When Ramazan became Ramadan: Our infatuation with Arab culture

Published: July 11, 2013

I grew up in a time when we called this Islamic month ‘Ramazan.’ PHOTO: REUTERS

Come the sighting of the moon and my inbox, cell phone and social media feed is inundated with greetings of ‘Ramadan Kareem Mubarak’. It’s a common phenomenon and I am not the only one to experience this but it does make me think.

What has happened in the past couple of decades that we have made the shift from Urdu words to decidedly Arabic ones?

If the change was in language as a whole it would make some measure of sense. Languages are of course organic and new words come in but in this case it is not a natural transition but more of a deliberate supplanting of a word that is by all accounts, perfectly legit.

I grew up in a time when we called this Islamic month ‘Ramazan.’ It was not a conscious choice, just what the grandparents and elders called it and we were happy in following their legacy. We were also taught that when saying goodbye we should say ‘Khuda Hafiz’ and some families which had immigrated from Uttar Pradesh in India, including mine, were more inclined towards ‘adaab’ as a mode of greeting than salaam.

It started changing in the 80s with the PTV news anchor saying ‘Allah Hafiz’ at the end of the program. Some people did notice and talked about it but it was a military dictatorship and the man in charge was a known zealot. ‘It’s a passing trend’, was the general refrain. It was thought that things would go back once the dictatorship was over. How wrong they were.

Then I noticed more and more people who were hesitant in replying to my ‘adaab’ with the usual response, ‘jeetay raho’, literally: have a long and blessed life. These were not people who had always used the ‘salaam’, no these were folks who’s fathers, grandfathers, uncles and aunts all had lived and died using the same mode of salutations and greetings. And now they were replying back with ‘walekum adaab’, a rather cumbersome response which was neither here nor there. Then came snide comments about how ‘adaab’ is irreligious. About how it is decadent and a hangover from a previous era which should be consigned to the dustbin of history. About how it was used only to greet Hindus in India and so has no place in an (overtly) Islamic country. With time, most even called it downright blasphemous and refused to acknowledge it.

I had reservations with that view. I still do.

Why would Sibtain Ahmed, my great-grandfather, a marsiya poet and reciter of some repute, close associate of orator and scholar Rasheed Turabi and as religious a man as anyone I have seen, insist on this ‘blasphemous’ greeting even after immigrating to the ‘Bastion of Islam’ (read Pakistan). For that matter were the ancestors of these objectors decadent, blasphemous, and possibly in cahoots with Hindu extremists? Was my best friend’s grandfather working with the RSS or the VHP? Did they offer human sacrifices for pagan gods? Who can tell in these times?

Part of the change comes from the state sponsored change in language and its semantics. Part of it could be the influx of returnees in Pakistan from the Arab countries who in all their time there did not become fluent in Arabic due to their cloistered living style but are still compelled to say Arabic words when it comes to words that are associated with religion. That still does not explain why relatives and friends in the West, nary a tie with Arab soil, would change from their own parents’ ways.

Try as I might, I fail to get coherent responses.

The rest of the changes have been coming with increasing pace. The same school of thought that frowns upon my ‘adaab’ and ‘Khuda Hafiz’ has a bone to pick with my calling this Islamic month ‘Ramazan’. ‘Ramadan Kareem’, they correct me in a pious tone while rolling their eyes and smiling pityingly at my unholy ways. Iftar has given way to ‘fitr’ and ‘wuzu’ has died at the hands of ‘wudu’.

So we had been mispronouncing these words all these centuries.

‘Yes’, is the prompt response I receive along with a lecture about how better things are now.

And were savants such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Azad, Nazeer Ahmed, Ghalib, et al also culpable to mispronunciations and astray from the true path? They were I am told.

So here we stand; our ancestors were wrong, the thinkers and intellectuals were wrong, the religious leaders were wrong and they are all morally, culturally and linguistically inferior to that PTV newscaster.

Zia would have been proud.

They say a language dies when you supplant words that carry weightage. ‘Ramazan’ is one such word, closely associated with our lives because of the changes in lifestyle that accompanies it and its age-old message of love for humankind, simplicity, tolerance, compassion and generosity. The symbiotic nature of the relationship between language and culture has been deeply explored and well established.

With the coming of its Ramazan’s Arabised counterpart have come other changes that belie the wholesome nature of the month and clash with my youthful memories of the month when it had no ritual gluttony in the name of fast food all-you-can-eat deals and post-midnight sehris at fancy restaurants.

Coincidence? Maybe.

Do you approve or disapprove of adopting the Arab pronunciation of 'Ramadan' over 'Ramazan'?

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Read more by Sibtain here or follow him on Twitter @sibtain_n

Sibtain Naqvi

Sibtain Naqvi

A writer and social commentator who has written extensively for various Pakistani English dailies. An art critic accredited by the AICA and the Royal College of Art, London, he dabbles in music and sports writing and tweets @Sibtain_N (twitter.com/Sibtain_N)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://rumaisamohani.blogspot.com Rumaisa Mohani

    Why so much worry about ARABIC words being mixed in our daily usage? Why NOT about so many HINDI/Sanskrit words which are being used by even kids due to frequent watching of Hindi films? URDU is a mixture of languages, let it be so.Recommend

  • Waqas Baig

    Dear Sibtain

    I guess most of us know that Ramadan is an arabic version of Ramzan.
    Most of the people is sending”Ramadan Kareem” greetings as it is in fashion.

