The development of a tradition: Continuity and change
Edited by Georgine Ayoub and Kees Versteegh
Michael G. Carter
Manuela E.B. Giolfo and Wilfrid Hodges
In the transmission of Islamic knowledge in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the usual language of religious instruction was not Arabic. The role of Arabic was limited to the recitation of the Qurʾān and the Ḥadīṯ; passive knowledge of Arabic was trained by collective reading of (often short) treatises in the classroom, which were memorized with the help of interlinear translations, e.g. in Swahili, in Persian, in Urdu, or in Malay. For the instruction in Arabic grammar students needed textbooks. There are a few sources about the curriculum in madrasas in Indonesia, Indo-Pakistan, East Africa and West Africa. This paper deals with the canon for grammatical treatises in different parts of the Islamic world and with the motives for learning Arabic. The main question is: how is it possible to learn a foreign language like Arabic by memorizing a grammatical treatise like the ʾAlfiyya, which presupposes a large amount of grammatical knowledge?