Arab Heritage in Malta

The history of Malta includes several centuries of Arab presence that were very influential in what its heritage today is, including language, and place names.

History of Arabs in Malta

From 870 CE to 1091 CE, the islands were almost exclusively Muslim by religion and Arab by language. Even after the Norman conquest, a significant Muslim segment in the society remained till the 13th century, since the initial Norman did not converted the population. This is similar to Sicily, where the Normans allowed the Muslims to remain Muslims for some time, and not forced to convert. For example, Al-Idrisi was a Muslim Arab nobleman who worked in the court of Roger, and wrote his geography book and named it The Book of Roger (Al-Kitab Al Rujari الكتاب  الروجري).

Eventually the Muslim presence in Malta ceased to exist, perhaps after it came under the Spanish Empire.  

Language of Malta

Their language remained Arabic though, and their family names remained Arabic, as well as most place names. Being non-Muslims the language slowly drifted to what it is today with heavy influence from Italian and Sicilian.

Why does the Maltese language remain spoken today and not vanish like Arabic in Iberia? I think that the more active suppression of Arabic by the Spanish authorities and the church is to blame here.

Nobility of Malta 

Much of the Maltese nobility have Arabic names referring to place names (Djar = Dar = house, Bneit = Bent = daughter/girl, Benwarrad = Sons/Descendants of Warrad, Gnien = Ganayen = Gardens, Tuffieha = Apple(?), Qajjed = Qa'ed = commander).

Place Names

Also, monuments and place names such as Hagar Qim are Arabic,  in this case a "Stone" in Arabic. Other place names include Mdina (The City), Flifla (pepper), Rabat (camp), Birzebbuga (Bir = well), Gzira (Island or peninsula), Marsa (port), Ghar (cave),  Qala (Fort), Gharb (west), il-Balluta (The oak), Triq (Way/Road), Isqaq (Lane), ...etc. A list of local councils of Malta reveal more.

It is interesting that the Maltese say that Zebbug and Birzebugga are derived from the name for olives,  while there is a town called Zejtun زيتون, which is the Arabic name for olives.

If one looks at the Attard anthem, one can see the extent of Arabic in it which sounds like a north African dialect.

Dissociation from anything Arab

Although the facts are there, some Maltese genealogists go out of their way to affirm that the Maltese are European and Christian, and have nothing to do with Arabs. The author,  Charles Said Vassallo claims descent from Cem, the younger brother of the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid II, who after a period of failed civil war, seeked refuge in Cairo, then Rhodes, then in Europe with the Pope.

This attempt to dissociate the Maltese from Arab influence is similar to the phobia in Iberia in the 1500s and afterwards, from anything to do with Moors and Islam, be it dress, language, customs, taking a bath, circumcision, ...etc.

This is an all too common phenomenon where people would like to stop history at a certain point for their own bias and ignore all other eras in history, religion, language  and culture. 

Closing Anecdote

A common saying in Egypt today is : "Like a call for [Muslim] prayer in Malta زي اللي بيأذن في مالطة", which alludes to the fact that no Muslims are left there, and hence no one will answer the call. This  must be an old saying indeed, given that  this happened many centuries ago.

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Comments

I've never heard so much

I've never heard so much rubbish! Israelites my foot!

I'm sorry to have to say this but you have no idea what you are talking about ... no background in history, neither heraldry. You're just making things up basing your logic on selected bits and pieces of disconnected information

Proof of being Israelites

You mentioned heraldry. Do you know that a third of all Maltese have a coat of arms that contains a star of David? That should be an eye opener.

There are lots of geographical names that are Hebrew too. Examples are Gudja for Judea; Rabat for Hebrew meaning the larger town, Dingli for the judgement scroll, Mdina, for the place of judgement, etc...

My book is yet unpublished, and I should explain so much more in detail.

Maltese are a cocktail in the centre of the Mediterrean

Our geography makes our history thus our language,our race,our culture.In 1976 I lived in Naples with economists from all developing countries. There were no Europeans, no Americans ( USA/Canadians), no Soviets. I as a Maltese mingled comfortably with Iraqis, Egyptians, Sudanese, and Indians. Why because of Arabe and English-speaking linguistic affinities. Semitic stems front Shem son of Noah and his descendants the Phoenicians, Jews and Arabs. Thereby this is the base of the cocktail. With the Roman and Roman Byzantine (the Orient) before the Arabalisation for about two centuries we were influenced by Siculo-Arabs and the Greek Sicilians. Then the the Germanic Normand , Aragonese, and the 230 years of French, Castillian, Italian and German knights. Then the 180 years of British domination. Insemination by foreign males and the Maltese mother rearing the offspring with the siculo-european-Semitic vocale resulting in today's moderne Maltese tongue dressed in Semitic grammar and an intonation and lexical and semantic meaning closest to Lebanese and Egyptian Arabic very akin to where Jewish tribes roamed. In times of Roger II and the Inquisition many Jews and Muslims were coerced to change their creed. However, the traditional beliefs, mannerisms, behavioural traits have evolved and became ingrained in out way of living, cuisine, architecture,religious beliefs and our homogeneity as one race of a cocktail and à language of a cocktail of a Cupic structure and Latin alphabet and an abundance of European words and semantics. Our geography thus made of history, race and language of today's Maltese living on the Maltese archipelago. Remember that 7000 years ago the then Maltese were the Neolithic people of which we have their temples, altars and artefacts. A female god and Malta a sacred mecca in the centre of the Mediterranean!

