sheikh sultan at sibf 2023
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah at SIBF 2023 Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) today at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Under the theme “We Speak Books’, the 2023 edition of SIBF runs from November 1 to 12 with the participation of 2,033 publishers from 108 countries.

Sheikh Sultan marked the opening of SIBF 2023 by welcoming the gathering of eminent writers, intellectuals, publishers and leading thought leaders from the region and across the world to a new edition of the annual book fair.

His Highness said: “The opening of the 42nd SIBF marks the beginning of a celebration of 12 days of cultural activities and is an opportunity for children, youth and families across the UAE to enrich their learning in arts and sciences, and forge close connections with cultures across the world through books of diverse genres at the fair.”

Some 1.5 million titles are on offer from 2,033 publishers from 108 countries at the fair Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sheikh Sultan during the opening ceremony talked about the launching of 31 new volumes of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language. The total number has currently reached to 67 volumes and by next year more volumes will be completed and reach 110 volumes.

He drew attention to the great effort to produce the corpus, comparing the linguistic dictionary of the Kingdom of Sweden, which 137 people worked on for 140 years, resulting in 39 volumes and 33,000 pages. Meanwhile, 500 scholars, editors and proofreaders are working on the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language. The Sharjah Ruler noted that it will take six years to complete 110 volumes, totalling 81,000 pages.

During Sharjah Ruler's speech at the opening ceremony of the book fair, His Highness stressed that the Arabic language is the origin of all world languages, as it was the language of Adam (PBUH) that God Almighty endowed him with. His Highness noted that there are historical inaccuracies in the study of languages and linguistics around the world that must be corrected, which will be addressed in the 'Dictionary of World Languages' that will be published later as part of His Highness's efforts and scientific research on the history of the Arabic language to protect and disseminate it. His Highness also touched upon the importance of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language.

The Ruler of Sharjah spoke about the highlights of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language: "It is a pleasure for the reader, and showcases the history of the language since its inception, as its contents comprise detailed events and descriptions of everything… in poetry, literature and more. This corpus not only reveals the word and its meaning but also provides a comprehensive description."

His Highness added: "We ask: Is it Arabic language? Is what we speak called Arabic? Where did the word 'Arab' come from? And who coined it? And where? The Almighty gathered many people living in the holy city of Mecca and surrounding areas in one place, so they said: ‘People Qarshat… those Qarasho meaning gathered… hence the name 'Quraish.' So we were named Quraish based on the origin of the name. But Quraish has the Zamzam well, which we know emerged at the time of Prophet Ismail (PBUH). It is called the Well of Ismail and not called the water. They say 'Araba Ismail' which is the water not the well. And in baptism they say 'Al Arrab' meaning the person who immerses the child in water. So the word 'Arab' means water. Also the water wheels are called 'arrabah' and it is said 'arabi' meaning the water came out. And from this wheel they took the word 'Al 'Arrāb.' These are derivations in the interpretive depth of the word 'Arab' and it is an attribute we gave to the Arabs but it was attributed to the language spoken by the Arabs."

His Highness discussed the names given by researchers to different languages, saying: "Many foreign researchers say 'Semitic languages' including Ethiopian, Babylonian, Hebrew, etc. Why did they say 'Semitic'? And where did they derive this word from? This language is the language of the Lord of the Worlds for Adam (PBUP) him. The holy verse: 'And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the names of these if ye are right."’ But the angels could not comprehend or speak to them. With the knowledge God Almighty endowed Adam, who by God's decree descended to East Africa specifically in the Ethiopian Highlands, and from there human races migrated. Some migrated north, some inhabited the same land, and others migrated east and west. According to the theory of scientist Mendel, Adam and Eve’s skin colour tended towards grey, which is the complexion of the people of East Africa. If they intermarried and procreated, a white child and a dark child would be born, and so on. The white ones migrated north until they reached Europe. As for the dark ones, they stayed in the same land, and so Africa came about. The rest crossed what is called the Red Sea and came to the Arabian Peninsula. We ask: Did they carry the language with them? If we examine these languages, we find those who migrated north reached the Mediterranean to Italy where the Latin language emerged, the mother of European languages. If we take a comparison between the children who went north and the children who came to the Arabian Peninsula through some words, we find that the Latin languages are the same as Arabic, meaning it is the language of Adam." His Highness gave examples of some Latin words like 'road' while in Arabic it is ‘rawada’ and 'yartad', noting that it leads to the same meaning.

