Arab Muslims
ﺍﻟْمُسْلِمﻴُّﻮﻥ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺮَﺏ‎
Population of Arab Muslims
Regions with significant populations
 Arab League
Sunni Islam (majority)
Shia Islam (minority)
Related ethnic groups
Arab Christians and other Arabs

Arab Muslims (Arabic: ﺍﻟْمُسْلِمﻴُّﻮﻥ ﺍﻟْﻌَﺮَﺏ‎ al-Muslimiyyūn al-ʿArab) are the largest subdivision of the Arab people and the largest ethnic group among Muslims globally,[1] followed by Bengalis[2][3][4] and Punjabis.[5] Likewise, they comprise the majority of the population of the Arab world.[6][7]

Although Arabs account for the largest ethnicity among the world's adherents of Islam, they are a minority in the Muslim world in terms of sheer numbers. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was an ethnic Arab belonging to the Banu Hashim of the Quraysh, and most of the early Muslims were also Arabs.


See also: Spread of Islam

They are descended from the early Arab tribes of the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and Mesopotamia who embraced Islam in the 7th century.[8] The Arab identity can have ethnic, linguistic, cultural, historical, and nationalist aspects.[9]


The word Mashriq refers to the eastern part of the Arab world.[10]

Arabian Peninsula

See also: Bedouin

The seventh century saw the rise of Islam as the peninsula's dominant religion. The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca in about 570 (53 BH) and first began preaching in the city in 610, but migrated to Medina in 622. From there, he and his companions united the tribes of Arabia under the banner of Islam and created a single Arab Muslim religious polity in the Arabian peninsula.

Muhammad established a new unified polity which, under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad caliphates, saw a century of rapid expansion of Arab power well beyond the Arabian peninsula in the form of a vast Muslim Arab Empire.


See also: Levantines

The Arabs of the Levant are traditionally divided into Qays and Yaman tribes, back to the pre-Islamic era and was based on tribal affiliations and geographic locations. They include Banu Kalb, Kinda, Ghassanids, and Lakhmids.[11] On the eve of the Rashidun Caliphate's conquest of the Levant in the 7th century, Arab tribes largely migrated to the Levant and Upper Mesopotamia with the Muslim armies in the mid-7th century.[12]


See also: Egyptians

The caliphate also allowed the migration of Arab tribes to Egypt. The Muslim governor of Egypt encouraged the migration of tribes from the Arabian Peninsula to Egypt to increase the Muslim population in the region and to strengthen his regime by enlisting warrior tribesmen to his forces, encouraging them to bring their families and entire clans. The Fatimid era was the peak of Bedouin Arab tribal migrations to Egypt.[13]


See also: Sudanese Arabs

In the 12th century, the Arab Ja'alin tribe migrated into Nubia and Sudan and formerly occupied the country on both banks of the Nile from Khartoum to Abu Hamad. They trace their lineage to Abbas, uncle of Muhammad. They are of Arab origin, but now of mixed blood mostly with Nilo-Saharans and Nubians.[14][15] Other Arab tribes migrated into Sudan in the 12th century and intermarried with the indigenous populations, forming the Sudanese Arabs.[16] In 1846, many Arab Rashaida migrated from Hejaz in present-day Saudi Arabia into what is now Eritrea and north-east Sudan after tribal warfare had broken out in their homeland. The Rashaida of Sudan and Eritrea live in close proximity with the Beja people. Large numbers of Bani Rasheed are also found on the Arabian Peninsula. They are related to the Banu Abs tribe.[17]


The word Maghreb refers to the western part of the Arab world, including a large portion of the Sahara Desert, but excluding Egypt and Sudan, which are considered to be located in the Mashriq — the eastern part of the Arab world.[18]

Following the death of Muhammad in 632 (11 AH), Arabs aimed at geographically expanding their empire. They started conquering North Africa in 647, and by 709, all of North Africa was under Arab Muslim rule from Egypt to Morocco.[19] North Africa was then divided into three main areas: Egypt with its governing center being Al-Fustat, Ifriqiya in Tunisia with its governing center being Kairouan, and the Maghreb (modern-day Algeria and Morocco), with its governing center being located in Fez.[20] North Africa experienced three distinct invasions leading to the establishment of not only a new religion (Islam) but also a new language and norms that differed significantly from what was established by the indigenous inhabitants.[21]

Arabic is the main language of the region, though each country (Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria) has its own dialects of the Tamazight languages and Arabic.[22] Sunni Islam is the region’s main religion, and the Maliki Madhhab is the main Islamic school of thought followed by North Africans.[23] The vast majority of North Africans identify as Arabs or Arab Muslims. Therefore, North Africans perceive themselves as part of the Mediterranean and the Middle East rather than Africa where they are geographically located.[24]


