The history of the Arabs
begins in the mid-ninth century BC, which is the earliest known attestation of the Old Arabic
language. The Arabs appear to have been under the vassalage of the Neo-Babylonian Empire
; they went from the Arabian Peninsula to Mauritania.
Original Arabic tribes originated in what is now Hejaz, Najd and Yemen and then spread to levant to establish what is known the Ghassanid
kingdoms, in which they began to appear in the southern Syrian Desert
from the mid-third century AD onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman
Tradition holds that Arabs descend from Ishmael
, the son of Abraham
The Syrian Desert
is the home of the first attested "Arab" groups,
as well other Arab groups that spread in the land and existed for millennia.
Before the expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate
(632–661), "Arab" referred to any of the largely nomadic
and settled Semitic people
from the Arabian Peninsula
, Syrian Desert
, North and Lower Mesopotamia
Today, "Arab" refers to a large number of people whose native regions form the Arab world
due to the spread of Arabs and the Arabic language
throughout the region during the early Muslim conquests
of the 7th and 8th centuries.
The Arabs forged the Rashidun
(661–750) and the Abbasid
(750–1258) caliphates, whose borders reached southern France
in the west, China
in the east, Anatolia
in the north, and the Sudan
in the south. This was one of the largest land empires in history
In the early 20th century, the First World War
signalled the end of the Ottoman Empire
; which had ruled much of the Arab world since conquering the Mamluk Sultanate
This resulted in the defeat and dissolution
of the empire and the partition of its territories
, forming the modern Arab states.
Following the adoption of the Alexandria Protocol
in 1944, the Arab League
was founded on 22 March 1945.
The Charter of the Arab League
endorsed the principle of an Arab homeland
whilst respecting the individual sovereignty of its member states.
Arabs are first mentioned in Biblical
texts of the ninth to fifth centuries BC where they appear as nomadic pastoralists inhabiting the Syrian Desert
are presumed to have originated from what is now modern-day Hejaz
in Saudi Arabia
. Arabs spread from there to the central and southern parts of Levant
, sometimes replacing previously spoken Semitic
The study of Pre-Islamic Arabia is important to Islamic studies
as it provides the context for the development of Islam. Some of the settled communities in the Arabian Peninsula developed into distinctive civilizations. Sources for these civilizations are not extensive, and are limited to archaeological evidence, accounts written outside of Arabia, and Arab oral traditions later recorded by Islamic scholars. Among the most prominent civilizations was Dilmun
, which arose around the 4th millennium BC and lasted to 538 BC, and Thamud
, which arose around the 1st millennium BC and lasted to about 300 CE. Additionally, from the beginning of the first millennium BC, Southern Arabia
was the home to a number of kingdoms, such as the Sabaean kingdom
, and the coastal areas of Eastern Arabia
were controlled by the Parthians
from 300 BC.
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 Arabia, the 6th century BCE Lihyanite
texts of southeastern Saudi Arabia and the Thamudic
texts found throughout the Arabian Peninsula and Sinai
(not in reality connected with Thamud
were nomads 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
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.
The ruins of Palmyra. The Palmyrenes were a mix of Arabs, Amorites
Arabs arrived in the Palmyra
in the late first millennium BC.
The soldiers of the sheikh
Zabdibel, who aided the Seleucids in the battle of Raphia (217 BC), were described as Arabs; Zabdibel and his men were not actually identified as Palmyrenes in the texts, but the name "Zabdibel" is a Palmyrene name leading to the conclusion that the sheikh hailed from Palmyra.
Palmyra was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate
after its 634 capture by the Arab general Khalid ibn al-Walid
, who took the city on his way to Damascus; an 18-day march by his army
through the Syrian Desert from Mesopotamia.
By then Palmyra was limited to the Diocletian camp.
After the conquest, the city became part of Homs Province
Fragment of a wall painting showing a Kindite king, 1st century CE.
Palmyra prospered as part of the Umayyad Caliphate, and its population grew.
