Arabic tattoos are beautiful
Recently, more and more people have been getting Arabic tattoos inked on their bodies. The reason is usually that the language is considered to be exotic and the script mysterious. By getting an Arabic tattoo, they hope to get imbued with the same sort aura of being mysterious and exotic. This is similar to the reason for getting something inked in Chinese or Hindi.
For others, such tattoo designs have a more personal meaning – they might have some kind of bond to Arab culture or might be of Arab heritage. Maybe they’ve been on holiday to Egypt or Morocco and have enjoyed their stay there.
Others still simply like the elegance of the script and how the letters flow into each other.
Here are some common Arabic words and phrases that people get tattooed and their meanings:
Beware the different writing system
The Arabic writing system differs considerably from the way we write in English. This can cause serious confusion and often leads to unfortunate mistakes that could have been easily avoided.
Here are a few general rules of thumb to follow:
-Arabic is written from right to left, NOT from left to right. If you attempt to write Arabic words from left to right you’ll end up with meaningless characters that native speakers won’t be able to recognize as the intended meanings.
-Arabic letters are usually “linked” to their neighbours within a word. This is gives the script the appearance of being flowing and elegant. Handwriting in English or other Western languages is usually similar, insofar as the letters will be connected to each other to make writing quicker. The difference is, of course, that Arabic is ALWAYS written this way. If you don’t connect the letters, the result will look very ugly in the eyes of those fluent in the language. (Note, however, that there is a small number of letters that are not connected to the left.)
Don’t get your tattoo design from an unreliable source. I’ve seen many people that have come to me with designs that were allegedly created by their “native speakers” friends and that turned out to merely speak Arabic passably, while they had little idea of the rules of writing and grammar.
If you get an electronic copy of an Arabic tattoo you like, make sure it’s either in picture format or in a PDF file. Whatever you do, don’t get it as plain text. The reason for this is that many PCs are not configured properly to display the characters and will end up messing your design up. This won’t happen with image files or properly formatted PDF documents.
Here are some more ideas for tattoos in the Arabic language:
For more ideas, check out the Arabic Tattoos eBook.
Your name in Arabic
Many people want to get the name of their partner or (the safer option) their own name inked in the language. Most of the time there is more than one “correct” way to transliterate a Western name into Arabic, so don’t be surprised to see a few alternatives, depending on whom you ask. That’s why it’s crucial to get your design from someone knowledgeable who can do the proper research to find out which spelling variation is the most common one or the most suitable one for the pronunciation of your name.
What to do once you’ve selected a design
Once you’ve found a design you like and you’re sure it’s accurate you will need to take it to a tattoo artist and discuss it with him. Ideally, this is someone who already has some experience in inking Arabic tattoos. If it’s too difficult to find someone like that, make sure the person understands which way is up, which way down, which way left and which way right. Otherwise, you could end up with a mirror image of the original on your skin.
Other general considerations are, of course, also important in choosing the right tattoo artist.
- Visit several studios and talk to staff to get a general sense of their expertise. This also gives you the opportunity to see how busy they are, how clean the store is and check out samples of their previous work.
- Don’t be pressured into getting the tattoo done then and there. You have the right to think through your decision to get the design inked and also to decide whether the artist you’re talking to is the right person for you.
- Examine the previous work done by the artist. Although this might be your first tattoo, you don’t need to be a professional to recognize when a tattoo looks good or when it’s gone wrong.
- Asking a friend who has had something inked already for a recommendation is a very good idea, as they might be able to tell you who is good and who isn’t.
Some background on the language itself:
Arabic is spoken by more than 300 million individuals around the world as a first language and is the official language in 26 countries. There are many dialects (such as Egyptian, Moroccan or Levantine), but they are usually not written and just oral. For a tattoo, you should get the design in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is also known as “fus-ha”. This is the formal way of speaking and used by the media, in education, politics and religious contexts. The interesting thing is that this formal variant has changed relatively little over the last 1200 years, apart from a few new words (like television, internet etc.) of course. This makes the language very special and is one of the reasons for getting an Arabic tattoo design.
Aren’t tattoos against Islam?
First of all, just to be clear: not all speakers of Arabic are Muslim. There are plenty of Arabs who are Christian, Jewish, or atheist. Like all languages, Arabic itself is not religious.
Conservative Muslims generally don’t like the idea of having anything tattooed on their skin. This is generally for two reasons: first, they believe they need to abstain from harming their own bodies. And secondly, they believe that tattoos are linked to pagan rituals of idol worship. Of course, Islam (like other religions) has a lot of diversity within and there are many Muslims who don’t have an issue with tattoos. The same issues apply in the case of conservative Christians and Jews, who too are against tattoos.
The upshot is that as long as you don’t ink something offensive onto your skin, the majority of religious people probably won’t care either way. So, it’s best to avoid getting verses from the Quran or reported sayings of the Prophet.
Where can I get more tattoo ideas with Arabic words and phrases?
You could find someone educated who is either a native speaker of Arabic or who has is proficient in its usage. Alternatively, you could take a look at the Arabic Tattoos ebook.
When done correctly, Arabic tattoos are a beauty to behold and will draw the attention and interest of those around you. Just make sure to remember some of the important pointers discussed above, so that you can enjoy your tattoo for years to come.