Banu Qahtan
(Arabic: بنو قحطان)
Alarab Alariba
(Arabic: العرب العاربة)
Qahtanite, Children of Qahtan/Joktan
Dhamar Ali Yahbur II.jpg
Statue of a South Arabian king
NisbaQahtani, Qahtaniyyah
LocationThe southern region of the Arabian Peninsula, e.g. Yemen.[1]
Descended fromYarub bin Qahtan
ReligionArabian mythology, Nestorian Christianity, Judaism, later mostly Islam

The terms Qahtanite and Qahtani (Arabic: قَحْطَانِي; transliterated: Qaḥṭānī) refer to Arabs who originate from South Arabia.[1][2] The term "Qahtan" is mentioned in multiple ancient Arabian inscriptions found in Yemen. Arab traditions believe that they are the original Arabs.[3][4][5][6]

Traditional Arab genealogy

A family tree of the Qahtanites
A family tree of the Qahtanites

According to Arab tradition, the Qahtanites are from South Arabia, unlike the Adnanites who are from the north of Arabia descended from Ishmael through Adnan.[7] Arab tradition maintains that a semi-legendary ancestral figure named Qahtan and his 24 sons are the progenitors of Yemen who controlled the Arabian Peninsula known as Qahtani.[1][2]

The genealogists disagree about the pedigree of Qahțān [himself]. Some trace him back to Ismā'īl b. Ibrāhīm , saying that his [name] was Qahţăn b . al - Hamaysa ' b . Tayman b . Nabt b . Ismā'īl b. Ibrāhīm. Wahb ibn Munabbih[8] and Hishām b. Muhammad al-Kalbi held this genealogy ( as true ). Hisham ibn al-Kalbi quoted his father as saying that he had been contemporaneous with [older] scholars and genealogists who traced Qahțān's pedigree in this way. Other [genealogists] argue that the [name] was Qahţăn b. Faligh b. 'Abir b. Shalakh.[9]Qahtan with the Yoqtan (Joktan) son of Eber (Hūd) in the Hebrew Bible (Gen. 10:25–29).[10][11]

Among the sons of Qahtan are noteworthy figures like A'zaal (believed by Arabs to have been the original name of Sana'a), Hadhramaut and Jurhum whose descendants formed the second Jurhum tribe which Ishmael learned Arabic from.[12][13][14] Another son is Ya'rub, and his son Yashjub is the father of Saba'. All Yemenite tribes trace their ancestry back to this "Saba", either through Himyar or Kahlan, his two sons.

The Qahtani people are divided into the two sub-groups of Himyar and Kahlan, who represent the settled Arabs of the south and their nomadic kinsmen (nomads).[2] The Kahlan division of Qahtan consists of 4 subgroups: the Ta' or Tayy, the Azd group which invaded Oman, the 'Amila-Judham group of Palestine, and the Hamdan-Madhhij group who mostly remain in Yemen.[2]

The Kahlan branch includes the following tribes: Azd (Aus and Khazraj, Bariq, Ghassan, Khuza'a and Daws), Hamdan, Khath'am, Bajila, Madhhij, Murad, Zubaid, Ash'ar, Lakhm, Tayy (Shammar), and Kinda.[15]

Early linguistic connection

The first groups of Semitic speakers that moved northward already developed the early Semitic names derived from triliteral, and sometimes a quadriliteral verb root. These appellations first appeared in early (now extinct) East Semitic languages, especially Akkadian, Assyrian, and Old Babylonian. A closer examination reveals connections with the Central Semitic language family including: Aramaic, Phoenician, Hebrew, and Nabatean, which is closely related to the Southern Semitic languages Minaean, Sabaean, Qatabanian, Awsanian, Hadhrami, Ethiopic, and Himyarite.

