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Arebica - Bosnian Language in Perso-Arabic Script: ۉپۉتا ۉ پۉوييه ست ايسلاما [Uputa u povijest Islama / Introduction to the History of Islam]



A rare book in Arebica (Arabica), Bosnian language, written in harfovica – an adapted version of Perso-Arabic letters, was published during WWII in the time of Bosnian-Muslim revival of their pre-Yugoslav culture was made under the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany.


8°, 91 pp., original wrappers with lettering (one page with a tear without loss of paper, slightly age-toned and stained, last pages and rear wrapper with light water-staining, decoration on the cover coloured with old colour pencils, small tears in margins, tiny loss of corners of the front wrappers).



A work in Bosnian language, written in Arebica, was published for the lesions in the religious schools. The author Muhammed Seid Serdarević (1882-1918) was from 1913 Imam and a religious teacher in Zenica in Bosnia).


The History of Arebica and Its Revival

Arebica, also called Arabica, matufovica or mektebica, is a type of a script, used to write Bosnian language with Perso-Arabic characters, which developed in the Ottoman Empire as a logical merge of the locally used lettering and the Slavic language, spoken in the north-most Balkan border of the Empire.

The use of the Perso-Arabic letters among the South-Slavic nations is generally speaking unique to the Muslims from the area of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, other South Slavs on the territory of the Ottoman Empire preferred other scripts, connecting them with their identity and religion as the Orthodox Serbs and Bulgarians were mostly printing in Cyrillic script.

Although uncommon, Arebica in the Ottoman Empire would be comprehensible to the most South Slavs, capable of reading the official Ottoman script. Arebica adopted the letters from the Ottoman alphabet and eventually added additional characters, to clarify letters and vowels and make the script easier to read. The new characters, typical for this script are ڄ ـاٖى ڵ ـںٛ ۉ ژ for ž, u or o, nj, lj, i and c. Additionally, some of the letters started marking specific sounds only, which are common in Bosnian language, but were more vague in the Ottoman. Such letters were  آ  or  ا  for a, ه for e and و for v.

The beginnings of Arebica go to the 15th century. Used in what are today all rare manuscripts, the first book was printed in Istanbul only in 1868. The title was Ovo je od virovanja na bosanski jezik kitab (This is a Book on the Believe in Bosnian Language) by Mehmed Agić from Bosanski Brod.

Possibly less than 10 books were printed in Istanbul in Arebica until the first printing press with this types was founded in Sarajevo in 1907. The press published around 50 books, as well as magazines MuallimTarik and Misbah and two yearbooks named Mekteb.

The major reformer of Arebica was a Bosnian scholar and imam Mehmed Džemaluddin ef. Čaušević (1870-1938), whose script was used in the most of the 20th century books. The version is called matufovica or mektebica (مهقتهﺐاىڄا) or the reformed Arebica (reformirana arabica) (رهفۉرماىرانا اراﺐاىڄا).

The Bosnian Muslims were especially influential during the war under the government of the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of Nazi Germany with extreme antisemitic and anti-communist tendencies. The fascist ultra-national governor of this state, which at the time among others embraced the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ante Pavelić was born in Herzegovina and supported the Bosnian Muslims. After the war, the Bosnian Muslim press in Arebica was not supported by the Tito’s government.

The first original work in Arebica after WWII was a comic Hadži Šefko i hadži Mefko, published in 2005.


We could only find one example on Worldcat (Bavarian State Library).  One example is also listed in the GaziHusrevbeg Library in Sarajevo.


References: OCLC 1029861423. Fatima Omerdić, Bibliografija Štampanih Djela Arapskim Pismom Bosanskohercegovačkih Autora u Gazi Husrev-Begovoj Biblioteci, no. 79.

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