The Ruler of Sharjah pointed out that he is currently working on a new project that will benefit the world, saying: “I am now working on a new dictionary called 'World Languages' which comes from one source…We will give a name to this language that we have put in 110 volumes and ask… where did this naming come from? It has been said that these languages are similar including Ethiopian, Babylonian, Hebrew. If we take these languages and compare them, we find the words are common, and that the verb is the core of the sentence. And they called it the Semitic languages. Where did they come up with this naming? Its correct naming is ‘Adam's language.’” His Highness noted that he covered this naming in full in his book ‘Oman's History: From Ancient Settlements to the Fall of the Ibadi State’, and called on scholars not to use this name (Semitic).

His Highness added: "How did the matter become ambiguous to Western scholars? Because they did not find an explanation for what happened at that time when they wrote about these languages and collected them in what is called the Semitic languages. In 1500 BC, the people of ‘Aad’ lived in Al-Ahqaf, and Hud (PBUH) left them and went to Oman. Some who feared the flood that covered the land took to a route. Historians wrote about this route that passed through Qatif, then to Hinnakiyah, passing through Madina to Levant, until they reached near Damascus. In this area they found land full of limestone called ‘Iram’, which is colloquial Arabic word, so they started carving these rocks and building their city."

His Highness added: “God mentioned the people of Aad in the holy Quran, and then He said the (first Aad), which means that there is a (second Aad); those who fled Al Ahqaf are Aad’s people. They reached that area and inhabited it where they built their city, calling it after the land they lived in before Iram, which means the land on which they built pillars. When western scholars heard that, they did not mention ‘Iram of the Pillars’, but they mistakenly mentioned ‘Aram, son of Shem, son of Noah’, and this has nothing to do with this topic. Here, we have a critical correction that nullifies all that have been researched and written. I wish that every single attendee would correct this concept; this language is the language of Adam, peace be upon him. This is why I do not simply say that languages are similar to each other, but I will prove it in my book ‘The Dictionary of World Languages’.”

His Highness also said: "I started writing the Latin dictionary in 5 volumes, and whenever I go over this dictionary I speak the words like I'm speaking Arabic, and this will be put in a dictionary proving that the Latin language and other languages all come from one source, which is the divine teachings to Adam (PBUH), from which we are all descendants”.

His Highness hoped he would be successful in protecting the Arabic language, pointing out that his love for it is not because he speaks it, but because it is the language spoken by God, the Prophets and messengers, and it is the language of faith, religion and humanity.

During His Highness’s speech, the Ruler of Sharjah welcomed the South Korean delegation, the Guest of Honour of the 42nd edition, and the University of Coimbra delegation, who are showcasing invaluable manuscripts from the university's library at the book fair. The Ruler of Sharjah also welcomed participants in the 1st Sharjah International Conference on Arabic Language Studies in Europe for Non-Native Speakers, the delegation from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and the Libyan Arabic novelist Ibrahim al-Koni, Personality of the Year at the book fair.

After sharing these inspiring words, the Sharjah Ruler along with Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), felicitated Ibrahim Al-Koni, the renowned Libyan writer and novelist, who has been named as the 'Cultural Personality of the Year' at SIBF 2023.

The Swiss publisher Unionsverlag received accolades for their exceptional work in winning the 7th Sharjah Translation Award, 'Turjuman,' for their translation of Raja'a Alem's novel, The Dove's Necklace. Originally published in Arabic by Centre Culturel Arabe in Morocco, this translation earned well-deserved recognition.

His Highness also signed first editions of the Historical Corpus of the Arabic Language, and Oman's History: From Ancient Settlements to the Fall of the Ibadi State, during the opening ceremony.

During his keynote speech, HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, CEO of the Sharjah Book Authority, highlighted the remarkable growth and achievements of SIBF under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. He declared, “Through this unique vision, Sharjah has garnered global acclaim in the realms of culture and literature”.

Al Ameri emphasised that the 42nd edition of SIBF has attracted publishers and exhibitors from 109 countries, collectively representing more than half of the world's nations. He asserted that this global gathering is in fact a reflection of SIBF's evolution into a pioneering force that continues to leave a lasting impact on both Arab and global cultures.