Let’s learn some Saudi Arabic – some essential and useful words


Whether in Saudi Arabia or not, having some knowledge or phrases of arabic is always useful. To begin with it is not only continuing to educate oneself and expand ones knowledge but you just never know when having some phrases or words can come in handy and save a day. Just knowing the basic greetings can go a long way towards respect and breaking down conservative barriers. So with this post I decided to share some essential and useful words. Of course I am writing them as they are pronounced phonetically in English. Anyone who is serious on wishing to learn the Arabic language should enroll in traditional classes as well as acquire some form of multimedia program to supplement between classes. Lastly for those interested and maybe already have some arabic and wishing to practice, if you are in the United States, check out the web site http://www.meetup.com. This web site provides information about “special interest groups” which get together in various locations throughout the United States bringing people together of common interest. I was a member of the meetup’s Arabic language group before I came to Saudi Arabia and found it very enjoyable, helpful and interesting.


Salaam alaikum – peace be with you (can be used anytime encountering an individual as a form of greeting)

Wa’laikum saalam – and also peace with you (response if you have been told salaam alaikum)

Beginning Key Words:

Maa? (what or what is)

Ismak (male) Ismik (Female) (your name)

Min faDlak (male) min faDlik (female) Please

Shukran (thank you)

SabaaH (morning)

Masaa’ (evening)

Sabaah al-khayr (good morning)

Masaa’ al-khayr (good evening)

Ana – (I)

Anta/anti (you distinguished by gender)

Huwa (he)

Hiya (her)

Min (from)

Ayna (where)

Shaay (tea)

Qahwa (coffee)

Ka’ka (cake)

Fee (in)

‘ala (on)

TaHt (under)

Fawq (above)

Amaam (in front of)

Waraa (behind)

Bi-jaanib (next to)

Kabeer (big)

Sagheer (small)

Qadeem (old)

Jadeed (new)

Jiddan (very)

Taweel (tall/long)

qaSeer (short)

ghaalee (expensive)

rakheeS (inexpensive)

jameel (beautiful)

qabeeti (ugly)

sameen (fat)

rafeee’ (thin)

ghareeb (strange)

maTaar (airport)

madrasa (school)

funduq (hotel)

bank (bank)

maT’am (restaurant)

maHaTTa (station)

Hadeeqa (park)

Jisr (bridge)

Shaari’ (street)

matHaf (museum)

ayna (where is)

I do not want this post to be overwhelming with lists of arabic words so I will stop here for now and will have future posts which introduce additional arabic words.

95 Responses

  1. ok, don’t blame me for not writing anymore,
    am learning now….

    PS you left out one of the most important words: what’s ”horse”???

  2. so if you are female does that mean you always say ”min Fadlik’?
    Or do you say ‘min Fadlik” if it is to a female and ”min Fadlak” to a male?

    In ”sabaah al-kayhr” what does al-kayhr mean?

    Why do the words for restaurant, station, and museum start with ”ma”?

    so is anta ”you” to a male and anti ”you” to a female?

  3. mabrook (Congratulations) Aafke…you are a good student.

    Yes; you say min fadlik to a female and min fadlak to a male.

    al-kayhr places the emphasis meaning ‘good’ whereas just sabbah indicates morning

    in regards to your question for restaurant, station and museum, now I am guessing but believe it is because they al originate from the same derivative. Here’s where our native arabic speakers need to step in!

    And anta (or pronounced enta) with a short ‘e’ sound is you to a male and entee is you to a female.

    Last but not least, horse is hassan.

  4. Sabaah al-khayr (EST)

    Great advice! I would add that if you have a particular destination in mind you should learn at least the basic words in the local dialect which may differ significantly from standard Arabic.
    In major cities, public libraries with audio-visual departments often have learning programs in standard and dialectal Arabic.
    Watching movies either at home or at the cinema is a good learning tool for both language and culture, whether the local culture, or the “septieme art”, including classics of Arab cinema and contemporary Arab directors.
    Children’s picture books and learning materials are often fun and colourful.
    A conversation exchange with a Arabophone who wants to practice English is another alternative to meet-ups.



  5. PS Asking your Arab friends and acquaintances the meaning of their names is a good vocabulary builder, and makes for a pleasant conversation,eg.:


  6. My question is a bit off topic but what is the signifigance of the Kabba in Makkah? Here in Riyadh I’ve noticed a lot of billboards with pictures of the Kabbah so I thought I would ask here.

  7. masa al khair ya habibti! kaifa halik al yaum?

  8. Excellent pointers, Chiara. And for those wanting to supplement their learning with a software application, I highly recommend Rosetta Stone. It is interactive, immersing and highly effective.

    Neffertiti: Shukran jazeline, habibti! Al humdillah al yaum. Schloneck enti?

  9. David, In Muslim belief, Kaaba is the house built by Abraham and his son Ishmael by order from God… it’s the direction to where Muslims pray. To read more about it check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaaba

  10. I find entertainment Media and daily rotunie habits the best ways to practice a new language… Whenever some of the Applicants asks me how to improve their English I always stress that taking courses in and out of the Kingdom will not benefit you if you do not have the will to learn the Language so you can use it. The ones that I see improve their English are the ones that include English activities in their hobbies.. for Example watching English movies without the subtitles and trying to understand them.

    I learned most of my English from Channel 3 (Aramco TV channel) when I was a child. Sure things are different for adults.. but I think as a Child I was mostly entertained and not in a hurry to perfect it.. which puts down a lot of people because they feel like they are stupid for not understanding things right away.

