Islam in Malta

Not many of us know that Muslims ruled not only Spain but other countries in Europe like Portugal, southern France, parts of Italy, Greece, Albania, etc. Among them was the Mediterreanean island of Malta.

Malta is unique in that the language spoken is derived from Arabic. Muslims were kicked out so long ago that not many Maltese even know it. Islam came to Malta in the year 870 CE and Arabic took firm hold in the mid-11th century when Arabic-speakers from Muslim Sicily arrived.
Arab rule lasted until 1091, but the Normans allowed the Muslims to remain, and Arabic became their common language. In 1224, the Muslims were expelled, but their language—which had evolved into a local Arabic dialect—remained. Modern Maltese (or Malti) is described by some linguists as an Arabic dialect. 43 percent of the words have an Arabic origin.

Randan is Malti for the Christian season of Lent, and comes from Ramadan, Arabic for the Islamic month of fasting. The word God, in Malti, is Alla. On the island of Gozo lies an Arab tombstone from 1174. It’s found near the village of Xewkija (shaw-ki-ya, from the Arabic for thorn). In the town of Mdina—from the Arabic for city, madinah—people every day walk along Triq Miskita, a street name that comes from the Arabic tariq (way) and the Spanish mesquita (mosque), though they may be unaware that a mosque once stood on that street.