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Arabic Afrikaans was a form of Afrikaans that was written in Arabic script. It began in the 1830s in the madrasa in Cape Townmarker.


74 Arabic Afrikaans texts still exist. The first, the "Hidyat al-Islam", is dated 1845, but its manuscript no longer exists. The oldest existing manuscript, which describes the basic Islamic learning, was written by the imam Abdul-Kahhar ibn Abdul-Malik in 1868. The most professional version was written in 1869 by Abu Bakr Effendi. He had come from Kurdistanmarker to the Cape in 1862.

Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens

One of the best examples of this literature was Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens ("Exposition of the Religion"), a book laying out Islamic traditions according to the Hanafi religious law. Written by Abu Bakr Effendi, it was printed using Arabic script throughout, but contained transcriptions of Afrikaans.

According to one of the 3 experts in this field, the German Hans Kähler, about 20 people were responsible for the text, but the most important contributors to Arabic Afrikaans opinion were:
  • Abdul Kahhar ibn Hajji Abdul Malik (early 19th century)
  • Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Baha ud-Din (mid-19th century)
  • Ismail ibn Muhammad Hanif (mid-19th century)
  • Abd ur-Rahman ibn Muhammad Al-Iraqi (late 19th century), and
  • Abu Bakr Effendi (late 19th century).

This is a paragraph of the book Uiteensetting van die godsdiens:
  • Transcription of the Arabic-alphabet text. The italics mark Arabic-language words:
  • :Iek bagent diesie kitab met Allah (ta'ala) sain naam. Allah (ta'ala) es rizq giefar ien dunya fer al wat liefandag ies. Allah (ta'ala) es beriengar ien die gannat ien dag ahirat fer al die miesie an djinns wat oewhap iman gadoet het. Al die dank an parais es rieg fer Allah (ta'ala) alien. Allah (ta'ala) het gagief fer oewhans islam sain agama. Islam sain agama oek waas gawies fantefoewhar Ibrahim sain agama... An Allah (ta'ala) het gamaak die Qur'an rasulullah sain hadit fer seker dalil fer oewhans... An Allah (ta'ala) het galaat oewhans wiet die riegtie wieg fan die ilms an gahelp fer oewhans oewham ta lier ander miesie oewhap die riegtie manierie.
  • Translation into modern standard Afrikaans:
  • :Ek begin hierdie boek met Allah (hy is verhewe) se naam. Allah (h.i.v.) is onderhoudgewer in die wêreld vir al wat lewendig is. Allah (h.i.v.) is brenger in die paradys in die laaste dag vir al die mense en djinns wat oop iman gedoen het (m.a.w. in die geloof gesterwe het). Al die dank en prys is reg vir Allah (h.i.v.) alleen. Allah het gegee vir ons Islam se godsdiens. Islam se godsdiens ook was gewees vantevore Abraham se godsdiens...En Allah (h.i.v.) het gemaak die Koran en die profeet se hadit vir seker bewys vir ons...En Allah (h.i.v.) het gelaat ons weet die regte weg van die godsdienswetenskappe en gehelp vir ons om te leer ander mense op die regte manier.

The Arabic-alphabet version uses an Arabic word in several places where modern Afrikaans uses a Germanic word, e.g. dunya دنيا for wêreld, meaning "world"


An example that used Arabic vowels was a handwritten Arabic - Afrikaans bilingual Koran (perhaps written in the 1880s). In it, for example, Surah 67 verse 1 says :
  • Arabic: tabāraka 'llaðī biyadihi 'lmulku تَبَارَكَ ٱللَّذِيْ بِيَدِهِ ٱلْمُلْكُ = "Blessed be he in whose hand [is] the kingdom."
  • Afrikaans: °n dī kūnuň skap is bīdī hūka Allah ta`ālā °n vārlik Allah ta`ālā is bās fir aldī its
  • : ان دي كُوْنِڠْ سْكَپْ اس بِيْدِيْ هُوْكَ الله تعالا ان ڨَارْلِكْ اللـه تعالَا اِسْ بَاس فِـَرْ اَلْدِيْ اِتْسْ
    • = "En die konungskap is by die hoege Allah ta`ālā en waarlik Allah ta`ālā is baas vir al die iets."
    • meaning: "And the kingship is with the high Allah (may he be exalted) and truly Allah (may he be exalted) is master for all things."
    • (° = vowel sign missing, ň = "ng" as in "king", ` = ayin, underlined = in Arabic.)
Here in the Afrikaans text:
  • [ň] is written as ayin but with three dots above ڠ.
  • [v] is written as [f] but with three dots above ڤ.
  • [f] in "fir" has both an [a] vowel and an [i] vowel.
  • As in Koran Arabic the letter of prolongation in [ī] and [ū] has sukūn.

  • The Afrikaans preposition by is written as part of the next word, likely by copying Arabic language usage with some prepositions.
  • The Afrikaans word al = "all" is written as part of the next word, likely by copying Arabic language usage with al- = "the".
  • In فِـَرْ the 'a' vowel was handwritten straight above the 'f', but the limitations of Unicode typesetting have pushed it to the left in this copy.

Arabic under Apartheid

The apartheid regime was reluctant to openly acknowledge the influence of other languages spoken in South Africa on Afrikaans, since Afrikaans was purported to be a pure language of Afrikaner and Christian origin , and therefore a unique treasure of the Afrikaners. Today efforts are being made to assess Afrikaans and its origin more honestly, and to acknowledge the contributions, especially in vocabulary, of other languages (e.g. Bantu, Khoisan, Portuguese and Malay). A major factor in this was the non-white Movement for Alternative Afrikaans, that succeeded in getting non-standard Cape Afrikaans recognized. Yet the role of Arabic Afrikaans in this emancipatory movement is as yet unclear.


  1. Michael Cook, The Koran, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-19-285344-9, p. 93
  3. Ria van den Berg, "Standard Afrikaans and the different faces of 'Pure Afrikaans' in the twentieth century", in Nils Langer & Winifred V. Davies (edd.), Linguistic Purism in the Germanic Languages, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2005, ISBN 3110183374, pp. 144-165.
  • "Abu Bakr se 'Uiteensetting van die Godsdiens'", A. van Selms, 1979, North-Holland Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Oxford/New York. ISBN 0-7204-8450-2

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