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Total population c. 250-300 million
Regions with significant populations Arab populations in Arabic-speaking regions:
Middle East: (Mashreq + Arabian Peninsula)
Northern Africa (Maghreb)

Arab minorities outside Arabic-speaking regions:
Iran - 3 million <Ref></ref>
Turkey - 1 million
United States - 3.5 million
Australia , New Zealand and Brazil

Language Arabic
(+ other languages in the case of minorities integrated in non-Arabic speaking countries)
Religion Predominantly Muslim. There are also some adherents of Christianity, Druze, Judaism, Samaritan, Yazidi or others. <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th>
<td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">Mizrachi Jews, Sephardi Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Canaanites, other Semitic groups</td>


The Arabs (Arabic: عربʻarab) are a heterogeneous ethnic group who are predominantly speakers of the Arabic language, mainly found throughout the Middle East and North Africa.


[edit] Etymology

The proper name Arab or "Arabian" (and cognates in other languages) has been used to translate several different but similar sounding words in ancient and classical texts which do not necessarily have the same meaning or origin. The etymology of the term is of course closely linked to that of the place name "Arabia".

[edit] Origin

According to the evidence from Torah, Bible, and Qur'an, the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula are the descendants of Shem son of Noah. Keeping the surname is an important part of Arabic culture as some lineages can be traced far back to ancient times. Some Arabs claim they can trace their lineage directly back to Noah and Adam. In addition to Adam, Noah, and Shem some of the first known Arabs are those who came from Petra, the Nabataean capital (today, Petra is an archaeological site in Jordan, lying in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Wadi Araba).

Other Arabs are known as Arabised-Arabs, including those who came from some parts of Mesopotamia (Arabic term: بين نهرين Bayn Nahrain "between two rivers"), the Levant, Berber lands, Moors, Egypt, the Sudan, and other African Arabs[citation needed].

Arab origin is divided into two major groups:

  1. al-ʻĀriba (العاربة) "Pure origin": They are the Arabs known as Qahtanite who are traditionally considered to be direct descendants of Noah through his son Shem through his sons Aram and Arfakhshaath. Famous noble Qahtanite Arab families from this group can be recognised in the modern days from their surnames such as : Alqahtani, Alharbi, Alzahrani, Alghamedey, aws and khazraj (Alansari or Ansar), Aldosari, Alkhoza'a, Morra, Alojman, etc. Arab genealogies usually ascribe the origins of the Qahtanites to the South Arabians who built up one of the oldest centres of civilisation in the Near East beginning around 800 BC. These groups did not speak one of the early forms of Arabic or its predecessors, however, but instead South Semitic languages such as Sabaic, Minaic, Qatabanic, and Hadramitic.<ref>Nebes, Norbert, "Epigraphic South Arabian," in von Uhlig, Siegbert, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (Wiesbaden:Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), pps.335.</ref>
  2. al-Mustaʻribah (المستعربة) "Arabised Arabs": The term Arabised-Arabs can be used in three different cases:
  • Is used for defining the Arabs who are traditionally considered to be descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael through his son Adnan, and they are known as Adnanite: it is defined of the Arabs who settled in Mecca when Abraham took his Egyptian wife Hagar or (Hajar) and his son Ishmael to Mecca. Ishmael was raised by his mother Hagar and one noble Arab family who left from Yemen and settled in Mecca after the drought in Yemen at that time). Ishmael learned Arabic language and he spoke it fluently during his life. And that is the main reason for calling this Arab group as Arabised. It is believed also that the Prophet of Islam Mohammad is descended of Adnanite Arab. Some famous noble Adnanite Arab families from this group are: Alanazi, Altamimi, Almaleek, Bani Khaled, Bani Kolab, Bani Hashim, etc.
  • The term Arabised-Arabs is also used for defining the Arabs who spoke other Afro-Asiatic languages. They are Arabic speakers and regarded as Arabs in contemporary times.
  • Bedouin-Arabs whom came from the Assyrian desert are also known as Arabised-Arabs, as they were not from the actual Arabian Peninsula.[citation needed]
  • The same term al-Musta'ribah "Arabised-Arabs" is also used for the "Mixed Arabs", between "Pure Arabs" and the Arabs from South Arabia.

[edit] Who is an Arab?

