It is always nice to get a call when someone wants to donate books to the Afrikaans Language Museum. The family of the late Prof Cobus Naudé recently called us and donated some of their father’s books to the ATM. Naudé took the lead in 1977 at the newly established Centre for Islamic Studies at the Rand Afrikaans University (now the University of Johannesburg). Before holding this position, he was a lecturer at Unisa in the 1960s, where he worked in the Department of Semitic Languages ​​and taught Arabic and Hebrew. Among his students during this period were the well-known activists Ahmed Kathrada and Desmond Tutu.

The books donated to the ATM include publications on The Revelation and Reality of Islam, The Four Gospels and Psalms as well as the Eerste Afrikaanse Liederebundel (First Afrikaans Songbook). Along with this there is also a beautifully decorated Arabic Qur’an, covered with green silk, as well as the Bajaan Oedien.

The latter is especially important in the history of Afrikaans. In the course of his research, Dr Achmat Davids showed how Afrikaans, in addition to the Western European and African influences, was also shaped by the contributions of people from Southeast Asia and the Indian continent. This includes contributions from literate exiles or adults who had been enslaved. Buginese, Malay, Tamil, Sundanese and Sulawesi were some of the languages ​​they spoke, and signs of these languages ​​are present in Afrikaans. Davids studied the treasure of Arabic Afrikaans texts – for example, the writings of imams, political pamphlets, writings of politicians and ordinary people.

The best known of these texts is that of Abubakr Effendi’s Afrikaans religious handbook known as the Bajaan Oedien (The Interpretation of the Faith) which was written in the Arabic script around the 1860s. The writing had to be adapted to reflect the pronunciation of the speakers and was therefore a written version of the spoken language.

The Bajaan Oedien by Abubakr Effendi was printed in Istanbul, Türkiye, in 1877 and was the first publication in Arabic Afrikaans (although the manuscript was already ready in Cape Town in 1869). The book covered 353 pages and touched on several topics. It served as a textbook to convey the principles of the Islamic faith to the Muslim community of the Cape at that time. Effendi built on an existing tradition of writing Afrikaans in Arabic; the Arabic Afrikaans literary tradition, according to Davids, already began in the early 1800s.

The latest book donation will form part of the museum’s book collection made available to researchers; the institution also has an exhibition on Arabic Afrikaans and its influence on Afrikaans language history. On 26 July 2022, a workshop on this will take place, after which there will be another competition for new Arabic Afrikaans works.

  • Source: The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims