Arabic is a spiritual language–any Semitic language is. Hebrew, Ge’ez, Syriac, and Arabic all have the quality of something formed out of people who worship.
When compared to Germanic languages–which are languages made to work and to tell–Semitic languages have such a caressing poetic essence.
Arabic, in particular, has a cadence, a walk of its own that was before factories, colonialism and savagery. It’s a language of poetry, enunciation, forbearance of a stronger message.
Hence, in Arabic–which, mind you, is a derivative of Syriac, the language Christ spoke while on earth, in Palestine–there are many a nuanced divine words in regular speech.
It’s always been a thing of intrigue for me to think of what language promotes in the individual, in the culture. For instance, English is a short, draft language–very utilitarian. Hence, English “culture” is based on being brief, capitalizing on time, and efficiency, whereas in Arabic, a poet’s language, is based on elongating time and finding in a meaning in the void. Hence, when one is in Cairo, the cafes never close, the words never finish–there’s always meaning somewhere, even in idleness. Thus, Cairo and London, although both cities, have different feels–because they have different languages, different peoples, different cultures.
(I should take the time perhaps to say that I am no linguist, so, although disagreements are always welcomed with reason, especially now is needed.)
Arabic, to me, promotes a beautiful religion.
There’s a particular phrase that one will hear from Arabic-speakers often: InshAllah. It’s one word when transcribed into English, because of how commonly fast it is, but it’s actually three separate words in Arabic.
And although it’s often translated as “God willing,” the phrase (note: it’s not a sentence; it attaches itself to sentences)–the phrase itself implies a sense of drifting: “that God wills.” InshAllah, then, holds itself as a dream, a hope, a kind of quick prayer.
What’s more, this quick prayer that hears even the smallest of our conversations, even the smallest of our desires, is said so often:
“Are you about to finish school?” -“InshAllah.”
“When are you getting that new car, after your new promotion?” -“InshAllah, soon.”
It’s the kind of phrase, attached or unattached, that bears so much meaning to Arabic-speakers: my cousin once joked that whenever he hears his mother say, “InshAllah,” he knows then that it’s a no.
Three words in Arabic made into one word in English is brought to denote several emotions: the caustic InshAllah when your friend says she won’t speak to that boy again, the sorrowful InshAllah when your immigration application is still in loop with USCIS, the happy InshAllahs at engagement parties as every guest comes to greet you and say, “Congrats–may God protect you,” the InshAllah you add on the phone when you have nothing to say to him.
If I ever taught a Middle Eastern cultures class, this is the phrase I would begin with, ask that anyone traveling to the Middle East–whether it’s war-mangled Syria or to Islamic/Shite Iran or to the most-populated country, Egypt–know this phrase/word/sentence, understand this phrase/word/sentence, because this phrase/word/sentence brings us back to the beauty of the Middle East.
It’s not just the cradle of life, or the mother of humanity. The Middle East isn’t just history–like Jericho or Jesus–although this is a big part of it.
The Middle East is a peoples.*
*not a typo
And we understand that by InshAllah–because no matter the back-breaking worries, the wilderness of tribulations, the blood scattered on a plain, or the words dropped as molten rock, there will always be an uncle in Cairo or Baghdad or Jerusalem or Aleppo smoking, watching the world pass as a dream, his beads in his right hand, muttering a prayer that God can will.