    Secondly, adab for sure is something related to the culture of people who migrated from India (as my forefathers did) but don’t you think we should follow the guidance of Islam which is to say “Salam”.

    Last but not the least i do agree with you that we should promote our own Language that is URDURecommend

  • Sarah

    There’s a lot to comment on the article but due to time constraints let me just put it this way;

    “Ramadan” is an arabic word. It should be pronounced the way it is done in its native language. You cannot change a word. The “d” and “z” difference in “Ramadan” is because you pronounce the arabic letter “Du-aad” and not “Zu-aad”. There is no such word as “Ramazan”.
    Muslims way of greeting is “Asalam-o-alikum” and not “adaab”. Being a muslim you follow what Allah SWT has instructed of us and not what our language/culture has created. Similarly to you do not create acronyms to Allah like “God” or “Khuda”. Stick to the word of Allah. Why change these words?

  • Abdul Majid Qureshi

    A very well written article, about the arabanization of Pakistan. Many other good things i recall were a part of the Pakistani society, like ‘Dua Darood’, have come under this very attack. As if the forefathers and their forefathers were misguided. I remember a decade ago, not a weekend went by when i heard my father going to the village at some one’s chaleeswa, khatam, dua jumeraat to attend dua and listen to clerics etc, and today young people who have seen nothing of what a caring society Pakistan once was, ask for evidence and justification for all these rituals in Islam and as a result of the astray becoming guided, not a home there is which is living in peace and tolerance with another home..
    Our traditions which were molded by centuries of social evolution just got killed by Arab sponsored religious movements, who cant think of practicing what they preach in Pakistan in their own homelands. I hope intellectual movements can make us more independent and make us understand the meaning of Islam in the social context.Recommend

  • HellFireZombie

    @Rumaisa Mohani:
    You have MORE than a HINT of the “HINDU” in you than you do of these Arabs. And what if you were told that Sanskrit was formally realised in a region of the current province of KPK? Sanskrit is more a part of this country than URDU and definitely ARABIC will ever be. Get over itRecommend

  • IHA

    I have never heard anyone take offence when people, lettered or otherwise, use ‘Hospital’ for Haspataal, ‘Horn’ for Harun, ‘Nurse’ for Naras.

    Infact people who use the distorted versions of English words in Urdu are looked down upon as udru medium paindoos and sometimes even told to pronounce the words correctly as they sound in English.

    I would ask people to try a little experiment with a friend. Try to speak continuously in Urdu for 5 minutes without uttering a single word of English in a sentence. You will see how hard it has become.

    But no outrage is seen on the cultural invasion of the English language or even the Hindi language words being used more and more. It is just put down to normal progression in the evolution of language.

    However Arabic seems to irk people. Recommend

  • Abdul Jabbar

    This Arabisation is the result of our obsession with religion.We are desperate to copy the Arabs because we are desperate to prove how much obsessed with religion we are.This is nothing but our extreme fixation with all things religious.Recommend

  • Aslam Khan

    Mr. Mohani you are right , the Muslims of South Asia should follow Arab Culture and I hope you are doing it. Anything related to India or west should not be accepted. I am sure:
    -You don’t eat Biryanai but Falfel only and mandi (Note That BIRYANI is not Arab)
    -You never touch Bihari Kabab (It has come from land of BUDDHA Bihar)
    -You never drink Rooafza because it was first introduced in Delhi
    -You don’t like Mirza Ghalib because he used to write in URDU
    -You must not wear sherwani it is an Indian dress (please go for Arabic choga)
    -Please don’t use western medicines like Paracetamol because it was invented by ChritiansRecommend

  • Salma Khan

    We’ve given chance to religion and seen where our country has gone,it’s time we gave chance to atheism.We won’t have to change our language or how we pronounce certain words,nor change the way we dress.Recommend

  • Musa

    We have a bigger problem with Hindi words & culture destroying our Urdu then Arabic words! atleast Arabic words are limited to our religion and not total culture! while hindi words are destroying our generations! Recommend

  • Ali Hassan

    Islam is a religion which originated in Arabic and most of us are able to recite the Quran if not understand it. So someone who is a religiously inclined or in the process of being so, will slowly drift towards more of its aspects including the language.

    It also depends on the intention. Use whatever one likes. Why feel so insecure? Isn’t it the same insecure attitude which offends some muslims when Hindus say Namaste to them; and which is why Hindus in our country don’t say it as they know that the insecure lot might discriminate or judge them? Just another angle with which one could contemplate.

    But this is just the matter of Ramzan vs Ramadan.

    I can’t recall a “Goodbye” which originated in Arabic. As far as I know, AssalamuAlikum is used to communicate both Hello and Goodbye.

