The Passions of the Christ

I saw The Passions of the Christ about two weeks ago and it was quite a different kind of movie. It seems like Mel Gibson became an expert in illustrating pain, sacrifice and suffering.

I'm not proficient in theology, but the story of Jesus (PBUH) as described by the movie was exactly what I have learnt about the matter in the Islamic tradition. The fundamental difference is of course on the notion of Jesus (PBUH) himself; Islam, categorically and by definition of God, refuses the idea of a "son of God".

The movie used the original Aramaic language spoken by Jesus (peace be upon him) and I discovered it was so close to modern Arabic. Well it was not really a surprise since it's just another semetic language like Hebrew and Arabic. What was suprising though was the striking similarity: with careful scrutiny, an Arabic (and for the matter maybe also a Hebrew) speaker can probably recognise 40% of what they were saying.

In the beginning of the movie there is a discussion between Judas and some Jewish clerics where they say "thlatheen, yehouda" that is "30, Judas". Arabic for this is "ثلاثين، يهودا" which reads exactly the same.

In Aramaic, Jesus (PBUH) seems to be called "Yeshua". His name in Arabic Yesou' "يسوع". I should acknowledge that I still don't know the diffrence between Issa (عيسى) and Yessou', a commentator may have the nicety to clarify.

Other examples are: sallo (pray/صلوا), malou (what's wrong with him/ماله), beini ou beinek (between me and you/بيني و بينك), la (no/لا), man abak (who is your father/من أباك), ana howa (I am he/أنا هو), koum (get up/قم), akhdhou al akh (they seized him "the brother"/أخذوا الأخ).

I had some discussions with some Christian friends and they appear to believe firmly that Muslim's God is different from theirs, stressing the fact that it's called "Allah".

What many seem to ignore is that Allah or Al-lah (الله) is just Arabic for "The God", therefore "my God" is Arabic for Ilahi (إلهي). Around the end of the movie, Jesus (PBUH) looks up the sky and screams for God's help saying: "Ilahi!".. I hope you got the point by now.


Italian influence in Tunisian spoken Arabic

Very few Tunisians realise this, but quite a few words of our spoken dialect of Arabic come from Italian, not Arabic nor French. Of course we use French words, but when we do we know it's French, but many of the words below are regarded as authentic Tunisian terms.

Italians have been to Tunisia several times: in the 2nd century BC as conquerors, in the 17th and the 18th centuries as immigrants and in the 20th as tourists. When the French protectorate started in 1881, there were 12000 Italians and only 700 French in Tunisia (*). The number of Italians grew to 85000 in 1921. The French protectorate turned into full scale colonisation, but that's another story.

As Italians came in fleeing oppression and poverty, they were well perceived by the population and quickly got fully integrated. In contrast, French came in as colonials and maintained an oppressive attitude. Well, that was occupation, so no wonders here.

Here is a list of words which were doubly verified by my wife and myself using BabelFish and an actual Italian national (thanks Ezio). I'm listing the Arabic term as pronounced by Tunisians, the Italian word, the English translation of the Italian word and the Arabic translation of the Tunisian term.

jornata/giornata/daily salary/أجر يومي
bousta/busta/postal pack/طرد
shroubo/sciroppo/sweet drink/شراب
stamba/stampa/printer/آلة كاتبة
jilat/gelato/ice cream/مثلجات
rouba fikia/roba vecchia/ملابس قديمة
gazouza/gassosa/gaseous drink/مشروب غازي

It goes without saying that I'm no linguist and no historian, these are just notes from what's surrounding me. Any additions or comments are welcome.

(*) المغرب العربي و الإستعمار الفرنسي، نور الدين الدقي 1997