  11. This is cool. It would have been great to have audio attached to the link so you can hear how the words sound.

    My husband and I plan to take some beginning Arabic lessons. I’ve been thinking about Rosetta Stone…but honestly…for $300 plus I don’t know how committed I am to learn Arabic, when I don’t think I’ll really need it, however I do think it’s important to know a few basic phrases.

  12. David, this link provides information on the Kaba’s size and history:


  13. My advice to those interested in learning Arabic is not only make every effort to speak the language but master the alphabet. Simply by mastering the alphabet you will find yourself able to read (even if not necessarily comprehending all) and learn to write arabic too. Unlike English, while the arabic alphabet may look exotic, it is a “what you see is what you get” in regards to how the letters are pronounced; none of the confusion with English where you have silent letters, short letters, long letters, etc.!

    For speaking arabic, classes are good but practice is ever so essential. I found by watching Arabic tv (Tash ma Tash is a great one to follow) and watching the weather also helps familiarize one with names of various countries and numbers. My spouse also would have me routinely read the headlines of the Arabic newspapers to him and I quickly learned to recognize key words that seem to be repeated in global headlines.

    Most importantly – enjoy learning the language! I have found even when I make grammatical mistakes, Saudis are so appreciative that I make the effort to speak solely in Arabic.

  14. While learning a new language is always an endeavor best left to people that dont mind a little critical feed back…I find that more often than not Arabs will not actually bother to correct your mistakes. They might smile at you…they might make light of the matter…and they might even talk among themselves about how wonderful it is that you are trying to learn arabic…but from my experience and what others have said…they dont really like to point out your mistakes and correct you. Im assuming this is because generally speaking Arabs dont like to point out mistakes and prefer to cover them up…to save face and prevent hard feelings etc…but when it comes to learning Arabic my Arab friends…we need all the help we can get…so dont be shy to speak up and correct us. We would appreciate it and certainly would learn a lot faster…Im just saying.

    Carol…reading Arabic is really quite easy once you’ve learned all the letters…your right…its basically what you see is what you get. Now I wish getting my tongue and throat to cooperate and make those impossible sounds correctly was just as easy…sigh.

  15. I was talking just yesterday with some folks about the sounds of some of the letters. We agreed that it is very difficult for Americans or Canadians or Brits to make those guttural sounds. Germans seem to have better luck in constricting the throat properly. Yes; some words I simply cannot pronounce correctly for I’ve not yet mastered the “kh” from the throat.

  16. Gertrude Bell on practising Arabic in Jerusalem:

    [11 January 1900] Jerusalem [(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)]. Jan. 11. Beloved Father […]
    I am just beginning to feel my feet after a fearful struggle.
    The first fortnight was perfectly desperate – I thought I should never be able to put two words together. Added to the fact that the language is very difficult, there are at least 3 sounds almost impossible for the European throat. The worst I think is a very much aspirated h. I can only say it by holding down my tongue with one finger, but then you can’t carry on a conversation with your finger down your throat, can you!

    From the excellent Newcastle University Gertrude Bell Project site:


    An excellent site with her diaries, letters, and photos online as well as a biography. All can be search using keywords. All her observations are interesting, including those on TE Lawrence. The woman is inspirational-with the possible exception of those pesky Iraq borders she drew.

    She is absolutely right about the correct pronunciation of “kh” or “gh”!

    Ana canadiya

  17. Oops, name error

    Afaf- virtuousness
    Amal – hope

    With apologies to my friends. I guess the bloggers here were too polite to correct me!


  18. I have been studying Arabic for over two years. I just got back from almost one month in Syria studying at a language school there. The problem is that most books, and Rosetta Stone and other learning aids focus on formal
    Arabic (al fussa) while most Arabs speak colloquial Arabic which varies from country to country. The result was that everyone could understand me when I spoke in formal Arabic(which is very cumbersome), but I had trouble understanding what people were saying to each other because there can be some big difference between formal and colloquial Arabic.
    I am told that Amazon,com has some colloquial Arabic books. I found a Syrian one online as well.

  19. Interesting post.

    It might be a good idea to point out that this isnt “Saudi Arabic” as there is no one type of “Saudi Arabic”.

    For instance, my family and I come from the Hijaz in Saudi Arabia, and our dialect is very different from the people of the Najd and how they speak. So you cant really talk about the “Saudi Arabic” because there are many forms of the language in the country.

    A good example; you said “qabeeti” means ugly. I’ve never heard of the word, unless you means “qabeehh”? I even looked it up in the dictionary and the word wasnt listed.

    Where my my family comes from in Mecca they just dont speak in the same manner as you have above. Arabic is much more diverse than say English. Not only is the way they say the words often different, even the words they use and how they put them together are very different.

  20. very good points in regards to how even in Saudi Arabia the arabic varies from province to province and there probably is not even a standardized “Saudi” version of arabic.

  21. Ah. The wonders of Arabic language: struggling to pronounce certain words and having to understand the various Middle Eastern dialects. But its all fun if people can appreciate the language.

    Funnily, I understand the colloquial Arabic I was taught back in kindergarten more than the dialect Arabic I hear. I’m trying to pick up the Arabic I lose through music but since most of the songs I hear are either in Lebanese, Khaleeji or Egyptian acccent, the terms I want to know inside the colloquial dictionary doesn’t even exist.

