SIBF 2022: Meet the Indian author aiming to build a bridge between Arab and Malayali communities

He aims to build cultural links between the two, both of whom have ancient history in the Gulf region due to centuries-old trade relations



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by

Afkar Ali Ahmed

Published: Mon 7 Nov 2022, 7:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 7 Nov 2022, 8:07 PM

Sharjah-based Indian expat Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Aziz has launched three books written in the Arabic language at the ongoing Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), with the intention of building a bridge between the Arab and Malayalam cultures.

Coming from the state of Kerala, and living and working in the UAE since 2001, Dr. Majeed's three books include “My Tryst With Arabic Language”, “Khalil Mutran: The Pioneer of Romantic Poetry in Arabic Literature", and the translated “Memorial Stones”: a national award-winning novel written by Dr Punathil Kunhi Abdulla in Malayalam.

He began working as a researcher and translator in 2005, and worked as a teacher of Arabic and Islamic Studies teacher at Sharjah's Our Own English High School, for three years prior to that.

Through his two books, "My Tryst With Arabic Language" and the translation of “Memorial stones”, Dr. Majeed aims to build cultural links between the Arab and Malayali communities – both of whom have ancient history in the Gulf region due to trade relations dating back many centuries ago.

During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Dr. Majeed spoke about his love for the Arabic language, stating that it is one of the most popular languages in the world. It is spoken by more than 467 million people around the world, he said, and is one of the most spoken Semitic languages globally. It is also the sixth most spoken language in the world.

Dr. Majeed noted that the language historically carried with it an Islamic identity in India – one that continued to strengthen during the 13th century as it was spoken under the rule of Muslims, Hindus and the British.

“I fell in love with the language in my childhood, and all my studies culminated in a doctoral degree from one of the most prestigious universities in India, where 40 universities have departments dedicated to Arabic and Islamic studies.

In India, there are over 30,000 Islamic institutions, and hundreds of arts and science colleges with separate departments for the Arabic language. There are hundreds of Arabic colleges across the country where the language is taught with special emphasis. Therefore, there are millions of students studying this great language."

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"In this book", he noted, "I have recalled my experience with the language, the problems that students face while learning it, and the opportunities that are waiting them after they spend so many years acquiring these skills.

In the second chapter, I discuss the Indo-Arab relations that began thousands of years ago, following which relations were strengthened between both worlds.

The book discusses different dialects in the Arab world, including the sovereignty of the Quraish dialect, and the creator’s choice of the language to be the language of the Holy Quran.

It also details the care given to the Arabic language by different dynasties of rulers in India, and the struggles between European powers in the country.

"The book also deals with my experiences in the UAE in the field of teaching Arabic and Islamic studies at a school level", added Dr. Majeed.

He said he translated the “Memorial Stones” by Dr Punathil Kuchabdula, an avant-grade author of Malayalam literature, in an attempt to introduce Arabic readers to Malayali literature.

He chose these novels as Dr. Kuchabdula is widely regarded as a literary master. His novel won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978, and the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980.

'Smarakasilakal'

"Memorial Stones", known originally as "Smarakasilakal", is set in a predominantly Muslim North Malabar village. It is the story of the feudal lord Khan Bahadur Pookkoya Thangal, belonging to the rich Arakkal family, and a mosque and its cemetery weave a background of traditions and legends for the tale.

Each character in the text reflects a certain aspect of the social fabri. Thangal stands tall above every other character in the novel due to his unbounded generosity and insatiable lust, and the empire he builds crumbles once he is killed by one of the young men whose wives he had ravished.

Dr. Majeed, who holds a PhD in the Arabic language, said he didn’t plan to adopt the language as a career path, but he loves it due to the direct influence of his entire family, who also speak Arabic.

“My interest in the language is not limited only to the cultural aspect – it is beyond that", he said.

"It is one of the most beautiful languages in the world; it is a language whose protection is guaranteed by God."


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