The Poor Man’s Son Ajami Literacies of West Africa

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The Poor Man's Son Ajami Literacies of West Africa

Ajami was the only son of a poor man. He was convicted of murder at 17 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After serving 40 years in prison, Ajami was acquitted by a court, saying he was innocent.

Ajami was sitting in front of the judge in the courtroom. Judge Sahab put a blank sheet in front of him and told him to write down whatever amount they wanted on this paper for 40 years and that the government will pay them immediately.
Do you know what Ajami wrote?

Ajami wrote just one sentence. Judge, Sahab reconsider this law. So that 40 years of another Ajmi’s are not wasted.

Then he cried and the eyes of the audience in the courtroom were wide open. This is a picture of the moment in the courtroom when Ajami’s confinement was broken. We have so many Ajami who die while living in jail. They are buried somewhere and many years later the court declared them innocent.

When the Lahore High Court acquitted Syed Rasool in a murder case, it was found out that he had died in jail two years ago. When Mazhar Hussain was acquitted by the Supreme Court in a murder case 19 years later, the esteemed court was informed. He died in jail two years ago. Rahim Yar Khan’s two real brothers were hanged and acquitted by the Supreme Court.

I wish some of our rulers, some of the generals, and some of the judges sitting in the court of law should the power to revise this law.


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What is Ajami in Africa?

Ajami is a centuries-old practice of writing other languages using the modified Arabic script, deeply embedded in local histories and socio-cultural practices, mediating commerce, politics, and social life in many regions of West Africa.

What is the history of the Ajami script?

The script was first used between the 10th and 16th centuries. It was likely originally created with the intent of promoting Islam in West Africa. The first languages written in the script were likely old Taseelhit or medieval Amazigh, Kanuri, or Songhay. Later, Fulfulde, Hausa, Wolof, and Yoruba would use the script.

What is the importance of Ajami?

Ajami was put to religious use as early as the twelfth century, Ngom says, when Muslims made their way to sub-Saharan Africa and urged native peoples to study the Koran. Intended to spread Islam to African people who couldn’t read the religious texts in Arabic, Ajami did that, albeit with a few convenient twists.




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