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  • Islamic tradition: The Qur'an does not define who is an Arab but there is a verse in the Qur'an stating "there is no difference between an Arab or an Ajam (meaning a non-Arabic speaker), except by their God-fearingness" <ref></ref>. The prophet Muhammed also noted that an Arab is anyone who speaks Arabic (see below).
  • Ethnic identity: someone who considers him or herself to be an Arab (regardless of racial or ethnic origin) and is recognized as such by others.
  • Race: While the term “Arab” does not refer to a particular race, the majority of Arabs are categorized as Caucasians or “white” as the term is used in the United States. According to the U.S. census bureau, white is defined to include people with ancestral origins in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The Middle East and North Africa also has people who are black. Although these people refer to themselves as Arabs they are not considered White as their ancestral origins are not from Europe, the Middle East or North Africa. Examples of Arabs who are not White are Sudanese Arabs who are considered black Africans.
  • Linguistic: someone whose first language is Arabic (including any of its varieties); this definition covers more than 250 million people. Arabic belongs to the Semitic family of languages.
  • Genealogical: someone who can trace his or her ancestry back to the original inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula and the Syrian Desert.
  • Political: someone who is a resident or citizen of a country where Arabic is one of the official languages or the national language, or is a member of the Arab League or is part of the wider Arab world; this definition would cover more than 300 million people, but it is rather simplistic and rigid in that it excludes the entire Diaspora but includes indigenous or migrant minorities.

The relative importance of these factors is estimated differently by different groups. Most people who consider themselves Arabs do so on the basis of the overlap of the political and linguistic definitions. However, some members of groups which fulfill both criteria reject the identity on the basis of the genealogical definition; Lebanese Maronites, for example, may reject the Arab label in favor of a narrower Phoenician-Lebanese identity (although Maronites originate from the Syriac-Aramaeans of northern Syria and Phoenicians lived on the coasts of Syria and Lebanon). This is also the case for many Berbers of North-West Africa and both Coptic and Muslim Egyptians who embrace the continuation of their ancient heritage. Groups using a non-Arabic liturgical language are especially likely to consider themselves non-Arab. Not many people consider themselves Arab on the basis of the political definition without the linguistic one–thus, Kurds or Berbers do not usually identify themselves as Arab—but some do (for instance, some Berbers do consider themselves Arabs[citation needed]).

Ibn Asakir in his "Tarikh Dimashq" <ref> (1998) Tarikh Dimashq. Dar Al-Fikr, Beirut, ed. 13, Vol. 21, pg, 407.</ref>: "Qurra Bin Isa Al-Wasiti narrated to us from Abu Bakr Az-Dzuhli narrated to us from Malik Bin Anas from Abu Salama Ibn Abdur-Rahman who said: Qays Bin Mattatiyya came to a [study] circle in which were sitting Salman the Persian, Suhayb the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian, whereupon he said: 'Those Aws and Khazraj have stood up in defence of this man. [meaning Muhammed] So how about those?' [pointing to non Arabs in the circle] So Muadh ibn Jabal stood up and grabbed his collar and took him to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and told him of what he said. Furious, The Prophet, peace be upon him, ran to the mosque, and prayer was called for [method for summoning people]. When people gathered he stood up and said: 'People! The Lord is One and the Father [Adam] is one. Being an Arab is not, in any of you, inherited from father or mother but it is only the language that is spoken (Innama Hiya Al-lisan). So, whoever speaks Arabic then he is an Arab.' Then Mu'adzh Bin Jabal stood - still holding the other's collar - and said: 'What do you order us to do with this hypocrite, O Messenger of Allah?' He replied, 'Leave him to the Fire.' And Qays was among those who committed apostasy during the Ridda, at which time he was killed."

According to Habib Hassan Touma <ref> 1996, p.xviii </ref>, "An 'Arab', in the modern sense of the word, is one who is a national of an Arab state, has command of the Arabic language, and possesses a fundamental knowledge of Arabian tradition, that is, of the manners, customs, and political and social systems of the culture."

On its formation in 1946, the Arab League defined an "Arab" as follows:[citation needed]

"An Arab is a person whose language is Arabic, who lives in an Arabic speaking country, who is in sympathy with the aspirations of the Arabic speaking peoples."

A definition based on sociological variables is widely used since medieval times (Ibn Khaldun, for example, does not use the word Arab to refer to the Arab people as defined by any of those definition, but only to those who are still living a bedouin life;i.e. a nomadic life, which he -Ibn Khaldoun- contrasts with urbanized life at the cities), this definition is still used by many Arabs.

