How Muslims Contributed to English and other Languages across the Globe

Muslim writer
Photo 165852118 © Golib Tolibov | Dreamstime.com

Languages are some of the most interesting creations in existence. This is what Almighty Allah (SWT) said about languages in the Quran:

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge. – Quran 30:22

Al-Jabr to Algebra

As you can see, the importance of language is highlighted in the Quran and is seen as one of the impressive creations and signs from Almighty Allah (SWT). Another interesting thing that is not known to many people is that Muslims have contributed massively to not just English but many other languages in different parts of the globe. In this piece, we are going to take a look at these forms of interesting contributions by Muslims.

For English, many of the words in regular use today came from the Muslims and were derived from Arabic. These include words like algebra (al-jabr), sugar (sukkar), alcohol (al-kuhul), magazine (mahazeen), alchemy (al-kimiya), cotton (qutn), and many others. But as stated in the sections above, English is not the only language that has contributions from Muslims.

Enriching Catalan

Catalan is another language that has massive contributions from Muslims and the Arabic language and there is a good justification for this. For almost 800 years, Muslims ruled the Iberian Peninsula (now made up of Spain and Portugal but formerly referred to as Al-Andalus). As a result of these long years of rule by Muslims, so many words in the Catalan language today came from Muslims. These words are so numerous that they run into the hundreds.

At this point, it is only logical that illustrations are provided. Examples of words in the Catalan language that were derived from Arabic include noria (waterwheel), barnus (bathrobe), safanoria (carrot), alfals (alfalfa), matalaf (mattress), sequia (irrigation ditch) and so many others that are just too numerous to be listed out here. It is also very interesting to know that many places in Spain today have retained the names given to them in Arabic and these include Almassora, Alzira, Alicante, and many others.

Influence on Portuguese

Another language that has a lot of Muslim influence on it is Portuguese and this also has a historical basis for it. In the period starting from the 9th century to around the 13th century, there were long-standing interactions between Muslims and the Portuguese especially in what was then Moorish Iberia. These interactions over the years led to words like azeite (olive oil), aldeia (village), alface (lettuce), and many others. Sicilian language is another example of the influence of Muslims on languages. In the Sicilian language, words like cafisu, gebbia, zibibu, azzizzari, and many others were contributed by Muslims.

As seen in this piece, Muslims are truly created to be a blessing to all of humanity. Wherever we find ourselves, Almighty Allah (SWT) has admonished us to ensure that we contribute positively to whatever space or niche we find ourselves. That is exactly what Muslims have done over the years by contributing to the vocabularies of various languages worldwide. May Allah (SWT) provide ease in all our affairs, aameen.