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Arabic schools

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Arabic language

The Arabic language, is the largest member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family (classification: South Central Semitic) and is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. It is spoken throughout the Arab world and is widely studied and known throughout the Islamic world. Arabic has been a literary language since at least the 6th century and is the liturgical language of Islam. Because of its liturgical role, Arabic has lent many words to other Islamic languages, akin to the role Latin has in Western European languages. During the Middle Ages Arabic was also a major vehicle of culture, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy, with the result that many European languages have also borrowed numerous words from it. The written form of the language flows from right to left as opposed to most Western languages which flow from left to right.

Arabic and Islam

The Qur'an is expressed in Arabic and traditionally Muslims deem it impossible to translate in a way that would adequately reflect its exact meaning—indeed, until recently, some schools of thought maintained that it should not be translated at all. A list of Islamic terms in Arabic covers those terms which are used by all Muslims, whatever their mother tongue. While Arabic is strongly associated with Islam (and is the language of salah, prayer), it is also spoken by Arab Christians, Oriental Mizrahi Jews, and smaller sects such as Iraqi Mandaeans.

A majority of the world's Muslims do not speak Arabic, but only know some fixed phrases of the language, such as those used in Islamic prayer, without necessarily knowing their meaning. However, learning Arabic is an essential part of the curriculum for anyone attempting to become an Islamic religious scholar.

Dialects and descendants

"Colloquial Arabic" is a collective term for the spoken languages or dialects of people throughout the Arab world, which, as mentioned, differ radically from the literary language. The main dialectal division is between the North African dialects and those of the Middle East, followed by that between sedentary dialects and the much more conservative Bedouin dialects. Speakers of some of these dialects are unable to converse with speakers of another dialect of Arabic; in particular, while Middle Easterners can generally understand one another, they often have trouble understanding North Africans (although the converse is not true, due to the popularity of Middle Eastern—especially Egyptian—films and other media).

One factor in the differentiation of the dialects is influence from the languages previously spoken in the areas, which have typically provided a significant number of new words, and have sometimes also influenced pronunciation or word order; however, a much more significant factor for most dialects is, as among Romance languages, retention (or change of meaning) of different classical forms. Thus Iraqi aku, Levantine fih, and North African kay?n all mean "there is", and all come from Arabic (yakun, fihi, ka'in respectively), but now sound very different.

The major groups are:

    * Egyptian Arabic
    * Maghreb Arabic (Algerian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, Maltese and western Libyan)
    * Levantine Arabic (Western Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and western Jordanian, Cypriot Maronite Arabic)
    * Iraqi Arabic (and Khuzestani Arabic) - with significant differences between the more Arabian-like gilit-dialects of the south and the more conservative qeltu-dialects of the northern cities
    * Gulf Arabic (Eastern Saudi Arabia, Western Iraq, Eastern Syrian , Jordanian and parts of Oman)
    * East Arabian Arabic (Bahrain, Saudi Eastern Province, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, and Oman)
Other varieties include:

    * Hassaniya (in Mauritania and western Sahara)
    * Andalusi Arabic (extinct, but important role in literary history)
    * Sudanese Arabic (with a dialect continuum into Chad)
    * Hijazi Arabic (west coast of Saudi Arabia, Northern Saudi Arabia, eastern Jordan, Western Iraq)
    * Najdi Arabic (Najd region of central Saudi Arabia)
    * Yemeni Arabic (Yemen to southern Saudi Arabia)
Maltese, which is spoken on the Mediterranean island of Malta, is the only one to have established itself as a fully separate language, with independent literary norms. It falls within the Maghreb Arabic group, although numerous sound changes have rendered it phonologically very different from its nearest relative, Tunisian Arabic. It also contains a large number of Italian and English borrowings.