|Languages||Malayalam and some of its dialects|
|c. 500 to the present|
Arabi Malayalam (Malayalam script : അറബി മലയാളം, Arabi Malayalam: اربِ ملیالم) is a system of writing Malayalam language in a variant form of Arabic script. It is a blend of Malayalam grammatical base, Arabic script with special orthographic features, and vocabulary from Malayalam, Arabic, Tamil, Urdu and Persian. Though this originated in the South Indian region of the Malabar, today the script is mainly used in Malaysia and Singapore by the migrant Muslim community. It is also used to teach Malayalam in Madrassas of Kerala and Lakshadweep. Until the 20th century, the script was widely taught to all Muslims in Kerala, including women. Most of the Mappila Songs are written in Arabi-Malayalam script. The earliest known such work is the Muhyidheen Mala, written in 1607. Over the centuries, almost 3000 Arabic words used in Arabi-Malayalam came to be assimilated to the Malayalam language. Many of them relate to law, administration and commerce, indicating the areas where the Muslim influence, especially in the lands under the Zamorin.
There were many problems to write Malayalam using letters covering Arabic, a Semitic language. Only 28 letters were available from Arabic orthography to render over 53 phonemes of Malayalam. It was overcome by following the pattern of creating additional letters established for Persian. The letters like pa, gha, kha, ṅa, ña, ḻa, ga, ca were not available in the Arabic alphabets. The characters which stand for ḻa, ca, pa, ga (ഴ, ച, പ, ഗ) are ژ, چ, پ, گ respectively in Arabi Malayalam.
A huge volume of literary works written in Arabi-Malayalam have not been translated to Malayalam, and some estimates put the number at almost 90 percent. These works contain the greatest literary achievements by Mappilas over the centuries. Romantic ballads, folk tales and battle songs have found a place in Arabi-Malayalam literature. While Arabi-Malayalam literally denotes Arabic influence in Malayalam, the vocabulary used in Arabi-Malayalam works often included Sanskrit, Persian and Tamil.
Moyinkutty Vaidyar and others translated important works of Sanskrit into Arabi-Malayalam. Major works translated thus were Astangahridaya, Amarakosha, Panchatantra and even stories about King Vikramaditya.
Arabi-Malayalam periodicals played an important role in social reform movements of the Mappilas in the early 20th century. Al-Irshad, published in 1923 by the Muslim Aikya Sanghom played an important role in explaining the tenets of Islam to the common man and distinguishing between religious practices and superstitions.
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- Pg 152, Muslims of Kerala: a modern approach,S. Sharafudeen,Kerala Historical Society, 2003
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