The word for “love” appears throughout Arabic literature in many forms. Arabic language views love as a complex spectrum, different in a range of stages. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, QFI staff members shared their thoughts on love in Arabic, and why they love the language.
My name is Omar, and I am a heritage Arabic speaker. Arabic has played an important role in my life personally and professionally, especially when entering college at the University of Maryland (UMD). My favorite Arabic quote is from a former professor at UMD:
عبر عن حبك بالعربي
عبر عن حزنك بالعربي
عبر عن فرحك بالعربي
Express your love in Arabic
Express your sadness in Arabic
Express your happiness in Arabic
When he wrote this on the board, I felt this was what’s needed to reach a high level of Arabic. It must not only be something you study but something that you feel.
My name is Julia and although I’m not a proficient speaker of Arabic, I appreciate the beauty of Arabic poetry and especially find an affinity with my Irish roots and the richness of poetry to express moments of joy and turmoil in life. Also, as a musician, I find the musical expression of Arabic poetry particularly moving. I appreciate the quote below because it speaks to being authentic to yourself and those you love rather than for show (or social media!).
سافر ولا تخبر أحداً
عش قصة حب صادقة ولا تخبر أحداً
عش سعيداً ولا تخبر أحداً
الناس يفسدون الأشياء الجميلة (جبران خليل جبران)
Travel and tell no one,
Live a true love story
and tell no one,
and tell no one,
beautiful things. (Khalil Gibran)
My name is Tahreem and I learned Arabic as a foreign language. I spent my time in college focusing on FusHa and spent a semester in Jordan learning 3ammiya, but there is still much more for me to learn! I chose a quote by Saadallah Wannous (سعدالله ونّوس). Although the quote is not about love, I believe it’s powerful because it reminds us that today is not the end.
إننا محكومون بالأمل وما يحدث اليوم لا يمكن أن يكون نهاية التاريخ
We are governed by hope, and come what may, today cannot be the end of history.
My name is Jill and I have studied Arabic for eight years. I was drawn to Arabic because I love how the language is used as an art form in calligraphy and architecture. I love to travel and was able to study abroad in Jordan and explore a large portion of the region while there. My favorite Arabic poem is:
سافر إذا ما شئت قدرا… سار الهلال فصار بدرا (الأعز ابن قلاقس)
This poem by Ibn Qalaqis roughly translates to: “Travel if you wish to acquire real worth; It is by traveling that the crescent becomes a full moon.”
My name is Lizzy, and I am a non-native Arabic speaker in my third year of learning the beautiful language and culture at George Washington University. I love studying Arabic because of the passion and kindness embodied by the language and the people that speak it. One of my favorite lines of Arabic poetry is from Nizar Qabbani’s “Epic of Sadness” قصيدة الحزن:
علمني حبك… كيف الحب يغيّر خارطة الأزمان
علمني أني حين أحب… تكف الأرض عن الدوران
Your love taught me, how love… changes the map of time…
Your love taught me, that when I love… the earth stops revolving
This line sticks with me as it illustrates that love is not just a shared passion between two people but can transform the world.
My name is Tony, when I was a student at Damascus university in 1980, one of the professors taught us these lines by Antara Bin Shaddad (عنترة بن شدّاد), the warrior poet.
ولقد ذكرْتك والرماح نواهل مني وبيض الهند تقطر من دمي
فوددت تقبيل السيوف لأنها لمعت كبارق ثغرك المتبسم
I thought of you as the lances quenched their thirst on me And the Indian blades dripped with my blood
And I longed for the kiss of the swords because They shone like the glorious flash of your smiling mouth
Those verses are addressed to his beloved Abla عبلة. They are the first lines of the Arabic poetry I memorized, and I still remember them. I love them because they are powerful, passionate and physical. They were composed over 1400 years ago, before Islam. And they show how Arabic has hardly changed in all that time, unlike English for example where the poetry of a thousand years ago is barely comprehensible. Fairuz, the Lebanese singer, sings the words on this clip. Go to 2:12 if you want to hear them straight away.
My name is Sarah, and I am a senior at George Washington University (GW). I started studying Arabic nearly 4 years ago. I have fallen in love with the language, the culture, and the opportunities that come with it. I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan for six months in 2019 at the Qasid Institute and Middlebury Language School.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
I chose this quote because it summarizes my attitude towards learning Arabic. It has taken a long time for me to get to the level that I am at in Arabic, and it will only get harder to get better. However, I have no plans on stopping, no matter how long it takes for me to reach fluency.