    Comparing Arabic and French, I would pick Arabic over French because expressing love in Arabic is like trying to blow into a cup of hot water to cool it down. Restrained and controlled, yet the meaning of the love and passion is there.

  22. The arabic poetry is incredible and an excellent motivator for learning arabic. The words lose much when attempting to translate from Arabic to English.

  23. Arabic has been on my list of ”Languages I want to learn” since I visited the Alhambra at 12 years old, because I wanted to learn the poems written on the walls of the Alhambra.

  24. Where and what is the Alhambra?

    I was mesmerized when I visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, India and saw how the entire Quran is written on the walls in the most beautiful arabic calligraphy. It is exquisite.

  25. Carol,

    The Alhambra is a structure in Spain built during Muslim rule there. Muslims would know the area as “Al Andalus”.

    Having been to the structure I can tell you it is one of the marvels of European history. You have to see it to believe it.


  26. Thanks Abu Sinan. You’ve certainly whet my appetite. I love the history of spain.

  27. thank you. that website was quite informative.

  28. Arabic, what a beautiful language! The language of Allaah, creator of the heavens and earth and all that there is and will ever be. The One whom has no beginning and no end. All worship belongs to alone with any partner. He is over all things omnipotent.

    There was an error though in the greeting, unfortunately. I am sure you are not interested in presenting Islam with these posts but Saudi’s culture so you may want to fix that error especially since the salam is not between the Non-Muslim Saudi’s. I am sure there are always exceptions to the rule (with non-Muslims) saying it however, it is not correct or proper.

    As Muslims all over the world we use the Islamic form of greeting, “Assalamu alaikum”, which means peace be to you only for eachother.

    The Prophet (May Allah exalt him) said: ‘A Muslim has a right against his fellow Muslim in six ways.’ When asked what were these, the Prophet (May Allah exalt him) said:

    ‘(1)When you meet him, greet him;
    (2) if he invites you, accept his invitation;
    (3) if he seeks your advice, give him an honest and sincere advice;
    (4) if he sneezes and praises God, bless him;
    (5) if he falls ill, visit him; and
    (6) if he dies, attend his funeral.’
    [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]

    The Hadith is clear in making it a duty of a Muslim to offer a greeting to his fellow-Muslim when they meet.

    “When a greeting is offered you, answer it with an even better greeting, or (at least) with its like. God keeps count of all things.”
    [Quran 4: 86]

    Assalaamu Alaikum is not for the disbelievers.

    The Prophet (May Allaah exalt him) said, “If the people of the Scripture greet you, then you should say (in reply), ‘Wa’alaikum (And on you).’

    So, you may have noticed that when you try and give salam to someone they may only reply ‘Wa’alaykaam’ if they do not believe you are a Muslim.

    The phrases are very useful though, thank you so much. You did an absolutely wonderful job compiling them and listing them. How very thoughtful of you.

    Sincerely & Gratefully
    Halimah bint David

  29. Oops (blush blush) I meant to say All worship belongs to alone with out any partner. He is over all things omnipotent.

  30. Bedu, I thought you were pulling my leg!
    Abusinan has put up a good link.
    You don’t read my blog!!!! ?

  31. “…if they do not believe you are a Muslim. ”

    Hate to be nit picky here…but why would Muslims be making such arbitrary judgments against others anyways…how can you determine whether a person is a Muslim or not merely by looking at them, or whatever you base your decision on, in that split second in which they greet you and you reply?

    Not to mention that our Prophet had the best of manners in all situations…to friend and enemy alike…seems rather odd to assume he held back in his greetings merely because he “judged” somebody as not Muslim…he of all people knew that that particular judgment was in the hands of God alone.

  32. American Bedu-Alhambra and Al Andalus (Sevilla, Toledo, Alicante, Ronda etc.) are very much worth the visit, probably especially Alhambra; and, Arabic poetry is very much worth the learning.

    Halimah et al.-“My Muslims” ( the ones I know, love, and respect) include everyone in their “assalaam alaikum”. I would assume the obligation to greet a fellow Muslim does not preclude greeting non-Muslims. I do appreciate the review of the 6 obligations, as they remind one as well of more general social (and cultural) obligations.

    Manal et al.-Dialects are indeed even further broken down locally. A friend has a doctorate in linguistics on Casablancan vs Rabati Moroccan.

    Such stimulating comments by all!

  33. Aafke – I do read your blog! (wide eyed look) but um, er, if you had written a post about Al Andalus I might have missed it and will have to look again.

    Chiara et al – I agree completely that there is no distinction between whom one greets with Salam Alaikum. Even non-Muslims greeting one another or greeting another Muslim with this form of greeting I think is a beautiful gesture. I’ve never seen anyone show offense. In all the places which I have lived which were predominantly muslim countries it was very very common and typical for all (muslims and non-muslims) to greet one another as such.

  34. Bedu!!!

    I think it very stuck-uppish to only wish salaam to other people if you’re sure they are muslim too!
    And very un-islamic!
    I read you’re supposed to greet everybody with peace.
    Besides, I thought you’d get kudo’s from Allah every time you wished somebody Sallam aleikum, no matter who they are. Seems you are missing out on a lot here.

    Salaam aleikum everybody?

  35. Carol-Here are a couple of thorough explanations regarding giving salaams and especially to non-Muslims-which Muslims should avidly avoid.

