Arabic script is closely associated with Islam. Holy Quran must be read in Arabic thus people who converted into Islam learned the language and the script. It is thus used to write the languages of most muslim nations.

Arabic is written right-to-left, the letters are always cursive. It is the native script for 9,5% people of the world and 12% world land area.


In Arabic script only the consonants and long vowels are marked by letters. Short vowels are marked by diacritics but these are rarely written (only in Quoran, poetry, children’s books). Thus usually one needs to guess the correct short vowels.

As Arabic script has been adopted by languages with more consonants than Arabic more letters were created, usually by adding dots to the existing letters. Four new letters introduced to write Persian are the most common as they have been accepted into many South Asian languages as well.



Arabic script is used to write these major languages (with 5 million+ speakers each):

Language Native speakers Countries where spoken
Arabic ~246 million Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, uwait, Lebanon, Lybia, Morrocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen, Western Sahara
Punjabi ~100 million (~70 million use Arabic script) India, Pakistan
Persian ~70 million (~65 million use Arabic script) Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan
Hindustanti (Urdu) ~242 million (~60 million use Arabic script) Pakistan, India
Pashtu ~40 million Afghanistan, Pakistan (northeastern)
Azeri ~30 million (~23 million use Arabic script) Iran (northwestern)
Sindhi ~20 million (~18 million use Arabic script) Pakistan (Sindh)
Kurdish ~16 million (~12 million use Arabic script) Iran (western), Iraq (northern)
Baluchi ~8 million Pakistan (Baluchistan)
Uighur ~7,5 million (7 million use Arabic script) China (Sinjiang)
Kashmiri ~5,5 million Pakistan (Kashmir), India (Kashmir)
Malay ~30 million (~3 million use Arabic script) Thailand (southern)

Political decisions caused some languages to be written in Arabic or non-Arabic script depending on location. As Turkey and former Soviet Union forced their linguistic groups to abandon the Arabic script the transantional ethnicities use different scripts. In India the usage of script depends on religion: muslims use Arabic script, others prefer Brahmic writing systems.


In 7th century AD Arabic script was just one of many similar-looking scripts that evolved in the Middle East out of the previous Aramaic script. Its sole users Arabs were still a small nation but among them Prophet Muhammad was born. Muhammad started the Islamic religion with Holy Qoran as its holiest book.

Under new faith Arabs conquered many lands. The locals adopted Islam and Arabic language in most of them. In some others (e.g. Persia) they continued to use their own language but still adopted Arabic script.

The script of a small desert nation became the world’s most popular writting system ~800 AD, most of the Medieval best scientific, poetic and pilosophical works were originally written in it. The jihad ended but islam (and the Arabic script) continued to be adopted by faraway nations under the influence of muslim traders (East Africa, Indonesia).

While the Islamic world was arguably enjoying its Golden Age ~10th-15th centuries AD the might of Christian Europe was rising and sporadic “reconquests” soon became a major colonial drive. By 19th century most Islamic lands were European colonies. Many African/Asian nations and “tribes” (Hausa, Somali, Malay) had Arabic script replaced by Latin (by then the world’s most popular script). The prestige of Arabic script became so low that even independent Turkey chose to abandoned it in favor of Latin in 1920s. In 1930s Arabic script suffered its hardest blow as Soviet Union forced all its vast muslim lands to adopt Cyrillic.

In mid-20th century decolonization began and the decline of Arabic script ceased as it became official in many newly-independent nations. However no country that had been made to abandoned the script chose to readopt it.

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