Arab people

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Ibn Khaldun.jpg
Bust of emperor Philippus Arabus - Hermitage Museum.jpg
Omar Mukhtar 13.jpg
Allal El Fassi 1949.png
Arafat keffiyeh.JPG
Nasser making a speech in 1960.jpg
Président Ahmed Ben Bella.jpg
Raghida Dergham 2012 Halifax International Security Forum.jpg
Manal al-Shraif.jpg
Zainab Alkhawaja in Nabeel Rajab's house crop.jpg
Naseer Shamma en los Encuentros Averroes de Córdoba (2011).jpg
Total population
approx. 422 million[1]
(including 25-30 million Berber people)[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Arab League402,000,000[3]
 United States3,500,000[8]
 Sri Lanka1,870,000[9]
Arabic, Modern South Arabian,[12][13] varieties of Arabic
Predominantly Sunni Islam
Minorities: Christians, Shi'ites, Ibadis, Non-denominational Muslims; other religions
Related ethnic groups
Other Semitic peoples and various Afro-Asiatic peoples
  (Redirected from Arab)
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Ibn Khaldun.jpg
Bust of emperor Philippus Arabus - Hermitage Museum.jpg
Omar Mukhtar 13.jpg
Allal El Fassi 1949.png
Arafat keffiyeh.JPG
Nasser making a speech in 1960.jpg
Président Ahmed Ben Bella.jpg
Raghida Dergham 2012 Halifax International Security Forum.jpg
Manal al-Shraif.jpg
Zainab Alkhawaja in Nabeel Rajab's house crop.jpg
Naseer Shamma en los Encuentros Averroes de Córdoba (2011).jpg
Total population
approx. 422 million[1]
(including 25-30 million Berber people)[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Arab League402,000,000[3]
 United States3,500,000[8]
 Sri Lanka1,870,000[9]
Arabic, Modern South Arabian,[12][13] varieties of Arabic
Predominantly Sunni Islam
Minorities: Christians, Shi'ites, Ibadis, Non-denominational Muslims; other religions
Related ethnic groups
Other Semitic peoples and various Afro-Asiatic peoples

Arab people, also known as Arabs (Arabic: عرب‎, ʿarab) and Arabians, are a panethnic group[14] primarily inhabiting Western Asia, North Africa, and parts of the Horn of Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic or cultural grounds,[15] with tribal affiliations and intra-tribal relationships playing an important part of Arab identity.[16] Most however have direct or partial ancestral relation to the nomadic indigenous inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula and the Syrian desert, known as Qahtanite and Adnanite Arabs. After the genesis of Islam in the mid-7th century, most Arabs have been Muslims,[17] spreading the Arab people, Arabic language and culture with the Muslim conquests as far as North Africa and Central Asia.

The word "Arab" has had several different, but overlapping, meanings over the centuries (and sometimes even today). In addition to including all ethnically Arab and Arabized people of the world (with language tending to be the acid test), it has also at times been used exclusively for bedouin (Arab nomads [although a related word, "`a-RAB," with the Arabic letter "alif" in the second syllable, once was sometimes used when this specific meaning was intended] and their now almost entirely settled descendants). It is sometimes used that way colloquially even today in some places. Townspeople once were sometimes called "sons of the Arabs." As in the case of other ethnicities or nations, people identify themselves (or are identified by others) as "Arabs" to varying degrees. This may not be one's primary identity (it tends to compete with country, religion, sect, etc.), and whether it is emphasized may depend upon one's audience. If the diverse Arab pan-ethnicity is regarded as a single ethnic group, then it constitutes one of the world's largest after Han Chinese.


Originally, "Arabs" were synoymous with the Bedouin ethnic group, until the Arabisation of people with no descent from the ancient Bedouin Tribes, mostly during the Abbasid Caliphate. Therefore all uses of the word "Arab" prior to the 7th century AD, and most those prior to the 13th century AD refer specifically to people belonging to the Bedouin ethnic group. Later uses of the word "Arab" could refer to anyone whose part of the wider linguistic and panethnic definitions of Arabs. The earliest documented use of the word "Arab" to refer to a people appears in the Monolith Inscription, an Akkadian language record of the 9th century BC Assyrian Conquest of Syria, which referred to Bedouins under King Gindibu who fought as part of a coalition opposed to the Assyrians.[18] Listed among the booty captured by the army of king Shalmaneser III of Assyria in the Battle of Qarqar are 1000 camels of "Gi-in-di-bu'u the ar-ba-a-a" or "[the man] Gindibu belonging to the ʕarab" (ar-ba-a-a being an adjectival nisba of the noun ʕarab[18]). ʕarab, with the Arabic letter "alif" in the second syllable, is still used today to describe Bedouins today, ditinguishing them from ʕrab, used to describe non-Bedouin Arabic speakers.

The most popular Arab account holds that the word 'Arab' came from an eponymous father called Yarab, who was supposedly the first to speak Arabic. Al-Hamdani had another view; he states that Arabs were called Gharab (West in Semitic) by Mesopotamians because Bedouins originally resided to the west of Mesopotamia; the term was then corrupted into Arab. Yet another view is held by Al-Masudi that the word Arabs was initially applied to the Ishmaelites of the "Arabah" valley.