    Allah Hafiz, Khud Hafiz, FeeAmanillah all seem to have cultural origins and not completely religious ones like AssalamuAlikumRecommend

  • Sana Durvesh

    What a lame article about a lame issue…Recommend

  • Saad Suhail

    Strange article this is. I mean where is the point of defending a mother language which was already a mix of so many languages, including Arabic. Arabic and Persian languages have influenced Urdu more than any other language. Furthermore so what if somebody wants to follow an Arabic dialect of Urdu Language. Does it really mean anything? Does it really mean death of a language. Your article is not even in Urdu and i think your confusing enrichment of a language with extinction. So what if your parents or grand parents used a localized dialect, it won’t hurt anyone to pronounce the word in the dialect of the natives which gave us this vocabulary.Recommend

  • http://Khi Nauman

    These comments are a perfect example of why Pakistan is in such serious trouble with divisions along the lines of religion, religion within religion and that wihtin ethnicities. Pakistanis need to become less self righteous and less focused on what is right snd what is wrong…….thiat is precisely why thousands of peole are getting butchered on the streets…..everyone thinks their Islam is the correct one and all others must be converted or killed. Use salaam and not adaab, or you are unworhty…….what garbage!Recommend

  • Sane

    Well, Ayesha Takia also used to sign off with “Allah Hafiz” in Surkshetr. What a blow that would be for NFP and his clan.Recommend

  • Naveen

    “And what if you were told that Sanskrit was formally realised in a region of the current province of KPK”

    I didn’t know any Pakistani would know this part. Apparently Panini (Grammarian who first systematised Sanskrit) was in all likelihood a Pashtun guy. Recommend

  • Sane

    Ha! writing articles and comments in a foreign language – lamenting the fact of foreign influence in our culture. Hypocrisy.

    It reminds me when many of my burger friends start jumping and fiinger pointing when some poor chap mispronounce an English word- so servile.Recommend

  • Asad


    Completely agree with you. Some hypocrites will never pay attention to English invasion of Urdu, but would cry loud when it comes to 'Arabic' which BTW is one of few languages that formed Urdu. if someone feel so irritated they should develop a new word for 'month of RAMADAN' because 'RamaZan' isn't an original Urdu word at all, its copied from Arabic, and if copied, it should be pronounced properly as its original name.

  • http://Karachi arzal ahmed

    This all started at the time of partition when the indian muslims chooses religion as their identity rather than the underlying cultural and linguistic sensibilities that also the ingredients of making an identity,By replacing QIBLA with AGHA in Shias and KHUDA HAFIZ with ALLAH HAFIZ is nothing more than the attempt of Religious circles who r taught in IRAN and Arab countries and with the help of the ignorant media is been bombared 24/7 to masses, A superficial rather than a genuine languistic or cultural sensibility of a common pakistan.Pan Islamism vs Nationalism. Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Well, I dont see there is any problem with the word “Ramadan”. and also there should be any problem with the Urdu even if Ramadan becomes a catch phrase because What is the Urdu at the first place, an amalgamate of different languages.
    Though it is right that Urdu is written in Persian script but we have adapted a lot from Arabic as well. So its up to us that we can either pronounce that particular alphabet as “zuaad” or “duaad”. “Ramadan” or Ramazan is basically a word of Arabic not Persian so we should be more likely to pronounce it the way they do in Arabic. Because we also pronounce the English words the way they do in Europe or US and in not the way of our so called Paindoos. In my view this is more concerned with linguistics than our creed or belief.
    We have replaced so many words of Urdu with their English counterparts but this infatuation doesnt raise any brow. There are large number of English words incorporated in our Urdu and other regional languages which are not just mispronounced but also misspelled so go for the word “Naras” instead of Nurse “haspataal” instead of Hospital if you are so badly messed up with the Nostalgia of language.
    There aren’t any such principles of language and its vocabulary evolves itself. We need not to be fanatic about it. Ramzan and Ramadaan provides us variety in vocabulary. I dont call my Uncle Ramadaan as it somehow appears awkward to me but I can call him Ramzan, its totally my call. just relax , “Why so serious?” Recommend

  • Jia

    @Sarah: I think you missed the whole point of the article! Take a course in linguistic 101 or cultural hegemony to understand what the writing is saying.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Cant understand your Supplant theory, and also
    How the word Ramadan can change the nature of Month Ramzan and our memories associated with it? Recommend

  • danny boy

    Every “Ramadan” i read a blog on this ….. come up with something new….Recommend

  • How Ironic!

    Haha! How ironic, a Pakistani newspaper written in English for a largely Pakistani readership complaining about “arabisation” because of the introduction of a few arabic words in the pakistani lexicon. I think our forefathers would have more concern with our “americanisation” than our “arabisation”. Have some perspective!Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have nicely written on a subject that describes our confusion and hypocrisy. Our ‘ sucking-up ‘ to the Arabs has been engineered because the money is good and we are shameless. This has resulted in a ‘ we run after them ‘……..’ they kick us ‘ mentality.
    The injection of this false Arabisation is politically motivated and its result sadly stares us in the face.

  • Atiya

    No offense, but I think you should have done your research thoroughly before writing this article. Pronouncing Ramadan has nothing to do with our society being obsessed with the Arabic culture. In Arabic, there is no such word as ‘zuaad’, it’s ‘duaad’, hence the pronunciation. And even if people are obsessed with the Arabic culture, so what. I don’t see you complaining about people’s obsession with the American culture. I think everyone has a right to do and say whatever they think is correct. If you want to say Ramazan instead if Ramadan, go ahead. Who’s stopping you?? I found this article pointless and a waste of my time. Recommend

  • LivedInTheMEForAYear

    I loved this article. Spot on.
    I think it sheds light on how we feel inadequate to be ourselves. As if Pakistani identity is not complete in some way.
    I don’t have anything against Urdu being a mix of different linguistic influences from the region but what about the things we lose in meaning when we import linguistic trends.