It was a key stop on the east–west trade route, with a large souq
(market), built by the Umayyads,
who also commissioned part of the Temple of Bel as a mosque
During this period, Palmyra was a stronghold of the Banu Kalb
After being defeated by Marwan II
during a civil war in the caliphate
, Umayyad contender Sulayman ibn Hisham
fled to the Banu Kalb in Palmyra, but eventually pledged allegiance to Marwan in 744; Palmyra continued to oppose Marwan until the surrender of the Banu Kalb leader al-Abrash al-Kalbi in 745.
That year, Marwan ordered the city's walls demolished.
In 750 a revolt, led by Majza'a ibn al-Kawthar
and Umayyad pretender Abu Muhammad al-Sufyani
, against the new Abbasid Caliphate
swept across Syria;
the tribes in Palmyra supported the rebels.
After his defeat Abu Muhammad took refuge in the city, which withstood an Abbasid assault long enough to allow him to escape.
Near East in 565, showing the Lakhmids and their neighbors.
were the last major migration of pre-Islamic Arabs originating from Yemen. 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
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 Arabia from "Qaryah Dhat Kahl" (the present-day called Qaryat al-Faw). They ruled much of the Northern/Central Arabian peninsula, until they were destroyed by the Lakhmid king Al-Mundhir
, and his son 'Amr
Rashidun Caliphate (632–661) Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 & 756–1031)
The Umayyad Mosque
, built in 715, is one of the oldest, largest and best preserved mosques in the world.
In 661, the Rashidun Caliphate fell into the hands of the Umayyad dynasty
was established as the empire's capital. The Umayyads were proud of their Arab identity and sponsored the poetry and culture of pre-Islamic Arabia. They established garrison towns at Ramla
, 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 disparity, demanding that all Muslims be treated as equals, but his intended reforms did not take effect, as he died after only three years of rule. By now, discontent with the Umayyads swept the region and an uprising occurred in which the Abbasids
came to power and moved the capital to Baghdad
Umayyads expanded their Empire westwards capturing North Africa from the Byzantines. Before the Arab conquest, North Africa was conquered or settled by various people including Punics
, Vandals and Romans. After the Abbasid Revolution
, the Umayyads lost most of their territories with the exception of Iberia. Their last holding became known as the Emirate of Córdoba
. It wasn't until the rule of the grandson of the founder of this new emirate that the state entered a new phase as the Caliphate of Córdoba
. This new state was characterized by an expansion of trade, culture and knowledge, and saw the construction of masterpieces of al-Andalus
architecture and the library of Al-Ḥakam II
which housed over 400,000 volumes. With the collapse of the Umayyad state in 1031 AD, Islamic Spain
was divided into small kingdoms.
Abbassid Caliphate (750–1258 & 1261–1517)
Scholars at an Abbasid library in Baghdad. Maqamat of al-Hariri Illustration, 1237.
The Abbasids were the descendants of Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib
, one of the youngest uncles of Muhammad and of the same Banu Hashim
clan. The Abbasids led a revolt against the Umayyads and defeated them in the Battle of the Zab
effectively ending their rule in all parts of the Empire with the exception of al-Andalus
. In 762, the second Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur
founded the city of Baghdad
and declared it the capital of the Caliphate. Unlike the Umayyads, the Abbasids had the support of non-Arab subjects.
The Islamic Golden Age
was inaugurated by the middle of the 8th century by the ascension of the Abbasid Caliphate and the transfer of the capital from Damascus
to the newly founded city of Baghdad
. The Abbassids were influenced by the Qur'anic
injunctions and hadith
such as "The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of martyrs" stressing the value of knowledge. During this period the Muslim world
became an intellectual centre for science, philosophy, medicine and education as the Abbasids championed the cause of knowledge and established the "House of Wisdom
: بيت الحكمة
) in Baghdad. Rival dynasties such as the Fatimids
and the Umayyads
were also major intellectual centres with cities such as Cairo
The Abbasids ruled for 200 years before they lost their central control when Wilayas
began to fracture in the 10th century; afterwards, in the 1190s, there was a revival of their power, which was ended by the Mongols
, who conquered Baghdad
in 1258 and killed the Caliph Al-Musta'sim
. Members of the Abbasid royal family escaped the massacre and resorted to Cairo, which had broken from the Abbasid rule two years earlier; the Mamluk
generals taking the political side of the kingdom while Abbasid Caliphs were engaged in civil activities and continued patronizing science, arts and literature.