In Biblical etymology, "Arab" (in Hebrew Arvi {{he:ערבי}}) comes both from the desert origin of the Bedouins it originally described (Arava means wilderness) and/or from the concept of mixed people. (Arev-rav - a large group of mixed people.) The root a-r-b has several additional meanings in Semitic languages—including "west/sunset," "desert," "mingle," "merchant," and "raven"—and are "comprehensible" with all of these having varying degrees of relevance to the emergence of the name. It is also possible that some forms were metathetical from ʿ-B-R "moving around" (Arabic ʿ-B-R "traverse"), and hence, it is alleged, "nomadic."


Arab identity is defined independently of religious identity, and pre-dates the rise of Islam, with historically attested Arab Christian kingdoms and Arab Jewish tribes. Today, however, most Arabs are Muslim, with a minority adhering to other faiths, largely Christianity. Arabs are generally Sunni, Shia or Sufi Muslims, but currently, 7.1 percent to 10 percent of Arabs are Arab Christians.[19] This figure does not include Christian ethnic groups such as Assyrians, and Syriacs.

The people of Arabia belong to two distinct and apparently quite different races. The common idea of Arab type—tall, bearded men with clean-cut hawk like faces are found in North Arabia. The Arabs of South Arabia are smaller, darker, coarser featured, and nearly beardless. All authorities agree that the Southern Arabs are nearly related to the Abyssinians. Yet strange to say, it is the Egypto-African race (Qahtani) who are the pure Arabs, while the stately Semitics of the north are Musta'rab (Adnani).... Arab by adoption, mixing and residence rather than by pure descent.[20] Although since early days other people became Arabs through an Arabization process that could mean intermarriage with Arabs, adopting the Arabic language and culture, or both. For example, the Ghassanids and the Lakhmids which originated from Southern Semitic speaking Yemen made a major contribution in the creation of the Arabic language. The same process happened all over the Arab world after the spread of Islam by the mixing of Arabs with several other peoples. The Arab cultures went through a mixing process. Therefore every Arab country has cultural specificities which constitute a cultural mix which also originate in local novelties achieved after the arabization took place. However, all Arab countries do also share a common culture in most Aspects: Arts (music, literature, poetry, calligraphy...), Cultural products (Handicrafts, carpets, henne, bronze carving...), Social behaviour and relations (Hospitality, codes of conduct among friends and family...), Customs and superstitions, Some dishes (Shorba, Mloukhia), Traditional clothing, Architecture...

An overview of the different Arabic dialects

Non-Arab Muslims, who are about 80 percent of the world's Muslim population, do not form part of the Arab world, but instead comprise what is the geographically larger, and more diverse, Muslim World.

In the USA, Arabs have historically been racially classified as white/Caucasian[21][22] and, since 1997, by the U.S. Census as well.[23][24]

Arabic, the main unifying feature among Arabs, is a Semitic language originating in Arabia. From there it spread to a variety of distinct peoples across most of West Asia and North Africa,[25] resulting in their acculturation and eventual denomination as Arabs. Arabization, a culturo-linguistic shift, was often, though not always, in conjunction with Islamization, a religious shift.

With the rise of Islam in the 7th century, and as the language of the Qur'an, Arabic became the lingua franca of the Islamic world.[26] It was in this period that Arabic language and culture was widely disseminated with the early Islamic expansion, both through conquest and cultural contact.[27]

Arabic culture and language, however, began a more limited diffusion before the Islamic age, first spreading in West Asia beginning in the 2nd century, as Arab Christians such as the Ghassanids, Lakhmids and Banu Judham began migrating north from Arabia into the Syrian Desert, south western Iraq and the Levant.[28][29]

In the modern era, defining who is an Arab is done on the grounds of one or more of the following two criteria:

Distribution of Arabic as sole official language (green) and one of several official or national languages (blue).

The relative importance of these factors is estimated differently by different groups and frequently disputed. Some combine aspects of each definition, as done by Palestinian Habib Hassan Touma,[33] who defines an Arab "in the modern sense of the word", as "one who is a national of an Arab state, has command of the Arabic language, and possesses a fundamental knowledge of Arab tradition, that is, of the manners, customs, and political and social systems of the culture." Most people who consider themselves Arab do so based on the overlap of the political and linguistic definitions.

The Arab League, a regional organization of countries intended to encompass the Arab world, defines an Arab as:

An Arab is a person whose language is Arabic, who lives in an Arabic-speaking country, and who is in sympathy with the aspirations of the Arabic-speaking peoples.[34]

Schoolgirls in Gaza lining up for class, 2009

According to Sadek Jawad Sulaimanis the former Ambassador of Oman to the United States:

The Arabs are defined by their culture, not by race; and their culture is defined by its essential twin constituents of Arabism and Islam. To most of the Arabs, Islam is their indigenous religion; to all of the Arabs, Islam is their indigenous civilization. The Arab identity, as such, is a culturally defined identity, which means being Arab is being someone whose mother culture, or dominant culture, is Arabism. Beyond that, he or she might be of any ancestry, of any religion or philosophical persuasion, and a citizen of any country in the world. Being Arab does not contradict with being non-Muslim or non-Semitic or not being a citizen of an Arab state.[35]

The relation of ʿarab and ʾaʿrāb is complicated further by the notion of "lost Arabs" al-ʿArab al-ba'ida mentioned in the Qur'an as punished for their disbelief. All contemporary Arabs were considered as descended from two ancestors, Qahtan and Adnan.

Versteegh (1997) is uncertain whether to ascribe this distinction to the memory of a real difference of origin of the two groups, but it is certain that the difference was strongly felt in early Islamic times. Even in Islamic Spain there was enmity between the Qays of the northern and the Kalb of the southern group. The so-called Sabaean or Himyarite language described by Abū Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdānī (died 946) appears to be a special case of language contact between the two groups, an originally north Arabic dialect spoken in the south, and influenced by Old South Arabian.[citation needed][dubious ]

During the Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Arabs forged an Arab Empire (under the Rashidun and Umayyads, and later the Abbasids) whose borders touched southern France in the west, China in the east, Asia Minor in the north, and the Sudan in the south. This was one of the largest land empires in history. In much of this area, the Arabs spread Islam and the Arabic culture, science, and language (the language of the Qur'an) through conversion and cultural assimilation.

Two references valuable for understanding the political significance of Arab identity: Michael C. Hudson, Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy (Yale University Press, 1977), especially Chs. 2 and 3; and Michael N. Barnett, Dialogues in Arab Politics: Negotiations in Regional Order (Columbia University Press, 1998).

Arab population[edit]

The table below shows the number of Arab people, including expatriates and some groups that may not be identified as Arabs.

The total number of Arabs living in the Arab nations is 366,117,749. The total number living in non-Arab majority states is 17,474,000. The worldwide total is 383,591,749.

Countries with a large Arab population

FlagCountryTotal Population% ArabNotes
EgyptEgypt83,688,164[36]90%[37]The common consensus among Egyptians is that this classification is tied to them to the use of Arabic as an official language in Egypt. The Egyptian dialect of Arabic include thousands of Coptic words.
AlgeriaAlgeria37,367,22670%[38]Algerians with most of their tribes have Arab and Berber background
MoroccoMorocco32,309,23966%[39]The high level of mixing between Arabs and Berbers makes differentiating between the two ethnicities in Morocco difficult. This figure includes people of mixed Berber and Arab descent.
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia26,246,00090%[41]Saudis are ethnic Arabs.
SudanSudan25,946,22070%[42]Arabs and Bedouin are by far the largest ethnic group, among 597 tribes.[42]
TunisiaTunisia10,374,00098%[45]Almost all of Tunisia's citizenry has Arab and Berber background. Because of the high degree of assimilation, Tunisians are often referred to as Arab-Berber.[46]
LibyaLibya6,546,00097%[49]Almost all of Libya's citizenry has Arab and Berber background. Because of the high degree of assimilation Libyans are often referred to as Arab-Berber.[50]
EritreaEritrea6,086,4952%[52]Mainly Rashaida
Palestinian territoriesPalestine4,225,71089%Gaza Strip: 1,763,387, 100% Palestinian Arab,[54] West Bank: 2,676,740, 83% Palestinian Arab and other[55]
United Arab EmiratesUAE4,707,00040%[57]Less than 20% of the population in the Emirates are citizens, the majority are foreign workers and expatriates. Emirati citizens are ethnic Arabs.
MauritaniaMauritania3,343,00080%[43]The majority of Mauritania's population are ethnic Moors, an ethnicity with a mix of Arab and Berber ancestry, with a smaller Black African ancestry. Moors make up 80% of the population in Mauritania, the remaining 20% are members of a number of Black African ethnic groups.[43][dubious ]
QatarQatar1,508,00055%[41]The native population is a minority in Qatar, making up 20% of the population. The native population is ethnically Arab. An additional 35% of the population is made up of Arabs, mostly Egyptian and Palestinian workers. The remaining population is made up of other foreign workers.[41]
BahrainBahrain1,234,57151.4%[59]46.0% of the Bahrain's population are native Bahrainis. Bahrainis are ethnically Arabs.[60] 5.4% are Other Arabs (inc. GCC)[59]
 Western Sahara663,000[61][62]80%Ethnically Western Sahara is inhabited by Arab-Berbers.[63] Two languages are widely spoken Hassaniya Arabic and Moroccan Arabic.[64]

Arab diaspora[edit]

The Arab diaspora is a global diaspora distributed across many continents.

Arab diaspora
FlagCountryNumber of ArabsTotal Population% ArabsNotes
United StatesUnited States3,500,000315,700,0001.11%[8]
Sri LankaSri Lanka1,870,00020,260,0009.23%[9]
United KingdomUnited Kingdom500,00063,180,0000.8%[72]
Syrian immigrants in New York City, as depicted in 1895

According to the International Organization for Migration, there are 13 million first-generation Arab migrants in the world, of which 5.8 reside in Arab countries. Arab expatriates contribute to the circulation of financial and human capital in the region and thus significantly promote regional development.[citation needed] In 2009 Arab countries received a total of 35.1 billion USD in remittance in-flows and remittances sent to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon from other Arab countries are 40 to 190 per cent higher than trade revenues between these and other Arab countries.[77]

The 250,000 strong Lebanese community in West Africa is the largest non-African group in the region.[78][79]

Arab traders have long operated in Southeast Asia and along the East Africa's Swahili coast. Zanzibar was once ruled by Omani Arabs.[80] Most of the prominent Indonesians, Malaysians, and Singaporeans of Arab descent are Hadhrami people with origins in southern Yemen in the Hadramawt coastal region.[81]

Central Asia and Caucasus

In 1728, a Russian officer described a group of Sunni Arab nomads who populated the Caspian shores of Mughan (in present-day Azerbaijan) and spoke a mixed Turkic-Arabic language.[82] It is believed that these groups migrated to the Caucasus in the 16th century.[83] The 1888 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica also mentioned a certain number of Arabs populating the Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire.[84] They retained an Arabic dialect at least into the mid-19th century,[85] but since then have fully assimilated with the neighbouring Azeris and Tats. Today in Azerbaijan alone, there are nearly 30 settlements still holding the name Arab (for example, Arabgadim, Arabojaghy, Arab-Yengija, etc.).

Lebanese–Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has been ranked by Forbes as the richest person in the world.

From the time of the Arab conquest of the Caucasus, continuous small-scale Arab migration from various parts of the Arab world was observed in Dagestan influencing and shaping the culture of the local peoples. Up until the mid-20th century, there were still individuals in Dagestan who claimed Arabic to be their native language, with the majority of them living in the village of Darvag to the north-west of Derbent. The latest of these accounts dates to the 1930s.[83] Most Arab communities in southern Dagestan underwent linguistic Turkicisation, thus nowadays Darvag is a majority-Azeri village.[86][87]

According to the History of Ibn Khaldun, the Arabs that were once in Central Asia have been either killed or have fled the Tatar invasion of the region, leaving only the locals .[88] However, today many people in Central Asia identify as Arabs. Most Arabs of Central Asia are fully integrated into local populations, and sometimes call themselves the same as locals (for example, Tajiks, Uzbeks) but they use special titles to show their Arabic origin such as Sayyid, Khoja or Siddiqui.[89]

South Asia

There are only two communities with the self-identity Arab in South Asia, the Chaush of the Deccan region and the Chavuse of Gujerat,[90][91] who are by and large descended of Hadhrami migrants who settled in these two regions in the 18th Centuries. However, both these communities no longer speak Arabic, although with the Chaush, there has been re-immigration to the Gulf States, and re-adoption of Arabic by these immigrants.[92] In South Asia, claiming Arab ancestry is considered prestigious, and many communities have origin myths with claim to an Arab ancestry. Examples include the Mappilla of Kerala, Labbai of Tamil Nadu and Kokan of Maharashtra. These communities all allege an Arab ancestry, but none speak Arabic and follow the customs and traditions of the Hindu majority.[93] Among Muslims of North India and Pakistan there are groups who claim the status of Sayyid, have origin myths that allege descent from the Prophet Mohammmad. None of these Sayyid families speak Arabic or follow Arab customs or traditions.[94]

Iranian Arab communities are also found in Khuzestan Province.



Nabataean trade routes in Pre-Islamic Arabia

Pre-Islamic Arabia refers to the Arabic civilization which existed in the Arabian Peninsula before the rise of Islam in the 630s. The study of Pre-Islamic Arabia is important to Islamic studies as it provides the context for the development of Islam.

Semitic origin[edit]

Assyrian horsemen pursue defeated Arabs

There is a consensus that the Semitic peoples originated on the Arabian Peninsula.[95][96] It should be pointed out that these settlers were not Arabs or Arabic speakers. Early non-Arab Semitic peoples from the Ancient Near East, such as the Arameans, Akkadians (Assyrians and Babylonians), Amorites, Israelites, Eblaites, Ugarites and Canaanites, built civilizations in Mesopotamia and the Levant; genetically, they often interlapped and mixed.[97] Slowly, however, they lost their political domination of the Near East due to internal turmoil and attacks by non-Semitic peoples. Although the Semites eventually lost political control of Western Asia to the Persian Empire, the Aramaic language remained the lingua franca of Assyria, Mesopotamia and the Levant. Aramaic itself was replaced by Greek as Western Asia's prestige language following the conquest of Alexander the Great, though it survives to this day among Assyrian Christians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians) and Mandeans in Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey and northwest Iran.

Early history[edit]

The first written attestation of the ethnonym "Arab" occurs in an Assyrian inscription of 853 BCE, where Shalmaneser III lists a King Gindibu of mâtu arbâi (Arab land) as among the people he defeated at the Battle of Karkar. Some of the names given in these texts are Aramaic, while others are the first attestations of Ancient North Arabian dialects. In fact several different ethnonyms are found in Assyrian texts that are conventionally translated "Arab": Arabi, Arubu, Aribi and Urbi. Many of the Qedarite queens were also described as queens of the aribi. The Hebrew Bible occasionally refers to Aravi peoples (or variants thereof), translated as "Arab" or "Arabian." The scope of the term at that early stage is unclear, but it seems to have referred to various desert-dwelling Semitic tribes in the Syrian Desert and Arabia.[citation needed] Arab tribes came into conflict with the Assyrians during the reign of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, and he records military victories against the powerful Qedar tribe among others.

Medieval Arab genealogists divided Arabs into three groups:

And Ishmael and his sons, and the sons of Keturah and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering in of Babylon in all the land which is towards the East facing the desert. And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishmaelites.

—Book of Jubilees 20:13

Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddima distinguishes between sedentary Muslims who used to be nomadic Arabs and the Bedouin nomadic Arabs of the desert. He used the term "formerly nomadic" Arabs and refers to sedentary Muslims by the region or city they lived in, as in Egyptians, Spaniards and Yemenis.[98] The Christians of Italy and the Crusaders preferred the term Saracens for all the Arabs and Muslims of that time.[99] The Christians of Iberia used the term Moor to describe all the Arabs and Muslims of that time.

Muslims of Medina referred to the nomadic tribes of the deserts as the A'raab, and considered themselves sedentary, but were aware of their close racial bonds. The term "A'raab' mirrors the term Assyrians used to describe the closely related nomads they defeated in Syria.

The Qur'an does not use the word ʿarab, only the nisba adjective ʿarabiy. The Qur'an calls itself ʿarabiy, "Arabic", and Mubin, "clear". The two qualities are connected for example in ayat 43.2–3, "By the clear Book: We have made it an Arabic recitation in order that you may understand". The Qur'an became regarded as the prime example of the al-ʿarabiyya, the language of the Arabs. The term ʾiʿrāb has the same root and refers to a particularly clear and correct mode of speech. The plural noun ʾaʿrāb refers to the Bedouin tribes of the desert who resisted Muhammad, for example in ayat 9.97, alʾaʿrābu ʾašaddu kufrān wa nifāqān "the Bedouin are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy".

Based on this, in early Islamic terminology, ʿarabiy referred to the language, and ʾaʿrāb to the Arab Bedouins, carrying a negative connotation due to the Qur'anic verdict just cited. But after the Islamic conquest of the 8th century, the language of the nomadic Arabs became regarded as the most pure by the grammarians following Abi Ishaq, and the term kalam al-ʿArab, "language of the Arabs", denoted the uncontaminated language of the Bedouins.

Classical kingdoms[edit]

Facade of Al Khazneh in Petra, Jordan, built by the Nabateans

Proto-Arabic, or Ancient North Arabian, texts give a clearer picture of the Arabs' emergence. The earliest are written in variants of epigraphic south Arabian musnad script, including the 8th century BCE Hasaean inscriptions of eastern Saudi Arabia, the 6th century BCE Lihyanite texts of southeastern Saudi Arabia and the Thamudic texts found throughout Arabia and the Sinai (not in reality connected with Thamud).

The Nabataeans were nomadic newcomers[100][dubious ] who moved into territory vacated by the Edomites – Semites who settled the region centuries before them. Their early inscriptions were in Aramaic, but gradually switched to Arabic, and since they had writing, it was they who made the first inscriptions in Arabic. The Nabataean Alphabet was adopted by Arabs to the south, and evolved into modern Arabic script around the 4th century. This is attested by Safaitic inscriptions (beginning in the 1st century BCE) and the many Arabic personal names in Nabataean inscriptions. From about the 2nd century BCE, a few inscriptions from Qaryat al-Faw (near Sulayyil) reveal a dialect which is no longer considered "proto-Arabic", but pre-classical Arabic. Five Syriac inscriptions mentioning Arabs have been found at Sumatar Harabesi, one of which has been dated to the 2nd century CE.

Late kingdoms[edit]

The Ghassanids, Lakhmids and Kindites were the last major migration of non-Muslims out of Yemen to the north.

Greeks and Romans referred to all the nomadic population of the desert in the Near East as Arabi. The Romans called Yemen "Arabia Felix".[101] The Romans called the vassal nomadic states within the Roman Empire "Arabia Petraea" after the city of Petra, and called unconquered deserts bordering the empire to the south and east Arabia Magna.


Arab Caliphate[edit]

Age of the Caliphs
  Expansion under Muhammad, 622–632/A.H. 1–11
  Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632–661/A.H. 11–40
  Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750/A.H. 40–129

Rashidun Era (632-661)

After the death of Muhammad in 632, Rashidun armies launched campaigns of conquest, establishing the Caliphate, or Islamic Empire, one of the largest empires in history. It was larger and lasted longer than the previous Arab empires of Queen Mawia or the Palmyrene Empire which was predominantly Syriac rather than Arab. The Rashidun state was a completely new state and not a mere imitation of the earlier Arab kingdoms such as the Himyarite, Lakhmids or Ghassanids, although it benefited greatly from their art, administration and architecture.

Umayyad Era (661-750)

The Great Mosque of Kairouan in Kairouan, Tunisia was founded in 670 by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi; it is the oldest mosque in the Maghreb[103] and represents an architectural testimony of the Arab conquest of North Africa
View of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolás in the Albaycin of Granada

In 661 the Caliphate fell into the hands of the Umayyad dynasty and Damascus was established as the Muslim capital. They were proud of their Arab ancestry and sponsored the poetry and culture of pre-Islamic Arabia. They established garrison towns at Ramla, ar-Raqqah, Basra, Kufa, Mosul and Samarra, all of which developed into major cities.[104]

Caliph Abd al-Malik established Arabic as the Caliphate's official language in 686.[105] This reform greatly influenced the conquered non-Arab peoples and fueled the Arabization of the region. However, the Arabs' higher status among non-Arab Muslim converts and the latter's obligation to pay heavy taxes caused resentment. Caliph Umar II strove to resolve the conflict when he came to power in 717. He rectified the disparity, demanding that all Muslims be treated as equals, but his intended reforms did not take effect, as he died after only three years of rule. By now, discontent with the Umayyads swept the region and an uprising occurred in which the Abbasids came to power and moved the capital to Baghdad.

