Arabic is a Semitic language, like Hebrew. It is spoken in most of the countries in the Middle East (but not Iran and Turkey) and is the mother tongue of about 230 million people. In addition millions of Muslims in other countries have some knowledge of Arabic through the Qur’an or via some Arabic words being adopted in the everyday speech of Muslim speakers of certain languages. (For example, pupils may remember that Muslim Gujerati speakers use Arabic versions for words connected with greeting and parting, whereas Hindu Gujerati speakers use different words.)
Several Arabic words have entered the English language, such as: algebra, alchemy, alkali, albatross, mosque, minaret, giraffe, cotton, sofa, mattress, magazine, arsenal.
The word harem (made popular through translations of the Arabian Nights) comes from the meaning “forbidden” (haram), its opposite being halal, “allowed” as in halal meat.