Why do we use the new spelling, "Muslim," and not the older spelling, "Moslem," anymore?
We got this question from Dan Leibert about the word “Muslim” in the Facebook group a few weeks ago, and I wanted to get to it this week since we’re in the middle of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Dan wrote, “Is there any preference for “Muslim” versus “Moslem”? I use them interchangeably and was wondering if one was the preferred usage when referring to people who practice the Moslem faith. I can see that Facebook has 'Moslem' underlined in red. Is that significant?”
Thanks, Dan. It is significant. The M-O-S spelling used to be common, but today dictionaries and style guides say to spell it “Muslim.” For example, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary says “Moslem” was “formerly common but now old-fashioned, increasingly rare, and sometimes offensive.” So “Muslim” it is! M-U-S-L-I-M. Facebook was doing you a favor by adding that red underline to the other spelling.
Also, “Muslim” is capitalized, and according to Eymyonline, it’s from the Arabic word “muslim,” (lowercase and spelled like the current recommended spelling) which means “one who submits” to the faith. And the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the current spelling is now the generally preferred one because it’s closer to that Arabic word from which it comes.
If you’re older, “Moslem” may be the spelling you learned, and you may even worry that you’re doing it wrong if you spell it the currently proper way, like Dan did, but you don’t need to worry. The recommendations have changed.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.