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Arab ?

Arab Definition

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) - Arabs   (Redirected from Arab) "Arab" and "Arabian" redirect here. For other uses, see Arab (disambiguation) and Arabian (disambiguation).
This article may be confusing or unclear to readers. In particular, Arab and Arabians aren''t clearly distinguished. Arabians are the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. Arabs are all inhabitants of the entity defined in the 20th century called the Arab World. Please help us clarify the article; suggestions may be found on the talk page. (May 2014)
Arabs العرب Al-ʿArab Total population Regions with significant populations  Arab League  Brazil  France  Indonesia  United States  Sri Lanka  Israel Languages Religion Related ethnic groups
Al-Mutanabbi Al-Kindi Ibn Khaldun Sheba "Bilqis" Philip the Arab
Ibn al-Haytham Muhammad Ahmad Sharif Hussein Ibn Saud Omar Mukhtar
Yasser Arafat Qaboos bin Said Nawal El Moutawakel Fayeq al-Ayadhi Manal al-Sharif
Rania al-Abdullah Tawakkol Karman Naseer Shamma Fairuz Houari Boumediene
c. 420–450 million
400 million
5,000,000 (Arab ancestry)
Arabic, Modern South Arabian, varieties of Arabic, French, English, Hebrew
Islam (predominantly Sunni, minority Shia) with Christianity and other religions as minorities
Other Semitic peoples and various Afro-Asiatic peoples

Arabs (Arabic: عرب‎, ʿarab) or Arabic-speaking people, are a major panethnic group. They primarily inhabit Western Asia, North Africa, parts of the Horn of Africa, and other areas in the Arab world. Arabic groups which inhabit or are adjacent to the Arabian plate and Arabic speaking people include the Lebanese, Syrians, Emiratis, Qataris, Saudis, Bahrainis, Kuwaitis, Iraqis, Omanis, Jordanians, Palestinians, Yemenis, Sudanis, Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Libyans and Egyptians.

Arabic-speaking populations in general are a highly heterogeneous collection of peoples, with different ancestral origins and identities. The ties that bind the Arab peoples are a veneer of shared heritage by virtue of common linguistic, cultural, and political traditions. As such, Arab identity is based on one or more of genealogical, linguistic or cultural grounds, although with competing identities often taking a more prominent role, based on considerations including regional, national, clan, kin, sect, and tribe affiliations and relationships. If the Arab panethnicity is regarded as a single population, then it constitutes one of the world''s largest groups after Han Chinese.

The Arabian Peninsula itself was not entirely originally Arab. Arabization occurred in some parts of the Arabian Peninsula. For example, the language shift to Arabic displaced the indigenous South Semitic Old South Arabian languages of modern-day Yemen and southern Oman. These were the languages spoken in the civilisations of Sheba, Ubar, Magan, Dilmun, and Meluhha—which were spread via migrants from the Arabian peninsula, together with written script, in the 8th and 7th centuries BC to the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti).

  • 1 Name
  • 2 Identity
  • 3 Subgroups
  • 4 Demographics
    • 4.1 Arab world
    • 4.2 Migration and diaspora
  • 5 History
  • 6 Religion
    • 6.1 Ancient times
    • 6.2 Islam
    • 6.3 Druze faith
    • 6.4 Christianity
    • 6.5 Judaism
  • 7 Culture
    • 7.1 Art
    • 7.2 Architecture
    • 7.3 Music
    • 7.4 Literature
  • 8 Genetics
    • 8.1 Y-Chromosome
    • 8.2 mtDNA Analysis
    • 8.3 Other Chromosomes
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links

Name Further information: Arab (etymology)

Originally, "Arabs" were synonymous with Arabians (inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula), until the Arabisation of people with no Arabian ancestry, mostly during the Abbasid Caliphate. Therefore all uses of the word "Arab" prior to the 7th century, and most those prior to the 13th century AD refer specifically to Arabians. 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. 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). ʕarab, with the Arabic letter "alif" in the second syllable, is still used today to describe Bedouins today, distinguishing 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."

It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article titled Arab identity. (Discuss) Proposed since May 2014.

Arab identity is defined independently of religious identity, and pre-dates the spread 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, but also Druze and Baha''i.

Arabs are generally Sunni, Shia or Sufi Muslims, but currently, 7.1 percent to 10 percent of Arabs are Arab Christians. This figure includes only Christians whose primary community language is today a variety of Arabic, and who identify as Arab.

