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Arabic Afrikaans

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Title: Arabic Afrikaans  
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Arabic Afrikaans

Arabic Afrikaans (Arabiese Afrikaans, اَرابيسي اَفريكانس) was a form of Afrikaans that was written in Arabic script. It began in the 1830s in the madrasa in Cape Town.


  • Texts 1
    • Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens 1.1
    • Qur'an 1.2
  • Arabic under Apartheid 2
  • References 3
  • See also 4


Arabisch-Afrikaans 1872

Seventy-four Arabic Afrikaans texts are extant. The earliest, the "Hidyat al-Islam", is dated 1845, though its source manuscript no longer exists. The oldest surviving manuscript, which describes the basic Islamic learning, was written by the imam Abdul-Kahhar ibn Abdul-Malik in 1868. The most professional version was written in 1869 by Abu Bakr Effendi, who came from Istanbul to the Cape in 1862.

Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens

One of the best examples of this literature was Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens ("Exposition of the Religion"), a book laying out Islamic traditions according to the Hanafi religious law. Written by Abu Bakr Effendi, it was printed using Arabic script throughout, but contained transcriptions of Afrikaans.

According to one of the three experts in this field, the German Hans Kähler, about 20 people were responsible for the text, but the most important contributors to Arabic Afrikaans opinion were:

  • Abdul Kahhar ibn Hajji Abdul Malik (early 19th century)
  • Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Baha ud-Din (mid-19th century)
  • Ismail ibn Muhammad Hanif (mid-19th century)
  • Abd ur-Rahman ibn Muhammad Al-Iraqi (late 19th century), and
  • Abu Bakr Effendi (late 19th century).

This is a paragraph of the book Uiteensetting van die godsdiens:

  • Transcription of the Arabic-alphabet text. The italics mark Arabic-language words:
    Iek bagent diesie kitab met Allah (ta'ala) sain naam. Allah (ta'ala) es rizq giefar ien dunya fer al wat liefandag ies. Allah (ta'ala) es beriengar ien die gannat ien dag ahirat fer al die miesie an djinns wat oewhap iman gadoet het. Al die dank an parais es rieg fer Allah (ta'ala) alien. Allah (ta'ala) het gagief fer oewhans Islam sain agama. Islam sain agama oek waas gawies fantefoewhar Ibrahim sain agama... An Allah (ta'ala) het gamaak die Qur'an rasulullah sain hadit fer seker dalil fer oewhans... An Allah (ta'ala) het galaat oewhans wiet die riegtie wieg fan die ilms an gahelp fer oewhans oewham ta lier ander miesie oewhap die riegtie manierie.
  • Translation into modern standard Afrikaans:
    Ek begin hierdie boek met Allah (hy is verhewe) se naam. Allah (h.i.v.) is onderhouer in die wêreld vir al wat lewendig is. Allah (h.i.v.) is bringer in die paradys in die laaste dag vir al die mense en djinns wat oop iman gedoen het (m.a.w. in die geloof gesterwe het). Al die dank en prys is reg vir Allah (h.i.v.) alleen. Allah het gegee vir ons Islam se godsdiens. Islam se godsdiens ook was gewees vantevore Abraham se godsdiens...En Allah (h.i.v.) het gemaak die Koran en die profeet se hadit vir seker bewys vir ons...En Allah (h.i.v.) het gelaat ons weet die regte weg van die godsdienswetenskappe en gehelp vir ons om te leer ander mense op die regte manier.

The Arabic-alphabet version uses an Arabic word in several places where modern Afrikaans uses a Germanic word, e.g. dunya دنيا for wêreld, meaning "world". The Arabic words are entirely unknown in Afrikaans.

Without the above Translation into modern standard Afrikaans (which is in itself not standard Afrikaans although much closer to it), it is nearly impossible for an Afrikaans-speaking person to understand the above Transcription of the Arabic-alphabet text. Some words do however appear to resemble phonetic transliterations between Arabic script and the version of Afrikaans spoken by Cape Coloured people, mixed with Dutch.

Islam arrived among the Malays during the early 15th century and these works were most likely teaching tools; a way for Muslim teachers to instruct Malay slaves in the Cape while not necessarily being able to speak Dutch very well or at all.


