Project for the transcription of Muslim peoples’ languages into the Standardized Quranic Script
  • According to statistics, more than a hundred of Muslim peoples’ languages were written (and some are still written) using the Arabic script: forty (40) of which are African languages, thirty-four (34) belong to the languages of Central Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe, while the remaining languages are in South Asia, China and other regions.
    The Arabic script has taken on several names. It is “Jawi” in Southeast Asia, “Ajami” in West Africa and “Ottoman” in Turkey and Central Asia up to China’s borders. For standardization purposes, ISESCO has chosen the appellation of “Quranic script” which reflects the diversity of the Muslim Ummah.
    Similarly, the spelling system of each language of Muslim peoples transcribed into the Quranic script has remained within the scope of the Arabic alphabet in terms of graphic symbols, but some of its characters have been modified to represent the particular sounds that do not exist in Arabic. As in Urdu and other languages of Southeast Asia, these changes have been made using dots (two or three), accent and diacritical marks below or above the letter. By analyzing the changes and examining the spelling systems, we will find that the full alphabet of Muslim peoples’ languages includes more than one hundred characters.
    Muslim peoples’ languages were transcribed into the Quranic script until the mid-twentieth century, when the colonization replaced it with the Latin character. Therefore, the use of the Arabic character gradually decreased and was confined to limited areas such as religious education, literacy, correspondence and daily dealings. However, some languages such as Persian, Urdu, Pashto and Sindhi resisted this replacement scheme since they are still written in the Quranic script. This resilience can also be seen in that several Muslim peoples in Africa and Asia stick to that character, both at the official and community levels, and call for reviving its use. These trends took shape in the project on the “use of the Arabic script for literacy purposes”, which was adopted in 1984 by UNESCO, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS); then ISESCO joined it in 1985.
    In early 1991, and following a series of expert meetings and symposia in East and West Africa, ISESCO’s Arab-African Alphabet was adopted with the following principles and guidelines:

    1. Not to use an Arabic character to transcribe a sound other than its corresponding one in Arabic.
    2. To use a single character to express a single sound in different languages.
    3. Not to use, as much as possible, diacritical dots in distinguishing letters as they are a weak distinguishing feature which would cause technical difficulties in printing.
  • The Arab-African Alphabet was finalized. It includes forty-three (43) consonants, eight (8) vowels and a number of semi-consonants.
    Thus, the scope of the Arab-African Alphabet, which was limited in the beginning to about ten (10) African languages, has expanded as a result of training sessions and academic efforts to include, so far, more than thirty (30) African languages.
    Starting from 2006, the Quranic script project has undergone significant changes through:
    1- Computerization of ISESCO’s Arab-African Alphabet, in cooperation with the International University of Africa. In this regard, three (3) fonts were created following the pattern of “Naskh” font, namely:

    1. Africa 1
    2. Africa 2
    3. Timbuktu

    2- Development of the editing software for the transcription of Muslim peoples’ languages, along with a user guide.
    3- Development of the software for converting texts from the Latin alphabet to the Arab-African Alphabet, along with a user guide.
    In the same line of action, ISESCO, in cooperation with some educational, scientific and cultural institutions, on top of which is the International University of Africa, translated, printed and published eleven (11) books on heritage and jurisprudence into fourteen (14) African languages. The total number of translated, printed and published books has thus reached fifty (50) to date.
    In an unprecedented cultural initiative, ISESCO is pleased to publish on its website these translated works which would benefit African readers and provide them with insights into their Islamic heritage in their national languages transcribed into the Quranic script. Other books on Islamic heritage as well as dictionaries and educational material will, by the Grace of Allah, be published as part of this leading civilizational project. We pray to Allah the Almighty to grant us success.

ISESCO publications in african languages (part 1)
ISESCO publications in african languages (part 2)
List of book as per language
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