What does the arabic word "maktub" mean and how is it used in Coelho's novel, The Alchemist?
"Maktub," the merchant said, finally. "What does that mean?" "You would have to have been born an Arab to understand," he answered. "But in your language it would be something like 'It is written."
-- The Alchemist, pg. 31
And, as the camel driver had said, to die tomorrow was no worse than dying on any other day. Every day was there to be lived or to mark one's departure from this world. Everything depended on one word: "Maktub."
-- The Alchemist, pg. 60
"Maktub" is a word that comes up again and again in The Alchemist. As is mentioned in the first quote, it is Arabic for "it is written." Maktub means fate or destiny. The concept comes from the Islamic notion that Allah writes one's destiny and whatever we experience occurs because it is meant to be. The idea of destiny that is inevitable is emphasized throughout this book.
"Maktub" also exists in Farsi along with some other languages that borrow heavily from Farsi and Arabic. In contemporary Farsi and Turkish, for example, "maktub" or "mektup" means "letter." But its meaning in The Alchemist is "destiny."
"Maktub" loosely translates to "it is written" in English. It doesn't necessarily mean something has actually been written down on a piece of paper or stone tablet. It's more of a destiny thing. The crystal merchant introduces maktub to Santiago.
"Maktub," the merchant said, finally.
"What does that mean?"
"You would have to have been born an Arab to understand," he answered. "But in your language it would be something like 'It is written."
Santiago gets into some difficult situations throughout his journeys to find the treasure and complete his own personal legend. But as he gains confidence and knowledge with the Soul of the World, Santiago realizes that he can be more assured of his success. He can be more assured of his success, because of maktub. Fate has a way of falling into place for those who are following their own personal legend. Why? Because of maktub. Because it is written. Santiago's success is written; it's up to him to accept it and step into that role.
"Maktub" means, "it is written." Remember that in Coehlo's novel, one writes their own destiny.
Others you meet along your path to are able to help you realize your "Personal Legend." Omens may assist you as well, but it is up to you to either act or reject each step along the path that will lead to your destiny.
Satiago will hear the word "maktub" many times during his own journey (from the King of Salem, and the crystal merchant, to name two) after he has made a crucial decision to follow his dreams.
An example of someone who failed to listen to his heart and rejected the help and omens along the way is the crystal merchant. He tells Santiago how he made conscious decisions to reject a more meaningful life. "Maktub." He too wrote his own story.