Abdelmalek BOUHADJERA

                        Standerdised arabic alphabet

 

The above illustration is one of my first attempts into writing Arabic language using a monumental script as opposed to the traditional cursive script. That was back in 1977 while I was a student at Lycee El-Kendy in Jijel, Algeria.

The title says in Arabic "koul shi moumkin" which means: anything is possible. I leave to the reader the freedom to decipher the rest, which means in English: "You shouldn't think about obvious things, but you should keep the mind busy with developing inventions".

Here is one of the notes I wrote the same year about the state of Arabic script: "When I look to the last letter n (noun in Arabic) in the word iman (belief in English), I hear it screaming about the unfair treatment (n is the only free unconnected letter in the word), and saying: I want the other letters to be free like me". It seems like a "prophetic" vision of the the Arab world in general and the Arab person in particular.

Like the script, it is tied up to the archaic traditions, with little freedom of action , and let alone any freedom of mind!

Contrary to the widespread belief, Arabic letters are very flexible, and as such, they could be easily adapted to modern printing and computers.

Falling in love so early with Arabic language has had a big impact on my life. Even the choice of my career at university was dictated by the idea of finding a field which could enable me to contribute directly to the efforts pertaining to the modernization of the language. Hence the choice of electronics!

Another unsatisfactory attempt using a microprossesor based LCD-Display system. That was in 1990 at Basingstoke, England. However, it lead to the more refined script which I called Standardized Alphabet.


Standardized Alphabet ©

After so many years of thinking about writing Arabic with separate letters, I achieved the result below in 1992 at Basingstoke, England. I called it El-Abdjadia El-Mouwahada which means standardised or unified alphabet. Unified, because each letter has only one shape, and in the 7X5 matrix (the simplest way to store and display letters in computers) each letter can only have one acceptable form (I would be happy to hear from anybody who can prove the opposite by trying to design other shapes for letters within the same frame!).

With only 32 symbols (28 letters + El-hamza as a complete letter + 3 other symbols) Arabic can be written using a monumental script perfectly adapted to modern machines and computers with 100 % definition at any size, and all of this without divorcing from the great tradition of calligraphy!

This isn't a revolution in writing Arabic, it is rather the missing link between the Arabs and the modern world which became evident with the invention of printing in the 15th century. Before then, the only writing technique in the world was calligraphy, which literally means beautiful writing, and was accomplished by skilfull scribes, but modern machines needed another style of writing, hence the birth of typography.

For purely historical reasons, it is the Europeans, neither the Arabs nor the Muslims who made the first attempts into printing Arabic, exactly as it is written by hand, and from here the notion that Arabic is a "complicated language" started, because no efforts have been made to adapt the Arabic letters to printing. Of course, the people to blame here aren't the Europeans, but  rather the Arabs and Muslims as a whole who use the Arabic script, because they carried on with the same tradition which was imposed on them indirectly by Europeans who had little in-depth knowledge of the language.

Since the great Ibn Muqla who introduced the first reform and strict rules regarding the writing of Arabic in the 10th century, which lead to the explosion of different callygraphic styles, no serious attempt has been made since, despite the tremendous progress of science and technology. Today, Arabic typography can be considered as non-existant because an even greater reform is required. It can only be achieved by adapting Arabic letters to printing and modern machines as it is shown in the following examples:

Example1: The traditional cursive script with attached letters

 

Example2: The "Semi-detached" Script. A very important step that has to be understood and implemented before going to the fully detached script. Here, the problem of the glottal stop (hamza) is solved.

 

Example3: The Monumental or fully "Detached"Script. All the problems inherent to the cursive script are totally absent. 

 This first design is just a start, that is far from being perfect. It would offer arab typographers a solid base for designing millions of fonts based on Standerdized Alphabet.

It must be emphasised here that the three scripts must live side by side. The Arabic language will be much stronger, and can be adapted to all situations as indicated in the table below:

 

    Information Technology
 Children & BiginnersAdultsHandwritingInputTransmissionProcessingDisplay*
Detached ScriptYesYesNoYesYesYesYes
Semi-detachedYesYesNoNoNoNoYes
Attached Script

Forbidden

YesYesNoNoNoYes

* For computers it will be possible to switch from one script to another at the touch of a button.

In Information Technology, and for all operations, the time saved will be huge!

I am fully aware that such reform needs intelligence, vision and courage. It can only be carried out by governments not individuals. The impact on the future of Arabs and Muslims will be huge*, since there is nothing in the world which can shake the humans psyche as the printed forms!

A new script like the one illustrated above would certainly lead to an explosion in Arabic font design as it is happening now with the Latin script. 

As a consequence of the importance I gave to the Arabic typography, I have achieved so many things along the way. In addition to El-Mishkak:

I designed in the same year 1992, a board-game destined for children which is also called Standardized Alphabet or El-Abdjadia El-Mouahada in Arabic.

I finished in 1996 the writing of a book called Arabic is the Natural Language of Computers.

I designed in  the year 2000 a multilangual board-game called Words-War.

And the story continues!

Copyrights and Designrights Prof. Dr. Abdelmalek BOUHADJERA

E-mail: bouhadjeraa@yahoo.com

* I have realised quite late that arab societies are crushed between the burden of a heavy past and the intolerance of religion. Any attempt to reform is fruitless unless it is accompanied by a process of enlightenment.This is a huge challenge,  since the operation may take several generations and involves the questioning of the past and a liberation from the sacred.

That exactly what happened in all developed countries, especially Europe, and took many centuries to materialise.