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Ancient tribe Arabs - Ancestry and origin

What was the ethnogenesis of the Arabs?

The only thing that is certain is that the ethnic profile of Arab populations originated from a fusion of population groups that lived on the Arabian Peninsula as descendants of the people who originally immigrated to Arabia from Africa. From the Arabian Peninsula, part of that ancient population migrated back across the Horn of Africa about 42,000 years ago. The Ethiopians and Somalis are distant descendants of these migrants. For about 6,000 years, there have also been constant small migratory thrusts from southern Arabia to East Africa. Bedouin Arameans were certainly also involved in the ethnogenesis of the Arabs.

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What is the common identity of the Arabs?

Concepts such as "people", "nation", "language community" or "ethnic group" are not as clearly distinguishable in the Arab world as in Europe.

More than 200 million Arabs live in the states of North Africa and the Near and Middle East. The cultural cohesion of this widely scattered population is guaranteed by Islam, because with the exception of smaller groups of Lebanese and Syrian Christians (Maronites), the vast majority of Arabs belong to the Islamic faith community.

The roofing medium of the Arabic written language as well as the unity of the Islamic traditions strengthen a consciousness of supraregional togetherness. On the pilgrimage to Mecca all Arabs are united as Muslims, but at home one feels more at home than Egyptians, Syrians or Moroccans.

Today 90% of Muslims are Sunnis, while about 10% are Shiites. The proportion of Sunnis is even higher among ethnic Arabs. Iraq is the only Arab country in which the Shiites are in the majority.

What is the importance of the Arabic language?

Arabic belongs to the circle of Semitic languages, which are a branch of the Afro-Asian language family.

In principle, all Arabs can communicate with each other via written Arabic, but not with the help of spoken Arabic, which varies greatly from region to region.

The status as a language of the conquerors, the prestige as a language of revelation, the high adaptability and the integration of the scientific language of antiquity since the 9th century thanks to lively translation activities established classical Arabic for centuries as the bearer of an interregional Islamic culture. As a language of worship, religious scholarship, science, literature, administration, etc., it also influenced the languages of other Islamic peoples, especially Persian and Turkish.

What does the name Arab mean?

Since the Assyrian time (9th century B.C.) "Aribi" is the name of the Arab steppe area and "Mat Arabi" as "steppe area". The Arabs were first mentioned on the monolith Salmanasars II (859-825 BC) as camel riders. The Arabs stood under kings and reigning queens. In Assyrian Babylonian times the name referred to the Bedouins in northern Arabia. Since the crane the term "Arabic" became generally accepted.

In pre-Islamic times the Arabs were divided into nomads or Bedouins, city dwellers and extinct tribes. In addition, the northern tribes were distinguished from the southern Arab tribes. The largest concentration of Arabs was found on the Arabian Peninsula, but there were also Arab tribes in the Nile Valley, the Roman Empire and Persia.

A common characteristic of settled and nomadic Arabs remained their tribal social order. However, favourable climatic conditions for intensive agriculture prevailed only in the southwest Arab highlands and in large oases in the east.

What is the history of the Arabs?

The early state foundations of Arab tribes were motivated by control over the region's trade routes and caravan routes. The oldest (end of the 2nd millennium B.C.) were the southern Arabs who founded empires in the region of present-day Yemen. The most famous of all the South Arab states is the Saba Empire. On the basis of the wealth achieved through the incense and India trade, a differentiated society and state structures formed in southern Arabia. Agriculture was developed with the help of great irrigation systems such as the Marib Dam.

The settlement area of the northern Arabs initially belonged to the Assyrian Empire, later to the Babylonian Empire and finally to the Persian Empire. The Arabs were drawn into their battles by Persians and Greeks. At the time of Alexander the Great, the Arab settlement extended as far as Mesopotamia. With the dissolution of the Seleucid Empire, Arab tribes such as the Nabataeans succeeded in establishing independent rulers. Arab dynasties ruled in Emesa and Edessa. After the establishment of Rome as the new orderly power of the region in 64 BC, the control of the Arab population in the border area was left to Arab allies. The Nabataeans, whose kingdom was transformed into the Roman province of Arabia in 106 AD, and The Palmyra Empire was followed in this function by the Christian Gassanids and Lahmids as Eastern Roman and Persian vassal kingdoms respectively.

A constant migration of South Arabian tribes and a resulting serious threat to the Roman border does not seem to have taken place. The fortification measures carried out by Emperor Diocletian, among others, in the North Arabian border region probably served more to control the Arab population living within the imperial territory than to defend against an enemy coming from outside.

In the 5th century AD, local nomadic states formed east of Palestine and Syria, which were vassals of the Eastern Roman Empire or Persia depending on the political interests. In the 7th century Mohammed (around 570-632), proclaimed Prophet of Allah, finally united the entire Arabian Peninsula under his leadership. South Arabia was Islamized. The Islamic expansion was accompanied by a targeted settlement of Arabs in Syria and North Africa to secure the conquered territories. In early Islamic times the terms Arab and Islam were largely identical. The history of the Arabs can be divided into the following 4 main epochs:

1. The Early Caliphate (632-692)

2. The High Caliphate (692-945)

3. The dissolution of political unity (945-1258)

4. The Epoch of Ilchanes and Mamlukes (1258-1517)

1. The Early Caliphate (632-692)

First phase of the expansion among the "Right Guided Caliphs" with the conquest of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Persia; the First Civil War establishes the schism between Sunnis and Shiites; the Second Civil War (680-692) brings the final victory of the Umayyads and the enforcement of the dynastic principle in the Caliphate. Population groups with Arab cultural traditions and a tribal social order left their heartland, uniting not only the Arab world, but also millions of non-Arabs who were in the process of transmitting their new doctrine. The following conquests against East Electricity and Persia brought together religious, economic and domestic political motives that drove the Arabs. The Arab conquest was favored not least by the unusual weakness of their opponents at the time: both Ostrom and Persia were completely exhausted by a long war that lasted from 602/603 to 628/629 and claimed all resources. At the time of the expansion of the Islamic World Empire, all Arabic-speaking people who belonged to an Arab tribe or to its descendants were considered Arabs. The distinction between the Arabs and the non-Arabs within the state was simple because the mixing of peoples was still in its infancy. In the course of Islamic expansion in the 7th and 8th centuries the Arabs spread from their original territory on the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa, Spain, Palestine, Syria and Persia. The Aramaic inhabitants of Syria and Mesopotamia felt themselves to be Semites, ethnically and linguistically closer to the Arabs than their Eastern Roman or Persian masters. Arab tribes had already immigrated to the Fertile Crescent in pre-Islamic times. Although they had largely been Christianized, they could quickly be won over to Islam because of their ethnic kinship. In a few decades the Muslim Arabs brought such large areas under their military control in three continents. Linguistic Arabization and religious Islamization went hand in hand, but at different speeds and with different degrees of success in different countries; both were never fully completed. Arabic displaced Aramaic, which had been dominant since about 1000 BC. The Islamization and Arabization of the conquered territories dragged on over a longer period and made only slow progress in the beginning. In a short time, a people whose statehood had been limited to local nomadic empires had to adjust to the administration of an empire with imperial dimensions. The Arabic language had to be adapted to the needs of interregional communication. Elements of the previous administration were taken over by the Arabs. Greek, for example, remained the official language in the conquered Eastern Roman areas until the end of the 7th century, and the Sassanid tax system was retained in Persia. After the conquest had been completed, the Arab rule apparently did not meet with any resistance worth mentioning, especially since the Arabs used the old administrative order and, seen in this light, changed relatively little at first. The Christian churches in Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia retained their importance for a long time and the majority of the population under Arab rule remained Christian for a long time. Some Christians initially continued to work in the administration of the Caliphal Empire, while others worked as scholars at the Caliphal Court.

2. The High Caliphate (692-945)

Centralist empire; Arabization of administration and coinage; second phase of expansion; the Third Civil War between Umayyads and Abbasids ends with the victory of the latter and the transfer of the caliphal seat from Syria to Iraq (foundation of Baghdad); Umayyad Spain separates from the empire as a whole. When in the year 699 Arabic became an official language in the administration and thus replaced Greek or Middle Persian, this was apparently also connected with the prohibition to employ non-Muslims in the administration. Christians (and Zoroastrians in the former Persian Empire) were thus allowed to no longer hold high government positions and was excluded from a substantial part of society. The number of converts in the conquered areas appeared to have remained low at first, as the benefits were limited in the first decades: Until the Abbasids seized power, only men of Arab origin were able to make a career, regardless of religion. Christianity and Zoroastrianism were only gradually pushed back; probably only around the year 1000 the majority of the population of Egypt and Iraq spoke Arabic, while in Persia the own cultural identity could be more strongly preserved. In the heyday of the Islamic World Empire, the Arabs mixed more and more with the other peoples. Islam and the Arabic language became the central commonalities of the population of the Islamic Empire. The Arab advance could finally be stopped in the East by the Byzantines, while the Arabs in the West only made minor advances into the Frankish Empire (8th century). In the early Middle Ages the division of Europe and the Mediterranean region into an Islamic and a Christian part began, which in turn broke down into a Latin West and a Byzantine-dominated Greek East.

3. The dissolution of political unity (945-1258)

The caliph was deprived of power in the 9th century and only nominally retained power until the destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258; in the 9th century the disintegration of the empire into numerous more or less independent individual states began. In the 11th century an unrelenting stream of Arab Bedouin immigrants began to pour into the Maghrib as the various tribes and clans followed their relatives from Sinai and the Arab Island.

4. The Epoch of Ilchanes and Mamlukes

The destruction of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 ended the Abasid caliphate and led to the cultural separation of the Islamic world into an eastern sphere, where Persian replaced Arabic as the literary language, and a western sphere, where the Mamluks took power. The spread of the Ottomans (conquest of Egypt in 1517) marked the beginning of the darkest epoch in Arab history.

What was the course of the Arabs' descent?

The year 1492 not only marked the end of the last Moorish kingdoms in Spain, Granada, but it also became the symbol of the decline of Arab culture and the rise of Christian culture in Europe. The Turkish Ottomans, who conquered Constantinople in 1453, continued to expand their political influence in the Arab countries. After the victory over the Mamluk army in 1516, Sultan Selim I occupied all of Syria and Palestine and Egypt in 1517. Immediately the Sherif of Mecca had the keys of the Kaaba sent to him. Political sovereignty in the Arab world was in the meantime almost as before the Arab expansion limited to the heartland, the Arabian Peninsula.

Where do Arabs live today?

At present, there are about 350 million Arabs living on earth, including about 200 million spread across the 22 Arab countries. As non-autochthonous communities, Arabs also live in the diaspora of many countries around the world, predominantly in South and North America and Europe, especially Brazil, Argentina, France and the United States.

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