[edit] Religions

The Arabs are mainly Muslim with a minority of Christian followers, and some Arab Jews. Arab Muslims are Sunni, Shiite, Ibadhite, Alawite, Ismaili or Druze. The Druze faith is sometimes considered as a religion apart. The Arab Christians follow generally one of the following Eastern Churches: Coptic, Maronite, Greek Orthodox or Greek Catholic

Before the coming of Islam, most Arabs followed a religion featuring the worship of a number of deities, including Hubal, Wadd, Al-Lat, Manat, and Uzza, while some tribes had converted to Christianity or Judaism, and a few individuals, the hanifs, had apparently rejected polytheism in favor of a vague monotheism. The most prominent Arab Christian kingdoms were the Ghassanid and Lakhmid kingdoms. With the coversion of the Himyarite kings to Judaism in the late 4th century the elites of the other prominent Arab kingdom, the Kindites, being Himyirite vassals, appear to have converted (at least partly) to Judaism too. With the expansion of Islam, the majority of Arabs rapidly became Muslims, and the pre-Islamic polytheistic traditions disappeared.

At present, most Arabs are Muslims. Sunni Islam dominates in most areas, overwhelmingly so in North Africa; Shia Islam is prevalent in Bahrain, southern Iraq and adjacent parts of Saudi Arabia, southern Lebanon, parts of Syria, northern Yemen. The tiny Druze community, belonging to a secretive offshoot of Islam, is also Arab.

Reliable estimates of the number of Arab Christians, which in any case, just as the number of all Arabs, especially Muslim Arabs, depends on the definition of "Arab" used, vary. Today Christians only make up 9.2% of the population of the Near East <ref> (1998) Christian Communities in the Middle East. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-829388-7.</ref>. In Lebanon they now number about 39% of the population <ref></ref>, in Syria they make up about 10 to 15%, in the Palestinian territories the figure is 3.8%, and in Israel Arab Christians constitute 2.1% (or roughly 10% of the Israeli Arab population). In Egypt, they constitute about 9%-15% of the population. Most North and South American and Australian Arabs (about two-thirds) are Arab Christians, particularly from Syria, the Palestinian territories, and Lebanon.

Jews from Arab countries - mainly Mizrahi Jews and Yemenite Jews - are today usually not categorised as Arab. 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". <ref></ref> Prior to the emergence of the term Mizrahi, the term "Arab Jews" (Yehudim ‘Áravim, יהודים ערבים) was sometimes used to describe Jews of the Arab world. The term is rarely used today. The few remaining Jews in the Arab countries reside mostly in Morocco and Tunisia. Between the late 1940s and early 1960s, following the creation of the state of Israel, most of these Jews left or were expelled from their countries of birth and are now mostly concentrated in Israel. Some also immigrated to France (where they form the largest Jewish community, outnumbering European Jews), but relatively few to the United States. (see Jewish exodus from Arab lands).

[edit] History

Image:Palestijnse familie rond 1900 .jpg
Palestinian Family in 1900s
Arab Family from 1905
The first written attestation of the ethnonym "Arab" occurs in an Assyrian inscription of 853 BC, where Shalmaneser III lists a King Gindibu of mâtu arbâi (Arab land) as among the people he defeated at the Battle of Qarqar. Some of the names given in these texts are Aramaic, while others are the first attestations of Proto-Arabic dialects. The Hebrew Bible likewise refers occasionally to peoples called `Arvi (or variants thereof), translated as "Arab" or "Arabian". The scope of the Hebrew term at this early stage is unclear, but it seems to have referred to various desert-dwelling Semitic tribes in the Syrian Desert and Arabia. Its earliest attested use referring to the southern "Qahtanite" Arabs is much later.

Proto-Arabic, or Ancient North Arabian, texts give a clearer picture of the Arabs' emergence into history. The earliest such texts are written not in the modern Arabic alphabet, nor in its Nabataean ancestor, but in variants of the Epigraphic South Arabian musnad, beginning in the 8th century BC with the Hasaean inscriptions of eastern Saudi Arabia, and continuing from the 6th century BC on with the Lihyanite texts (in southeastern Saudi Arabia) and the Thamudic texts (found throughout Arabia and the Sinai, and not in reality connected with Thamud). Later come the Safaitic inscriptions (beginning in the 1st century BC) and the many Arabic personal names attested in Nabataean inscriptions (which are, however, written in Aramaic.) From about the 2nd century BC, a few inscriptions from Qaryat al-Faw (near Sulayyil) reveal a dialect which is no longer considered "Proto-Arabic", but Pre-Classical Arabic.

