Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arabic writing and an Islamic conundrum.

A shocking statistic I once read, I can't remember where off hand and apologize if I'm way off, is that more books have been written or translated into Spanish in the last year than have been written or translated into Arabic in the last thousand years. Bash me over the head if my statistic is faulty. This is the internet, not everything is 100% reliable.
I've said before that the Arabic language changes from country to country. Some Arabic authors write in their local dialects, such as Naguib Mahfouz. Others, and I would guess the majority of authors, write in classical Arabic. Unfortunately, their numbers are startlingly low, and most Arabs I know prefer reading in their second language, English, French, etc. The only Arabic book they read us usually the Koran.
This concerns me for a few reasons. Islamic faith, as I see it, is based on the acceptance of the Koran as a miracle, shown through its poetic genius. The weaker their society becomes in their ability to read, produce, and study literature, including poetry, the fewer people there are and the less ability they have to accept and prove that the Koran is indeed a miracle.
To some degree, this can be explained. Arabic is spoken in regional dialects, which have strayed to varying degrees from the Arabic spoken in the Koran. The result is somewhat like the Latin effect. A hundred years ago even, Latin was the educated language throughout Europe. Books were churned out in Latin. Within a decade or so, Latin seemed to all but fall off except to a select few people following the path of the church. Sure it is studied, but have you ever heard two people debating in Latin?
The Koran seems to have held the Arab World's languages closer together than Latin has. However there are significant differences, enough to stop people from understanding each other from one country to the next. A good example is how students who study classical Arabic in the West, come to Egypt and Morocco and get nowhere. My Egyptian is better understood here than my classical Arabic thanks to Egyptian television being dominant in the Arab world.

My point - Arabic writing and an Islamic conundrum: It's a dangerous thing when the interpretation of what people accept as divine truth (The Koran) is compromised by their diminishing ability to comprehend it.

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