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Friday, May 4, 2007

Is Mosque derived from Mosquito?

While doing the research for the Brunei mosque's article, I was taken aback when it was mentioned that the word 'mosque' were taken from 'mosquitoes' as the Spanish hated the Muslims to the point that they would squat the mosquitoes in their mosques. Hence the argument that the word mosques come from mosquitoes. It wasn't helped by the fact that in one book 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam' that 'fact' was mentioned in the book.

So I dig around some more and came across an article done in the Daily Times of Pakistan written by a columnist called Khaled Ahmed. So I thought rather than to try to summarise this one, why not I just paste the whole column here. So here is Khaled Ahmad's take on the word mosques.

"In these days of paranoia, one hears Muslims say that the English word “mosque” should be laid aside because it has been derived from “mosquito”. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A reader asked from the wonderful Lahore journal “Renaissance” if the English word mosque was derived insultingly from mosquito. He had read it in a book titled “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam”.

The book said that during the Crusades, King Ferdinand of Spain had said that he would swat the Muslims like mosquitoes, and that was the origin of the word mosque, the place where the “mosquitoes” prayed.

As the title suggests the book was a spoof. The definition given there is also a spoof and anyone taking it seriously runs the risk of being an idiot. Adnan Zulfiqar of “Renaissance” gave a very appropriate reply: the word had come from Spanish mezquita meaning mosque and became current long after King Ferdinand had had his day.

The Spanish-Portuguese civilisation that confronted the Arab conquest twisted the Arab words around quite a lot. Spain saw some of the most beautiful mosques being built on its soil. The place was called masjid by the conquerors and was taken as mesquita by the locals, which is mezquita in modern Spanish.

There is something to be said about the way Arabs themselves pronounce the sound “j”. We are told that Arabic doesn’t have the “g” sound. We have two versions of the word Gilani. The Arabs will say Jilani. Golan Heights are Jolan Heights in Arabic.

But there are Arabs that naturally convert “j” into “g”. For instance, Jemal Nasser is Gemal Nasser in Egypt. How would the Egyptians say masjid? While the spelling remains the same, the word will come out masgid. That’s not difficult to convert into mesquita.

English etymology makes it clear that mosque came into English in the 17th century from Italian 'moschea' and French 'mosquee'. The resemblance with mosquito is accidental. Mosquito came from Spanish as a derivative of mosca (fly).

Look at what we have done to masjid in Punjabi. The word is 'maseet' and there is classical Punjabi poetry which you can read only if you pronounce masjid as 'maseet'. After that you can’t blame the Russians when they call it 'mechet'.

For the Russian version you have to blame the Turks who coined their version of it as 'mescit'. Of course the Turkish “c” has to be pronounced “j” but you can’t control how others adapt to the pronunciation. The Turks themselves convert “d” to “t” in Muslim names: Najmuddin is Necmettin.

If the Americans have an idiot’s dictionary about mosque, we too have our idiot’s dictionary saying picnic is actually 'pick a nigger', explaining how in the South the whites hanged blacks while having an open-air snack. The word in fact has come from French 'pique-nique'.

The Spanish gave us another word by twisting the Arabic original. (In fact there are hundreds of such words.) The word for Muslim is 'moro', which is how we label the Muslims of the old Spanish-owned Philippines. The origin was 'Moravidun', the North African Muslim dynasty that ruled Spain.

In fact the 'moravids' were old inhabitants of North Africa. We find the Greeks also calling them 'mauros', the word from which the name of the country Mauritania (and probably also Morocco) is derived. English word moor for North Africans has been applied to describe all Muslims. Morris dance in English is actually moorish dance and the dark-skinned cherry morello also comes from there. Proper name Maurice indicates origin from Africa.

From specific to generic is a natural trend in languages. Look what we did to Franks, the inhabitants of France, out on their first crusade to the Middle East. We made Farangi out of Frank in Persian and then applied farangi to all white men, including the British. Farang is not France but all the West."

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