Prospects and Problems of Arabic Language in Assam with Special Reference to Goalpara District: An Analytical Study


Abdul Motin Khandakar  


Assistant Professor (Sr. Grade), Dept of Arabic,  West Goalpara College,

P.O.- Balarbhita, PIN: 783129 Dist.- Goalpara, Assam.




Arabic language is one of the international languages, because it has occupied the fourth position in the recognized languages of the United Nations. In addition it also served as the vehicle of literature extending language from pre-Islamic period up to modern time. We observed that Arabic has become the heart-touching language of the second largest Muslim population of the World, by virtue of the Holly Quarân and prayer of Islam. In matters of commerce and business, it has great significance in the present World. 


It appears from the history that Assam was known as ‘Kamarupa’ or ‘Pragjyotish’ in the period of the Epics. Human inhabitation of this area dates backs to about 2000 BC. The population of Assam comprises of the migrants from Burma and China. They came into Assam after the mongoloid migration. They came from Punjab through Bihar and North Bengal. Thus Assam presents a fusion of Mongol-Aryan culture. The early history of Assam is believed to be of the Varman dynasty. The reign of this dynasty extended from 400 AD to 13th century. The visit of Huien Tsang is said to have taken place during the 7th century at the time of Kumar Bhaskar Varman. The Ahoms ventured into Assam in about 1228 AD. By 15th century the kingdoms of Ahom and Koch were established. This period witnessed a change in all walks of life in Assam. Here, this research work attempts to highlight the impact as well as the prospects of Arabic language in Assam, especially in Goalpara District.   


KEY WORDS:  Semitic, Quran, Bengali Language, Perso- Arabic and Maghadi Language.



Language is a very important medium of expression to exchange ideas among homogenous group of people or individuals with the help of sounds and gestures. It helps for communication of each other’s feelings, thinking with sounds and gestures understood by each other. The animals and other creatures are also capable of producing sounds of different types to express their feelings to some extent. But other creatures do not have the same extent of intellect like human being for communicating their feelings among themselves. As such, human being is supposed to be the noblest creature in the world.  


Arabic as a language has occupied a unique position in the domain of linguistic scenario of the world. Philologically Arabic belongs to the linguistic family of the Semitic languages, especially of the South Semitic or South-west Semitic branch. It is spoken throughout the Arab world and widely known outside it. It has been a literary language for over 1500 years.

As a spoken Arabic, it has various dialects having more speakers than any other group in the Semitic language family. There are more than 280 million native people who speak Arabic as a first language and this data was made available in 2006. The total speakers of Arabic language are 452 million in number as referred to the “list of languages by number of native speakers” according to the record made available in 1999.  Most of them live in the Middle East and North Africa. Literary Arabic is the official language of 25 states, and the liturgical language of Islam since it is the language of the Qur’ân, the Islamic Holy Book. Modern Standard Arabic (also called Literary Arabic) is widely taught in schools, colleges, universities, Islamic institutions, and used in workplaces, government and the media. Written Arabic is generally standard within the Arab world, but spoken Arabic language varies widely as each Arab country speaks its own dialects. Here it may be noted that the Arabic language is the 6th major language of the world, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.


In the linguistic scenario of the world, we find that Arabic language is one of the important and prominent branches of Semitic group of language family. Regarding Arabic, Dr. Shahidullah remarks as “The language prevailing throughout the Arabian Peninsula in sixth century is known as the most developed and ideal form of Arabic language.” Noeldeck also remarks as: “In the sixth century the inhabitants of the greater part of Arabia proper spoke everywhere essentially the same language, which as being by far the most important of all Arabic dialects is known simply as the Arabic.”


Every language has its own taste. The speaker of a particular language more or less by birth is fascinated to his mother tongue. The main function of a language is to bring out the activities of mind. A combine service of language and literature is to render interesting information which touches almost everything beginning from human mind covering the society to the world and its external and internal affairs.


The district of Goalpara is situated on the South bank of the river Brahmaputra. The district covers an area of 1,831 square kilometers and is bounded by West and East Garo Hill districts of Meghalaya on the South and Kamrup District on the East, Dhubri District on the West and the river Brahmaputra all along the North. The geographical location of the district is between latitude 25° 53’ N and longitude 90° 07’ and 91° 05’ E.


