August 23, 2023

Gabriel Sawma - The Aramaic Language of the Qur'an

"The Qur'an, Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread: The Aramaic Language of the Qur'an" By Gabriel Sawma. 

An excerpt from, "The Qur'an, Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread: The Aramaic Language of the Qur'an" (Pg.74-75):

The history of the Arabic alphabet, however, does not begin with the Qur'an. The Nabataean Arab Kingdom stretched from the northern Hijaz into present-day Jordan and westward into Nejev and Sinai. At the height of their power, they controlled Damascus, the capital of modern Syria. Their official language was a dialect of Aramaic. It was written in a special Nabataean script, which developed from the Aramaic.

The Arabs did not have an alphabet to write Arabic; instead, they used a system of writing devised by Syriac. Just as the Greeks did when they borrowed their alphabets from Phoenicia, the Romans from the Greek. The Arabs too borrowed their writing system from Syriac.

The most important pre-Islamic Arabic script is known as the Namarah Inscription, found eighty miles southeast of Damascus in 1901. The script is identified as precursor to the Arabic language. There are few Aramaic loanwords, but is essentially a Nabataean script, developed from Aramaic. Archaeologists date the inscription to 328 A.D. It is an epitaph on a tombstone of a known historical figure, Imru' ul-Qays, son of "amr", who was king of the Lakhmid dynasty of al-Hira." The script shows no notation at all for an open-quality vowel or for any short vowel. Long /u/ and /i/ are marked by ambiguous letters serving also for consonantal values /w/ and /y/.

Throughout the period (between 328 A.D. and 643 A.D.), there are five inscriptions represent the history of early Arabic epigraphy. In contrast to the countless number of Syriac, Greek, and Latin inscriptions and written manuscripts that are found in the same region. The five Arabic inscriptions are found in Jabal Ramm, about fifty kilometers east of the Jordanian port of Aqabah, Umm al Jimal, Zebed near Aleppo, Jabal Usays near the Safa, about one hundred miles east of Damascus and the fifth was found Harra in the Leja district south of Damascus. 

Apart from the Namarah and a few others inscriptions, the earliest surviving document of written Arabic is the Qur'an. Early Arabic script employed to record the Qur'an, shares several characteristics with the Namarah script such as the use of symbols, which hold resemblance in their shapes to denote distinct letters, as in the case of the letters /b/, /t/, and /th/. With the development of the Arabic writing system, more subtleties and refinements were added. It was not until the eighth century A.D. that the use of diacritical marks was introduced to secure the correct reading of the Qur'an. The diacritical system was borrowed from the Syriac script, it employed short vowels, marked by symbols placed above or below the consonant, which they followed in speech. Other symbols placed above the letter marked the absence of a following vowel (sukun), and other, the endings in the inflection of nouns and the moods of verbs, are similar to the Syriac traditions. 

In the early centuries of Islam, there were two distinct scripts: cursive and Kufic. Cursive was employed for everyday use. Kufic script was used to write down religious materials, it was developed in Kufa, an Islamic city in Mesopotamia, founded in 638 A.D. The actual connection between the city and the script is not clear yet. The earliest copies of the Qur'an that have survived are dated from the eighth to tenth centuries, they are written on parchments. It was also used for writing on stone, or metal, or carving inscriptions on the walls of mosques, and for lettering on coins.

Video Title: Syriac Aramaic Quran PhD Gabriel Soma and Brother Rashid. Source: Light For all Nations [backup]. Date Published: October 24, 2021.