suggesting that we should not allow a non-Muslim to call refer to us as Muzlims, we should correct them and let them know they have offended us, then get on with the conversation once he has realised his error and fixed his dastardly ways.

What struck me almost immediately was that this person was telling us to correct the way that non-Muslims were pronouncing an Arabic word (ie. Muslim) yet he himself was doing the exact same thing before us! The word ‘Zulm‘ in Arabic doesn’t have any meaning, for the word which he meant to refer to is Dhulm. The verb z-l-m itself does hold certain meanings, most of which are rather positive, and as for مزلم (muzlim) it translates as ‘binding’. So our imaginary non-Muslim friend has actually not referred to us as oppressors, at worst he has called us ‘binding’, and to be honest I’d be confused rather than offended.

As for the word ‘oppressor’, in Arabic we take the word ظلم (oppression) and then make it into ظالم (Dhālim) to mean oppressor. And hey, to be honest, even if somebody not knowingly called me that I wouldn’t chastise him and ask him to apologise for it.

So I guess the first lesson in this is that especially when giving a Jumu’ah Khutbah or a public talk on Islām, we should always check our facts before saying anything lest we are wrong in what we say! How often do we hear something or read in an e-mail some amazing little fact such as this, yet we at times make no attempts to verify it. We should make further effort to perfect our Tajweed and pronunciation of Arabic words and also improve our Arabic language so that we might be able to access the wealth of knowledge lying hidden away in the libraries of the world. We can also learn that in giving Da’wah we must have wisdom. As Allāh says in the Qur’ān –

ادْعُ إِلِى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ
Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom (16:125)

I hope that this might help in contributing to rectifying this Muslim urban legend, and that it will serve to benefit us and others in a good way. May Allāh bless you and and may we be thankful that he has made us of those who submit unto him (Muslims)!

July 6, 2008

The Months of the Islamic Calendar

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 12:57 pm

The Islamic calendar is the calendar of Islam and is used by us Muslims. Its importance is that it is the calendar mandated for us by our Lord and even though it is used alongside the Gregorian calendar, we all use the Hijri calendar to mark events such as the 2 Eids, Ramadān and the other important dates in the Islamic year. The Islamic calendar is known also as the Hijri calendar. The reasoning for this is that the calendar begins at the date of the hijrah, when the Muslims who were being persecuted migrated to Madīnah under the command of God. This happened some 1,429 years ago, hence we are currently in the year 1429 Hijri, or 1429 AH (AH stands for anno hegiræ, the Latin term for ‘Year of the Hijrah’).

Allah commanded in the Qur’ān that the Islamic year be made up of 12 months, as we read in the following verse from Sūrat at-Tawbah (9:36):

Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred, (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar). That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein, and fight against the Mushrikūn together, as they fight against you together. But know that Allah is with those who are Al-Muttaqūn.

The calendar that we use was also used by the Arabs before they embraced Islām. This is not something strange, for the Arabs even though they strayed from the true religion of God by worshipping idols alongside God, still kept many things intact of what Islam teaches. The Hajj (pilgrimage) for example, was mandated by God through the prophet Ibrāhīm (Abraham) and the Arab idolaters too would still perform the Hajj, however they would add to it that which God had not commanded them to do, invoking their idols alongside God. Similarly with the calendar the Arabs added to it that which God had not commanded them to. As Allāh says in the Qur’ān in the next ayah from the verse above (9:37) –

The postponing of a Sacred Month is indeed an addition to disbelief: thereby the disbelievers are led astray, for they make it lawful one year and forbid it another year in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by Allah, and make such forbidden ones lawful. The evil of their deeds seems pleasing to them. And Allah guides not the people, who disbelieve.

What the Arabs used to do was add an extra month in certain years in effect creating a leap year much like we have in the Gregorian calendar whereby we add an extra day in February every 4 years. This month is known as an intercalary month. Intercalation was completely forbidden by God in the above verse of the Qur’ān and therefore the month which the Arabs used was eradicated. The month still exists in name in the Coptic calendar, it was known as Nasī’ (نسيء).
The following is the list of the 12 Islamic months. Those highlighted in red are the sacred months.
1) Muharram
2) Safar
3) Rabī` al-‘Awwal
4) Rabī` athThānī
5) Jumāda al-‘Awwal
6) Jumāda athThānī
7) Rajab
8 ) Sha`bān
9) Ramadān
10) Shawwāl
11) Dhūl-Qa`dah
12) Dhūl-Hijjah


Muharram is the first month of the Hijrī calendar. It comes from the verb harama meaning ‘to be forbidden’, as the month of Muharram is one of the 4 months in when fighting was forbidden in it.