Pre-Islamic Qahtani migration out of Arabia

Early Semites who developed civilizations throughout the Ancient Near East gradually relinquished their geopolitical superiority to surrounding cultures and neighboring imperial powers, usually due to either internal turmoil or outside conflict. This climaxed with the arrival of the Babylonians, and subsequently the rivaling Medes and Persians, during the 7th and 6th centuries BCE respectively. Though the Semites lost geopolitical influence, the Aramaic language emerged as the lingua franca of much of the Near East. However, Aramaic usage declined after the defeat of the Persians and the arrival of the Hellenic armies around 330 BCE.

The Ghassanids (ca. 250 CE) were the last major non-Islamic Semitic migration northward out of Yemen. They revived the Semitic presence in the then Roman-controlled Syria. They initially settled in the Hauran region, eventually spreading to modern [Israel], and Jordan, briefly securing governorship of Syria away from the Nabataeans.

After the rise of Islam

Between the 7th and the 14th centuries, the Qahtanites became involved in the Arab conquests, migrating to the newly conquered territories and intermingling with the local populations. In the Ummayad era, a blood feud broke out between Qahtanites and the Adnanite tribes of Qays, which continued in various forms and degrees till the nineteenth century in what has become known as the Qays–Yaman rivalry.

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Qaḥṭān". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d O'Leary, De Lacy (2001). Arabia Before Muhammad. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-41524-466-4. Qahtan are divided into the two sub-groups of Himyar and Kahlan.
  3. ^ "Epigraph details: Gr 24". DASI: Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  4. ^ "Epigraph details: Ja 2360". DASI: Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  5. ^ "Epigraph details: DAI Barʾān 2000-1". DASI: Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  6. ^ "Epigraph details: Ja 635". DASI: Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Arabian Inscriptions. Retrieved 2022-03-11.
  7. ^ Parolin, Gianluca P. (2009). Citizenship in the Arab World: Kin, Religion and Nation-State. p. 30. ISBN 978-9-08964-045-1. "The 'arabized or arabizing Arabs', on the contrary, are believed to be the descendants of Ishmael through Adnan, but in this case the genealogy does not match the Biblical line exactly. The label 'arabized' is due to the belief that Ishmael spoke Hebrew until he got to Mecca, where he married a Yemeni woman and learnt Arabic. Both genealogical lines go back to Sem, son of Noah, but only Adnanites can claim Abraham as their ascendant, and the lineage of Mohammed, the Seal of Prophets (khatim al-anbiya'), can therefore be traced back to Abraham. Contemporary historiography unveiled the lack of inner coherence of this genealogical system and demonstrated that it finds insufficient matching evidence; the distinction between Qahtanites and Adnanites is even believed to be a product of the Umayyad Age, when the war of factions (al-niza al-hizbi) was raging in the young Islamic Empire."
  8. ^ الإيناس بعلم الأنساب - المغربي - ج١ - الصفحة 41. Archived 2020-11-07 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ The History of al-Tabari - Vol. 39 - Page 130
  10. ^ Maalouf, Tony (2003). "The Unfortunate Beginning (Gen. 16:1–6)". Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God's Prophetic Plan for Ishmael's Line. Kregel Academic. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-8254-9363-8. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018. This view is largely based on the claim of Muslim Arab historians that their oldest ancestor is Qahtan, whom they identify as the biblical Joktan (Gen. 10:25–26). Montgomery finds it difficult to reconcile Joktan with Qahtan based on etymology.
  11. ^ Maqsood, Ruqaiyyah Waris. "Adam to the Banu Khuza'ah". The Prophet's Family Line. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-08-15.
  12. ^ Leaman, Oliver (2006). The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-32639-1.
  13. ^ Abd al-Wahhab, Muhammad ibn (2006). Short Biography of the Prophet. Translated by Strauch, Sameh. Riyadh: Darussalam. ISBN 978-9-96098-032-4.
  14. ^ Lyall, C. J. (1878). "The Mo'allaqah of Zuheyr, rendered into English, with an introduction and notes". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 47: 18.
  15. ^ Zaydān, Jirjī (1907). Umayyads and ʻAbbásids: Being the Fourth Part of Jurjí Zaydán's History of Islamic Civilization, Volume 4. Translated by Margoliouth, David Samuel. Leyden: E. J. Brill. p. 45.

Further reading