ARAB Maltese?

My family Vella, came to Malta in the from Aragon, they were knights,in the 1400s. That is of course way after the Arabs where thrown out of Malta. So what? So we the Vellas came to Malta only 600 years ago.
WE Maltese today are. mostly RC, look very much alike, and share the same way of life, ALL OF US. Quit with the oldest names , Arabic background , because we are really not sure who really were the first people in Malta, and the ARABS were not.

Phoenicians

Let's settle this issue once and for all about Phoenicians as there are many people who wish to believe that Phoenicians have nothing to do with Arabs, so here's a quote from Herodotus from 440 BC. ; and the second is from Strabo:

Herodotus's account (written c. 440 BC) refers to the Io and Europa myths. (History, I:1).
According to the Persians best informed in history, the Phoenicians began the quarrel. These people, who had formerly dwelt on the shores of the Erythraean Sea (the southern part of the Arabian peninsula-Yemen), having migrated to the Mediterranean and settled in the parts which they now inhabit, began at once, they say, to adventure on long voyages, freighting their vessels with the wares of Egypt and Assyria…
—Herodotus

Strabo, the Greek historian, geographer and philosopher mentioned that the Phoenicians came from the eastern part of the Arabia peninsula where they have similar gods, cemeteries and temples.

Mr Charles Said Vassallo

Esteemed gentlemen,
Please do not take Mr charles Said Vassallo of Australia too seriously and claims such as being a Prince of Turkish descent!

I recall vassallo's claim to it - viz, on the basis of a mistaken understanding of a descendants clause' in an alleged 15th century Sicilian grant to an ancestor from whom mr vassallo had an alleged female-line descent - which was comprehensively debunked a couple of years ago on rec.heraldry. A plethora of other titles remain online, C.f.:http://www.geocities.com/maltesenobility/bibinoSaid.htm

Belinda Vassallo

maltese bloodline genetics

HERE IS THE MALTESE GENETICS YOU CANNOT DEFEAT SCIENCE ONCE AND FOR ALL ....R1 AND R1B ARE OF EUROPEAN AND THE PERCENTAGES UP THE MALTESE HAVE MORE EUROPEAN GENETICS THEN WHAT RUMOURS SAY AND NO MALTESE ARE NOT 100% ARABS AS I RESEARCHED MY ANCESTERY BACK MY FAMILY CAME FROM THE KNIGHTS OF MALTA BUT WE DO HAVE SLIGHT SEMETIC I HOPE THIS CAN HELP. GeneticsY-Dna haplogroups are found at the following frequencies in Malta : R1 (35.55% including 32.2% R1b), J (28.90% including 7.80% J1), I (12.20%), E (11.10% including 8.9% E1b1b), F (6.70%), K (4.40%), P (1.10%).[23] R1 and I are typical in European populations. J, K, F and E1b1b haplogroups consist of lineages with differential distribution within Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The low percentages of J1 and E1b1b are similar to the Sicilian population, suggesting common ancestry with Sicilians and negligible genetic input from both North Africa and the Middle East

maltese bloodline genitics

I HOPE THIS CAN HELP. GeneticsY-Dna haplogroups are found at the following frequencies in Malta : R1 (35.55% including 32.2% R1b), J (28.90% including 7.80% J1), I (12.20%), E (11.10% including 8.9% E1b1b), F (6.70%), K (4.40%), P (1.10%).[23] R1 and I are typical in European populations. J, K, F and E1b1b haplogroups consist of lineages with differential distribution within Middle East, North Africa and Europe. The low percentages of J1 and E1b1b are similar to the Sicilian population, suggesting common ancestry with Sicilians and negligible genetic input from both North Africa and the Middle East

surname zahra

hi all my family name is Zahra, can anyone give history about that?

and also can anyone give history about the village of rabbat.

thanks

Flower

Zahra in Arabic زهرة is "flower".

Rabbat could be from Ribat رباط which means "camp", or "frontier outpost". The town of Rabat in Morocco derives its name from the same word.

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