    “Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about the ruling on greeting non-Muslims. He replied as follows:

    Greeting a non-Muslim first is haraam and is not permitted, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Do not initiate the greeting with the Jews and Christians, and if you meet them in the street push them towards the narrowest part of it.” But if they greet us we have to respond to them, because of the general meaning of the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

    “When you are greeted with a greeting, greet in return with what is better than it, or (at least) return it equally”

    So, Muslims don’t initiate “Asalamu Walaikum” to non-Muslims, but you can return it if a non-Muslim initiates it. The Islamic greeting is a special right reserved for the Muslims to each other with the one approaching greeting the other-so that is how you would avoid giving it. Muslims should try to have the best of manners (like the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) so we return the greeting as he was recorded to do so, but again avoid initiating it.

    “If there is a need to greet a kaafir first, there is no sin in that, but it should be something other than the greeting of salaam, such as saying Ahlan wa sahlan or How are you, etc. In that case the greeting is for a reason, not to honour him.

    See al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 25/168. ”


    This one is a really nice explaination, it comes under the heading “Etiquette, Morals and Heart-Softeners » Manners » Manners of Greeting with Salaam”


    Love and Peace,

  36. Okay…I may not be popular but in spite of any rulings, etc., I will agree to disagree on greetings between muslims and non-muslims. In fact, during most of my time spent in muslim countries I have found myself being greeted the majority of times by muslims with “salam alaikum” and given I am a blond hair blue eyed American they cannot be positive that I am a muslim.

    Sorry….but saying it is prohibited for muslims to greet non-muslims with salam alaikum (peace be with you) just seems to contradict the teachings and rulings of islam and further gives islam a bad reputation of extremism and closedness which it is not.

  37. It just creates another “us” versus “them” situation…and doesnt foster communication or tolerance….so what would be the point of calling it the “Religion of Peace” if once again we have a situation where discontent will be felt and remembered?

  38. What a bloody revolting set of ”thorough explanations”. I am really disgusted. Convince me this is really Islam, and I’ll go completely Islamophobe!

    But as they are from Islam-qa who are a bunch of mysoginist creeps, and not above introducing a bit of bidah here and there when it suits them, I’m not convinced yet.
    From other stuff I read about the prophet he would never indulge in such bad manners himself. I will néver believe that is in the spirit of Mohammed’s teachings!

    Must be lovely to feel yourself so superior above all kaffirs, that you can even construct a lawful reason to show others how supreme you are to have a valid ”religious” commandment to be disgustingly rude.
    Amazing: a religious construct to condone low behaviour!
    *It’s haraam to be courteous to ”non-believers”* (even if they are people of the book)
    *You should push them towards the narrowest part of the street.*
    You know, I getting to feel all Bushy now. Yeah, bomb the whole f*^$# middle east.

  39. I love it when you get high spirited Aafke!

    And concur with you too Coolred!

  40. Carol-There is really quite a bit to respond to here, but I try to be minimal as it keeps for easier reading as well as it just isn’t necessary to hash over every erroneous detail regarding Islam on this blog in both comments and posts. I do try to write in an unharsh manner to you and apologize sincerely if I have not always been successful. Often I will write a comment then reread it later to try to be clear and unemotional. So, please accept the following in that light:
    If you read through the etiquettes of salaams from correct sources-which you are very fortunate to have access to in Saudi and living with native Arabic speakers- then you would better understand that withholding salaams are not meant to insult non-Muslims or be discourteous to them, rather the giving of salaams is one of the few rights Muslims have on each other and are meant to soften our hearts towards each other. We MUST greet each other, unlike people who will scorn each other by not greeting each other or even worse not returning a greeting. This is a beautiful thing and I am so sorry it is being used so hurtfully on your blog. Of course not all Muslims know this etiquette, but since you have addressed it on your blog, I would encourage you to learn the truth-not opinion/inference based on cross cultural interaction.
    Love and Peace,

  41. Brooke – appreciate your comment.

  42. Interseting post and discussion:)

    regarding saying Salam to non-muslims, it is porhobited only in the mind of extremeists !

  43. I continue to learn of such diverse views by having this blog and bringing up various topics of discussion!

    And…welcome Muslim Saudi!

  44. Muslim saudi: a big Salaam Aleikum to you

  45. Hopefully this will not start a huge debate or argument, but as I continue to think on those who feel one should not say Salam Alaikum to non-muslims as that is haraam…then what does that dare say or indicate of islam being the religion of peace and tolerance? Sorry…but in spite of how many religious scholars may be quoted here, this practice does not sound or feel right to me at all and personally I can not and will not adhere to it.

  46. It would indeed be disappointing if Islam were reduced to its harshest, most intolerant positions even if that were by its own sholars. The beauty of scholarship is its simultaneous rigour and complexity. I am confident that the totality of Islamic scholarship contains opposing views to those presented here. Unfortunately, as this is not one of my areas of specialization I cannot be the one to cite them.
    Cultural practice by Muslims themselves seems to bear witness to the acceptability and desirability of extending greetings of peace to others, particularly as it implies peace between the greeter and the receiver. That would seem to conform to Mohamed’s practice of humility and tolerance toward others.
    It is a known phenomenon that converts to any religion sometimes adopt the more restrictive view of that religion, either to get it right, to satisfy an internal psychological need, or due to social pressure.
    I mean no offense to anyone by this, but I do believe that Islam is a beautiful, tolerant religion of peace, which like all other religions can be selectively interpreted to a narrowed, divisive shadow of itself. Unfortunately, these days all too many people are willing to do so.
    In less intellectual terms: bravo Aafke, Coolred, American Bedu, and Muslim Saudi!