There are 3 theories of what the name Safar means. One is that it means ‘void’ as the Arabs at this time would leave their houses going on expiditions hence leaving them void. Another theory states that it comes from sufr which means yellow, as during the time that the calendar was established it was autumn time and the leaves were urning yellow. The last is thatit means ‘whistle’ as at that time of year it was very windy, and the sounds of the wind made a whistling noise.

ربيع الأوّل
Rabī` al-‘Awwal

ربيع الثاني
Rabī` athThānī

Rabī` means ‘spring/springtime’ so Rabī` al-‘Awwal means ‘The first spring’, and Rabī` ath-Thānī means ‘The second spring’. These months would have fallen around the time of spring originally. Rabī` ath-Thānī is also referred to as Rabī` al-‘Akhir – ‘The last spring’.

جمادى الأوّل
Jumāda al-‘Awwal

جمادى الثاني
Jumāda athThānī

Jumāda comes from the word jumda which means ‘dry land’ and as such it refers to the time when there was little rain, possibly during the hotter months.


Rajab comes from the verb rajaba which means ‘to be respected’.


Sha’ban comes from the word shu`ba meaning ‘to branch out’ as during this time the Arabs would go out in seperate areas to search for water.


Ramadān comes from the word ramd which means ‘to become hot’ and refers especially to stones which become hot from the sunlight. It is suggested that this time of year was very hot when the calendar was first established.


Shawwal means ‘to carry’ and refers to the camels who would become pregnant at this time of year. Pregnancy in Arabic is usually refered to as ‘carrying (a baby)’.

ذو القعدة

ذو الحجّة

July 3, 2008

The Kalimah & the Shahādah in Various Languages

Filed under: Islamic Terms,Kalimah & Shahādah translations — abuaisha @ 1:42 pm

If one were to search the net they would find various pages dedicated to demonstrating how to say and write ‘I love you’ in as many languages as those making the list can compile. One might also find less meaningful phrases such as ‘Where is the bar?’ or ‘Cheers!’. For any Muslim there is indeed no phrase more dear to them than the Shahādah or the Kalimah, so I decided to compile such a list for surely it would be far more useful and beloved to us than any other phrase. For those wondering, the shahādah and the kalimah are not the exact same thing, rather they are 2 similar phrases. Basically, the Shahādah is in English – “I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is Allāh’s Messenger” whereas the kalimah is “There is no god but Allāh, Muhammad is Allāh’s Messenger“. The shahādah then is when one expresses their belief in the kalimah. The word shahādah itself means ‘testimony’ and the word kalimah means either ‘phrase’ or ‘that which is spoken’, granting to this specific phrase the honour of being the most beloved and central phrase to a Muslim so much so that it only needs to be called ‘the phrase’ almost as if it were saying it were ‘the phrase of phrases’. It is commonly said in error that the shahādah appears on the flag of Saudi Arabia, I hear this commonly amongst non-Muslim vexillogists (those who study flags) and possibly from this influence also Muslims repeating this. When the kalimah is displayed it is commonly mistakenly referred to as the shahādah. As the above explanation would show, the kalimah is what appears on the Saudi Arabian flag, not the shahādah, the 2 although similar are indeed different things. For the time being I have supplied only the kalimah where available, however some of the additions are the longer shahādah. I will identify those which are the shahādah with a star (*) after the phrase so as to not confuse between the two. There are currently 168 translations available and 28 transliterations. If you can help add to this list please let me know! If you can speak the following languages also it would be a great help if you could proof read the translations before I put them up – Wolof

Arabic –

لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله

There is no god but Allāh, Muhammad is Allāh’s Messenger
(lā ‘ilāha ‘illallāh muħammadur-rasūlullāh)


English There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger

Afrikaans Daar is geen God behalwe Allah, en Muhammad is sy Boodskapper

Afrikaans (Arabic Afrikaans script)دَار گَِين اَندَِر خُوَد اَسْ الله نِي، اَِنْ مُحَمَّد اِس سَيْ پْرَُوفَِيت (image)

Albanian (Shqip) Ska zot qe meriton te adhurohet vec Allahut, dhe Muhamedi eshte i derguari i Tij

Amharic (አማርኛ)አላህ አንድ ነው ሙሀመድ መላክተኛ ነው (image)

Amharic (Latin script)Allah anədə nawə Muhammad malakutaña nawə

Anglo-Saxon (Englisc)Nán god ácorenlic of gield nemne Allah, Muhammad sy þæs ár of Allah

Australian Creole Language – Dea nomo digan la top nada den Allah en Muhammad im mesinja

Azerbaijani (Azərbaycan)Şahid dururam ki, Allahdan başqa heç bir tanrı yoxdur və şahid dururam ki, Məhəmməd Allahın elçisidir *

