In my previous blogs, I have proved and demonstrated without any historic or linguistic doubt that “Ħaqq Alla” in Maltese is not a blasphemy. I have shown that this is an expression which is still in use in the Arab world and those using it is, in no way, considered to be blaspheming. In fact, one finds this word in a song on You Tube and on sites run by Islamic religious centres.
Therefore, the question remains, why is it considered a blasphemy in the Maltese language today? Before answering this question, I would like to refer to a comment made by Mr. David Borda and others on my Facebook page. To prove his point that “Ħaqq Alla” is a blasphemy, Mr. Borda brings in another expression in Maltese: “Ħaqq ommok”. In fact, it is true that this expression is sometimes used in Maltese. Mr. Borda asks if one says “Ħaqq ommok” would one be offended?
In truth, “Ħaqq Ommok” is not the most common expression used in Maltese to offend the parents of others particularly, the mother. At this point it should be noted that the most common expression is “f’għ..xx ommok” which the equivalent in English is “F..k your mother”. Literally, the word “għoxx” in Maltese stands for a vagina. Therefore the literal translation is to go f..k your mother. The offence here lies in the concept of incest. I will not delve into this issue because this is related to the history of Maltese sexuality – a topic which I research and lecture at University. What I want to state here is that the word “għoxx” in Maltese has become a negative meaning. In Arabic, this word is still considered a polite word which can be used in discussion without any problems. Incidentally, in Arabic this word stands for ‘nest’.
But to return to the original point of discussion; the expression ‘Ħaqq Ommok”. In truth there are other Maltese expressions with “ħaqq”. We have ‘ħaqq rasek”, etc. These are considered less offensive than other expressions in Maltese with sexual connotations. Thus, for example, “Ħaqq Ommok” is less offensive than “f’għ..xx ommok”.
Yet, can the use of these expressions be taken as proof that “Ħaqq Alla” is blasphemous as Mr. Borda implies in his post? The answer is no. Why? The truth is that there is a fundamental linguistic difference between the expression “Ħaqq Alla” and the other expressions where the word ”Ħaqq” is used in a deprecatory sense. As I have already explained, the phrase “Ħaqq Alla” is a construct state of “il-Ħaqq ta’ Alla”. The other expressions mentioned in this article are not construct state.
When one says “Ħaqq ommok” does not mean that one is necessarily invoking justice from your mother, even if this could be a correct linguistic meaning. The same holds for the other expressions such as “ħaqq rasek” etc. Does it make sense to state one is invoking “the justice of your head”, which is the literal translation of ‘Ħaqq rasek” ?
In fact, between these expressions and “Ħaqq Alla”, there is a fundamental difference. “Ħaqq Alla” does not have what in Maltese is called the “pronom mehmuż” or a suffix pronoun. The rest of the expressions have this suffix pronoun at the end of the word, “omm”, “ras”, etc.
If one goes back to Monique Agius’ argument, when in the article she wrote for the bishops’ newspaper, she referred to Wettinger’s lectures and argued that “Ħaqq” is derived from the word “aħraq” in Arabic, then the expressions “ħaqq ommok”, “ħaqq rasek”, etc can start to hold water. In this case, the word “ħaqq” is used before another noun which has a suffix pronoun attached to it. I am sure that it was the presence of such a suffix that led Godfrey Wettinger to think that “ħaqq” is derived from “aħraq”. As explained in my previous blogs, this latter word is considered blasphemous in Arabic.
Thus, what do we have here? Is it the case that expressions such as “ħaqq ommok”, “ħaqq rasek”, etc are equivalent to the expressions in Arabic as “aħraq dinek”? This latter expression is still used in the Arab world in a disparaging way. I am sure that this expression was in use in Malta in the past. The word “dinek” stands for “your religion”. Therefore, this is an expression that was used by Muslims against Christians. In crude terms, when such an expression is used, the person uses it to say ‘f..k your religion”.
Therefore, if we accept the argument that the term “Ħaqq” in “Ħaqq ommok”, “Ħaqq rasek” etc. are from the word “aħraq”, then we need to establish that these expressions originally were pronounced as follows: “aħraq ommok”, “aħraq rasek” etc. This time round, the word “aħraq” can be used correctly in these expressions. As explained, the work “aħraq” was never applied to God by the Arabs and if it is applied to the Maltese word for God, it is not linguistically correct. As pointed out in a previous article, the word “God” or “Alla” in Maltese does not have a suffix pronoun attached to it.
Therefore, the question that one needs to ask is how, on a linguistic level, the word “aħraq” became “Ħaqq” in such words as “ħaqq ommok”, etc? If one had to say that “Ħaqq Alla” is similar to “Ħaqq Ommok”, then these expressions should have been “ħaqq omm”, “ħaqq ras”, etc. But these latter expressions are not pronounced in this way.
Once again, I need to return back to one of my earlier articles on the subject. I stated that if one has to look at the frequent use of the term “Ħaqq Alla” and study it from a Marxist perspective, one will conclude that Sicilian priests and higher clergy began discouraging the faithful from using it because this expression was used by the poor to ask for revenge or retribution for an injustice they have suffered. The underlings and the poor could not easily obtain retribution for the cruelty or insensitivity of their peers. When I expressed this opinion, I also stated that this could be one of the options.
In this article, I will be presenting another option. This time it is again rooted in history rather than in linguistics. In other words, I am not seeking to explain how a liquid consonant “r” in the word “aħraq” drops out to become “ħaqq”. From a historical point of view, one can correctly conclude that these two words, “ħaqq” and “aħraq”, were concurrently used in Maltese in the past and both had a specific meaning. Most probably, the word “ħaqq Alla” was used far more frequently than the word “aħraq”. Our ancestors, rather than blaspheme for any misdeed that was inflicted on them, resorted to invoking the wrath of God on those harming them by asking for God’s justice. Most probably, priests started to discourage people from using the word “aħraq” because of its negative connotations, while the word “ħaqq” was tolerated. It must have had more frequent usage and distribution, if one has to accept that the word “ħaqq”, in expressions as “ħaqq ommok”, “ħaqq rasek” etc. derive from the Arabic word ‘”aħraq”. Thus, two different words became fused into one with the result that wrongly, “ħaqq Alla” started to assume a negative meaning in Maltese and was incorrectly considered a blasphemy.
Yet, even this argument is not exhausted as there is at least another expression with the word “Ħaqq” followed by a word with a suffix pronoun which does not necessarily have a depreciable meaning. This will be the subject of another blog.