    I’ve lived in the Middle East for a year, enough to find out that the way thy see their culture is much more different than our derivations / hybridization of it.

    Apart from this? I feel that when naming our children, we often opt for Arab names for Seinfeld religious reasons but we lose their real meaning. I bet you never knew that Fahad means a baby cheetah and Maha means a deer. These names do a phenomenal job at representing Arab culture, because they mean something to them, sadly to us, they don’t. What about our own names and how meaningful they can be to us ? Recommend

  • Nony

    When an arabic religion is localized the words like Ramadan become Ramazan, just to give those who respect their language and culture a little relief. However, when you accept the supremacy of a language and culture which is imported, that very moment you have started the transition from your culture to that imported one. However, I would still say, Urdu is facing what it has done to Punjabi, Pashto, Balochi and Sindhi. We were being told that urdu is pious so that is your national language now you are being told arabic is pious so it should replace urdu. “Ramadan Kareem ;-)”Recommend

  • Athar

    Not related to this post but in general relating to the Express Tribune.
    This has to be one of the Whiniest blogs on the whole of internet.
    Random YO Pakistani:”Haylaaa, mujhe saans nahee araha,I need to write about it”
    Express Tribune:”Welcome distressed Pakistani, we’ll pass your article through our lame moderation process and publish it”.

    I come to this site, because of all the comical/ultra-lame/whiney/etc etc BLOGS and COMMENTS i get to read here.
    It’s not a Complaint Box!!!!!

    (oh the irony, I am Complaining about Complaining) , well let’s just hope this comment goes through the crappy moderation.Recommend

  • Ali Q London

    @sana durvesh

    You call this article lame?? Why cant people just look at the unprecedented metamorphosis our once beautiful country has adoptedl.

    How can you call this issue “lame”?

    Ms Durvesh, you think the arabization of Pakistan is something that ur ok with. Thats shocking.

    Our country has a rich pure history and we should never forget our roots.

    My surname is from Hindi context and these religious fundos keep telling me to chabge it to an Islamic name but its my surname. Its been carried down for generations and just because my country, pakistan has become completely intolerant to its minorities you want me to change my Hindu surname? ?!!

    Inshallah, I will never change my surname for I am proud of it Mashallah! Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    Ramazan becoming Ramadan is fine but I have also noticed a couple of my friends Abdul suddenly becoming Abdur. When I inquired whether the change was based on numerology they said in Arabic “Abdur” is right and “Abdul” wrong. Very difficult for a rationalist like me to believe that a proper noun like a name can be anchored to a religion or a country and subsequently judgement passed, calling it unIslamic.Recommend

  • Laila M.

    This article is spot on!! You hit the nail on the head! Perfect!

    It’s truly tragic, Sibtain. You have pure intentions alas…the people of
    this once beautiful country, the same people like @sana durvesh who
    call this article lame, it’s sad that these r the majority who run this

    I may have an inkling from your article that you may be a minority. Be proud
    Of that fact. Because the religious extremists who want to make our beautiful
    Pakistan into Saudia Arabia , the same ppl who are making adverse comments
    On this true, absolutely perfect article … are the same people you consider minorities
    to be of a lesser God. Recommend

  • Laila M.

    Sorry typo……are the same people who consider minorities of a lesser god….. *who instead of youRecommend

  • Mehdi


    American culture is not oppressive, Arab culture is. Look how peaceful they are. how they treat Shias and religious minority. Please wake up and smell the coffee. Recommend

  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan

    Well ohh my ! I thought the importance of any festival is its essence and not words. Deepawali has become diwali but the occassion and the crackers are still there. Just follow its essence and remain true to it because festivals have a meaning to it and just following it needlessly is like showing a rose but ignoring its fragrance. Thank you, rab rakhaRecommend

  • Mehdi


    You don’t understand the creeping wahabization of a country whose cultural roots are indian.Recommend

  • Nasir Malik

    @Sana Durvesh:
    Durvesh’s wits appear have gone lame missing the point of an inspiring and thoughtful article.Recommend

  • Waqas

    @Laila M. im sure you mean in ur last para…..”are the same people WHO consider minorities
    to be of a lesser God.”

    Superbly written! Cudnt have said it any better!

    Its makes me shudder that how fundamentalist and extremist our Pakistani brethren will strive towards.

    The more religious the people of our nation get, the less rights our minority brothers and sisters receive!

    Iv had enough of this religious intolerance! My good friends are Hindus, Christians, Shias and sadly they are being persecuted and hunted! in fact since YOU ppl love the arabinization of Pakistan as i can see from your comments do you know women’s rights are ABSOLUTELY ZERO in Saudia Arabia or that SHIAS are being hunted and are refused to practice Muharram there.

    Sibtain, its tragic what these great country has become, your article is a light at the end of the tunnel but its depressing that the citizens of Pakistan refuse that beacon of hope and continue to form an Arab extremist PakistanRecommend

  • Yasser N.