  47. even my own Saudi husband was surprised and saddened when I told him some views were expressed as not to exchange salams between muslims and non-muslims.

  48. Then again…scholars can put forth their opinions…and a Muslim can follow or not follow as they see fit…after all…as much as they may want to be right…feel they are right…believe they are right…we still have choice.

  49. Agreed.

    Ha! very brief this time!

  50. Aafke said: Why do the words for restaurant, station, and museum start with ”ma”?

    I’ll give you a brief explanation (lacking many details..smiles). The letter Meem (here) denotes a place…for example, the word kataba means (he) wrote…add meem and we get “maktab” meaning desk – a place of writing. Sajada means (he) prostrated…add meem and we get “masjid” – a place of prostration…you get it? There’s more to it and meem denotes other things, but this is it in a brief nut shell.

  51. Desert Diaries, Thank you for the explanation!:)

  52. or: shukran!?

  53. A+ Aafke!

    entee talabat mumtaza.

  54. Carol-Was your husband saddened by YOUR interpretaion of the exchanges or was he saddened by the words of The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, Ibn al-Qayyim or Al-Bukhaari. Without reading the actual exchange, he is only listening to your heresay; that’s The Truth across cultures.

  55. Maa nonsense?
    Antee are suggesting Bedu has told her زوج a twisted version of the comments?
    Antee don’t believe Bedu’s زوج can’t have an opinion which doesn’t accord with your’s???
    Antee will be very shocked that not all muslims will agree with your sagheer tunnel vision, but ana think you will just have to learn to live with it.

  56. This Slam issue is another one of these arguments that scholars disagree on. The link below provides a full explanation of a position that allows using Salam to non muslims.


    The bigger issue here is that there are Muslims that always accept the most hostile interpretation as the correct one. Then they back it up by naming scholars and bore us with their writings. The fact is in Islam the words and writings of any scholar are not sacred. We should question these interpretation of the religion when they do not pass the logic test. The Hadith that has been quoted here was in situation of hostility (it is situational). The logic test that a person should have applied, which should prompt them to research for a different opinion, is “why would a prophet of a peaceful religion ask his followers to push others to the side of the road” . But if you are a radical, you will accept such position without question, because someone interpreted it that way.

    And yes I am calling them radicals because only radicals think in such hostile terms and always look for ways to divide. Even bringing this negative topic up in unrelated situation, where someone just wrote a list of Arabic words to teach others how to speak the language, shows a sick prejudice mind.

    Just an opinion.

    End of rant.

    Salam to all Muslims and non-Mulims (radicals included).

  57. I can assure everyone that my husband forms his own views and opinions! (smile)

    It’s funny because if you take arabic classes at any institution or university or even acquire a book on arabic or traveling to the arab world, all discuss that the universal greeting is salam alaikum. Nowhere in a class or a book does it state there are conditions applied to whom one can greet or how to greet with the exception of men and women and suggested to forego extending the hand for a handshake.

    I have to agree with Saudi in the US and I think he ranted quite eloquently. I believe that some individuals do tend to take things to an extreme level which in turn not only give a bad perception of muslims but certainly turn them off on perhaps wishing to learn more about islam too. If one is always saying can’t can’t can’t , haram haram haram and so much is forbidden, it automatically makes individuals tune out – that’s human psychological nature.

  58. “If one is always saying can’t can’t can’t , haram haram haram and so much is forbidden, it automatically makes individuals tune out – that’s human psychological nature.”

    When I first read the Quran I found plenty of can’ts and harams, yet I accepted.

  59. But Brooke…most of the cant cant cant…haram haram haram…are not to be found in the Quran…so yes…most would be converts will find the Quran a beautiful thing…its extraQuranic material that you get all your “forbiddens” from.

  60. For the true muslims who don’t happen to ‘look’ like muslims, a partial greeting would be rude indeed. And ‘People of the Book’ are always included in the Quran among the true believers. They are the ones that muslim men are allowed to marry! How can anyone be sure of what one truly believes anyway? A person (in one’s opinion) might not be the ‘best-behaved’ muslim, but he/she is still a muslim. Just like not all Christians go to church….not all Muslims look the part.

  61. Salamo Alaikom All!

    “Anta/anti (you distinguished by gender)”
    I’d like to add that anta/anti is for singular “you”. Antom is for plural (antom is mostly used among Arabs when addressing 2 persons or more whether they are males or females. In Classical Arabic there are 6 words that means “you”. Addressing one male, 2 males and more than 2 males = 3 different “you’s”. Addressing 1-female, 2-females and more than 2 females = 3 different “you’s” so the total is 6:)

    “Min (from)” if it’s a longer “i” meen/miin it means who? it is pronounced almost exactly the same as the English word “mean”. Min(from) has a shorter “i” than “miin”

    “Shaay (tea)” Carol I’m really curious to know what other Saudis say. Could you ask your husband or any Saudis you come across today whether s/he say “shaay” or “shahi” Sometimes we speak subconsciously, so we don’t know which word we use. I have a feeling that I say both “shaay” & “Shahi” I asked one of my friends, and he told me that he heard me saying “Shahi”, so it seems I say “Shahi”

    Ka’ka (cake). I guess most Arabs say “cake” instead of “ka’ka”. Cake has become a part of the lexicon of most Arabs.

    “qabeeti (ugly)”. There is a typo here. I guess you meant “QabeeH”. we can say “bashi’” or ‘QabeeH” to mean ugly. this is the masculine form , for females , we just ad the “feminine” suffix “ah”.