Azerbaijani (Азәрбајҹан) Шаһид дурурам ки Аллаһдан башга һеч бир танры jохдур вə шаһид дурурам ки, Мəһəммəд Аллаһын елчисидир *

Aztec (Nāhuatl) – Ahmo mantimani teōtl zan cē Alá, auh īāchtopaihtohcāuh ca Mahoma

Banguingui (Sama Banguingui) Saniya’ tuhan bang dumain in Allah maka si Muhammad sohu’ na

Basque (Euskara)Ala da Jainko bakarra eta Mahoma da bere profeta

Belarusian (Беларуская)Няма Бога апрача Алаха і Мухамад пасланец яго

Belarusian (Latin Script)Njama Boga aprača Alaxa i Muxamad paslanec jago

Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa)Вера ў Бога і тое, што Мухаммад Ягоны пасланьнік

Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa – Latin Script)Vera ŭ Boga I toe, što Muxammad Jagony paslan’nik

Bengali (বাংলা) – (image)

Bengali (Latin Script)Allah chara kono upassho nei, Muhammad Allahr rosul

Bosnian (Bosanski) Svjedočim da nema drugog boga osim Allaha, i svjedočim da je Muhammed Božiji rob i Božiji Poslanik*

Bosnian (Arebica Script)نهمآ درۆغۉغ  بۉغآ  اۉسيم الله اى محمّد يه بۉژييي پۉسلآنيق

Breton (Brezhoneg)Ur feizad a dlee anzav eo Doue an doue nemetañ ha eo bet Mouhammad e brofed

Bulgarian (Български)Няма друг бог освен Аллах и Мухаммед е Негов пратеник

Bulgarian (Latin Script)Nyama drug bog osven Allah i Muhammed e negov pratenik

Catalan (Català) No hi ha cap Déu tret de Déu, i Muhàmmad n’és el profeta

Cebuano (Sinugbuanon) Akong gitabi nga walay laing angayan nga simbahon kondili ang Ginoo lamang ug mitabi usab ako nga si Muhammad ang Propeta sa Ginoo *

Chechen (Нохчийн)АллахI воцург кхин Дела а вац, Мухьаммад Цуьнан элча а ву аьлла

Chechen (Latin script – Noxçiyn)Allah vocurg qin Dela a vac, Muẋammad Cünan elcha a vu älla

Chinese (Simplified) (中文 – 简化字)万物非主,惟有真主,穆罕默德是真主的使者 (image)

Chinese (Traditional) (中文 – 繁體字) 萬物非主,惟有真主,穆罕默德是真主的使者

Chinese (Pinyin)wàn wù fēi zhǔ, wéi yǒu zhēnzhǔ, mùhǎnmòdé shì zhēnzhǔ de shǐzhě

Chinese (Tongyong Pinyin)wàn wù fei jhŭ, wéi yǒu jhen jhŭ, mù hǎn mò dé shìh jhen jhŭ de shĭh jhĕ

Chinese (Wade-Giles) – wan⁴ wu⁴ fei¹ chu³, wei² yu³ chen¹ chu³, mu⁴ han³ mo⁴ te² shih⁴ chen¹ chu³ te shih³ che³

Chinese (Bopomofo) – (image)

Chinese (Cantonese/粵語 – Jyutping)  – Maan⁶ mat⁶ fei¹ zyu², wai⁴ jau⁵  zan1 zyu², muk⁶ hon2 mak⁶ dak1 si⁶ zan1 zyu² dik1 sai² ze²

Chinese (Xiao’erjing)وًا وٌ فؤِ جُو وْ يوْ جٍ جوْ مُو هًا مْ دْ شِ جٍ جْو دْ شِ جْ

Chinese (Cyrillic)вань⁴ у⁴ фэй1 чжу³, вэй2 ю³ чжэнь1 чжу³, му⁴ хань³ мо⁴ дэ2 ши⁴ чжэнь1 чжу³  дэ ши³  жэ³

Cornish (Kernewek)Nyns eus dyw saw Dyw; Mahomm yw kannas Dyw

Croatian (Hrvatski) – Nema drugog Boga, osim Allaha, a Muhamed je Božiji rob i Božiji poslanik


Czech (Čeština) – Není Boha kromě jediného a opravdového Boha, Muhammad je Prorokem Božím

Danish (Dansk) – Der er ingen andre guder end Allaah, Mohammed er Allah’s budbringer

Dhivehi (ދިވެހ) (image)

Dhivehi (Latin script)Allāhu fiyavai ehen ilāhaku nuve eve, Muhammadgefānī Allāhuge rasūlāeve

