Thursday, October 1, 2009

Spiritual Language

Saudi Arabian society puts a huge emphasis religion in daily life. The call to prayers is easily heard over the sounds of daily life on KAUST's campus or in Jeddah city and it is quite common to see even construction workers here taking a short break to pray on a mat of cardboard during these times. Even the language of the conservative Arabs is filled with mentions of God. A typical conversation in Arabic between two friends (let's call them Achmed and Abdul) would sound something like this if translated literally to English:

Achmed: "God's peace be upon you, Abdul!"
Abdul: "And God's peace also be upon you."
Achmed: "How are you doing?"
Abdul: "Praise God, I complain only to him... when is your wife coming to KAUST?"
Abdul: "Tomorrow, if it is God's will."
Achmed: "Praise God"
Abdul: "I have a meeting soon, go in peace."
Achmed: "Go in peace."


  1. That's almost true. by the way, the name "Achmed" its written Ahmad or Ahmed and its pronounced Ahmed too, lose the c. and pronounce the h.

    Good post.

  2. As much as this post is accurate, it should be understood that the Arabic phrases used for "God's peace be upon you", "Praise God, I only complain to Him", "if it is God's will" and "Go in peace" are more rooted in Islamic culture than Islam itself. When people say these phrases, it's more out of habit than intention. If I were to translate them meaningfully into English, I would say something like this is "intentionally" meant:

    Ahmed:"Hey, Abdul!"
    Abdul:"Hey man, good to see you."
    Ahmed:"How are you doing?"
    Abdul:"Not bad...when is your wife coming to KAUST?"
    Ahmed:"Tomorrow, hopefully."
    Abdul:"That's great!"
    Ahmed:"I have a meeting soon, I'll catch you later."
    Abdul:"Yeah see you later. Peace!"

  3. That's so funny and yet so true but I also agree with m.sameed , it's more like a habit than intention ^_^
    I like your attitude about Saudi Arabia , I didn't expect that from an American ; also I like what you wrote about it , it made me more grateful to what I have as a Saudi .

  4. I thought Arab men rarely inquired about female family members of their friends.

    My Arab friend teased me about saying the "c" in "Achmed" -- said that sounded liked I'd been hanging out with Jews as I think maybe that "c" sound is more prevalent in Hebrew. :)

    I agree with the above comments about those religious words just being habit. Makes them sound more spiritual than many of them are.

    Nice blog. :)