عَرَب ('arab) (in Arabic)
|c. 450 million (2011 est.)|
|Regions with significant populations|
| Arab League|
| United States||3,500,000|
| United Kingdom||366,769|
| Canada||380,620 (2011 Census)|
| El Salvador||100,000+|
|Predominantly: Islam |
(Sunni · Shia · Sufi · Ibadi · Alawite)
Sizable minority: Christianity
(Greek Orthodox · Greek Catholic)
Smaller minority: Other monotheistic religions (Druze · Bahá'í Faith)
Historically: Pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Afroasiatic-speaking peoples, especially Semitic peoples such as Assyrians and Jews|
a Arab ethnicity should not be confused with non-Arab ethnicities that are also native to the Arab world.
b Not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs. An Arab can follow any religion or irreligion.
c Arab identity is defined independently of religious identity.
Arabs (/; Arabic: عَرَب, ISO 233 ‘arab; Arabic pronunciation: [ˈʕarab] (listen)) are a ethnic group inhabiting the Arab world. They primarily live in the Arab states in Western Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and western Indian Ocean islands. They also form a significant diaspora, with Arab communities established around the world.
The first mention of Arabs is from the mid-ninth century BCE as a tribal people in eastern and southern Syria and the north of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs appear to have been under the vassalage of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–612 BCE), and the succeeding Neo-Babylonian (626–539 BCE), Achaemenid (539–332 BCE), Seleucid, and Parthian empires. Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.
Before the expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661 C.E.), "Arab" referred to any of the largely nomadic and settled Semitic people from the Arabian Peninsula, Syrian Desert, and 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 and the subsequent Arabisation of indigenous populations. The Arabs forged the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750), Abbasid (750–1517) and the Fatimid (901–1071) 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 in 1517. 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.
Today, Arabs primarily inhabit the 22 Arab states within the Arab League: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The Arab world stretches around 13 million km2, from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. Beyond the boundaries of the League of Arab States, Arabs can also be found in the global diaspora. The ties that bind Arabs are ethnic, linguistic, cultural, historical, identical, nationalist, geographical and political. The Arabs have their own customs, language, architecture, art, literature, music, dance, media, cuisine, dress, society, sports and mythology. The total number of Arabs are an estimated 450 million.
Arabs are a diverse group in terms of religious affiliations and practices. In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions. Some tribes had adopted Christianity or Judaism, and a few individuals, the hanifs, apparently observed monotheism. Today, about 93% of Arabs are adherents of Islam, and there are sizable Christian minorities. Arab Muslims primarily belong to the Sunni, Shiite, Ibadi, and Alawite denominations. Arab Christians generally follow one of the Eastern Christian Churches, such as the Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Catholic churches. Other smaller minority religions are also followed, such as the Bahá'í Faith and Druze.
Arabs have greatly influenced and contributed to diverse fields, notably the arts and architecture, language, philosophy, mythology, ethics, literature, politics, business, music, dance, cinema, medicine, science and technology in the ancient and modern history.
The earliest documented use of the word "Arab" to refer to a people appears in the Kurkh Monoliths, an Akkadian language record of the ninth century BCE Assyrian conquest of Aram, which referred to Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula under King Gindibu, who fought as part of a coalition 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 "[the man] Gindibu belonging to the Arab (ar-ba-a-a being an adjectival nisba of the noun ʿarab). The related word ʾaʿrāb is used to refer to Bedouins today, in contrast to ʿarab which refers to Arabs in general.
The term Arab and ʾaʿrāb are mentioned around 40 times in pre-Islamic Sabaean inscriptions. The term Arab occurs also in the titles of the Himyarite kings from the time of 'Abu Karab Asad until MadiKarib Ya'fur. The term ʾaʿrāb is driven from the term Arab according to Sabaean grammar. The term is also mentioned in Quranic verses referring to people who were living in Madina and it might be a south Arabian loan-word into Quranic language.
The oldest surviving indication of an Arab national identity is an inscription made in an archaic form of Arabic in 328 using the Nabataean alphabet, which refers to Imru' al-Qays ibn 'Amr as "King of all the Arabs". Herodotus refers to the Arabs in the Sinai, southern Palestine, and the frankincense region (Southern Arabia). Other ancient Greek historians like Agatharchides, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo mention Arabs living in Mesopotamia (along the Euphrates), in Egypt (the Sinai and the Red Sea), southern Jordan (the Nabataeans), the Syrian steppe and in eastern Arabia (the people of Gerrha). Inscriptions dating to the 6th century BCE in Yemen include the term "Arab".
The most popular Arab account holds that the word "Arab" came from an eponymous father called Ya'rub who was supposedly the first to speak Arabic. Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani had another view; he states that Arabs were called Gharab ("West") 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 ) comes both from the desert origin of the Bedouins it originally described (Arava means wilderness).
The root ʿ-r-b has several additional meanings in Semitic languages—including "west/sunset," "desert," "mingle," "mixed," "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."