Dutch (Nederlands) – Ik getuig dat er geen godheid is dan God, ik getuig dat Mohammed Gods boodschapper is

Egyptian Arabic – مافيش إله غير الله، محمد رسول الله

Egyptian Arabic (Latin Script) – Māfīsh ilāh ghayr Allāh, Muhammad rasūl Allāh

Esperanto – Estas neniu dio krom Dio, kaj Mohameto estas la profeto de Dio

Estonian (Eesti) – Kuulutan, et ei ole jumalat peale Jumala, ja kuulutan, et Muhammad on Jumala saadik*

Farsi – هیچ خدایی جز الله وجود ندارد ، محمد پیامبر الله‌ است (image)

Faroese (Føroyskt) – Tað er ongin gud uttan Gud, og Muhammed er profetur hansara

Finnish (Suomi) – Ei ole muuta jumalaa kuin Jumala ja Muhammad on Hänen lähettiläänsä

French (Français) – Il n’y a pas d’autre Dieu qu’Allah et Mohammed est Son messager

Friulian (Furlan) – A nol è Diu fûr di Allāh e Maomet al è il messazîr di Allāh

Gaelic (Gaelige) – Níl de dhia ach Dia, agus is é Muhammad A theachtaire

Galician (Galego) – Non hai ningún deus ademais de Deus e Muhammad é o profeta de Deus

German (Deutsch) – Es gibt keinen gott außer Gott, Mohammed ist der Gesandte Gottes

Greek (Ελληνικά) – Θεός δεν είναι παρά ο Αλλάχ και Προφήτης Του είναι ο Μωάμεθ

Ancient Greek (Αρχαία ελληνική γλώσσα) – Οὐκ ἔστιν θεὸς εἰ μὴ ὁ θεὸς μόνος· Μααμὲτ ἀπόστολος θεοῦ

Hausa – Ma’anarsa shine shaidawa babu abun bauta bisa cancanta sai Allah, sa’annan  Muhammad Manzon Allah ne

Hausa (Ajami) – مَعَنَرسَ شِن شَيدَوَ بَبُ بِسَ ثَنثَنتَ سَي الله  سَعَنَّن مُحَمَّد مَنزُن الله نيٰ

Hawaiian (Hawai’i) – ʻAʻohe akua koe Ke Akua (Allāh), ʻo Mohameka ka ʻelele a Ke Akua

Hebrew – אין אלוהים מבלעדי אללה ומוחמד שליח אללה (image)

Hebrew (Latin Script – Biblical Hebrew) – ‘Eyn Elohīm mibil’aday Allāh, wa-Muhammad shalīh Allāh

Hebrew (Latin Script – Modern Hebrew) – ‘Eyn Elohim mibil’adey Allah, ve-Mukhammad shalyakh Allah

Hindi (हिन्दी) – अल्लाहके सिवा और कोई देवता नहीं और मुहम्मद ईश्वर के दूत हैं  (image)

Hindi (Latin Script) – Allaah ke sivaa aur koee devataa nahĩ aur Muhammad eeshvar ke doot haĩ

Hungarian (Magyar) – Tanúsítom, hogy nincs más isten Istenen kívül, és tanúsítom, hogy Mohamed Isten Prófétája *

Old Hungarian – Egy az isten, Allah (incomplete)

Icelandic (Íslenska) – Það er enginn guð nema Guð; Múhameð er spámaður Guðs

Ilonggo – Wala sang iban nga dios, kundi si Allah. Si Muhammad ang iya mensahero

Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) – Tiada Tuhan yang berhak disembah selain Allah, Muhammad adalah utusan Allah

Interlingua – Il ha necun Deo que Allah e Muhammad es le messagero de Allah

Italian (Italiano) – Non c’è divinità se non Dio, Maometto è il Messaggero di Dio

Japanese (日本語) – 一人の神様しか他に神はない、ムハンマドは神様の使徒(預言者)です (image)

Japanese (Romaji) – Ichi nin no kamisama shika ta ni kami ha nai, Muha mmado ha kamisama no shito ( yogen sha ) desu

Javanese (Bahasa Jawa) – Aku anyekseni menawa ora ana sesembahan ingkang haq kajaba Allah, lan aku anekseni menawa Muhammad kuwi utusan Allah*

Judeo-Arabic – לא אלה אל אללה מחמד רסול אללה  (image) also, with complete vowel markings – (image)

Kazakh (Қазақша) – Аллаһтан басқа тәңір жоқ, Мұхаммед оның елшісі

Kazakh (Latin Script) – Аllahtan basqa täñir joq, Muxammed onıñ elşisi

Kazakh (Arabic Script) – اللهتان باسقا تأڭﺊر جوق، محمّد اونىڭ ﻩلشﺊﺳﺊ

Korean (한국어) – 하나님 이외에 다른 신은 없으며 무함마드는 하나님의 예언자 (image)

Korean (Romaja) – hananim ioee dareun sineun eobseumyeo muhammadeuneun hananimui yeeonja

Kurdish (Latin script – Kurdî) – Xwedê qet xuda din tune û Mihemmed resûlê Xwedê ye

Kurdish (Cyrillic script – Кöрди) – Хwəде qəт xöда дън тöнə у Мъһ’əммəд рəсуле Хwəде йə

Kurdish (Arabic script) – ﺧﻮﻩﺩﻯ ﻗﻪﺕ ﺧﻮﺩﺍ ﺩﻥ ﺗﻮﻧﻪ ﻭﻭ ﻣﺤﻪﻣﻪﺩ ﺭﻩﺳﻮﻭﻟﻰ ﺧﻮﻩﺩﻯ ﻳﻪ

Ladino (Djudeo-Espanyol) No ay más Dio ke Ala, Mahomat es el mesajero de Ala

Ladino (Hebrew Script) – נו אי מאס דיו ק אללה מחמט אס אל מסכרו ד אללה

Lak (Лакку) – Нет иного божества, кроме Аллаха, Мухаммад посланник Его

Latin – Non est deus praeter Deum et Machometus est nuntius Dei (image)

Latvian (Latviešu) – Nav cita dieva kā Dievs un Muhameds ir Dieva ziņnesis

Lithuanian (Lietuvių) – Ne Dievas, bet Dievas ir Muhammad yra poslancem Dievą

Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch) – Et gëtt nëmmen ee Gott, Mohammed ass dem Allah säi Prophéit

Macedonian (Македонски) – Нема друг бог освен Аллах и Мухаммед е Божјиот пратеник

Maguindanao – Kaisa isa bu nu Allah, da din kap’dnin, si Muhammad na sugo nu Allah

Malayalam (മലയാളം)അല്ലാഹു അല്ലാതെ ഒരു ദൈവമില്ലെന്നും , മുഹമ്മദ് അവന്റെ ദൂതനാണെന്നും ഞാന്‍ സാക്ഷ്യം വഹിക്കുന്നു

Malayalam (Latin Script)Allahu allathe oru daivamillennum , Muhammad avanrge dothananennum nan saqshyam vahiqqunnu

Malaysian (Bahasa Malaysia) – Tiada tuhan melainkan Allah; Muhammad ialah pesuruhnya

Malaysian (Jawi Script) – تياد توهن ملاءينكن الله; محمد اياله ڤسوروحڽ

Maltese (Malti) – M’hemmex alla ħlief Alla l-waħdieni li m’ għandux xirka , u Muħammed ir-rasul tiegħu

Maranao – Da a tohan inonta bu so Allah gu so Muhammad na sugo iyan

Marathi (मराठी) -अल्लाह हा एकच इश्वर असून कोणीही त्यापेक्षा वरचढ नाही मुहम्मद हा अल्लाहचा शेवटचा प्रेषीत आहे

Marathi (Latin Script) – Allaah haa ekach ishavar asoon koneehee tayaapekshaa varachadh naahee Muhamamad haa Allaahachaa shevatachaa paresheet aahe

Minangkabau (Baso Minang) – Ambo basaksi bahsonyo indak ado Tuhan salain Allah dan nabi Muhammad adolah utusan Allah

Mirandese (Mirandés) – Nun hai outra Debindade senó Dius, Maomé ye sou mensageiro

Moldovan (молдовеняскэ) – Ну eксистэ алта дивинитате афарэ де Аллах, яр Mухаммад есте тримисул луи Аллах

Mongolian (Монгол) – Аллахаас өөр бурхан үгүй, Мухаммэдээс өөр элч байхгүй гэдгийг гэрчилж байна

Mongolian (Mongolian Script/Монгол бичиг) – (image)

Morisco – نُ هَي ماس دِيُس كَا الله  اِ محمد ءَاس ءَال مَانسَخَارُ ذَا الله (image)

Norman (Nouormand) – N’y’a qu’un dgieu est qu’Mahoummé est san prophète

Norwegian (Norsk/Bokmål) – Det finnes ingen Gud unntatt Allah, og Muhammed er Hans sendebud

New Norwegian (Nynorsk) – Ikkje finst nokon annan gud enn Alláh, og Muḥammad er Bodberaren åt Alláh

Oromo (Afaan Oromoo) – Rabbi tokicha male khabira hin jiru, muhammadis ergamaa isaati

