اًل بّرِنثِبِتٔ / El Principito — in Aljamiado.

Aljamiado refers to the practice of writing a Romance language, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, using the Arabic script. This phenomenon primarily occurred among Muslims (Moriscos) in Spain and Portugal, especially after the Christian Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, which culminated in the fall of Granada in 1492. It extended into the period of the Spanish Inquisition and the eventual expulsion of the Moriscos in the early 17th century.

The term “Aljamiado” is derived from the Arabic word “عجمية” (‘ajamīyah), meaning “foreign” or “non-Arab,” and refers to the use of the Arabic script to write non-Arabic languages. The practice began in the Middle Ages and continued for several centuries, serving as a means for the Moriscos and, to a lesser extent, the Sephardic Jews (who used Hebrew script for similar purposes), to clandestinely maintain their cultural and religious identity under Christian rule.

Aljamiado manuscripts covered a wide range of subjects, including religious texts (translations of the Quran, Islamic legal texts, prayers, and devotional literature), as well as secular works like poetry, medical treatises, and folk stories. These writings are invaluable historical documents that provide insights into the social, cultural, and religious lives of the Moriscos and Sephardic Jews during this period.

Aljamiado writings played a crucial role in preserving the Islamic faith and cultural practices among the Moriscos, serving as a form of resistance against forced conversion and assimilation. For the Sephardic Jews, similar practices helped maintain their religious and cultural traditions.

The texts offer unique linguistic insights, revealing how Romance languages were spoken by these communities. They show the influence of Arabic (and, in the case of the Sephardic texts, Hebrew) on the vocabulary, syntax, and phonology of Spanish and Portuguese as used by the Moriscos and Sephardic Jews.

The secretive nature of Aljamiado texts, due to the threat of persecution, means that many manuscripts were hidden or destroyed. The discovery and study of surviving texts have been crucial for understanding the historical experiences of these marginalised communities. Scholars have worked to collect, transcribe, and analyze these documents, shedding light on a significant but often overlooked aspect of Iberian history.