Umayyads expanded their Empire westwards capturing North Africa from the Byzantines. Prior to the Arab conquest, North Africa was inhibited by various people including Punics, Vandals and Greeks. It was not until the 11th century that the Maghreb saw a large influx of ethnic Arabs. Starting with the 11th century, the Arab bedouin Banu Hilal tribes migrated to the West. Having been sent by the Fatimids to punish the Berber Zirids for abandoning Shiism, they travelled westwards. The Banu Hilal quickly defeated the Zirids and deeply weakened the neighboring Hammadids. Their influx was a major factor in the Arabization of the Maghreb. Although Berbers would rule the region until the 16th century (under such powerful dynasties as the Almoravids, the Almohads, Hafsids, etc.), the arrival of these tribes would eventually help to Arabize much of it ethnically in addition to the linguistic and political impact on the none-Arabs there. With the collapse of the Umayyad state in 1031 AD, Islamic Spain was divided into small kingdoms.

Abbassid Era (750-1513)

The Abbasids let a revolt against the Umayyads and defeated them in the Battle of the Zab effectively ending their rule in all part of the Empire except Al-Andalus. The Abbasids were descendants of Muhammad's uncle Abbas, but unlike the Umayyads they had the support of non-Arab subjects of the Umayyads.[104] The Abbasids ruled for 200 years before they lost their central control when Wilayas began to fracture; afterwards, in the 1190s, there was a revival of their power, which was ended by the Mongols, who conquered Baghdad and killed the Caliph. Members of the Abbasid royal family escaped the massacre and resorted to Cairo, which had broken from the Abbasid rule two years earlier; the Mamluk generals taking the political side of the kingdom while Abbasid Caliphs were engaged in civil activities and continued patronizing science, arts and literature.

Ottoman Caliphate[edit]

Arab family of Ramallah, Palestine in early 1900s

Arabs were ruled by Ottoman sultans from 1513 to 1918. Ottomans defeated the Mamluk Sultanate in Cairo, and ended the Abbasid Caliphate when they assumed the title of Caliph. Arabs did not feel the change of administration because the Ottomans modeled their rule after the previous Arab administration systems.[citation needed] After World War I when the Ottoman Empire was overthrown by the British Empire, former Ottoman colonies were divided up between the British and French as League of Nations mandates.


Arabs in modern times live in the Arab world, which comprises 22 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of the Horn of Africa. They are all modern states and became significant as distinct political entities after the fall and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1918).


Arab Muslims are mostly Sunni or Shia, one exception being the Ibadis, who predominate in Oman and can be found as small minorities in Algeria and Libya (mostly Berbers). Arab Christians generally follow Eastern Churches such as the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches, though a minority of Protestant Church followers also exists; The Copts and the Maronites, who are often associated with Arab people as well, follow the Coptic Church and Maronite Church accordingly. In Iraq most Christians are Assyrians rather than Arabs, and follow the Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean Church.[106] The Greek Catholic church and Maronite church are under the Pope of Rome, and a part of the larger worldwide Catholic Church. There are also Arab communities consisting of Druze and Baha'is.[107][108]

The Kaaba, located in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) is the center of Islam. It is where the able Muslims from all over the world travel to, in order to perform Umrah and Hajj

Ancient times[edit]

Before the coming of Islam, most Arabs followed a pagan religion with a number of deities, including Hubal,[109] Wadd, Allāt,[110] Manat, and Uzza. A few individuals, the hanifs, had apparently rejected polytheism in favor of monotheism unaffiliated with any particular religion. Some tribes had converted to Christianity or Judaism. The most prominent Arab Christian kingdoms were the Ghassanid and Lakhmid kingdoms.[111] When the Himyarite king converted to Judaism in the late 4th century,[112] the elites of the other prominent Arab kingdom, the Kindites, being Himyirite vassals, apparently also converted (at least partly). With the expansion of Islam, polytheistic Arabs were rapidly Islamized, and polytheistic traditions gradually disappeared.[113][114]


Today, Sunni Islam dominates in most areas, overwhelmingly so in North Africa and the Horn of Africa. Shia Islam is dominant among the Arab population in southern Iraq and Lebanon. Substantial Shi'a populations exist in Saudi Arabia,[115] Kuwait, Bahrain, northern Syria, the al-Batinah region in Oman, and in northern Yemen.

Druze faith[edit]

The Druze community is concentrated in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. Many Druze claim independence from other major religions in the area and consider their religion more of a philosophy. Their books of worship are called Kitab Al Hikma (Epistles of Wisdom). They believe in reincarnation and pray to five messengers from God. In Israel, the Druze have a status aparte from the general Arab population, treated as a separate ethno-religious community.


