What is this thing called khat?


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 18 Aug 2019

HOW much do people know about khat?

Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has likened khat to the baju Melayu and songkok, that is, it’s something that is iconic to Malay culture and has no religious connotations.

Jawi is a Malay form of writing not related to religion, and not even close to being used as a tool to proselytise anyone, according to Dr Mohd Asri. While Jawi refers to the form of writing, khat refers to calligraphy art that often involves brushwork. In Malaysia, the khat design practice often uses Quranic verses and Islamic phrases.

Unlike Chinese or Indian languages, the Malay language has no written characters of its own. Before the arrival of Islam on the Malay Peninsula, the old Malay writings were in Rencong, Kawi, Palava and other Indian-originated scripts that were widely used on the Malay archipelago when the Srivijaya Kingdom ruled in the seventh century.

When a majority of Malays embraced Islam after the religion came to the Malay Peninsula in the 12th century, modified Jawi writing, which was derived from the Arabic language, was adopted.

Jawi then became the common written form of communication on the Malay archipelago and remained so for centuries.

Holding great importance in the Malay language and development of the culture, Jawi writing was used long before the British came in. The romanised version was introduced after the Malay archipelago was colonised. Until today, Malay is written using the Roman (tulisan Rumi) or Latin script. It is also the official writing in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Although Arabic is the language of the Quran, many Arabic characters are not the same as Jawi writing. This is because they are read in Arabic, while Jawi is read in Malay.

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