Lisan al-Dawat

The Dawoodi Bohra Language

A unique cultural hallmark of the worldwide Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community is its distinctive language, Lisan al-Dawat, commonly known in the community as dawat ni zaban.

It is a language that combines elements of Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Gujarati, which began to emerge about a millennium ago, when the Dawat (mission) originally came to Gujarat, India through missionaries of the Fatimid Imams. In keeping with the community’s philosophy of blending venerated traditions with modern innovations, Lisan al-Dawat is a language that preserves the Dawoodi Bohras’ cultural and spiritual roots while continually evolving with the needs of the age.

Lisan al-Dawat takes its basic syntax and structure from the Gujarati language, but its script and a substantial part of its vocabulary consist of Arabic words.

These elements give it an Islamic dimension that has facilitated the transmission of Quranic values and Fatimid heritage. For the community, it is a medium that enables it to articulate its Islamic roots while simultaneously serving as a link to its Indian heritage. Arabic continues to be the community’s lingua franca for religious scholarship and literature, but Lisan al-Dawat is its language in sermons as well as discourses and the medium of both official and day-to-day communication.

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