Isaac of Nineveh a Bahrani bishop and theologian, 7th century

Christians make up 5.5% of the population of the Middle East.[19] A sizeable share of those are Arab Christians proper, and affiliated populations of Copts and Maronites. In Lebanon, Christians number about 39% of the population.[53] In Syria, Christians make up 10% of the population.[44] In West Bank and in Gaza Strip, Christians make up 8% and 0.7% of the populations, respectively.[54][55] In Egypt, Coptic Christians number about 10% of the population. In Iraq, Christians constitute 0.1% of the population.[116] In Israel, Arab Christians constitute 2.1% (roughly 9% of the Arab population).[117] Arab Christians make up 8% of the population of Jordan.[118] Most North and South American Arabs are Christian,[119] as are about half of Arabs in Australia who come particularly from Lebanon, Syria and Israel. One well known member of this religious and ethnic community is Saint Abo, martyr and the patron saint of Tbilisi, Georgia.[120]


British Mandate Police officer frisks an Arab man during the 1920 Nebi Musa riots in Jerusalem.

The Jewish tribes of Arabia were Arabian tribes professing the Jewish faith that inhabited the Arabian Peninsula before and during the advent of Islam. It is not always clear whether they were originally Israelite in ancestry, genealogically Arab tribes that converted to Judaism, or a mixture of both. In Islamic tradition the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz were seen as the offspring of the ancient Israelites.[121] According to Muslim sources, they spoke a language other than Arabic, which Al-Tabari claims was Persian. This implies they were connected to the major Jewish center in Babylon.[122] Certain Jewish traditions records the existence of nomadic tribes such as the Rechabites that converted to Judaism in antiquity. The tribes collapsed with the rise of Islam, with many either converting or fleeing the Arab peninsula. Some of those tribes are thought to have merged into Yemenite Jewish community, while others, like the residents of Yatta consider themselves Islamized descendants of Khaybar, a Jewish tribe of Arabia.

Prior to the massive Sephardic emigrations to the Middle East in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Jewish communities of what are today Syria, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen were known by other Jewish communities as Musta'arabi Jews or "like Arabs". Also, prior to the emergence of the term Mizrahi, the term "Arab Jews" was sometimes used to describe Jews living in the Arab world.[citation needed] From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, following the creation of the state of Israel, most of descendants of these Jews fled or were expelled from their countries of birth and now live in Israel, France or elsewhere. The few remaining Jews in the Arab countries reside mostly in Morocco and Tunisia.

Modern Jews from Arab countries – mainly Mizrahi Jews, Yemenite Jews and Maghrebi Jews – are today usually not categorized as Arab, though there is still some debate on whether or not the term "Arabs" can be applied to them. Sociologist Sammy Smooha stated "This ("Arab Jews") term does not hold water. It is absolutely not a parallel to 'Arab Christian'".[123] Those who dispute the historicity of the term make the claim that Middle Eastern Jews are similar to Kurds, Assyrians, Berbers and other ancient Middle Eastern groups, who lived among the Arab societies as distinct minority groups with distinct identity and therefore are not categorized as Arabs. On the other hand, others gives examples of periods where the term "Arab-Jews" was applied in one form or another. Sociologist Philip Mendes asserts that before the anti-Jewish actions of the 1930s and 1940s, overall Iraqi Jews "viewed themselves as Arabs of the Jewish faith, rather than as a separate race or nationality".[124][better source needed]


Medieval Arab mechanical manuscript

The Islamic Golden Age was inaugurated by the middle of the 8th century by the ascension of the Abbasid Caliphate and the transfer of the capital from Damascus to the newly founded city Baghdad. The Abbassids were influenced by the Qur'anic injunctions and hadith such as "The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs" stressing the value of knowledge. During this period the Muslim world became an intellectual centre for science, philosophy, medicine and education as the Abbasids championed the cause of knowledge and established the "House of Wisdom" (Arabic: بيت الحكمة) in Baghdad. Rival Muslim dynasties such as the Fatimids of Egypt and the Umayyads of al-Andalus were also major intellectual centres with cities such as Cairo and Córdoba rivaling Baghdad.[125]


"Bayad plays the oud to the lady", Arabicmanuscript for Qissat Bayad wa Reyad tale from late 12th century

Arab culture is a term that draws together the common themes and overtones found in the Arab countries, especially those of the Middle-Eastern countries. This region's distinct religion, art, and food are some of the fundamental features that define Arab culture.


Arabic Art includes a wide range or artistic components, it can be Arabic miniature, calligraphy or Arabesque.


Arab Architecture has a deep diverse history, it dates to the dawn of the history in pre-Islamic Arabia. Each of it phases largely an extension of the earlier phase, it left also heavy impact on the architecture of other nations.


Mohammed Abdu, the Fnan al-Arab, Artist of the Arabs

Arabic music is the music of Arab people or countries, especially those centered on the Arabian Peninsula. The world of Arab music has long been dominated by Cairo, a cultural center, though musical innovation and regional styles abound from Morocco to Saudi Arabia. Beirut has, in recent years, also become a major center of Arabic music. Classical Arab music is extremely popular across the population, especially a small number of superstars known throughout the Arab world.