    If Ramazan has become Ramadan and Wuzu has becme Wudu, shouldn’t we start prounce ‘mareez’ (patient) as ‘mareed’ and ‘marz’ as ‘mard’? As a principal the Arabic words which Urdu has adopted must be pronounced according to their Urdu pronunciation. Recommend

  • AM

    Perhaps people should change their name from Ramzan to “Ramadhan” too. Lol.Recommend

  • Yumna

    I think you’ve blown a very petty thing out of proportion!! just changing the wordings in no way changes the spirit of this month – and you just completely blew it with the last paragraph where you claim how ‘gluttony’ is a result of this. Cultures evolve – we now live in a timing where eating out is a part of daily life so why not in Ramadan (or Ramzan for you!)

    If this hurts your ‘childhood’ memories so much, imagine how your english tirade would hurt the same ‘elders’ that you keep talking about.

    Extremely opinionated article with no objective/factual justification.Recommend

  • Aiza

    The word ‘Ramadan’ has nothing to do with extinction of our language because that is how it is pronounced in Quranic dialect. Saying salam gives blessings to the person so whats the harm in anyway?
    Nonetheless, if we talk about history/culture which our parents and gradparents had in their time is no more cherished, and we can surely mourn about that.Recommend

  • Mehdi


    You spoke so eloquently. Being Shia myself I completely agree with you. Wahabization is in full swing in Pakistan. Soon it will be too late to come out of this abyss.Recommend

  • Nsahmed

    seriously???? this article is a joke. really.
    u talk about Arabic being mixed in the urdu language.
    are you not aware of the origins of urdu???
    half the urdu is made from Arabic words and and the other half from persian. urdu if full of Arabic words. Arabic is almost like the root of urdu language. this article is so full of one sided ignorant opinions seriously. Know your facts before you corrupt people’s minds with this crap. Recommend

  • Mehdi


    There is a subtle hint in this article why Pakistan is in the wrong path. You probably missed it. It is very much an intellectual discussion. I am very proud of my indian and Persian roots.Recommend

  • Nsahmed

    Ramadan was not invented in Pakistan and neither was Islam. it came from the Arabic land where Arabic is the common tongue and they pronounced it Ramadan and Wudu. not how people pronounced it in Urdu. you have no right to change it and put a Z in there. that’s makes no sense. Recommend

  • doom

    The point is this: all the time religious-type people are crying “This is not our culture”, “That is not our culture”, “Why are we wearing these clothes?”, “Why are we having these western/hindu festivals?”.

    So “Why are we using these Arabic words?” is meant to hold up a mirror to that ridiculous attitude. If right-wing types are annoyed by this, they should stop their crying as well and we will all tolerate each other and live happily ever after. Recommend

  • Mehdi


    There is no hypocrisy. Nobody wants to follow Arab culture which is the root cause of extremism in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Nilesh

    What a sorry state of the society in pakistan!! They can’t distinguish between culture and religion. In the blind leading blind race to accept all things religious people of pakistan are destroying their real identity which is their cultural roots. Nobody in the whole world (including middle east) thinks Pakistan as part of Arab world. You are part of “Indian” sub-continent and you will stay part of “Indian” sub-continent for rest of your existance, no matter what you think or do!Recommend

  • sohail5221

    An absolute joy to read! A true eye opener!

    Pakistan has covered itself with religious intolerance.

    Muslims have minimal tolerance or love for their minorities. This is SAD!!

    We need more people like Sibtain you portray the factual path pakistan is sadly moving towards. The reality is harsh and sad yet its the truth.

    All pakistani Muslims love is ASSUMING everyone in Pakistan is a Muslim and ignoring the rights of shias hindus and Christians altogether. This is exactly what the arabs are doing and have been doing for 1400 years. So congratulations on becoming absolutely Arabic pakistanis. Sibtain!! Help these lost souls Recommend

  • Sadia

    My forefathers were not from UP and Bihar thus using adaab as a greeting was never a part of my upbringing. But all the Urdu speaking families who still use it in this day and age have my utmost respect. Being Muslim does not mean you forget your own cultural identity. Correct pronunciation of Arabic words will never make you an Arab.Ask any person who has lived in the middle east. We will always be south asian. I would chose Biryani over Kabsa any day of the week and i still say Khuda Haafiz even though i grew up in the Zia era.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    Getting names and words is right. Don’t dismiss it if you are serious about following the path of Allah. If you are not serious, then anything will do.Recommend

  • I am a Khan


    100% agree.

    @Author- Useless article.

    Ramadan is an arabic word and that is how it is pronounced in Arabic. If people are now correcting their pronunciation, then thats commendable. Also if people say salaam as per the Islamic way of greeting instead of adaab, then that is also commendable. I cannot even understand why this article is written. complete wastage of ET’s space.Recommend

  • talal

    I think the author doesnt know that more than 40% of Urdu is actually Arabic. Or you can say Urdu is derived from Persian and Arabic. So, when many many years ago, this language came into being and arabic alphabets and words were taken in, their pronunciation wasn’t paid attention to, i believe. Your “adaab” owes big time to Arabic itself because it is an arabic word, which means, either “etiquette” or literature (plural). No where in Arabic it means “greetings” in any context. So, first of all linguistically it is incorrect to say somebody “adaab”. And I understand, you are talking in context of culture and heritage of our ancestors. So if they have been using a word for over a hundred years incorrectly, it is about time somebody fix it and put it in its place. As they say, language evolves, so here you go. Accept this evolution too. Because I am pretty sure 150 years ago, they would not have used “adaab” for greetings and something else.