    Carol said, “Unlike English, while the arabic alphabet may look exotic, it is a “what you see is what you get” in regards to how the letters are pronounced; none of the confusion with English where you have silent letters, short letters, long letters, etc.!”
    1000000000% true. Arabic is a phonemic language unlike English, French etc. That’s why I find French harder than Deutsch as an example — I love Arabic very so much:).

  62. Chiara, I’d like to add to your list with whatever popps up to mind:) yeah and thanks for the list you provided ..
    Nada = “dew” in Arabic
    Ala’a = bounties
    Hiba = giving/gift.
    Khalid = eternal
    Karim/Kareem = generous
    Layth = “lion” BTW there are more than 100 different names of lion in Arabic. I know only 6 or 7 of them .

  63. Aafke, first of all, Salamo Alaikom to you.
    “so if you are female does that mean you always say ”min Fadlik’?
    Or do you say ‘min Fadlik” if it is to a female and ”min Fadlak” to a male?”
    The second answer is the correct one:).

    “Why do the words for restaurant, station, and museum start with ”ma”? ”
    wonderful observation:) could you tell me why hospital, home/house and hotel starts with /h/. BTW The “ma” in the 3 words you mentioned are one letter in Arabic and not 2 /m/ is the letter and the “a” sound is the case that follow the first letter in these words. each letter in Arabic is follow by a case. As an example “ktb” these 3 letters in Arabic might meen (to write), (write), (wrote), (was written) and (book). In Arabic there are 4 case-endings. Arabic is a Verb-subject-object language (VSO) unlike Dutch which is (I believe) a Subject-object-verb (SOV) language. There are only 9% languages that are VSO like Arabic (among which, Irish, Berber, Welsh Mayan and Hebrew)…

    Aafke, the nice thing about Arabic, (Of course I’m so bias when it comes to the charming Arabic language), is it’s flexibility . Although it’s a VSO language, other forms are still possible and correct too:) Let me clarified it with some examples.
    VSO = ate Aafke the chocolate
    SVO Aafke ate the chocolate
    VOS Ate the chocolate Aafke (Aafke will take the same case ending since it’s the subject whether it’s at the beginning or at the end of the sentence) The object also get the same case ending whether it’s after the verb or after the subject.
    OVS the chocolate ate Aafke (the chocolate here will take the subject case ending and not the object one because it’s at the beginning of the sentence .
    SOV order is ungrammatical in Arabic. In Dutch as an example, we can say “De vrouw heeft een auto gekocht.” but this word order will be ungrammatical in Arabic we can say “al-mar’ah qd eshtarat sayara” (the woman has bought a car) or “qd eshtarat al-mar’ah sayara” (has bought the woman a car)

    As for the different dialects, it’s not true at all to say there is one “Najdi” dialect or one “Hijazi” dialect. Makkah & Jeddah as an example are two “Hijazi” regions, and yet there are differences among them (about 80 km between Makkah and Jeddah BTW). In Jeddah (which is a one-city) you’ll find people speaking with different dialect. Let me give an example,

    The first sound of the number “three” in Arabic is pronounced in 3 different ways by “Jedawi” people. In classical Arabic “thalatha” means “three”.
    1. The sound /th/ is pronounced as /t/ (without the tip of the tongue touching the edge of the upper teeth). So a Jedawi will say in this case “talata” in stead of “thalatha”.
    2. The sound /th/ is pronounced as /s/ (the tongue doesn’t touch the teeth at all) So a Jedawi will say in this case “salasa” (more people from Makkah say “salasa” compare to people from Jeddah.
    3. The sound /th/ is pronounced as /th/ so the word will be pronounced as it with the tip of the tongue touching the edge of the back of the upper teeth.

    These differences are mostly phonological differences — the same as what Chiara mentioned concerning the Casablancan vs Rabati dialects. There are different /r/ sounds among Hijazis as another example. It can clearly be heard when hearing several Hijazi people speaking. What I said above concerning the diffrences in the dialects is from a study that I’ve read and a test that was conducted by using the praat software — my observation from the people around me, proves the study.

  64. coolred38, “Not to mention that our Prophet had the best of manners in all situations…to friend and enemy alike…seems rather odd to assume he held back in his greetings merely because he “judged” somebody as not Muslim…he of all people knew that that particular judgment was in the hands of God alone.”
    Well-said coolred38. Sometimes, some people just look to the text without knowing the reason behind it, and when and for which certain occasion it was said. Muslims are bound to their word, if they said “Peace on you” then it means that the Muslim has to make sure that the safety of that person is guaranteed and no harm should happen to the person. The “Qorish” tribe was fighting the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and all the prophets) and his companions. So, if a Muslim said peace to them, then, Muslims will not be able to fight back the attacks of “Qorish” As an example to illustrate this, a man from Qurish who was an enemy to the prophet and his companions and was fighting them, came to a Muslim woman in Al-Madina and she “ajartoho” (guaranteed safety to him) and hence no one could cause any harm to that man — the prophet proved the action of the woman… I don’t want to come up with an opinion from my mind, so I asked a Saudi teacher (who is teaching religion at a high-school for 16 yrs, and is a “Imam at a mosque” who gives the Friday “Khotba”. He said to me that Salaams can be said to anyone.