By the fourth century AD, the Arab kingdoms of the Lakhmids in southern Iraq and Ghassanids in southern Syria had emerged just south of the Fertile Crescent and ended up allying respectively with the Sassanid and Byzantine Empires. In addition to this the Kindite Kingdom emerged in Central Arabia that allied with the Himyarite Empire of South Arabia. Thus they were constantly at war with each other on behalf of their imperial patrons. However, their courts were responsible for some notable examples of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, and for some of the few surviving pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions in the Arabic alphabet. The Lakhmid kingdom was dissolved by the Sassanids in 602, while the Ghassanids would hold out until engulfed by the expansion of Islam (Pre-Islamic Arabia)

In the Qur'an, the word ʿarab does not appear, only the nisba adjective, ʿarabiyyun: The Qur'an is referring to itself as ʿarabiyyun "Arabic" and mubinun "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", and the Qur'an came to be regarded as the prime example of the al-ʿarabiyyatu, the language of the Arabs. The term ʾiʿrāb is from the same root, referring 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,

ʾaʿrābu ʾašaddu kufrān wanifāqān "the Bedouin are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy".

Based on this, in early Islamic terminology, ʿarab referred to sedentary Arabs, living in cities such as Mecca and Medina, and ʾaʿrāb referred to the Arab Bedouins, carrying a negative connotation due to the Qur'anic verdict just cited. Following the Islamic conquest of the 8th century, however, the language of the nomadic Arabs came to be regarded as preserving the highest purity by the grammarians following Abi Ishaq, and the term kalam al-ʿArab "language of the Arabs" came to denote the uncontaminated language of the Bedouins.

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, of which Qahtan was related to the "lost Arabs", and the Southern Arabs were identified as of his lineage, regarded as the "real Arabs", al-ʿArab al-ʿariba, while the Northern Arabs, including the tribes of Mecca, were considered the descendants of Adnan, in Islamic tradition traced back to Ismail son of Abraham, said to have been arabized at a later period.

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 Himyarite language described by Al-Hamdani (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 Arabic.

During the 8th and 9th centuries, the Arabs (specifically the Umayyads, and later Abbasids) forged an empire 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. Throughout much of this area, the Arabs spread the religion of Islam and the Arabic language (the language of the Qur'an) through conversion and assimilation. Many groups came to be known as "Arabs" not through descent but through this process of Arabization. Thus, over time, the term Arab came to carry a broader meaning than the original ethnic term: cultural Arab vs. ethnic Arab. People in Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and elsewhere became Arab[citation needed] through Arabization.

Arab nationalism declares that Arabs are united in a shared history, culture and language. Arab nationalists believe that Arab identity encompasses more than outward physical characteristics, race or religion. A related ideology, Pan-Arabism, calls for all Arab lands to be united as one state. Arab nationalism has often competed for existence with regional and ethnic nationalisms in the Middle East, such as Lebanese and Egyptian respectively.

[edit] Traditional genealogy

Medieval Arab genealogists divided the Arabs into three groups:

  • the "ancient Arabs", tribes that had vanished or been destroyed, such as 'Ad and Thamud; they are often alluded to in the Qur'an as examples of God's power to destroy wicked peoples.
  • the "Pure Arabs" of South Arabia, descending from Qahtan. The Qahtanites (Qahtanis) are said to have migrated the land of Yemen following the destruction of the Ma'rib Dam (sadd Ma'rib).
  • The "Arabized Arabs" (musta`ribah) of center and North Arabia, descending from Ishmael son of Abraham.

The Arabic language spoken today in classical Quranic form was the result of a mix between the original Arabic of Qahtan and northern Arabic which shares a great deal with northern Semitic languages from the Levant. The Arabs take a great pride in their language and its survival as a usable and comprehensible language over thousands of years[neutrality disputed].

In Jewish and Christian traditions the Ishmaelites were described as an "Arabian people" at least by the time of Josephus, which became standard centuries prior to Islam (in which the term Hagarenes, a pun on the Arabic muhajir and the name of Hagar, was commonly used). Efforts to reconcile the Biblical and Arab genealogies later led to conflicting attempts to trace Adnan to Ishmael (Ismail), the eldest son of Abraham and Hagar. Joktan was identified with Qahtan, probably due to his Biblical identification as the ancestor of Hazarmaveth (Hadramawt) and Sheba.

[edit] References and notes


[edit] Sources

[edit] See also

[edit] Pages concerning specific countries or regions

[edit] External links

ar:عرب bg:Араби ca:Països àrabs cs:Arabové de:Araber et:Araablased es:Pueblo árabe eo:Araboj fa:عرب fr:Arabes ko:아랍인 hr:Arapi id:Bangsa Arab it:Arabo he:ערבים la:Arabi hu:Arabok ms:Arab nl:Arabieren ja:アラブ人 no:Arabere pl:Arabowie pt:Árabes ro:Arab ru:Арабы simple:Arab sl:Arabci fi:Arabit sv:Araber tt:Ğäräp xalqı tr:Araplar yi:אראבער zh:阿拉伯人


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