Arab ethnic identity does not include Christian and other ethnic groups that retain non-Arabic languages and identities within the expanded Arab World. These include the Assyrians of Iraq and north east Syria, Armenians around the entire Near East, and Mandeans in Iraq—though many of these peoples speak Arabic as a first or second language. In addition, many Egyptian Copts and Lebanese Maronites espouse an Ancient Egyptian and Phoenician-Canaanite identity respectively, rather than an Arab one. A number of other peoples living in the Arab World are non-Arab, such as Berbers, Kurds, Turks, Iranians, Azeris, Circassians, Shabaks, Turcomans, Romani, Chechens, Mhallami, Sub-Saharan Africans, South Asians, Samaritans, and Jews.

Today, the main unifying characteristic among Arabs is the Arabic language, a South Semitic language from the Afroasiatic language family. Modern Standard Arabic serves as the standardized and literary variety of Arabic used in writing, as well as in the most formal speech, although it is not spoken natively by the overwhelming majority of Arabs. Most Arabs who are functional in Modern Standard Arabic acquire it as a second language through education, while various varieties of Arabic are spoken as vernaculars by each distinct Arab group. Due to sociolinguistic reasons stemming from pan-Arab political and social considerations, however, these varieties are often regarded dialects rather than independent languages, despite the fact that most varieties of Arabic are not mutually intelligible, whether with each other or to Modern Standard Arabic. By contrast, neither the Maltese language is referred to as a variety of Arabic, nor are the Maltese people Arabs, despite the fact that the Maltese language is philologically a variety of Arabic in no greater or lesser extent than any of the other thus-defined Arabic varieties (sharing intelligibility with Tunisian Arabic), in addition to Malta itself lying on the African tectonic plate along with the other Arab-defined countries of North Africa. This anomaly owes to modern-day Malta being politically aligned and within the cultural sphere of influence of Europe rather than the Arab world, as was the case in Malta''s earlier history.

During the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Classical Era there was no Arab presence in the areas encompassed by modern Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Iran, North Africa, Asia Minor or Kuwait.

The Arabs are first mentioned in the mid 9th century BC as a tribal people dwelling in the mid Arabian Peninsula subjugated by the north Mesopotamian based Assyrians. The Arabs appear to have remained largely under the vassalage of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), and then the succeeding Neo-Babylonian Empire (605-539 BC), Persian Achaemenid Empire (539-332 BC), Greek Macedonian/Seleucid Empire and Iranian Parthian Empires.

Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids begin to appear in the south Syrian deserts and southern Jordan from the mid 3rd century AD onwards, during the mid to later stages of the Roman Empire and Sassanid Empire. The Nabateans of Jordan appear to have been an Aramaic speaking ethnic mix of Canaanites, Arameans and Arabs. Thus, although a more limited diffusion of Arabic culture and language was felt in some areas by these migrant minority Arabs in pre-Islamic times through Arab Christian kingdoms and Arab Jewish tribes, it was only after the rise of Islam in the mid-7th century that Arab culture, people and language began their wholesale spread from the central Arabian Peninsula (including the Syrian desert) through conquest and trade.

At the time of the Arab Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries AD, the population of Aramea and Phoenicia (modern Syria and Lebanon) was largely Aramean and Phoenician, with minorities of Greeks, Assyrians, Armenians and Romans also extant, as well as pre-Islamic Arabs in the south Syrian deserts. Israel-Palestine (ancient Israel, Judah and Samarra) and Jordan (ancient Moab, Edom and Ammon) were largely inhabited by native Jews, Samaritans, and other Canaanites, together with Arameans, Greeks and Nabateans. Egypt was largely populated by natives of Ancient Egyptian heritage together with a Greek minority, what had been Phoenician Carthage (modern Tunisia) by its mixed Phoenician-Berber population. A number of Germanic peoples such as the Vandals and Visigoths were also extant as rulers throughout North Africa (modern Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco) at this time.

Arab cultures went through a mixing process. Therefore, every Arab country has cultural specificities that form a cultural mix that incorporates local novelties acquired after arabization. However, all Arab countries do also share a common culture in arts (music, literature, poetry, calligraphy...), cultural products (handicrafts, carpets, henne, bronze carving...), social behavior, and relations (hospitality, codes of conduct among friends and family...), customs and superstitions, some dishes (shorba, mloukhia), traditional clothing, and 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 are classified as white by the U.S. Census, and have been since 1997.

