How has Arabic Influenced the Middle East?
By Daniel Botros
Throughout the Western world, people’s perception of the Middle East is dominated primarily by Hollywood’s depiction of camels in deserts, terrorists, and of course, the pyramids. However, when pealing back this “outsider’s” view of the region, the Middle East reveals itself to be this exceptionally culturally rich place. And at the core of this is the language of the region, Arabic.
Arabic has had a significant influence on the culture of the Middle East. The most important of these contributions is its inherent connection to Islam. Many people think that the Qur’an was simply written in Arabic by chance, or that Mohammed speaking Arabic was a coincidence. However, Muslims have a completely different perspective. They believe that Arabic was designated as the divine language. In fact, when Muslims pray to Allah, regardless of whether or not Arabic is their native language, they must pray in Arabic. This demonstrates how highly Arabic is valued in the Middle East, even to the point where it is perceived to be a Holy language, the language chosen by Allah in order to convey his message to humanity.
In addition, an awareness of Allah is exhibited in the most common Arabic expressions that are used throughout the Middle East. For instance, a common response to “How are you?” is “Alhamdulillah” (الحمد لل), meaning Praise be to God. Or when expressing hope for a future event, one might say “Inshallah” (إن شاء الل), meaning God Willing. And even in exclamations of amazement, people often say “Mashallah”( ما شاء الل), meaning What God wills. Arabic and its relation to Islam are practically inseparable from one another. However, even I, an Arabic-speaking Christian, often find myself using these phrases, not just because they are so common in the culture, but because they have the capability to express such a deep, spiritual meaning in a concise and eloquent manner.
Seeing that Arabic and Islam are so intrinsically linked, we can now understand that the impact of Islam on Middle Eastern Culture can also be seen in terms of Arabic’s influence on Middle Eastern culture. The very presence of Islam in the Middle East is the result of Arabic’s prevalence in the region. Therefore, all of the cultural customs, traditions, and ideologies are influenced by the Arabic language.
That being said, Islam is a contributing factor to the volatility of the region. The Middle East is the birthplace of all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Seeing that it has such a complex historical background, the region is still highly unstable to this day. Whether it be over territorial disputes or religious ideologies, there always seems to be some sort of conflict in the Middle East. And a large part of this conflict is the result of religious extremist groups, particularly Muslim terrorist groups. That being said, Arabic has become indistinguishable from the idea of terrorism, especially in the West. And this has caused many people to fear the language, rather than embracing it for the rich cultural impact that it can have. I urge you to look beyond this primitive way of thinking and consider the Arabic language as an opportunity to enrich the culture of your communities.