See also: Arab-Berber

Before the Arab-Islamic conquest took place, North Africa was mainly inhabited by Berbers.[25] The Berbers were largely animists until Islam reached North Africa and they were thus coerced into converting to Islam in a process known as Arabization and Islamization.[26] Arabization refers to the process of acculturation in which the peoples of North Africa adopted the Arabic language in addition to various other aspects of Arab culture. Islamization refers to the process by which North Africans converted to Islam and thus became Muslims by faith. Though the majority of North Africans identify as Arabs today, a considerable number of the population perceive themselves as Berbers.[27]


A substantial number of Arab Muslims live outside their countries of origin. Arab Muslims comprise the majority of the Arab populations in Belgium, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, whilst Arab Christians are the majority of the Arab populations in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Greece, Haiti, Mexico, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Around a quarter of Arab Americans identify as Arab Muslims.[28]

See also


  1. ^ Margaret Kleffner Nydell Understanding Arabs: A Guide For Modern Times, Intercultural Press, 2005, ISBN 1931930252, page xxiii, 14
  2. ^ roughly 152 million Bengali Muslims in Bangladesh and 36.4 million Bengali Muslims in the Republic of India (CIA Factbook 2014 estimates, numbers subject to rapid population growth); about 10 million Bangladeshis in the Middle East, 1 million Bengalis in Pakistan, 5 million British Bangladeshi.
  3. ^ Richard Eaton (8 September 2009). "Forest Clearing and the Growth of Islam in Bengal". In Barbara D. Metcalf (ed.). Islam in South Asia in Practice. Princeton University Press. p. 275. ISBN 978-1-4008-3138-8.
  4. ^ Meghna Guhathakurta; Willem van Schendel (30 April 2013). The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822353188. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  5. ^ Gandhi, Rajmohan (2013). Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten. New Delhi, India, Urbana, Illinois: Aleph Book Company. p. 1. ISBN 978-93-83064-41-0..
  6. ^ Peter Haggett (2001). Encyclopedia of World Geography. Vol. 1. Marshall Cavendish. p. 2122. ISBN 0-7614-7289-4.
  7. ^ "Middle East-North Africa". Pew-Templeton: Global Religious Futures Project.
  8. ^ Webb, Peter (2016). Imagining the Arabs : Arab identity and the rise of Islam. Edinburgh, UK. ISBN 978-1-4744-0827-1. OCLC 964933606.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ * Hourani, Albert (2010). A history of the Arab peoples (1st Harvard Press paperback ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05819-4.
  10. ^ "Mashriq | geographical region, Middle East | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  11. ^ Hugh Kennedy The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State p.33 Routledge, 17 June 2013 ISBN 1-134-53113-3
  12. ^ Hugh Kennedy The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State p.33 Routledge, 17 June 2013 ISBN 1-134-53113-3
  13. ^ Suwaed, Muhammad (2015-10-30). Historical Dictionary of the Bedouins. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-4422-5451-0. Archived from the original on 2022-08-26. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  14. ^ "Jā'alin" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 103.
  15. ^ Ireland, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and (1888). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. The Institute. p. 16. Archived from the original on 2022-05-30. Retrieved 2022-08-25.
  16. ^ Inc, IBP (2017-06-15). Sudan (Republic of Sudan) Country Study Guide Volume 1 Strategic Information and Developments. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4387-8540-0. Archived from the original on 2022-08-26. Retrieved 2022-08-25. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
  17. ^ Admin. "Eritrea: The Rashaida People". Madote. Archived from the original on 2017-07-20. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  18. ^ "Maghreb | History, Languages, & Facts | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  19. ^ Gharba, Mahdi (8 December 2020). "A BRIEF HISTORY OF ISLAM IN NORTH AFRICA". The Muslim Vibe.
  20. ^ Chakra, Hayden (11 January 2022). "Arab Conquest of North Africa". About History.
  21. ^ Gearon, Eamonn. "Arab Invasions: The First Islamic Empire". History Today.
  22. ^ "What Languages Are Spoken In Africa?". World Atlas. 30 July 2018.
  23. ^ "Islam: Islam in North Africa". Encyclopedia.
  24. ^ "How 'African' is Northern Africa?". Global Voices. 28 May 2018.
  25. ^ Budjaj, Aymane; Benítez, Guillermo; Pleguezuelos, Juan Manuel (2021). "Ethnozoology among the Berbers: pre-Islamic practices survive in the Rif (northwestern Africa)". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 17 (1): 43. doi:10.1186/s13002-021-00466-9. PMC 8278736. PMID 34256776.
  26. ^ Cartwright, Mark. "The Spread of Islam in Ancient Africa". World History Encyclopedia.
  27. ^ Kokole, Omari H (1984). "The Islamic Factor in African-Arab Relations". Third World Quarterly. 6 (3): 687–702. doi:10.1080/01436598408419793.
  28. ^ "Arab Americans: Demographics". Arab American Institute. 2006. Archived from the original on 1 June 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2020.