    Although we are proud of our language “Urdu” but we don’t realize that it is a pretty bad distortion of Arabic. Being a student of both languages, sometimes I am astonished at how much Urdu speakers over the many years have literally distorted the Arabic that once made up their language. Now even the meanings of the same words are different, which were most definitely the same at the onset. Prime example is the very word “adaab” in the context which you are talking about.

    I don’t care about the Arab culture. And by the way, saying “assalamu alaikum” is not a part of arabic culture, precisely. This is what Islam has taught muslims to do. You can very well say Adaab, Hello and Yo instead of salaam but those who adhere to Islam, prefer the greetings, which Prophet (s) used to utter. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @I am a Khan:
    It requires lot of grey matter to introspect. Try doing that.Recommend

  • Waqas

    @i m a khan

    u r the real reason why this country is what it is. Your comment is a wastage of Et’s space.


    You want to adopt the arab culture then treat your women like you treat animals and torture and torment your non muslim counterparts. Whats all this INSISTENCE on adopting ARABIC culture?? what benfit or gains have you received from it, infact adopting Islam has made all of you into mass murdering intolerant extremists, YET YOU STILL CONTINUE ON FORMING AN ALL ISLAMIC PAKISTAN……GOD help this country and its MINORITIESRecommend

  • Hajrah

    Instead of following the same old Islam that one’s ancestors brought, why can’t we stop following them blindly, and rely on the real source of Islam? It’s strange that we open Marx’s or Shakespeare’s books to know about them but we don’t want to open the Quran when it comes to knowing something about Islam. No, we’d rather rely on what this person or that person says. And even if we do open the Quran, it’s the translation. Oh yes, why bother about learning Arabic. Let’s stick to the interpretations.
    That is some blind following and irrational discourse.Recommend

  • Emjay

    Ramazan has become Ramadan and Mubarak has become Mabrook. Lol!Recommend

  • Waseem

    How do we know in that Ramadan was pronounced as Ramadan 1200 years ago in Arabia. Even if the spelling remained the same in Classical Arabic. the pronunciation may change. Languages undergo phonological and phonetic change with time and place. A Yemeni speaking the San’ani dialect Arabic is barely intelligible to a Moroccan speaking Maghrebi dialect. Modern Standard Arabic that is used in Arab newspapers and media is a recent innovation. 1200 years ago Isalm had barely cohered with a set of practices. This is same with Christianity 2000 years ago. I am sure the typical Pakistaini would be horrified at the Islamic practices of Arabs 1200 years ago. Recommend

  • Laila M.

    @i m a khan

    Your comment was a disgrace to such an enlightening article.

    @i m a khan your comment was truly a wastage of ETs space.

    And BIG DEAL if Urdu is half Arabic Persian Turkish Hindi or whatever. It URDU!!its our national language so quite comparing it to Arabic!

    What’s all this OBSESSION with Arabic culture,I mean for a female adopting Arabic culture,she may as well adopt a complete shariah maximum security prison.

    You people continue to drive Pakistan towards a reckless extremist and orthodox path.whats all this blind love for Saudia it’s strange. And obviously your comment will b “oh we’re Muslims. Pakistan is an Islamic state.” You know when you say stuff like this you immediately trample, ignore , and destroy the fundamental rights of all the minorities who just want to peacefully coexist in Pakistan Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/AhsanRazaUK Ahsan Raza

    Couldn’t agree with you more.. It was Zia Ul Haq’s social engineering to synchronize the society with Saudi Arabia, which took our history, our literature, our social norms and values from us.. Recommend

  • Charlie Chapatti

    I still say Ramzaan and Khuda Hafiz because I am not an Arab. I am a Pakistani Muslim. The Arabs are intensely tribal and make no secret of the fact that they look down their noses at us. Those of you who are so desperate to jump aboard the Arabisation Love Boat just try settling in Saudi Arabia or marrying a local

  • S

    The author is not worried about out infatuation with english or hindi? But some how few Arabic words being used is giving him sleepless nights?

    I say bring in more Arabic! way better then brining in english.Recommend

  • Sam’n

    Very well written, a good read!Recommend

  • Maria

    @Sadia: If your forbears originally came from what is now India, you probably have a lot of differences with native Pakistanis including your racial origin. Your food, behaviour, language and appearance will be different to some extent. This is not a bad thing but it is childish for you to expect the culture of your part of India to continue in Pakistan.Culture is dynamic and changes. English has evolved and so has Urdu.Recommend

  • Mano

    Nothing wrong with Ramadan or Ramazan. Nothing wrong with time or taam, school or iskool, photography or photo-graphy :). Be happy with the fact that your language is ready to accept new words. Such a language can never die. Recommend

  • someone

    This is unique to Pakistan. No other Islamic country trying to ape Saudi Arabia. Check out Indonesia or Malaysia for example. They are Islamic countries but have kept their culture intact.There is a difference between culture and religion and unfortunately this difference is thinning out in Pakistan. There is nothing called Islamic culture. Islam is a religion and Arab is a culture. Just because you got your religion from Arab does not mean you have to turn into an Arab.One can pretty much be South Asian Pakistani and a Muslim at same time.Recommend

  • someone

    @Rumaisa Mohani:
    Its time the kids in Pakistan turn to Turkish/Iranian/Arabic movies to preserve the “Islamic” culture.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    @Laila M.:

    Yes we are muslims and yes Pakistan is an Islamic Republic which was made to practice Islam by its Citizens. and remember that when we muslims practice Islam, the minorities are not affected in the slightest, unless they get a stomach ache from seeing a muslim pray or fast or say salaam. If they cannot see Islam being practiced by muslims in the islamic republic of pakistan, they are free to leave, otherwise they are welcome to stay. We are not enforcing Shariah laws on minorities. All we want is for we muslims to correctly practice Islam as per Quran and Sunnah, which was the purpose of Pakistan’s creation. got it?Recommend

  • Mehdi


    Can you please tell me who is native Pakistani ?Recommend

  • Ali S

    I get it, you read a lot of Nadeem F Paracha. Somehow Pakistani liberals feel the need for Arab-bashing to prove their cred, it’s sad. It’s Ramadan because it’s an Arabic word, not an Urdu one, and that’s its correct spelling. Maybe we should also start spelling ‘chalk’ as ‘chaak’ because that’s how we say it.Recommend

  • Tariq Jameel

    welcome to the new pakistan of arabs.Recommend

  • Nauman

    @nilesh…..Indian subcontinent or should we call it Hindustan subcontinent? Islam not playing a part in Pakistan? Now that’s a new one! Maybe 1947 partition would not have happened then!Recommend

  • Stranger

    I like the way the writer identifies himself with the land of her ancestors – U.P – India rather than Arabia . Well done man. With that one sentence you have endeared yourself to millions of Indians. Recommend

  • kanwal

    Lol. Excellent peice though. I haaate the way ramzan has converted to ramadan after the c… Zia ul Haq times. Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    I know this and proud of that sanskrite was founded in our region. and language is language
    and humans speak of it what ever it is but I think it was in semetic letter they used that time
    not what we see in india???Recommend

  • essohkay

    Dear Sibtain, kindly look up something called ‘Tajweed’ and it will answer a few of your questions. A couple of hard facts are: Pakistan is predominantly Muslim and that the religion of Islam has many sciences, Tajweed being one of them. 190 million Pakistanis means a lot of Muslims but only people who have the awareness/knowledge of the subject will be able to practice it. Vast majority of Muslims (incl. Pakistanis) have not learned Tajweed but the number is going up.Recommend

  • AAK

    Much ado about nothing…its basic common sense. Ramadhan is a word found in the Qur’an and in the works of Islamic scholars. The language of Islam is Arabic but that doesn’t mean the culture of Islam is Arab.

    This piece is as preposterous as saying Arabs who pronounce Pepsi as Bepsi have become ”infatuated” with Western culture…no my dear sir – its just the way the English language works.

    What a waste of time…Recommend

  • https://www.facebook.com/ali.faizan.kazmi Ali Faizan Kazmi

    @Sarah: The Muslim way of greeting is indeed Al-salam-u-alaikum, but why does it have to be literally so? For example, what’s wrong with saying ‘Aap par salamatee ho’? Language needs to be separated from religion.Recommend

  • sterry

    @Charlie Chapatti: If we were arab, we would be interested in worshipping kings and kicking our elected governments like they do in most Arab states- but Pakistan has no wish to be Syria, Egypt or any of the Gulf states. I agree that Pakistanis are better informed and more civic mindfed that Arab society which is more tribal and less inclined to democracy. Having said that, when you say an Arabic word correctly such as a Ramadan instead of the distored Ramazan just shows that you are aware of its root and origin. What’s wrong in pronouncing a word in more thanone way? And please can we not bring in the persecution of Shias in Saudia Arabia or other Arab countries into this discussion. This is about language and prononunciation.Recommend

  • ufaq zehra

    certainly great article it is. to all pro ramadan and wudu.
    how about calling ridwan instead of rizwan and raddi allah instead of razi allah.Recommend

  • Razi

    There is a locality in Lahore which should be correctly pronunced in Urdu as Gul-e-barg. Everyone calls it Gulberg though, and I have never seen or read anyone whining about the “anglicisation” of Pakistani language and culture. The reason is simple: these people are so obsessed with the West, it’s language and culture that everything is fine as long as it is coming from that part of the world. But any influence from the land of our religion is an anathema. Very unfortunate.Recommend

  • Genesis

    If languages do not change and adopt they stagnate and die.Because English is flexible on this it is now an international language.Just think about it.It started fro an island and has rapidly spread.Recommend

  • Genesis

    The fact is that the Arabs do not like you any better because you are arabising yourself.they still have disdain because you are a convert,not the original Arab!The original muslims are arabs.Recommend

  • Jugni

    First Andy murray….Now this.Recommend

  • Dr Dang

    After borrowing religion, you have trouble with a borrowed language.Recommend

  • Babur Idris

    Now that is a very pertinent rejoinder to the lovers of our Arabic ancestory. Recommend

  • Babur Idris

    Beautifully articulated Sibtain. Young people like you who have the courage and capacity to identify the paradoxes of our society are a sure need of the time. One can obviously see the conceited and closed minds of even our so called educated “elite”.

