3 thoughts on “kids”

  1. Therein lies a tale 🙂 In a nutshell, my sect, the Dawoodi Bohras, actually traces its origin from Fatimid Egypt, to Yemen, and then across the Arabian Sea to Gujarat, India. So my community is about 95% people of Gujarati origin. Since Gujarat was literally at the crossroads of the silk trade, Indians from Gujrat settled worldwide, from Kenya to Hong Kong (and of cours,e in modern times, emigrated to the West). So my community today is interesting in that we are all (mostly) ethnically Indian. The language of Gujrat, Gujarati, is basically our mother tongue, but over the centuries it’s vocabulary has increasingly been Arabicized (though the grammar and majority of every day words remain the same). The language is also written in the Arabic/Persian script (the latter includes certain consonants like “p” which do not exist in Arabic, but are needed in Gujarati). This hybrid is called “Lisan al-Dawat” (Language of the Mission), or “Dawat ni Zaban” which means the sam ething, except that “Zaban” is the original Gujarati word for “language” and “lisan” is the arabic word.

    All Bohras like me speak Lisan al Dawat, though with varying accents/levels of arabization. Almost all speak English as well, though Bohras living in France also speak French, those living in HK also speak Chinese, those living in Kenya also speak Swahili, etc. So I am merely bilingual whereas many in my community are trilingual (or more).

    As far as actual Arabic goes, only those Bohras involved in the clergy (especially those attending the two major seminaries in Surat, India and in Karachi, Pakistan, collectively known as Al Jamea tus Saifiyah) speak it as fluently as our native tongue(s). However every Bohra can read Arabic, because of the Qur’an. I can read Arabic reasonably well, though I do not understand it (apart from certain vocab words in my everyday use). The level of Arabic penetration is increasing in our community, but thats a multigenerational effort that began in earnest about a hundred years ago. I expect that my grandkids will probably speak Arabic from childhood and my daughter will probably learn it as a young adult if not earlier, whereas it will be hard for me to pick it up unless I do a formal language course.

    Sorry for the long winded answer 🙂

  2. Ah, I suppose I should actually answer your question. I am fully literate in English (of course) and speak Lisan al Dawat fluently (though sometimes clumsily). I can read Lisan al Dawat with effort, though Arabic is actually easier because of the diacritical marks. Of course I do not understand the Arabic I am reading whereas I can use context to help me understand a LD text. I cannot write in either Arabic or LD (apart from simple things like my name, bismillah, etc). While in Colombo, as at every annual Ashara observance, the sermons are delivered almost exclusively in Lisan al Dawat and that was the lingua franca of everyone in attendance. Portions of the sermons were delivered in pure Arabic for the benefit of the (small) Yemeni contingent, and often English words are used for emphasis. But overall, t was all LD.

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