Arabic is a semitic language closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. It is spoken as an official language in a total of 28 countries in the Middle East (such as Lebanon, Syrian, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, etc) and across North Africa (such as Egypt, Libya, Algeria, etc). Because of the special status accorded to Arabic in Islam, due to the Quran being written in Arabic, Muslims all over the world are expected to receive some formal instruction in the language to enable reading of the holy scripts.
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA)
Modern standard arabic is best charecterized as the form which resembles closest the classical (fus-ha) Arabic of the Quran, which is devoid of any regional accent and intelligble to all Arabic speakers. Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic are infact grammatically and sytanctically the same, the difference lies primarily in the extensive vocabulary of classical Arabic much of which is rarely used in Modern Standard Arabic. This is generally recognized as being the most eloquent variety of arabic. While Modern Standard Arabic is the only written form used across the entire Arab world, it’s spoken counterpart is usually confined to the media, used in news broadcasting , factual programs and to a lesser extent talk shows. In contrast, spoken Arabic differs greatly throughout the Arab world with every country possesing its own dialect, which are sometimes so different that they are mutually unintelligable.
The vast majority of spoken Arabic takes place in dialect all over the Arab world, however all educated Arabs ar expected to be able to converse in standard arabic when the need arises. This is particularly likely when two Arabs from different countries meet and the dialect of each is unfamiliar to the other.
Arabic and Islam
As the Quran is written in Arabic and much of it’s meaning is bound to the cultural context of 8th century Arabia , it is often deemed impossible to produce translations of words or phrases without losing some of the significance and poetic eloquence these same phrases hold in arabic. Because of this, Arabic has maintained it’s position of primacy as the language of Islam and despite the fact that the majority of the worlds Muslims are not Arabs , religious instruction in the texts of Islam still takes place in Arabic in all Muslim countries. This accounts for the knoweldge that many non-Arab Auslims have of the Arabic language although this is usually confined to a memorizing of a few phrases. Although Arabic and Islam are closely linked, there are non-Muslim communities of Arabs (Christians and Jews) throught the Middle East and North Africa who are not only native Arabic speakers but perform their worship and read their holy scripts in the Arabic language.