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).
  • Genealogical: someone who can trace his or her ancestry to the original inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula and the Syrian Desert (tribes of Arabia). This was the definition used until medieval times, for example by Ibn Khaldun, but has decreased in importance over time, as a portion of those of Arab ancestry lost their links with their ancestors'' motherland. In the modern era, however, DNA tests have at times proved reliable in identifying those of Arab genealogical descent. For example, it has been found that the frequency of the "Arab marker" Haplogroup J1 collapses suddenly at the borders of Arabic speaking countries.
  • Linguistic: someone whose first language, and by extension cultural expression, is Arabic, including any of its varieties. This definition covers some than 420 million people (2014 estimate). Certain groups that fulfill this criterion reject this definition on the basis of non-Arab ancestry; such an example may be seen in the way that Egyptians identified themselves in the early 20th century.

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).


While Pan-Arabism and Arab nationalism subsume all Arabic-speaking populations under the notion of "Arabs", there are numerous sub-divisions, not all of which necessarily identify as ethnically Arab.

The Arabians form a strict subset of the ethnolinguistic group of "Arabs" discussed here. The name of Arab historically was synonymous with Bedouin. Although, most Arabians were sedentary (not nomadic) in pre-Islamic times. In some parts of the Arab World, the term Arab may still carry connotations of being Arabian, conflicting with the Pan-Arabist concept of ethnicity.

Arabians are most prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula, but are also found in large numbers in Mesopotamia (Arab tribes in Iraq), the Levant and Sinai (Negev Bedouin, Tarabin bedouin), as well as North Africa and the Sudan region.

Arabian Peninsula

Arabs in the narrow sense are the indigenous Arabians (who trace their roots back to the tribes of Arabia) and their immediate descendant groups in the Levant and North Africa. Within the people of the Arabian Peninsula, distinction is made between:

  • Pure Arabs or Qahtanian Arabs (العرب العاربة) from Yemen, taken to be descended from Ya‘rub bin Yashjub bin Qahtan.
  • Arabized Arabs or ‘Adnani Arabs (العرب المستعربة), taken to be the descendants of Ishmael and the Jurhum tribe.

This traditional division of the Arabs of Arabia may have arisen at the time of early Muslim factional infighting during the Umayyad Caliphate.

Contrary to popular belief, most Arabians were sedentary (not nomadic) in pre-Islamic times.

Of the Arabian tribes that interacted with Muhammad, the most prominent was Banu Quraish. The Qur''aish sub-clan of Banu Hashim was the clan of Muhammad. During the period of Muslim conquests and the Golden Age of Islam, the political rulers of Islam were exclusively members of the Banu Quraish tribe.

IraqFurther information: Arab tribes in Iraq

The 150 Arab tribes in Iraq are grouped into federations (qabila), and divided into clans (fukhdh). The so-called Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq consist of numerous tribes, partly within the large Al-Muntafiq tribal alliance.

Iranian Arabs form a 2% minority in Iran. The largest group are the Ahwazi Arabs, including Banu Kaab, Bani Turuf and the Musha''sha''iyyah sect . Smaller groups are the Khamseh nomads in Fars Province and the Arabs in Khorasan.

Syria and Levant

The Arabs of the Levant are traditionally divided into Qays and Yaman tribes. This tribal division is likewise taken ot date to the Umayyad period. The Yaman trace their origin to South Arabia or Yemen; they include Banu Kalb, Kindah, Ghassanids, and Lakhmids. Since the 1834 Arab revolt in Palestine, the Arabic-speaking population of Palestine has shed its formerly tribal structure and emerged as the Palestinian people.


The Bedouin of western Egypt and eastern Libya are traditionally divided into Sa`ada and Murabtin, the Sa`ada group having higher social status. This may derive from a historical feudal system in which the Murabtin were vassals to the Sa`ada.

With the Muslim conquest of North Africa and the Sudan region, amalgamated populations emerged, now sometimes summarized under the terms Arab-Berber, Arabized Berber and Afro-Arab.

Egyptians are Arabic-speaking, but the question of their idenfitication as ethnically Arab has a long and complicated history of controversy.

The Arabic-speaking population of the Maghreb (Libyans, Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians) is loosely divided into Arab-Berber for people of mixed Arab-Berber descent who embrace an Arab identity, and Arabized Berber for people of predominantly North African ancestry who retain a regional identity.

In Sudan, there are numerous Arab tribes, including the Shaigya, Ja''alin, Shukria, Rashaida, etc. in addition, there are Arabized or partially Arabized ethnic groups such as the Nubians, Copts, or Beja; they are sometimes united under the umbrella term of Sudanese Arabs. Arab slave trade in the Sudan region and West Africa created a clean division between Arabs and indigenous populations, and slavery in contemporary Africa substantially persists along these lines, contributing to ethnic conflict in the region, such as the internal conflicts in Sudan, Northern Mali conflict, or the Islamist insurgency in Northern Nigeria.


