Based on a Talk by Dr. William Granara to the Students at Qasid
It has been claimed that “fusha” Arabic is an obsolete, dead Arabic, a language of the past; that it is no longer the mother tongue of any of the Arabs, nor is it even used in regular speech. So is Fusha dead?
What is Fusha?
First of all, what is Fusha Arabic? Fusha means formal literary Arabic, whether Classical Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). This is in contrast to `Ammiyyah Arabic, which is the local dialect, or colloquial, of any given Arab region. The `Ammiyyah of a region is the primary spoken form of Arabic of that region.
Is Fusha Dead?
Because `Ammiyyah is so varied, the only unifying language between Arabs from the different Arab regions, from Morocco to Yemen, each with its unique `Ammiyyah, is Fusha. This unifying ability is a primary reason that Fusha Arabic is very much alive–very much used and needed.
In What Contexts Is Fusha Used?
With increased globalization and hence the increased need for communication between Arabs from different regions, Fusha Arabic has established itself as a unifying language in three very common contemporary media:
1) Social Media: Because of the increased communication over long distances by means of the internet, Fusha is commonly used between Arabs in social media.
2) News: Fusha is the language in which the news in the Arab world continues to be expressed.
3) Novels: Not only is Fusha very much alive in Arabic novels, but it could even be said that there is a revival of the Arabic novel in Fusha.
The Arabic Novel
The Arabic novel has undergone a rebirth–especially in Morocco, but also in countries such as Tunisia and even Saudi Arabia. The Arabic novel in recent years has proven to be the medium of choice for the Arabs to express their ideas and feelings about their current issues and circumstances–political, social, economic, and so on–more so than newspapers and other similar media. And the language of choice for Arab novelists has not been their local `Ammiyyah Arabic (nor any European language, such as French), but has been Fusha Arabic.
Because Arab novelists are writing for all Arabs, the only viable language in which to reach them is Fusha: it is the only language shared between them. And so we find Fusha continuing to thrive in Arabic novels. So anyone that wants to understand the contemporary Arab mindset, sensitivities, feelings, ideas, and so on, should learn Fusha Arabic and read Arabic novels.
A final point worth mentioning is that even for those Arabs that are not highly educated, do not read novels, and know virtually no Arabic grammar, Fusha is still very alive and relevant. A huge percentage of Arabs use and hear Fusha every day: in their “la ilaha illa Llah,” in their prayers, in their devotions, and so on.
As long as Arabs need to communicate with other Arabs (and as long as Arabs continue their devotions), Fusha Arabic remains very much alive. So congratulations to all of those studying Fusha Arabic, especially those that have come to the Arab world to do so.