Ossetian (Иронау) – Кувыны æккаг Хуыцау Хуыцауы йедтæмæ нæй, æмæ  Мæхæмæт  Хуыцауы минæвар

Ossetian (Latin Script) – Kuvyny ækkag  Xuycau Xuycauy jedtæmæ næj, æmæ Mæxæmæt Xuycauy minævar

Pashto – نشته بل کوم خدای يا معبود پرته د الله نه او محمد د الله پيغمبر دی  (image)

Polish (Polski) – Nie ma boga prócz Allaha, a Mahomet jest Jego prorokiem

Portuguese (Português) – Não há outro deus além de Deus; Muhammad é o mensageiro de Deus

Quechua (Runa Simi) – Huklla Dyusmi kan, Muhamad-qa paypa willaq runanmi

Romanian (Română) – Nu există alta divinitate in afară de Allah (Dumnezeu), iar Muhammad este trimisul lui Allah

Romanian (Cyrillic Script) – Noу eѯистъ алта дивиɴитате афаръ де Аллах, iaр Moyхаммад есте тримисoyл лoyи Аллах

Romansh (Rumantsch) – Jau conferm ch’i na dat nagina divinitad danor Dieu e che Mohammed è vegnì tramess da Dieu

Russian (Русский) – Нет Божества достойнного поклонения, кроме Аллаха, Мухаммед посланник Аллаха

Russian (Latin Script) – Njet Bozhestva dostoynnogo poklonenija krome Allakha, Mukhammed poslannik Allakha

Sami (Sámegiella) -Ii leat eará ipmil go Allah ja Muhammed lea su profehta

Serbian (Српски) – Нема Бога осим Бога, а Мухамед је његов пророк

Sicilian (Sicilianu) – Esisti un Diu sulu Allah e Muhammadu è lu sò prufeta

Simple EnglishThere is no god but Allah, Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger

Slovak (Slovenčina) – Niet boha okrem Boha a Muhammad je posol Boží

Slovene (Slovenščina) – Ni božanstva razen Boga; Mohamed je Božji prerok

Somali (Soomaaliga) – Ma jiiro Illah oo Allah ka ahayn, Muxammad wa na Rasuulki Allah

Waxaan qira’yaa in uusan jirin ilaah, Allaah mooyee, waxana qirayaa in uu Muxammad yahay rasuulkii Allaah *

Spanish (Español) – No hay más dios que Alá y Muhammad es el mensajero de Dios

Sundanese (Basa Sunda) – Teu aya pangéran anging Allah; sarta Muhammad rosul Allah

Swahili (Kiswahili) – Hakuna mungu ila Allah, Muhammad ni mtume wa Allah

Swedish (Svenska) – Jag bekänner att det inte finns någon gud utom Allah, och att Muhammed är hans profet *

Tagalog/Filipino – Walang ibang diyos maliban kay Allah, si Muhammad ang sugo ni Allah

Tagalog/Filipino (Baybayin script) – (image)

Tajik (тоҷикӣ) – Нест Худое ба уз Алло ва Муҳаммад расули ӯст

Tajik – Nest Xudoe ba uz Allo va Muhammad rasuli ?st   

Tatar (Tatarça) – Inanu, Allahnıñ berlegen, Möxämmädneñ şäyğämbärlegen tanu

Tatar (Cyrillic script) (Татарча) – Ынану АллаҺның берлеген, Мөхәммәднең шәйгъәмбәрлеген тану

Tausūg – Wayruun tuhan malaingkan ha Allāh, hi Muhammad ing rasūl sing Allāh

Tausūg (Arabic script) – وَيْرُٷنْ تُهَنْ مَلَئِڠْكَن هَ الله هِ مُحَمَّدْ ئِڠ رَسُولْ سِڠ الله

Telugu (తెలుగు) – అల్లాః తప్ప వేరే అరద్యుడు  లేదు ముహమ్మద్ అల్లాః యొక్క ప్రవక్త

Telugu (Latin script) – Allaah tappa vere aradyudu ledu Muhammad Allaah yokka pravakta

Telugu (Archaic) (తెలుగు) – సర్వేశ్వరుడైన అల్లాహ్ ఒక్కడే, ముహమ్మదు అతడిచే అవతరింపబడ్డ ప్రవక్త

Telugu (Archaic) (Latin script) – Sarveshvarudain Allah oqqade, Muhammadu atadiche avatarinpabadd pravaqt

Thai (ภาษาไทย) -ไม่มีพระเจ้าอื่นใดนอกจากพระเจ้าและมุฮัมมัดเป็นร่อซู้ลของพระเจ้า

Thai (Latin Script) – mâi mee prá jâao èun dai nôk jàak prá jâao láe móo-ham-mát bpen rôr-sóon kŏng prá jâao