Politically this district was created in the year 1983 with two Sub-divisions, Goalpara (Sadar) sub-division & North Salmara (Civil) Sub-division. In 1989 Goalpara Sadar Sub- division was upgraded into a district and North Salmara Sub-division was merged with newly created Bongaigaon District. So, present Goalpara District consists of only one Sub-division.



The present research work has been undertaken to carry out the following findings:

1.      To find out the present status of Arabic Language and

2.      To study the about the different expectations of Arabic language in Assam.



The study is descriptive as well as analytical in nature and to meet of the objectives of the study secondary data was collected from different sources such as books, encyclopedia, journals, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, research articles and dissertations and the field works and surveys where necessary.



Assam is one of the provinces of India located in its north-east regions. In matters of spoken dialects, despite Assamese and Bengali languages, people of Assam speak also in their tribal and local dialects belonged mainly to the Tibeto-Chinese family. This family of languages is divided into sub-families namely Thai-Chinese and Tibeto Burmese. Definitely different dialects are derived from these two branches and their speakers are conspicuous in Assam. The Thai-Chinese dialects are also known as Sham-Chinese which comprises of Ahom, Khamti, Khâmyang, Âiton, Turűng and Fâke. Here mention may be made that all these dialects have script, known as Tai-script which was also used in recording their ancient history, religious scripture, morality and astronomy. On the other hand, some other spoken dialects are also derived from the Tibeto-Burmese family; they are Bodo, Rabha, Karbi, Dimasa, Mising, Deori, Tia, Garo, Âdî, Chingfou etc. Here it is imperative to know that the speakers of these dialects do not hesitate to accept Assamese language as their lingua franca. Furthermore, Bengali language is also spoken and well understood in Assam, since it has a great horizon for communication with the homogenous group of people. The origin of both these languages is determined to be derived from Magadhi Prakrit. In the 8th century A.D., it was transformed into two regional forms as eastern Magadhi and western Magadhi. Assamese, Bengali and Uria languages are derived from eastern Magadhi; and Moithali, Magahi and Bhozpuri are of western Magadhi. The Assamese language coming from the regions of Videha-Magadha through North Bengal entered into Kamarupa or western Assam where this speech was first characterized as Assamese. According to Dr. Sukumar Sen, “The evolution of Assamese language was taken place in Assam during the period of 9th – 11th century A.D.  As and when Assam came under the sway of British Government in 1826 A.D. Bengali language started spreading in Assam and at present it is deemed to be the second lingua franca in conformity with the numbers of its speakers.” In the linguistic scenario Assamese and Bengali languages are the scion of Indo European family of languages.             


Presently in Assam, Muslim population exceeds more than thirty percent of the state population. They are historically concentrated in the south and west Assam in large numbers. In addition, we find in central Assam (mainly in the districts of Nagaon and Marigaon) has significant Muslim populations. History of the origin of this huge numbers of inhabitants does not represent one single period. Almost a quarter of their Islamic origin belongs to 13th to 15th century A.D. It is certain that Muslim settlement and conversion to Islam occurred at various point of times. The newly settled Muslims (13th to 15th A.D.) of Turk, Afghan, Arabic, Persian and other backgrounds, mingling with the newly converted Muslims, and Non Muslims paved the way for the enhancement of language, Polity, economy and society of Assam. Thus local languages and dialects became filled with new words used by the adventurer. Both Assamese and Bengali languages are fraught with Arabic and Persian words. So Muslims added new dimension to Assam and opened a new chapter in Assamese and Bengali literature specifically from the point of linguistics that innumerable Perso-Arabic vocabularies have been intermingled with the Assamese and Bengali languages and their sub-dialects too, which about the present generation of Assam is likely unknown.                                                                 


At present, we find Arabic language as one of the international language, because it has occupied the fourth position in the recognized language of the UNO. In addition, it has also served as the vehicle of literature extending from pre-Islamic period up to this modern time. Arabic is now found from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean and has been attested from the fifth century BC to the present time. Modern dialects of Arabic language are spoken all over northern Africa, in the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq and some dialects of Turkey, Iran and the Soviet Union. As an official language, Arabic is used in the Arab world not less than twenty two countries.