Qatabanian era musical scene, 1st century AD

Regional styles of popular music include Algerian raï, Moroccan gnawa, Kuwaiti sawt, Egyptian el gil and Arabesque-pop music in Turkey.

Most historians agree that there existed distinct forms of music in the Arabian peninsula in the pre-Islamic period between the 5th and 7th century AD. Arab poets of that time—called shu`ara' al-Jahiliyah (شعراء الجاهلية) or "Jahili poets", meaning "the poets of the period of ignorance"—used to recite poems with a high note. It was believed that Jinns revealed poems to poets and music to musicians. The choir at the time served as a pedagogic facility where the educated poets would recite their poems. Singing was not thought to be the work of these intellectuals and was instead entrusted to women with beautiful voices who would learn how to play some instruments used at that time such as the drum, the oud or the rebab, and perform the songs while respecting the poetic metre.


Self portrait of renown Lebanese poet/writer Khalil Gibran

Arabic literature emerged in the 5th century with only fragments of the written language appearing before then. The Qur'an, widely regarded as the finest piece of literature work in the Arabic language,[126] would have the greatest lasting effect on Arabic culture and its literature. Arabic literature flourished during the Islamic Golden Age, but has remained vibrant to the present day, with poets and prose-writers across the Arab world achieving increasing success.

Arabic literature spans for over two millennium, it has three phases, the pre-Islamic, Islamic and modern. Arabic literature had contributions by thousands of figures, many of them are not only poets but are celebrates in other fields such as politicians, scientists and scholars among others.



Haplogroup E1b1b is the most frequent haplogroup in Western Arabs (Maghrebis) while haplogroup J is the most frequent haplogroup in Eastern Arabs (Mashriq).[127]

The Paternal Ancestry found across all Arabic countries is Haplogroup J1 especially its major subclade J-P58 the haplogroup that spread with Arabic conquest in the 7th century. It was found that Haplogroup J1 occur at high frequencies among the Arabic-speaking populations of the Middle East and is the prevalent Y-chromosome lineage within the Near East. Haplogroup J1e (J-P58) is also associated with a Semitic linguistic common denominator, with the YCAII 22-22 allele state is closely associated with J1e.[128] J-P58 subclade of J1 is single paternal lineage originated in the Near East of high frequency in Bedouins 70% Yemenis 68% Jordanians 55%, 55% of Palestinian Arabs, 48% of Omani People 34% of Tunisians, 35% of Algerians[129][130][131] , and its precipitations drop in frequency as one moves away from Saudi Arabia and the Near East. J-P58 include all the J1-CMH haplotypes and is YCAII=22-22 motif, both are found in Arabs and J1-Cohanim (Y-chromosomal Aaron)[132][133] The motif YCAII=22-22 characterize a monophyletic clad found in Arabs but less frequent in Ethiopian J1 and rare in Europe and Caucasus.[134] [135] It is now been resolved that the Arabic clade J1-P58,L147.1 (the major clad of P58 and still the major clade of J1) include all CMH haplotypes and is YCAII=22-22 (both specific to Arabs and J1-Cohanim). was the J1 clade that spread far and wide by the Islamic conquest [136] Both Qahtanite and Adnanite Arabs are J1-P58 haplogroup since the Arabs of North Africa like Algeria (known to have Qahtanite lineage from the Arab conquest and Adnanite lineage from Bani Hilal and bani Sulaim migration to North Africa in the 10th century by the Fatimides, yet only E of the Berber and J1 are found in Arabs of North Africa and this J1 is marked by CMH and the motif YCAII=22-22. The J2 in Algerian Arabs is minor 3% and is of the rare J2-M67 of Chechnea rarely found in other Arabic countries and non existent in Arabian Peninsula and Yemen.[137][138] The Arab conquest appears to have had a dramatic influence on the East and South Mediterranean coasts. The presence of Arab Y chromosome lineages in the Middle East suggests that most have experienced substantial gene flow from the Arabian peninsula.[139]

Maternal Chromosome[edit]

The Maternal ancestral lineages of Arabic countries are very diverse. The original Historical Maternal ancestral Haplogroups of the Near East were Mt (Maternal) L3 Haplogroup and Mt HV1 haplogroup that are still high in Yemen, while in Greater Syria there is a European Maternal gene flow. In the Arabic West the dominant Maternal lineage is the rare Scandinavian Europpean U8 haplogroup probably came with the Vandals when escaped from Spain from the Visigoths.[140][141][142]

Other Chromosomes[edit]

Many of the pronounced genetic deficiencies in Arabs (causing genetic disorders specific to Arabs) are located on HLA segment on chromosome 6. This same segment mutations are also markers of Arabs in Genealogical and forensic profiling tests and studies. Such studies as: Arab population data on the PCR-based loci:HLA [143] HLA polymorphism in Saudi.[144] Other mixed DNA studies on Arabic populations[140][141][142][145][146]


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Further reading[edit]

Price-Jones, David. The Closed Circle: an Interpretation of the Arabs. Pbk. ed., with a new preface by the author. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 2002. xiv, 464 p. ISBN 1-56663-440-7 pbk Ankerl, Guy. Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. INU PRESS, Geneva, 2000. ISBN 2-88155-004-5.

External links[edit]