Fatimid Caliphate (909–1171)
The Fatimid caliphate was founded by al-Mahdi Billah
, a descendant of Fatimah
, the daughter of Muhammad, in the early 10th century. Egypt was the political, cultural, and religious centre of the Fatimid empire. The Fatimid state took shape among the Kutama
Berbers, in the West of the North African littoral, in Algeria, in 909 conquering Raqqada
, the Aghlabid
capital. In 921 the Fatimids established the Tunisian city of Mahdia
as their new capital. In 948 they shifted their capital to Al-Mansuriya
, near Kairouan
in Tunisia, and in 969 they conquered Egypt and established Cairo
as the capital of their caliphate.
Intellectual life in Egypt during the Fatimid period achieved great progress and activity, due to many scholars who lived in or came to Egypt, as well as the number of books available. Fatimid Caliphs gave prominent positions to scholars in their courts, encouraged students, and established libraries in their palaces, so that scholars might expand their knowledge and reap benefits from the work of their predecessors.
The Fatimids were also known for their exquisite arts. Many traces of Fatimid architecture
exist in Cairo today; the most defining examples include the Al-Hakim Mosque
and the Al-Azhar University
Arabesque pattern behind hunters on ivory plaque
, 11th–12th century, Egypt
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 Shias
, they travelled westwards. The Banu Hilal quickly defeated the Zirids and deeply weakened the neighboring Hammadids
. According to some modern historians. their influx was a major factor in the arabization of the Maghreb.
Although Berbers ruled the region until the 16th century (under such powerful dynasties as the Almoravids
, the Almohads
Ottoman Empire (1299–1922/1923)
From 1517 to 1918, much of the Arab world was under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire
. The Ottomans defeated the Mamluk Sultanate
in Cairo, and ended the Abbasid Caliphate. Arabs did not feel the change of administration because the Ottomans modeled their rule after the previous Arab administration systems.
In 1911, Arab intellectuals and politicians from throughout the Levant formed al-Fatat
("the Young Arab Society"), a small Arab nationalist club, in Paris. Its stated aim was "raising the level of the Arab nation to the level of modern nations." In the first few years of its existence, al-Fatat called for greater autonomy within a unified Ottoman state rather than Arab independence from the empire. Al-Fatat hosted the Arab Congress of 1913
in Paris, the purpose of which was to discuss desired reforms with other dissenting individuals from the Arab world. However, as the Ottoman authorities cracked down on the organization's activities and members, al-Fatat went underground and demanded the complete independence and unity of the Arab provinces.
