An ephemeral school certificate with hand-written annotations was published in Sarajevo. The text in Bosnian on the inside of the wrappers quotes regulations for visiting the mekteb for children and their parents.
The printed text and manuscript are written in Arebica (also Arabica), Bosnian language in Perso-Arabic letters. The images on the wrappers showcase the Emperor’s Mosque in Sarajevo and Kaaba in Mecca.
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 Muallim, Tarik 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.