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Member of a Semitic people living in the Middle East and northern Africa : -Mentioned in ancient sources from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece from 9th cent. BCE-Rulers of region in northern Arabia/Syria, 5th cent. BCE-2nd cent. CE-Originally a social institution and military organization-Hellenized Ancient Arabian kingdoms: Nabateans and PetraBefore Islam, the term referred to nomadic peoples of the Arabian Peninsula; it came to apply to Arabic-speaking peoples from Africa to rabian Peninsula after their acceptance of Islam. Traditionally, some Arabs are desert-dwelling pastoral Bedouins, whereas others live by oases and in small, isolated farming villages. (Wikipedia) - Arab people   (Redirected from Arab) "Arab" and "Arabs" redirect here. For other uses, see Arab (disambiguation).
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Arabs العرب Al-ʿArab Total population Regions with significant populations  Arab League  Brazil  Argentina  United States  France  Iran  Israel  Mexico  Spain  Turkey  Australia Languages Religion Related ethnic groups
Al-Mutanabbi Al-Kindi Ibn Khaldun Sheba "Bilqis" Philip the Arab
Sharif Hussein Asmahan al-Atrash Omar Mukhtar Allal al-Fassi Yasser Arafat
Gamal Abdel Nasser Ahmed Ben Bella Mustafa Wahbi al-Tal Qaboos al-Said Raghida Dergham
Manal al-Sharif Zainab al-Khawaja Fayeq al-Ayadhi Tawakkol Karman Naseer Shamma
approx. 422 million
Arabic, Modern South Arabian, varieties of Arabic
Predominantly Islam Largest minority: Christianity; other religions
Other Semitic peoples and various Afro-Asiatic peoples

Arab people, also known as Arabs (Arabic: عرب‎, ʿarab) and Arabians, are a panethnic group primarily inhabiting Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing an important part of Arab identity. 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, 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 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.


Etymology Further information: Arab (etymology)

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. (Arabs had formed part of a coalition of forces opposed to Assyria.) 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 " Gindibu belonging to the ʕarab" (ar-ba-a-a being an adjectival nisba of the noun ʕarab).

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 Arabs 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 people (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. 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. 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 and, since 1997, by the U.S. Census as well.

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, 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. It was in this period that Arabic language and culture was widely disseminated with the early Islamic expansion, both through conquest and cultural contact.

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.

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, 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.

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.

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.

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

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 lining in non-Arab majority states is 17,474,000. The worldwide total is 383,591,749.

Countries with a large Arab population

Flag Country Total Population % Arab Notes
Egypt 83,688,164 90% 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. Ninety percent of the population is Eastern Hamitic.
Algeria 37,367,226 70% Algerians with most of their tribes have Arab and Berber background
Morocco 32,309,239 66% 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.
Iraq 31,467,000 75-80% Iraqis are primarily descended from Iraq's original Mesopotamian population. The dialect of Arabic spoken by Iraqis (Mesopotamian Arabic) has an Aramaic substratum and retains vocabulary of Akkadian and Sumerian provenance. Many Iraqis look to Babylonia, Assyria, and Sumer for their origins and have a sense of Mesopotamian ethnicity, though generally not in antithesis to Arab cultural identification.
Saudi Arabia 26,246,000 90% Saudis are of Arabian or Bedouin ancestry
Sudan 25,946,220 70% Arabs and Bedouin are by far the largest ethnic group, among 597 tribes.
Yemen 24,256,000 100%
Syria 22,457,336 90.3% Syrians are primarily descended from the ancient peoples of Syria. The Syrian dialect of Arabic has an Aramaic substratum like other dialects of Levantine Arabic and Mesopotamian Arabic. The Aramaeans were one of the peoples of ancient Syria and in antiquity Syria was known as Aram. The Aramaic language of the Aramaeans became the regional lingua franca during the early 1st millennium BC, and it remained so until replaced in this role by Arabic in the 8th century AD.
Tunisia 10,374,000 98% 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.
Chad 10,329,208 15%
Israel 7,933,200 20.5%
Libya 6,546,000 97% 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.
Jordan 6,472,000 98%
Eritrea 6,086,495 2% Mainly Rashaida
Lebanon 4,131,583 95%
Palestine 4,225,710 89% Gaza Strip: 1,763,387, 100% Palestinian Arab, West Bank: 2,676,740, 83% Palestinian Arab and other
Kuwait 3,030,000 80%
UAE 4,707,000 40% Less than 20% of the population in the Emirates are citizens, the majority are foreign workers and expatriates. Those holding Emirati citizenship are overwhelmingly Arab.
Oman 3,090,150 90%
Mauritania 3,343,000 80% 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.
Qatar 1,508,000 55% 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.
Bahrain 1,234,571 51.4% 46.0% of the Bahrain's population are native Bahrainis. Bahrainis are ethnically Arabs. 5.4% are Other Arabs (inc. GCC)
  Western Sahara 663,000 80% Ethnically Western Sahara is inhabited by Arab-berbers. Two languages are widely spoken Hassaniya Arabic and Moroccan Arabic.
Djibouti 804,000 4.5%
Arab diaspora