This section needs expansion
. You can help by adding to it
. (December 2017)
Fredrick E. Greenspahn (2005). "Ishmael". In Lindsay Jones (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion. 7. Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 4551–4552. ISBN 9780028657400. ISHMAEL, or, in Hebrew, Yishmaʿeʾl; eldest son of Abraham. Ishmael's mother was Agar, an Egyptian slave girl whom Sarah had as her maid and eventually donated to Abraham because this royal couple were aged and childless but they were unaware then of God's plan and Israel; in accordance with Mesopotamian law, the offspring of such a union would be credited to Sarah (Gn. 16:2). The name Yishmaʿeʾl is known from various ancient Semitic cultures and means "God has hearkened," suggesting that a child so named was regarded as the answer to a request. Ishmael was circumcised at the age of thirteen by Abraham and expelled with his mother Agar at the instigation of Sarah, Abraham's wife, who wanted to ensure that Isaac would be Abraham's heir (Gn. 21). In the New Testament, Paul uses this incident to symbolize the relationship between Judaism and Christianity (Gal. 4:21–31). In the Genesis account, God blessed Ishmael, promising that he would be the founder of a great nation and a "wild ass of a man" always at odds with others (Gn. 16:12). So Abraham rose up in the morning, and taking bread and a bottle of water, put it upon her shoulder, and delivered the boy, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Bersabee.  And when the water in the bottle was spent, she cast the boy under one of the trees that were there. Genesis chapter 21:  And she went her way, and sat over against him a great way off as far as a bow can carry, for she said: I will not see the boy die: and sitting over against, she lifted up her voice and wept.  And God heard the voice of the boy: and an angel of God called to Agar from heaven, saying: What art thou doing, Agar? fear not: for God hath heard the voice of the boy, from the place wherein he is.  Arise, take up the boy, and hold him by the hand: for I will make him a great nation.  And God opened her eyes: and she saw a well of water, and went and filled the bottle, and gave the boy to drink.  And God was with him: and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became a young man, an archer.  And he dwelt in the wilderness of Pharan, and his mother took a wife for him out of the land of Egypt.  At the same time Abimelech, and Phicol the general of his army said to Abraham: God is with thee in all that thou dost.  Swear therefore by God, that thou wilt not hurt me, nor my posterity, nor my stock: but according to the kindness that I have done to thee, thou shalt do to me, and to the land wherein thou hast lived a stranger.  And Abraham said: I will swear.  And he reproved Abimelech for a well of water, which his servants had taken away by force.  And Abimelech answered: I knew not who did this thing: and thou didst not tell me, and I heard not of it till today.  And Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech: and both of them made a league.  And Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock.  And Abimelech said to him: What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set apart?  But he said: Thou shalt take seven ewe lambs at my hand: that they may be a testimony for me, that I dug this well.  Therefore that place was called Bersabee: because there both of them did swear.  And they made a league for the well of oath.  And Abimelech, and Phicol the general of his army arose and returned to the land of the Palestines. But Abraham planted a grove in Bersabee, and there called upon the name of the Lord God eternal.  And he was a sojourner in the land of the Palestines many days. [Genesis 21:1-34]Douay Rheims Bible. He is credited with twelve sons, described as "princes according to their tribes" (Gn. 25:16), representing perhaps an ancient confederacy. The Ishmaelites, vagrant traders closely related to the Midianites, were apparently regarded as his descendants. The fact that Ishmael's wife and mother are both said to have been Egyptian suggests close ties between the Ishmaelites and Egypt. According to Genesis 25:17, Ishmael lived to the age of 137. Islamic tradition tends to ascribe a larger role to Ishmael than does the Bible. He is considered a prophet and, according to certain theologians, the offspring whom Abraham was commanded to sacrifice (although surah Judaism has generally regarded him as wicked, although repentance is also ascribed to him. According to some rabbinic traditions, his two wives were Aisha and Fatima, whose names are the same as those of Muhammad's wife and daughter Both Judaism and Islam see him as the ancestor of Arab peoples. Bibliography A survey of the Bible's patriarchal narratives can be found in Nahum M. Sarna's Understanding Genesis (New York, 1966). Postbiblical traditions, with reference to Christian and Islamic views, are collected in Louis Ginzberg's exhaustive Legends of the Jews, 2d ed., 2 vols., translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin (Philadelphia, 2003). Frederick E. Greenspahn (1987 and 2005) line feed character in |quote= at position 1358 (help)
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- ^ John Joseph Saunders, A history of medieval Islam, Routledge, 1965, page 13
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- ^ Shorter Shi'ite Encyclopaedia, By: Hasan al-Amin, http://www.imamreza.net/eng/imamreza.php?id=574 Archived 2010-06-16 at the Wayback Machine
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