An example that used Arabic vowels was a handwritten Arabic–Afrikaans bilingual Koran (perhaps written in the 1880s). In it, for example, Surah 67 verse 1 says:[1]

Arabic: Afrikaans:
Original تَبَارَكَ اللّذِي بِيَدِهِ المُلكُ ان دي كُوْنِڠْ سْكَپْ اس بِيْدِيْ هُوْكَ الله تعالا ان ڤَارْلِكْ الله تعالَا اِسْ بَاس فَِرْ اَلْدِيْ اِتْسْ
Transliterated tabārak allaḏī biyadih-i l-mulk-u °n dī kūnuň skap is bīdī hūka Allah ta`ālā °n vārlik Allah ta`ālā is bās fir aldī its
In Conventional Afrikaans - En die koningskap is by die hoë Allah ta`ālā en waarlik Allah ta`ālā is die meester van alle dinge.
In English Blessed be he in whose hand [is] the kingdom. And the kingship is with the high Allah (may he be exalted) and truly Allah (may he be exalted) is master for all things.

(° = vowel sign missing, ň = /ŋ/ as in "king", ` = ayn, underlined = in Arabic.)

Here in the Afrikaans text:

  • /ŋ/ ň is written as ayn but with three dots above ڠ‎.
  • /v/ v is written as ڤ.
  • /f/ f in "fir" has both an /a/ vowel and an /i/ vowel.
  • The letter of prolongation in ī and ū has sukūn.
  • The Afrikaans preposition by is written as part of the next word, likely by copying Arabic language usage with some prepositions.
  • The Afrikaans word al = "all" is written as part of the next word, likely by copying Arabic language usage with al- = "the".

Arabic under Apartheid

The apartheid regime was reluctant to openly acknowledge the influence of other languages spoken in South Africa on Afrikaans. Until around 1900, Afrikaans was considered a dialect of Dutch and therefore not recognized as a separate language. Even today, Afrikaans and Dutch are considered mutually intelligible. As far as the Christian European origins of Afrikaans go, Afrikaans speakers in the Cape had to rely on the Dutch Statenbijbel which dated to 1618 (decades before Jan van Riebeeck came to the Cape). The first official translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was in 1933 by J. D. du Toit, E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and BB Keet. This monumental work established Afrikaans as "a pure and proper language" for religious purposes, especially amongst the deeply Calvinist Afrikaans religious community that had hitherto been somewhat sceptical of a Bible translation out of the original Dutch language to which they were accustomed.

Today efforts are being made to assess Afrikaans and its origin and contributions to it, especially in vocabulary, of other languages (e.g. Bantu, Khoisan, Portuguese and Malay[2]). A major factor in this was the non-white Movement for Alternative Afrikaans, that succeeded in getting non-standard Cape Afrikaans recognized.[3] Yet the role of Arabic Afrikaans in this emancipatory movement is as yet unclear.

Afrikaans is a West-Germanic language extremely close to the Dutch from which it originated and has been influenced by German, French and other languages, with a relatively small number of loanwords from Khoi and Bantu words which are mainly used as place names or in words like "karos" which have fallen into disuse as far as modern standard Afrikaans is concerned. Whether or not Arabic Afrikaans is a language per se, Arabic has had at least some influence in South Africa, even if only 2 or 3 words have been borrowed from Arabic. Additionally, the root of the Arabic word jihad is "jahada", meaning "he struggled", which is the term often used by black South Africans to refer to the fight against Apartheid, which included bombings of shopping centres, courthouses, a cinema (Sterland bomb) and at least one car bomb (the Church Street bomb on May 20, 1983).


  1. ^ Michael Cook, The Koran, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-285344-9, p. 93
  2. ^ "Afrikaans language, alphabet and pronunciation". 2011-08-15. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  3. ^ Ria van den Berg, "Standard Afrikaans and the different faces of 'Pure Afrikaans' in the twentieth century", in Nils Langer & Winifred V. Davies (edd.), Linguistic Purism in the Germanic Languages, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005, ISBN 3-11-018337-4, pp. 144-165.
  • "Abu Bakr se 'Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens'", A. van Selms, 1979, North-Holland Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Oxford/New York. ISBN 0-7204-8450-2 (online version [2])

See also

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