    @Halimah bint David, “As Muslims all over the world we use the Islamic form of greeting, “Assalamu alaikum”, which means peace be to you only for eachother.”
    The two words Assalamo Alaikom is nowhere mentioned in the Qur’an. Could you tell me why you use it then? God forbid, you added to what God has said, and U don’t feel how big a sin you’ve made. That was “bidah”; That was “bidah”.; That was “bidah”…

    In Qur’an, Allah, said the word “salam ” and not “assalam” so it seems we add to what God has revealed to us while we are not aware. Indeed, AmericanBedu , mentioned the right form, “Salamo Alaikom”. So to conclude, AmericanBedu is following Allah’s words while some commenters weren’t…

    It is really amazing how a quite informative post about teaching some Arabic words has turn to be a religious discussion. We should look at the big picture and not just narrow down our minds (which is a blessing from God to honor the human race by giving them such tool for reasoning and thinking ) to few lines that we have read.

    Peace to all

  65. Khalid

    Salamo Alaikom

    Thank you for sharing your linguistic knowledge of Arabic, and your broader scholarship. You have confirmed my impression that learners would best be served by learning Standard Arabic and the local (sometimes very local) dialectal variations of specific places of interest. Along with others, you have encouraged me in my desire to learn to read Arabic (beyond my name, the sign for Coca Cola-learned from a billboard to avoid getting lost in Casablanca, and Allah).

    Like your Shaay example, in my aural linguistic experience Arabophones say Assalam or Salam, although I respect your explanation that the latter is religiously correct.

    Your explanation of the Quranic use of Salam to establish peace between greeter and receiver gives the specific reference for my earlier comment on the same; and it is nice to have further scholarly confirmation of the acceptability of salaams for everyone.

    In looking at the big picture about learning Arabic it would be relevent to bear in mind that Arabic is a language, and not in itself a religion, although it is used by Arabophones for their religious expression whatever their religion, and by allophones whatever their mother tongue for the religious expression of Islam. As a language, it has multiple uses from the most pedestrian, to the philosphical, and poetic.

    Thank you once again for being so “kareem” with your knowledge.

  66. I have so enjoyed reading the recent comments and thank Khalid for his wise and useful contributions. When I asked my husband about shaay or shaayhi, he just smile and said “it depends!”

  67. Miriam

    Your points were all well-taken, especially as in my understanding of Islam Allah ultimately judges belief over behaviour, although good behaviour is rewarded. Eg, a believing alcohol-drinking Muslim would be saved where a non-believing abstainer would not. (The more knowledgeable than I or the more avid cutters and pasters could find the exact references I am sure–smiles)

  68. Khalid (eternal):
    Salaam Aleikum!
    Shukran for the great (but difficult) explanations!
    Pfff, that’s a lot of knowledge to assimilate inbetween parties!
    Shukran for explaining about the VSO, and OVS, and VOS languages.
    I feel a bit dizzy now…
    But your choice of example is só intelligent! Aafke + Chocolate! Such an excellent combination!
    And you speak Dutch! Mash’allah!
    Ah, I know who you are! The mr Higgins of Arabic!

    It is very kareem of you to spend so much time and effort into enlightening us. :)

  69. I agree Aafke….Khalid definitely gets a gold star!

  70. Khalid,
    “Sometimes, some people just look to the text without knowing the reason behind it, and when and for which certain occasion it was said.”

    Are Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen and Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah be pleased with them) included in your “some people”? They have both thoroughly explained this ettiquette.

  71. Dear Brooke aka Ummbadier,
    I certainly respect both scholars Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen and Sheikh Ibn Baaz. I’m nothing to compare my knowledge with them. But are you aware, that Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen (May God mercy be upon him) gave some “fatwas” and later he changed them because he found out that he was mistaken. I respect him a lot because he wasn’t ashamed to admit his mistakes and to correct them. I enjoy his teachings a lot to the extend that once I sneaked into one of his classes he used to give during Ramadan in Makah after Fajor prayer. As aside note, today I prayed the Friday prayer behind one of the Sheikh’s students. We really lost a river of knowledge by his death (Allah yetghamdo fi ra7mato ) amiiiin…

  72. Chiara, I was just being facetious when I said it’s Salam and not assalam. It’s true that the form mentioned in the Qur’an is Salam… When we add the Arabic definite article “al” to “salam” it is going to be pronounced as “Assalam” (The “l” in “al” is assimilated with the “s” so we pronounce the definite article “al” as/As/ but we still write it “al-salam” Don’t be overwhelmed with these tiny specific details. I encourage you to learn Arabic, it’s not as complicated as I’m complicating it:-) … Yeah, so I was only suggesting that since some people follow everything other scholars say without thinking over what they hear or read, so it’s more appropriate to follow the Qur’an and don’t add “al” to “Salam” since God didn’t add it . As I’ve said both are fine, and indeed I pronounce it as “Assalamo Alaikom”

    To read the word “Salam” in the Qur’an, check Seurat Maryam (Marry) Surah #19 verse 15 (God said Salam in it to John”Yahya”. Also check verse 33 (Jesus said Salam in it). There are other verses were the word “salam” is mentioned — these are only two of them.

  73. _American Bedu Says, “he just smile and said “it depends!”” LOL, then it means I say both:).

    _ Aafke Says, “Shukran for the great (but difficult) explanations!” Afwan Aafke , I was pretending to be a nerd:) since I was explaining to a real nerd. I don’t speak Dutch BTW, I only had 4 well-formed Dutch sentences and I analyzed them, and I came up with the sentence-structure in Dutch — I told you I was just pretending to be a nerd , so you can easily understand me:).