It is observe that Arabic has become the heart-touching language of second largest  Muslim population of the world by virtue of its being the language of the holy Qurân and the prayer of Islam. In matters of commerce and business, it has great essentiality in the present world. We know that more than 422 million people speak in Arabic language as mother tongue.

As literary language, Arabic dates back to the 7th century A.D. and it was adopted by most of the peoples conquered and converted by Muslim Arabs. It appears from the contemporary world of languages that a modernized version of classical Arabic as well as modern literary Arabic is used in education, literature and communication.


It appears from the history of Assamese language that a good number of Arabic vocabularies incorporated into Assamese language. The background of this fact goes with the influence of Islam, while its propagation started in Assam from the 13th century A.D. In this respect, merchants, Sufi-saints and political adventurers were the main torchbearers who made it spread throughout Assam. As and when they made communication with the indigenous people of Assam in matters of socio-religious and political aspects, a large number of Arabic and Persian vocabularies incorporated into the dialects of Assamese and Bengali languages. The trend of Islamic propagation was triggered with the establishment of Maktabs, Madrasas, schools, colleges and universities having the facility of teaching Arabic and Persian. Apart from this, Islamic rituals are mostly performed in Arabic language. Under such circumstances, various types of socio-religious and political words happened to incorporate into the dialects they used for communication in day to day life.


In the present Assam Muslim population, according to 2001 census report, comprises 30.9 per cent of Assam’s 26.6 million people. It is a notable fact that six of Assam’s 27 districts have a majority Muslim population; they are namely Barpeta, Dhubri, Goalpara, Nagaon, Karimganj and Hailakandi. It has been observed that among all these districts, Barpeta tops the list of Muslim population. Assam has 126 Assembly constituencies; and the community of Muslim people is believed to control the electoral verdict in about 60 constituencies as well.


It appears from the history of Islamic education that the Muslim rulers of Bengal and Assam continued patronizing Maktabs for primary education and Madrasas for higher education. In fact, the Madrasas put emphasis on the teaching of the Qur’ân, Tafsîr, Hadith, Fiqh etc. In addition, Arabic and Persian were also taught in the Madrasas of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. As and when India went under the rule of the British, few reformations were made in the education systems. The first Governor General of Bengal, Warren Hastings (1773 – 1784 A.D.) founded Madrasa ‘Aliya or Calcutta Madrasa in 1780 A.D. In fact, this Madrasa was the first institution in the eastern part of country endowed with teaching itself and an affiliating body for the various large and small Madrasas of Islamic learning in undivided Bengal. The aim of this madrasa was to produce persons adequately trained in Persian, Arabic and Muslim Law (Fiqh) for appointment in lower posts in government offices and courts of justices, particularly as interpreter of Muslim law, and conciliating the sullen Muslim aristocracy of Bengal by utilizing the prospective employment opportunities for them. (46) Needless to say that it is considered as an important Madrasa in the history of Indian Islamic education. This Madrasa followed the course and syllabus as regulated by al-dars al-nizamî prepared by Mulla Nizamud-Din of Sihali (d. 1784) in the light of the reformations of his contemporary Shah Waliullah of Delhi (d. 1760). Bengal, governed by the British, was divided into Bihar, Orissa and Assam during 1905 – 1912 A.D. due to better administration. Here it may be noted that all the educational institutions of East Bengal and Assam followed the courses of Calcutta Aliya Madrasa and held examinations under its Central Education Board.  Mostly students of Assam studied in Calcutta Aliya Madrasa and Darul Uloom Deoband, Deoband (U.P.). Again, a number of Assam’s Muslim students studied in Silhet Madrasa, known as Jamia Tawakkulia Renga Madrasa, one of the oldest institutions in the city of Silhet. It was founded in 1919 by Arkan Ali; later ran by his son Badrul Alam (Sheikh-e-Renga), a graduate of Darul Uloom Deoband and disciple of Husain Ahmad Madani. In fact, these three Islamic institutions gave a fillip to the study of Arabic language and their graduates spread Arabic studies throughout Assam. Since they took pain in establishing further madrasas in different places like Badarpur, Asimganj, Bashkandi, Hojai, Joynagar, Jaleswar (in Goalpara District), Sibasagar etc. Various Maktabs and Madrasas were also established under the support of some Sufi-saints, ‘ulamâ’, Muslim leaders and State Government of Assam as well in her different parts. During the study it is found that there are large numbers of Govt. and non-Govt. educational institutions, in Goalpara District. In this connection we may mention that there are  large number of Pre-Senior and Senior Madrassa, High Madrassa, M.E. Madrassa and High School there are six colleges for higher education, in which Arabic Language have been taught for its overall development.


