Days of the Week

Sorry for the long break. I caught yet another bug, and in general I just haven’t had much time for these things, particularly as I know there are a couple of long explanatory entries that I need to do if this venture is going to continue. In lieu of one of those long entries, here’s something quick and easy, the days of the week. The Arabic word for “day” is يَوم (yawm), and properly the name of each day is يَوم plus the word from the list below (as, in English, we append “day” onto other words to create the names of the days: “Sun” + “day” = “Sunday,” etc.). However, you will often see يَوم omitted and the days simply called by the names listed below:

  • Monday = الإثْنَين (al-ithnayn)
  • Tuesday = الثَلاثاء (al-thalāthāʾ)
  • Wednesday = الأربَعاء (al-arbaʿāʾ)
  • Thursday = الخَميس (al-khamīs)
  • Friday = الجُمُعة (al-jumuʿah)
  • Saturday = السَبْت (al-sabt)
  • Sunday = الأحَد (al-aḥad)

Other than Friday and Saturday, these names are derived from the cardinal numbers (maybe that should be our next lesson). So “Sunday” is literally “first day,” Monday “second day,” and so on.

“Week” is أسبوع (usbūʿ), from سَبَع (sabaʿ) or “seven,” and “days of the week” is أيام الأسبوع (ayām al-usbūʿ).

The makeup of the work week in the Arab world varies by country. Friday, you probably know, is the Islamic Sabbath. This is actually reflected in the word for “Friday,” which is derived from the verb جَمَعَ (jamaʿa), meaning “to collect,” which in other forms can mean “meeting” or “congregating,” and so the name of the day refers to the fact that Friday is the one day when Muslims are expected to attend a large congregational mosque for formal prayer services (Islam requires several daily prayers, but these can be done alone, in small or large groups, in small or large mosques or any other suitable location; the midday Friday prayer is the one obligatory weekly large group prayer in the mosque). The traditional Islamic “weekend” was Thursday-Friday, mirroring our Saturday-Sunday, but globalization and the demands of interacting with non-Muslims for business have caused a number of countries to shift to a Friday-Saturday weekend, which means their work week and non-Muslims’ work week are only off by two days rather than four. Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Yemen still practice the Thursday-Friday weekend according to the fine folks at Wikipedia,  while Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, the Sudan, Syria, and the UAE use the Friday-Saturday weekend. Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia actually use a Saturday-Sunday weekend; this makes a certain amount of sense in the case of Lebanon, where Christians were in the majority at least until the mid-20th century, but I am at a loss as to why Morocco and Tunisia are on that schedule (or at least why they would be Saturday-Sunday while Algeria was Thursday-Friday until 2009, when it went to Friday-Saturday).

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8 thoughts on “Days of the Week

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  4. Morocco and Tunisia were influenced, and still are, by the French (as colonies) to stay in ‘synch’ with the French weekend.
    They are allowed a long 2 hr lunch break on Fridays to carry out their islamic duties.
    Pakistan, also an Islamic state is also on Sat/Sun weekend, due to history and the British influence from the past.

    • That makes sense, obviously, but do you know why Algeria isn’t on the same schedule? That’s the part I don’t get.

      • Algeria fought a long war to get rid of the French, and after gaining their freedom, one of the things they did was reconnecting with their Islamic history, and that meant getting rid of things like week-ends imposed by the colonizers. And Morocco and Tunisia depend largely on Western tourism (so they ‘adapt’), Algeria doesn’t.

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