    Indeed, I really love Arabic, and Arabic syntax fascinates me. I used to get full marks at school in both math and Arabic syntax:) and I end up majoring at the univ in non of them:) — maybe I made a mistake by this :)… BTW, can you believe it? I watched 6days ago My Fair Lady on my way to KSA:)

    _American Bedu I’m blushed:) Shokran:)

  74. Khalid

    Thanks for the clarification. Fatigue must have dimmed my humour radar because I even thought of the grammatical al-salam to assalam but dismissed my better judgment-just proving your point that one can be mislead by scholars! or at least a scholar should keep her humour radar turned on!

    Quranic point well-taken and I will check the references. I like reading the Surat Maryam, especially at Christmas since few Christians seem aware of the importance of Yahyah, Maryam, and Isa in Islam (or anyone but Mohamed for that matter).

  75. Khalid, salaam aleikum, min faDlak, what is Afwan?
    (it had better be something nice)
    Was your sneaking into Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen’s class succesfull?

    Bedu and min faDlik what did you mean with: talabat mumtaza??

  76. May I give it a try?

    Afwan- [your] welcome
    talabat mumtaza-[you are] an excellent (mumtaza) girl student (talabat)

    I look forward to being corrected; Bedu and Khalid have inspired us all to revive/learn our Arabic.

  77. Wow — now Chiara gets a gold star too!

  78. Shukran, mumtaza teacher Chiara!

  79. Afwan American Bedu wa Aafke!

  80. oops points off for English grammar error

    Afwan-[YOU’RE or YOU ARE] welcome

  81. Ah, have a question, What about grammar in Arabic?

  82. Khalid-
    Though I am aware that all shaykhs and scholars are fallible, unfortunately this is an excuse for many Muslims to as we say-throw the baby out with the bath water. Some people could misunderstand your words to mean that the Shaykh’s works are not to be trusted, which is incorrect. Worst still, folks will also use this excuse to reject the sunnah—you see here people saying some hadith are weak, so let’s just avoid them all. Allhualim if they understand the severity of their denial.
    Do you know if this particular topic is one that Shaykh Uthaymeen corrected himself on? My knowledge is extremely limited, but it seems doubtful as the fatwa-online site of students of IUoM currently has Shaykh Ibn Baaz’s similar ruling (don’t initiate the salaams to those you do not know to be Muslim) on the front page of their site. If this is incorrect, we should contact them pronto.
    Love and Peace

  83. Bismillaah

    Assalaamu Alaikum Warahamatuhylahi Wabarakatuh Brooke!

    I see I have missed such a lively debate and many vicious ridicules. Masha Allaah!

    “Verily Islam began as something strange and will return to something strange.”

  84. Carol,

    Thanks for the Arabic lesson. I do so want to learn Arabic. It’s difficult here in the states.

  85. Since this post is popular I will continue to have monthly posts with more aspect of Arabic. Stay tuned!

  86. Dear Brooke,
    Salamo Alaikom,

    sure,Brooke, this is not an excuse, and as you said, anyone is prone to fallibility. I don’t know about this exact fatwa, but I’m aware of other “fatawa” that Ben Uthaymin corrected them later. BTW, this doesn’t mean that the person is imperfect, and shouldn’t be trusted. The 4 “a’ema” (bn malek, Ahmad bn Hambl, Al-Shafi’i and Aben-Hanifa) all of them changed few of their Fatawa at a certain stage of their life. Furthermore, “Al Imam Al-Shafi’i as an example gave a fatwa to the people in Iraq, and then when he went to Egypt, he gave a different fatwa — both are consider a correct fatwa.

    One of those whom I like to read to is Sheikh Salman al ‘Owda. He is from Qasim, from the same city bn Uthaymin lived in. He is consider to be the mofti in Qasim after ben Uthaymin died. Sheikh Salman supervise Islam Today .com . He teaches at the same univ ben Uthaymin used to teach in. You can check the fatwa on the site :

    All the Best

  87. _A+ to Chiara too:)

    _Aafke, “Ah, have a question, What about grammar in Arabic?” I shall write a book to answer this question:). I’ll answer in two sentences though:) Arabic grammar/syntax is so sweet. Arabic grammar/syntax is so systematic unlike English:).

    _AmericanBedu , I look forward for the coming lesson:)

    _Aafke, I didn’t mean the word “sneaking” literally cause these classes are open to everyone. I was about 15 yrs old, so the people opened the way for me so I sat inside the circle of people and not far away:)

  88. Stay tuned now that January has arrived!

  89. […] earlier post on learning Saudi Arabic was both popular as well as stimulated some controversial discussion.  […]

  90. American Badoo how are you? I am Saudi cowboy hahaha i do not understand much English but I want to correct some words on your page if you do not mind
    Ismik=ur name
    wish ismk? what is ur name? both male and female.
    and Nawal is not true iam young saudi i assure u 99% of saudi youth speak almost same dialect of saudi which is mixed from Najd,7ijaz,Janoob,Sharqiah regions. we young speaks what we call White Language which we all express our selves better with it. shookraaan ya American Bedu : )

  91. Email your phone number (better mobile) to above adddress. I want to ask a lot of doubts to you regarding Arabic language. I want some help from you to learn Arabic please.

  92. I want to learn arabic jeddah arabic plz help me if any one can help me.

  93. thanks its very useful in our life!

  94. Horse is hisan I think. Im new in saudi Arabia and a trying to learn as much as I can

  95. Reblogged this on lydia7777’s Blog and commented:
    Very interesting!!!

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