Turkish (Türkçe) -hiçbir İlah yoktur, ancak Allah vardır, Muhammed onun kulu ve elçisidir

Shahādah – Tanıklık ederim ki hiçbir İlah yoktur, ancak Allah vardır ve yine tanıklık ederim ki Muhammed onun kulu ve elçisidir *

Ottoman Turkish (lisân-ı Osmânî) – هچبر إله يوكتور انجق الله واردير محمد انون كولو و الچيسيدير

Ukrainian (Українська) – нема Бога крім Аллаха, Мухаммад посланець Його

Urdu – نہیں ۓ کوئی معبود سواۓ اللہ کے محمد اللہ کے پیغمبر ہیں

Urdu (Latin Script) – nahĩ hai koyee ma’bood sivaye Allaah ke, Muhammad Allaah ke payghambar haĩ

Uyghur – بىر اللەدىن باشقا ھەقىقى مەئبۇد ي (incomplete)

Uzbek (Ўзбек) – Танхо Аллохдан узга ибодатга сазовор илох йуқ, Мухаммад у зотнинг росулидир

Uzbek (Latin script – O‘zbek)– Tanxo Alloxdan uzga ibodatga sazovor ilox yuq, Muxammad u zotning rosulidir

Uzbek (Arabic Script – Chagatai) – تانخو اللهدان اوُزگا عبادتگا سازوڨور إلٰه يوُق، محمّد اوُ زوتنيڭ رسوُليدير

Venetian (Vèneto) – Dio el xe uno solo e Maometo el xe el so profeta

Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt) – Không có thần linh nào khác ngoại trừ Thượng Đế (Allah), và Muhammad là Người đưa tin (Thiên Sứ) của Thượng Đế

Vietnamese (Chữ Nôm/字喃) – (image)

Visayan (Bisaya) – Walay diyos na lahi’ maura jud ang Allah ug si Muhammad ang iyang sugo’

Walloon (Walon) – N’ a rén diu.. Allah.. et Mawoumet est  li messaedjî d’Allah (incomplete)

Welsh (Cymraeg) – Nid oes Duw ond Duw a Mohamed yw Negesydd Duw

Yiddish – קיינער איז נישט ווערט מען זאל אים דינען נאר גאט אליין, און אז מוחמד איז דער שליח פון גאט  (image)

Yiddish (Latin script) – Keyner iz nisht vert men zol im dinen nor got aleyn, un Muchamad iz der sheliyekh fun got


Latin script – lā ‘ilāha ‘illallāh muħammadur-rasūlullāh  

French variation – lâ ilâha illallâh, Muhammadur-rasûlullâh

International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) – læː ʔɪlæːhæ ʔɪlːallˁːaːh mʊħæmːædʊ̃ rːasʊːlʊlˁːaːh

Amharic ላኢላሃኢለሏህ ሙሃመድ ረሱሉሏህ (image)

Armenian – Լա իլահա իլլալլահ Մուհամմադու ռասուլուլլահ

Braille (Arabic Braille) (image)

Greek script – Λά ιλάχα ιλλ Αλλάχ Μουχαμμαντουρ ρασουλουλλάχ

Georgian Script – ლა ილაჰა ილლ ალლაჰ მუჰამმადუ რასულულლაჰ

Ashuri (Hebrew) script – לַא אִלַּהַה אִלַּאלְלַה מֻחַמַּד רַסוּלֻלְלַה – [with vowels] (image)
לא אלהה אלאללה מחמד רסולללה – [without vowels] (image)

Japanese script – ラー・イラーハ イッラッラー ムハンマド ラスールッラー (image)

Devangari (Hindi) – ला इलाहा इल अल्लाह मुहम्मद उर्रसूल अल्लाह (image)

Cyrillic (Russian) script – ля Иллаха Иль-ла Аллах Мухаммаду расулуллах

Cyrillic – Chechen variation – ЛаилахIа иллаАллахI, Мухьаммадур расулуллaхI

Cyrillic – Bashkir variation – Ләә иләәһә илләл-лааһү Мүхәммәдүр-расүүлүллааһ

Coptic Alphabet – (image)

Korean라 일라하 일랄라 모함메단 라술울라 [kalimah] (image)
아슈하두 안 라일라하 일랄라 와 아슈하두 안나 모함메단 라술울라 –

