The term Ajami (Arabic: عجمي, ʿajamī) or Ajamiyya (Arabic: عجمية, ʿajamiyyah), which comes from the Arabic root for foreign or stranger, refers to an Arabic alphabet used for writing African languages, particularly those of Hausa and Swahili, although many other African languages were written using the script, including Yoruba, Faulani, and Pulaar. It is considered an Arabic-derived African writing system. Since many African languages include phonetic sounds and systems not found in the standard Arabic language, an adapted Arabic script is used to transcribe those "foreign" sounds. Similar modified Arabic scripts exist in Iran, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
The West African Hausa is an example of a language written using Ajami, especially during the pre-colonial period when Qur'anic schools taught Muslim children Arabic and, by extension, Ajami. Following Western colonization, a Latin orthography for Hausa was adopted and the Ajami script declined in popularity. Ajami remains in widespread use among Islamic circles, but exists in digraphia among the broader populace - Ajami is used ceremonially and for specific purposes, such as for local herbal preparations in the Jula language.
Hausa Ajami Script
There is no standard system of using Ajami, and different writers may use letters with different values. Short vowels are written regularly with the help of vowel marks (which are seldom used in Arabic texts other than the Quran). Many medieval Hausa manuscripts, similar to the Timbuktu Manuscripts written in the Ajami script, have been discovered recently and some of them even describe constellations and calendars.
In the following table, some vowels are shown with the Arabic letter for t as an example.
|ɓ||/ɓ/||ب (same as b), ٻ (not used in Arabic)|
|ɗ||/ɗ/||د (same as d), ط (also used for ts)|
|e||/e/||تٜ (not used in Arabic)|
|e||/eː/||تٰٜ (not used in Arabic)|
|ƙ||/kʼ/||ك (same as k), ق|
|o||/o/||ـُ (same as u)|
|o||/oː/||ـُو (same as u)|
|ts||/(t)sʼ/||ط (also used for ɗ), ڟ (not used in Arabic)|
|u||/u/||ـُ (same as o)|
|u||/uː/||ـُو (same as o)|
- Donaldson, Coleman. 2013. Jula Ajami in Burkina Faso: A grassroots literacy in the former Kong empire. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics 28.2: 19-36.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-30. Retrieved 2011-10-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Hegyi, O. 1979. Minority and restricted uses of the Arabic alphabet: the aljamiado phenomenon. Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 99, No. 2:262-269.