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Abstract:
Discusses whether there are specific dialects and "manners" to use in speaking Arabic.

Arabic, Proper pronunciation of

by Universal House of Justice

1995-08-08
Mr. ... wishes to know whether there is any guidance in the Bahá'í Writings about the style of pronunciation which Bahá'ís should adopt when learning to speak Arabic.

The Research Department has found nothing in the Bahá'í Writings which refers to the "proper" pronunciation of Arabic. However, we provide the following observations for Mr. ...'s consideration:

  • The Arabic language itself is spoken with different dialects in various parts of the Arabic world.

  • Since Arabic is also the language of religion for the entire Muslim world, peoples who speak languages other than Arabic, such as the Persians and the Turks, have developed their own idiosyncratic pronunciation of Arabic words and names. The same thing happened in the Christian world with the pronunciation of Hebrew, Greek and Latin names and words.

  • Persians long pronounced Arabic in a peculiarly Persian way, and there would have been no reason for Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi to change this.

  • When chanting the Qur'an, Persians have traditionally tried to follow the Hijazi accent, and when talking with Arabs in Arabic they would have tried to adhere to Arabic usage, even if it was with a Persian accent.

  • It would never occur to Arab Bahá'ís to pronounce Arabic Tablets in the Persian manner, and they do not attempt to do so.
Bahá'ís who are neither Arabs nor Persians have generally picked up a pronunciation similar to that of the Persians because they have learned it from Persian Bahá'ís, but there is no constraint on them to follow this pattern if they are familiar with Arabic and wish to pronounce Arabic words in the Arabic manner. This could, however, present them with some practical difficulties unless they are in an Arab country. If, for example, when in America, Mr. ... pronounces "Ridvan" in the Arabic manner, it may puzzle those who will hear the majority of their fellow Bahá'ís, Persian and American, using the Persian pronunciation or an approximation to it.
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