From Judeo-Arabic to Arabic

485px-Cairo_Genizah_FragmentThis post comes to us from Seth Fishman and the Reb Zalman Legacy Project…JL

Reb Zalman has come up with an idea for a Judeo-Arabic emulation software program and in conjunction with the program, a Web Site to host Judeo-Arabic documents.  This vision might Im Yirtz Hashem / God willing one day help to reduce friction between Jew and Arab.

The content will consist of texts originally written in Judeo-Arabic to be presented in a transliterated format using the Arabic letters.

Muslims who will find this site will be able to read Jewish texts originally written in Judeo-Arabic after it has been transliterated to their vernacular.  E.g., the phrase  שער היחוד / Shaar Ha-Yichud / the gate to oneness will come out as  باب الـ توحيد‎  / Bab al-Tawhid.

In this way, it will help to emphasize the common ground that exists between our religons.

Reb Zalman was already been in touch with some Arabic scholars about this idea and he can get them in touch with us to look at what we do as we progress.

The hope is to assemble a team to accomplish the task.  If you feel you could assist on this project, please contact me at rebzgabbai@verizon.net

Much of the body of Jewish work from the eighth to eleventh centuries was written in the language of Judeo-Arabic which is essentially Arabic written using the Hebrew Alphabet.  Many Jews who wrote in those days would write in Arabic  because Arabic was the lingua franca in which Jews discussed philosophical and scientific works.  We can find examples in English showing the influence from this time:  Al-gebra, Al-cohol, Al-chemy, etc.

Aristotle, who had written in Greek, was translated into Arabic, and so people, (including Jews), who had any kind of scientific discourse in the world were doing it in Arabic.

E.g., there are documents such as the only translation of the Bible that’s available in Judeo Arabic by Saadia Gaon, but it’s not available in Arabic characters.  There are documents from the eight hundred’s by Bahya ibn  Paquda and later, at the turn of the tenth millennium, the Rambam and his sons wrote in Judeo-Arabic because they wanted the educated people to understand just as we write in English today (The Moreh Nevuchim was written in Judeo-Arabic.)

When Muslims can have access to this material and encounter the wisdom there, the hope is that it will help them to access our tradition’s wisdom and will help to soften some of the discord.