Lontara Script – ᨒᨕ ᨕᨒᨕᨖᨕ ᨕᨒᨒᨕᨒᨒᨕᨖ ᨆᨕᨖᨕᨆᨆᨕᨉᨕ ᨑᨕᨔᨕᨘᨒᨕᨒᨒᨕᨖ

Malayalam – ലാ ഇലാഹ ഇല്ലല്ലാഹ്, മുഹമ്മദര്‍ റസൂലുല്ലാഹ്

Morse Code (Arabic) –   •-••   •-       •-   •-••   ••••       •-   •-••       •-   •-••   •-••   ••••       —   ••••   —   -••       •-•   •••   •–   •-••       •-   •-••   •-••   ••••

N’ko Alphabet – (image)

Osmanya Alphabet – (image)

Phoenician Alphabet – (image)

Sabaean Alphabet – (image)

Syriac (Madnḥāyā/Eastern script) – ܠܵ ܐܝܠܵܗܲ ܐܝܠܠܐܠܠܵܗ ܡܘܚܲܡܡܘܕ ܪܲܣܘܼܠ ܐܠܠܵܗ (image)

Telugu Alphabet – లా ఇలాహ ఇల్లల్లాహు ముహమ్మదుర్ రసూలుల్లాహ్ (image)

Ugaritic Cuniform –  (image)

July 2, 2008

As-Salāmu `Alaykum!

Filed under: Islamic Terms — abuaisha @ 12:24 pm

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

English Transliteration: As-Salāmu `Alaykum wa Raħmatullāhi wa Barakātuhu

English Translation: May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of God be upon you all

IPA Spelling: ʔæsːæˈlæːmʊ ʕæˈlæɪkʊm wæ’raħmætʊlˤːahɪ wæ’bærakæːtʊhʊ

What great words to initiate my first posting with. May the Peace of God be with you all!

This greeting, the ‘Salam’ is used throughout the world by the approximate 1.7 billion Muslims to greet each other daily, it is the greeting which is truly the most universal of greetings used by mankind. Whether you be as far west as Morocco or as far east as Japan or Brazil, one can hear the Salam being used not just by Muslims but even by non-Muslims. As such its definitely an interesting phrase to look at from a linguistic perspective.

In Classical Arabic, the spelling of the greeting in IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) would be: /ʔæsːæ’læːmʊ ʕæ’læɪkʊm wæ’raħmætʊlˤːaːhɪ wæ’bærakæːtʊhʊ/ however, other than in ‘religious’ gatherings and talks, one might usually hear the greeting adjusted to the pronunciation of localised Arabic dialects or with accents from other languages. The difference in pronunciation is never so great as to be unintelligible so the greeting is always understood.

Some example of the different ways in one might hear the Salam being said around the world –

  • Morocco: ss’lēmu ‘leikum IPA /sːəleːmʊ ʕleikum/
  • India: asalāmu aleikum IPA /asalaːmʊ ʔaleɪkʊm/
  • Japan: assarāmu areikum IPA /asːʌɾaːmʊ ʔaɾeɪkʊm/
  • Lebanon: selēm ‘aleikum IPA /sɛleːm ʕalɛɪkʊm/
  • Turkey: selâmun aleyküm IPA /selaːmʊn ʔeleɪkym/

NOTE: Not all of the letters from the IPA will be displayed properly on all computers as the font may not be supported. Also some symbols may incorrectly displayed, I have found that some letters are displayed wrongly as other letters on some computers.

It is rather common amongst Arabic speakers to omit the ‘As-‘ at the beginning of the greeting, this can be seen in the Moroccan and Lebanese examples given. The Turkish form bears similarity to the alternative from of the Salam ‘Salāmun `Alaykum’ as mentioned in the Qur’ān –

And angels shall enter unto them from every gate (saying) Salāmun `Alaykum (peace be upon you) for you persevered in patience! Excellent indeed is the final home!’— (Ar-Ra’ad 13:23-24)

Along with the different ways to pronounce the Salam, there are also variations that one might encounter according to the rules of Arabic grammar. The reason for this is that the term `Alaykum is used for the plural which in Arabic means 3 or more people, however it may also be used in the singular and indeed mostly is. The following forms are used to identify the gender and number of recipients of the Salam in Arabic –

(note that the final letter which is in the brackets may be omitted in speech)

  • As-Salāmu `Alayk(a) — Peace be upon you (m. sing.)
  • As-Salāmu `Alayk(i) — Peace be upon you (f. sing)
  • As-Salāmu `Alaykumā —Peace be upon you (to two people of any gender)
  • As-Salāmu `Alaykunn(a) — Peace be upon you (f. plural – to three or more females)
  • As-Salāmu `Alaykum — Peace be upon you (plural or may be used for singular especially as a polite form)

Inshā’ Allāh (God willing) I will later add some information on the ettiquettes of giving Salam, however for now this should suffice as a good brief introduction to the greeting. Don’t forget to greet each other now with an improved pronunciation ‘As-Salāmu `Alaykum!’

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