The total number of Arabic speakers living in the Arab nations is estimated at 366 million by the CIA Factbook (as of 2014). The estimated number of Arabs in countries outside the Arab League is estimated at 17.5 million, yielding a total of close to 384 million.

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, yielding a total of about 7 million people in the Arab diaspora.

Most of the Arab countries are predominantly the youth. "Over 40 percent of the region''s population is under 15. Only 4 nations- Bahrain, Kuwaitm, UAE, and Qatar- have an under 15 population less than 35 percent."

Arab world

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

Flag Country Total Population % Arab Notes
Egypt 86,895,099 90% The common consensus among Egyptians is that this classification is tied to them due to the use of Arabic as an official language in Egypt. The Egyptian dialect of Arabic include thousands of Coptic words.
Algeria 38,813,722 N/A Algerians are berber in origin however speak primarily Arabic.
Morocco 32,987,206 66% The high level of mixing between Arabs and Berbers makes differentiating between the two ethnicities in Morocco difficult.
Iraq 32,585,692 75-80% The remainder of the population in Iraq consists of Kurds (including Yazidis), Assyrians (including Chaldean Catholics), Turkmens, Shabaks, Armenians, Circassians, and Mandeans
Saudi Arabia 27,345,986 90% Most Saudis are ethnic Arabs.
Sudan 35,482,233 70% Arabs and Bedouins are by far the largest ethnic group, among 597 tribes.
Yemen 26,052,966 100%
Syria 17,951,639 90.3% The remainder population are primarily Christian groups such as Assyrians and Armenians, together with Kurds and Yazidis
Tunisia 10,937,521 98%
Israel 8,146,300 20.7% According to Israel''s Central Bureau of Statistics, the Arab population in 2013 was estimated at 1,658,000, representing 20.7% of the country''s population.
Libya 6,244,174 97%
Jordan 7,930,491 98%
Lebanon 5,882,562 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 2,742,711 80%
UAE 8,264,070 40% Less than 20% of the population in the Emirates are citizens, the majority are foreign workers and expatriates. Emirati citizens are ethnic Arabs.
Oman 3,219,775 90%
Mauritania 3,516,806 80% The majority of Mauritania''s population are ethnic Moors, an ethnicity with a mix of Arab and Berber ancestry, as well as 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 2,123,160 40% The native population is a minority in Qatar, making up 20% of the population. The native population is ethnically Arab. An additional 20% of the population is made up of Arabs, mostly Egyptian and Palestinian workers. The remaining population is made up of other foreign workers.
Bahrain 1,314,089 50.7% 46.0% of the Bahrain''s population are native Bahrainis. Bahrainis are ethnically Arabs. 5.4% are Other Arabs (inc. GCC)
Djibouti 810,179 4.5% Djibouti is one of the Arab league members where Arabs do not constitute the major ethnic group.
Somalia 10,428,043 85% Somalia''s population consist mostly of Somalis, of which account for 85%.
Comoros 766,865 <0.1% Although the Comoros is a member of the League of Arab States, the Arabs do not even constitute a seizable minority.
Migration and diaspora Main article: Arab diaspora Arab diaspora Flag Country Number of Arabs Total Population % Arabs Notes
Brazil 10,000,000 200,000,000 5%
France 5,880,000 65,350,000 9%
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 20.7%
Turkey 1,600,000 80,500,000 2.1%
Iran 1,600,000 80,000,000 2.0%
Chad 1,400,000 10,329,208 12.3%
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 760,000 60,920,000 1.2%
Colombia 705,000 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 480,000 16,750,000 2.8%
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

It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article titled Arab diaspora. (Discuss) Proposed since May 2014.
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 second 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 occurred in Dagestan, which influenced local culture. Until the mid-20th century, some individuals in Dagestan still claimed Arabic as their native language. The majority of these lived 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.

Iranian Arab communities are also found in Khuzestan Province.

South Asia

It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article titled Arab diaspora. (Discuss) Proposed since May 2014.
Further information: Ashraf, Caste system among South Asian Muslims and Arabs in Pakistan

There are only two communities with the self-identity Arab in India, 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 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.Iraqi biradri can be considered as an Arab because the record of their ancestor Sayyid Masud who migrated from Iraq exists in historical documents.

Ceylon Moors are “the descendants of Arab traders (mainly from Hadhramawt in Yemen and Morocco) who espoused local women. They are a mixed race with Arab dominance and a considerable infusion of Sinhalese and Dravidian blood.” The later generation Arab traders married the descendants of the Arab settlers. Some families trace their ancestry to prominent Arab tribes like Banu Quraysh and Arab personalities like Caliph Abu Bakr As Siddiq, Prince Jamaldeen of Konya etc.

