Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

Connotations of Open in Arabic

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 11 seconds

So I just felt like writing a blogpost about connotations of Open in Arabic. 

The first two things that came to mind are two suras (chapters) in the Quran. One is named Al-Fatihah (The Opening) and it is the first thing you read in the Quran (7 verses long) and it actually doesn’t have the word Fatihah inside it (unlike many other suras). Clearly it’s named the opening because it’s the opening of the Quran. But it’s also the one sura we repeat many times each day with prayers. For every single rak3a (dunno English word for this). So on a typical day, a Muslim who does all 5 prayers would repeat this sura 17 times. At least. And the sura is mainly about recognizing Allah’s mercifulness and asking him for guidance to the good path. Anyway, reflecting on this made me think about the importance of how we “open” something and what kind of direction and values we give something by how we “begin” it.

The second sura with the word is surat al-Fath (t and h pronounced separately ; h is actually representing a sound u don’t have in English). Ahem. Which also translates into The Opening (same root, but different meaning to Opening). With Al-Fatihah, it is “the one that opens”. Whereas with “al-Fath” it’s the thing that’s open. Kind of. Except actually in that particular context Fath means… Not exactly conquest… But kind of… Some kind of victory. I think that’s the better word for it. The sura is a prediction of upcoming victory in Mecca when Muhammad would re-enter Mecca victorious (after having migrated with his followers to Medina to seek refuge from oppression) and it would become a Muslim city. Without bloodshed. It’s an interesting story. I now suddenly realized the PLO’s (Palestinian Liberation Orgn) has the name Fath in Arabic.

But anyway. My point being that “open” here has pretty positive connotations that are actually neither libre nor gratis nor even…puppies or anything. They mean open as in…open a box or something 😉 which no one really talks about in open education, but really, that’s also sometimes what you’re doing…. You’re opening up what’s inside a textbook and making it accessible, or what’s in your own mind…or something. 

Anyway other connotations of open…

Infitah. This refers to a shift towards more liberal/open economic policies during the time of Sadat that enabled more import/export trade. Depending on political affiliation, this was either genius or a disaster. I think probably both as it was a sudden shift from socialism to that.

Mutafattih/a. When we call someone that we mean they are open-minded

Munfatih/a. Slightly different from above. I think it is in terms of exposure to outside views (rather than their own perspective on them).

I was thinking of adding some sayings and expressions but now I can’t remember all of them… 

One expression that is stuck in my head (an Egyptian one) relates to wishing someone well, good blessings, and it’s “rabena yefta7 fi weshak” (may God open things upon your face…i.e. may good things happen to you) 

I think in many other contexts, open is used in Arabic similarly to English. So translating all these expressions would not necessarily add value.

Maybe the only thing to add value here is that many names in Arabic have the word in it. Fathi/Fathia, Aboul Fotouh, Abdel-Fattah (the latter translates as worshipper of the Fattah, I.e. GOD. Fattah is one of Allah’s 99 names. So that’s a cool thing. Means “the one who opens a lot”. Suddenly realized that the feminine version of that word is Fattaha and – blasphemy – it is the name of that tool you use to open cans and older bottles of coke. Huh)

And on that superficial note…

One thought on “Connotations of Open in Arabic

  1. Thanks for these perspectives on openness or opening in Arabic. Very interesting. I particularly liked “opening a box” as an analogy for what we sometimes do with a textbook or other material. Opening it up, seeing what’s inside, trying to figure how to use it or interpret it. That adds nuance to “open learning.”

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