It is a matter of glad that though Persian Language was the national language for 600 years and English language for 110 years, as national language of our country; Arabic language was not in such a position, but a remarkable number of Arabic words have been intermingled with Indian Languages. Specially, in Assamese and Bengali there are about ten thousand Perso-Arabic words have been intermingled and make these more extensive. We may also mention that Linguist and Researchers are unanimously declared that about ten thousand Perso- Arabic words have been intermingled with Assamese language and Bengali as well.   We find both Assamese as well as Bengali languages to be endowed and coined with Perso-Arabic vocabularies.


As regards the Prospects of Arabic Language in Assam, nowadays, Arabic has an important scope. There are different types of job facilities in the embassy offices of Arab countries for those educated youths who are well acquainted with Arabic language. Even at the age of computer and internet technology, Arabic language plays an important role in the field of communication among the different nations of the world.


Although, the Govt. of India (HRD) patronized for the development of this language, it is a matter of regret that there is no bright prospects, especially in respect of Assam, because of the drawbacks mentioned below:

1).   Arabic language is introduced only in the limited number of general educational institutions.

2.)   The domination of Arabic is very small. It is confined among the small groups of people.

3).   The tendency of learning Arabic language among the pupil is gradually being diminished. The causes of diminishing the tendency of learning Arabic are of many folds; as:


a). Negligency of Asom Sarba Siksha Abhizan Mission: This is one of the vital  reason for the curtailment of interest of the student community in learning Arabic language. The authority of this Govt. agency, it seems that they are intentionally refrained of supplying the books on Arabic subjects in due time i.e. in the beginning of the session, year after year. So, the students become offended and liable to give up the ambition of learning Arabic language forever.


b). Lack of training system: In India, particularly in Assam there arises various types of difficulties in the way of developing  the teaching –learning process of Arabic language, because of the absence of training system in respect of the teachers in Arabic language. So, most of the teachers are either fully or partially ignore about the teaching methodology, i.e. how he would teach Arabic in his class; hence, lake of training system becomes the barrier in the way of the development of Arabic language. Therefore, the authority should take the necessary steps and make arrangement of training programme and impose it as compulsory for every teacher.


c). Gradual omission of the content of Arabic language from the syllabus: There are many scholars, they are well acquainted with their services as the moderator of course and curriculum as well as syllabus and played the vital role in the field of syllabus moderation  programme for the all-round development of education system. But, some of them by virtue of their power and function, prepared the syllabus either of low standards or allow continuing the traditional syllabus, forgetting the aims and objectives of their duties. Hence, despite of their great endeavour there is no any development, especially in the field of Arabic language and literature. 



During the study it is observed that the present scenario of Goalpara district, many religious and secular institutions are established, where Arabic as a subject is taught right from Maktab Madrasahs to Title Madrasahs and schools to colleges. In such a way, the knowledge for Arabic language has occupied a significant position in the district of Goalpara and her people are enriched with considerable numbers of Arabic vocabularies in their daily conversations.


From the above discussion  it has been clear that in Assam  we cannot achieve anything more brightened in the field of Arabic language, unless and until we try our best to erase the above mentioned problems in the way of its development.  



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Received on 10.12.2012

Modified on 22.02.2013

Accepted on 03.04.2013           

© A&V Publication all right reserved

Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 4(2): April-June, 2013, 201-205