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

Arab diaspora Flag Country Number of Arabs Total Population % Arabs Notes
Brazil 1,500,000 194,000,000 0.7%
France 5,500,000 65,350,000 7.7%
Indonesia 5,000,000 237,420,000 2.1%
Argentina 3,500,000 41,280,000 8.5%
United States 3,500,000 315,700,000 1.11%
Sri Lanka 1,870,000 20,260,000 9.23%
Israel 1,650,000 8,000,000 20.5%
Venezuela 1,600,000 29,000,000 5.5%
Iran 1,600,000 79,196,000 2%
Turkey 1,600,000 75,620,000 2%
Mexico 1,100,000 115,300,000 0.95%
Chile 1,000,000 17,400,000 5.8%
Spain 800,000 46,750,000 2.4%
Italy 800,000 60,230,000 1.3%
Colombia 700,000 46,370,000 1.5%
United Kingdom 500,000 63,180,000 0.8%
Germany 500,000 82,000,000 0.6%
Canada 450,000 33,500,000 1.4%
Netherlands 400,000 16,750,000 2.4%
Australia 350,000 22,970,000 1.5%
Greece 250,000 10,900,000 2.2%
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. 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.

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

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

Central Asia and Caucasus

Further information: Arabs in the Caucasus, Emirate of Tbilisi, Emirate of Armenia, and History of Arabs in Afghanistan

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. It is believed that these groups migrated to the Caucasus in the 16th century. The 1888 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica also mentioned a certain number of Arabs populating the Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire. They retained an Arabic dialect at least into the mid-19th century, 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. Most Arab communities in southern Dagestan underwent linguistic Turkicisation, thus nowadays Darvag is a majority-Azeri village.

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 . 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.

South Asia

Further information: Ashraf, Caste system among South Asian Muslims, and History of Arabs in Afghanistan

There are only two communities with the self-identity Arab in South Asia, the Chaush of the Deccan region and the Chavuse of Gujerat, 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. 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. Among Muslims of North India, Arabs in Pakistan Pakistan and Afghanistan, 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.

Iranian Arab communities are also found in Khuzestan Province.

History Pre-Islamic Main article: Pre-Islamic ArabiaNabataean 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 originAssyrian horsemen pursue defeated Arabs

There is a consensus that the Semitic peoples originated from Arabian peninsula. 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. 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 III of Macedon, though it survives to this day among Assyrian (aka Chaldo-Assyrian) Christians and Mandeans in Iraq, northeast Syria, southeast Turkey and northwest Iran.

Early history

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. 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:

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. The Christians of Italy and the Crusaders preferred the term Saracens for all the Arabs and Muslims of that time. 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 Main articles: Palmyra and NabateansFacade 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 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 Further information: Lakhmids, Ghassanids, and Kindites

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". 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.

Islamic Further information: Muslim conquests Arab CaliphateAge 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)

Main article: Rashidun Caliphate

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)

Main article: Umayyad CaliphateThe 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 and represents an architectural testimony of the Arab conquest of North AfricaView of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolás in the Albaycin of Granada

In 661 Caliphate turned to the hands of the Umayyad dynasty, 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.

Caliph Abd al-Malik established Arabic as the Caliphate's official language in 686. 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 situation, 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.

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