Like this, there are many misunderstandings surrounding Tamil Muslims. Through an online series, Faiza is creating awareness and bringing a better understanding of Tamil Muslims.
“Arabic and Tamil are similar in certain aspects and easier to learn intuitively when compared to the English language. This is because of the vowels that we have in these two languages. As a Tamil-speaking Muslim, I am gifted with the knowledge of two languages. I am very much interested and intrigued to understand the similarities. Linguistically, the two languages are different but I am trying to find a correlation between the two,” says Faiza.
Coming back to the common misconception about Muslims speaking only Urdu, she shares, “Tamil Nadu is a state where there is a considerable number of Urdu and Tamil-speaking Muslims, especially in Chennai, Vaniyambadi, Ambur, etc. However, Tamil-speaking Muslims also form a large part of the population, yet so unknown to the world. I have my roots from Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi and the Tamil we speak is one of the purest yet it is sad we kind of tweak the native dialect even while talking among the Tamils. What is interesting is that Tamils have had a connection with Arabs and Islam spread through trade and not by the Mughal emperors as it is the case with the rest of the country,” she adds.
Masjid in Pettaikulam, Tirunelveli
Faiza tells us that people generally think biryani is the traditional food of all Muslims. “Well, we do love our varieties of biryani. But our traditional food is nei choru and kari (mutton) aanam. Aanam (kuzhambu) is an ancient Tamil word. We even use words like pasiyaara (breakfast). I guess the reason why there are many misconceptions about Tamil Muslims is that in villages, people from our community were mostly involved only in the trade until a generation ago and didn’t get an equal opportunity with work and education, which has been changing with my generation,” Faiza explains.
The linguaphile also points out that there is a great influence of Arabic in the Tamil language. “For eg, Sukkar is an Arabic word meaning sakkarai in Tamil. Maydanun is maidhanam (ground) in Tamil, Vaarisu is from the Arabic word Wareeth and Aroos is an Arabic word that means rice and it has its roots from arisi. Also, Zanjabil, which denotes ginger is from the Tamil word inji,” she remarks.
The masjids in Tamil Nadu do not have a dome. “The dome is an Ottoman/Turkish architecture while the masjids in the Arabian peninsula do not have a dome in their traditional masjids either. This is one of the proofs of the early settlement of Muslims in Tamil Nadu,” Faiza concludes.