    Most critics have focused on the semantics of this write up instead of trying to read between the lines. Wearing religiosity on our sleeves, we have slid so far down the drain in terms of basic ethical and moral values that any mention of religious righteousness appears hollow. For those who love the Arab way of life, it suffices the mention of their arrogance and how the average Paki is treated in these holy lands. Hindi, Sanskrit have a lot common with Urdu then Arabic. You don’t have to be an Einstein to see thisRecommend

  • Sultan A

    The pronunciation is not important. Doesn’t matter if its ‘Ramazan’ or ‘Ramadan’. The main thing is the spirit of roza which is to control your worldly desires which is called “Taskia-e-Nafs” which covers from food to cloths, shoes, temperament, corruption, price hike, intolerance, over eating and the list goes on with no consideration for the lower sector of our society including close relatives and neighbors. It is better to call “Ramzan” because our elders(including religious people, intellectuals and the common people) can pronounce it and understand it better.Recommend

  • R Naqvi

    The issue is not the pronunciation of this month, whether we call it ‘Ramzan’ or ‘Ramadan’. It is simply because people of different nations cannot pronounce the sound of certain alphabets e.g people of Punjab cannot pronounce the urdu letter “Qaaf”. Instead they pronounce it as “Kaaf”. That is why they call ‘Ikbal’ instead of ‘Iqbal’. Similarly there are many letters in Urdu Qaida which are not present in Arabi Qaida such as “Pe”, “daal” , “Ray” and few others. Because of these reasons they have a different pronunciation of the same word. The phenomenon is reflected in “Ramadan” and “Ramzan”. This is just one example. There are many many other words which can be given to support this argument.Recommend

  • dsc9567

    Arabic is easily the most beautiful and meaningful language; it must be preferred over hindi.

    and for those who say we are closer to the people of india; get a life. Physical similarity means nothing, it is the Kalma that defines who you are. Recommend

  • Farah

    I am totally delighted by the fact that 72% people disapproves calling this month “Ramadan”. This is our thing, our culture. This is what we have been observing from the start. So Arabization of this word is not being more pious Muslim. Recommend

  • Muntazir

    Pronouncing a certain word in a particular accent has nothing to do with religion. Language is associated with the land and not with the religion of the land. That is why all the people belonging to one area irrespective of their religious beliefs, pronounce a word in a similar way. So a Arab, of any religion, will call Ramzan as “Ramadan”. Similarly a Pakistani(no matter if he is not a Muslim) will call it “Ramzan”. This is the way things are and has been ever since the Muslims came here. We should not bother to change it.Recommend

  • Arain

    Another stupid article written just to kill time..Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun

    Pakistan is attemtpting a social tectonic plate shift by trying to move the country from ‘South Asia’ to ‘West Asia / Middle East’! Rejecting the culture of their forebearers outright and trying to mimic their Arab ‘brethren’ – nothwithstanding the fact that an Arab would never consider a Pakistani a ‘brother’.
    And to those posters who keep harping on ‘living like the Prophet’ did; would they be willing to leave their A/C homes and use a camel to travel instead of a car! Live by His ideals (which most don’t), not ‘exactly’ the way He did!Recommend

  • Saad K

    Agree with the blog.

    This obviously is result of a much deeper issue imbedded in our national psyche. Our increasingly diminishing status in the world and a national sense of inferiority complex that is making us seek refuge in our supposed “arab” heritage and ancient islamic culture rather than taking pride in our native culture and language.

    A great example of the reverse is the pride people of USA take in speaking “American” English rather than correcting their fellow citizens on how certain words are spelled or pronounced a certain way in the original “Queen’s” Engligh. Not that I am very pleased with some of the words done by Americans in general but at least they don’t suffer from some silly complexes and are trying to change century old traditions as a mission from God (or should I say Allah before someone suggests that since I said God instead of Allah, I can’t possibly be a Muslim) Recommend

  • gp65

    Overall a thoughtful and well written blog which clearly describes the changes that you have lived through.

    In an overall good artickle, I was a little surprised to see ths sentence”Did they offer human sacrifices for pagan gods?” Since you understand little about Hinduism, perhaps you should stick to what you DO understand?Recommend

  • ali

    It is not infatuation, it is just what our religion refers it that way. No matter what our culture says about it, pronunciation wouldnt be deemed right if our forefathers used to say it that way. The quran was helped restored in its way by putting araab and dots so that people of different “cultures” could recite it in standardized way. So let it be what Allah wanted it to be calledRecommend

  • Citizen

    @Rumaisa Mohani:

    Again with the India obsession. No one can seemingly conduct an intelligent conversation anymore without the relentless comparisons to India.Recommend

  • Abu Bin Waleed

    The author should be thankful that Urdu is even spoken in Pakistan. After all, Urdu, or, more precisely Hindi-Urdu, are both are considered different dialects of the same language by linguist. Hindi-Urdu is totally and completely an Indian language native to UP, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh. It is totally and entirely foreign to Pakistan, except for Indian immigrants.

    It was a mistake to adapt an Indian language as a national language. I would have preferred either Punjabi, Sindhi, Seraiki, etc. Though these are historically Indian languages too.

    Though the best would have been to adapt Arabic as the national languages. After all Israel revived Hebrew and made European immigrants with no connection to Hebrew speak the language. And, they are fine right now after one generation. It takes only one generation for all Pakistanis to start speaking Arabic!!! Think about that.

    We started a new country based solely on religion, just like the Israelis. We could have made everyone speak Arabic with some imagination. That would have created a clean break from the pre-islamic Hindu/Buddhist/Indian past and the new beginnings of true Arab culture of the Prophet (pbuh).

    -True Arab living in KarachiRecommend