“The epithet (Moor), was borrowed (from the Spaniards) by the Portuguese, (the earliest colonizers of ‘Ceylon’ – as Sri Lanka was then known) who, after their discovery of the passage by the Cape of Good Hope, bestowed it indiscriminately upon the Arabs and their descendants, whom in the sixteenth century, found established as traders in every port on the Asian and African coast, and who had good reason to regard them as their most formidable competitors for the commerce of the East."

Alexander Johnston has recorded that:

"...the first Muslims who settled in the country, were, according to the tradition which prevails among their descendants, a portion of those Arabs of the House of Hashim who were driven from Arabia in the early part of the eighth century by the Umayyad Caliph Abd-al Malik bin Marwan, and who proceeding from the Euphrates southward, established settlements in the Concan, the southern parts of the Indian peninsula, Sri Lanka and Malacca. He adds that the division of them that came to Sri Lanka formed eight considerable settlements.”

Hussein says:

"Although it is likely that it was Arabic that was the spoken language of the early Arab settlers of the country, and perhaps of the early Moors whom they sired, it is today largely Arab Tamil getting replaced by Sinhala, as the ‘home language’, so to say, of the present-day Moor community. Arabic is today employed by them only as their liturgical language in their prayers and other religious observances. Arab Tamil is by far the predominant speech of the Moors.

"The Tamil spoken by the Moors is however not quite the same as the Tamil spoken by the Tamils of Jaffna and South India. Indeed, this peculiar dialect or rather patois of the Moors is derogatorily referred to as ‘Sona Tamil’ by conservative Tamil folk. This Sona Tamil speech seems to have largely derived from a South Indian Tamil patois.....

"It has also been considerably influenced by other languages such as Arabic, Hindustani, and Sinhala, all of which goes on to show that it approaches a sort of Creole, albeit considerably influenced by a Tamil dialect .....”

HistoryBronze statue of Dhamar Ali, King of the Himyarite dynasty, the 4th century ADPre-Islamic Main article: Pre-Islamic ArabiaNabataean trade routes in Pre-Islamic Arabia

Pre-Islamic Arabia refers to Arabic civilization 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 on the 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, Eastern Arabia 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 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

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:

  • "Ancient Arabs", tribes that had vanished or been destroyed, such as ʿĀd and Thamud, often mentioned in the Qur''an as examples of God''s power to vanquish those who fought his prophets.
  • "Pure Arabs" of South Arabia, descending from Qahtan. The Qahtanites (Qahtanis) are said to have migrated from the land of Yemen following the destruction of the Ma''rib Dam (sadd Ma''rib).
  • The "Arabized Arabs" (musta`ribah) of Central Arabia (Najd) and North Arabia, descending from Ishmael the elder son of Abraham, through Adnan (hence, Adnanites). The Book of Genesis narrates that God promised Hagar to beget from Ishmael twelve princes and turn him to a great nation.(Genesis 17:20) The Book of Jubilees, in the other hand, claims that the sons of Ishmael intermingled with the 6 sons of Keturah, from Abraham, and their descendants were called Arabs and Ishmaelites:

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 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 Arabian Muslims who used to be nomadic, and 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 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 no longer considered proto-Arabic, but pre-classical Arabic. Five Syriac inscriptions mentioning Arabs have been found at Sumatar Harabesi, one of which dates 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.

  • The Ghassanids increased the Semitic presence in the then Hellenized Syria, the majority of Semites were Aramaic peoples. They mainly settled in the Hauran region and spread to modern Lebanon, Palestine and East Jordan.

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.

  • The Lakhmids as a dynasty inherited their power from the Tanukhids, the mid Tigris region around their capital Al-Hira. They ended up allying with the Sassanids against the Ghassanids and the Byzantine Empire. The Lakhmids contested control of the Central Arabian tribes with the Kindites with the Lakhmids eventually destroying Kinda in 540 after the fall of their main ally Himyar. The Persian Sassanids dissolved the Lakhmid dynasty in 602, being under puppet kings, then under their direct control.
  • The Kindites migrated from Yemen along with the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, but were turned back in Bahrain by the Abdul Qais Rabi''a tribe. They returned to Yemen and allied themselves with the Himyarites who installed them as a vassal kingdom that ruled Central Arbia from "Qaryah Dhat Kahl" (the present-day called Qaryat al-Faw) in Central Arabia. They ruled much of the Northern/Central Arabian peninsula, till they were destroyed by the Lakhmid king Al-Mundhir, and his son ''Amr
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 Caliphate

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