Pre-Islamic Arabia
Pre-Islamic Arabia refers to the Arabic civilization which existed in the Arabian Plate
Arabian Plate
The Arabian Plate is one of three tectonic plates which have been moving northward over millions of years and colliding with the Eurasian Plate...

 before the rise of Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 in the 630s. The study of Pre-Islamic Arabia is important to Islamic studies
Islamic studies
In a Muslim context, Islamic studies can be an umbrella term for all virtually all of academia, both originally researched and as defined by the Islamization of knowledge...

 as it provides the context for the development of Islam.


The scientific studies of Pre-Islamic Arabs starts with the Arabist
This is an article about the western scholars known as Arabists, not the political movement Pan-Arabism.An Arabist is someone normally from outside the Arab World who specialises in the study of the Arabic language and Arab culture, and often Arabic literature.-Origins:Arabists began in medieval...

s of the early 19th century when they managed to decipher epigraphic Old South Arabian
Old South Arabian
Old South Arabian is the term used to describe four extinct, closely related languages spoken in the far southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. There were a number of other Sayhadic languages , of which very little evidence survived, however...

 (10th century BCE), Ancient North Arabian
Ancient North Arabian
Ancient North Arabian is a language known from fragmentary inscriptions in modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, dating to between roughly the 6th century BC and the 6th century AD, all written in scripts derived from Epigraphic South Arabian...

 (6th century BCE) and other writings of pre-Islamic Arabia. Thus, studies are no longer limited to the written traditions, which are not local due to the lack of surviving Arab historians' accounts of that era; it is compensated by existing material consisting primarily of written sources from other traditions (such as Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

, Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, etc.), so it was not known in great detail. From the 3rd century CE, Arabian history becomes more tangible with the rise of the Himyarite Kingdom, and with the appearance of the Qahtanite
The terms Qahtanite and Qahtani refer to Semitic peoples either originating in, or claiming genealogical descent from the southern extent of the Arabian Peninsula, especially from Yemen....

s in the Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 and the gradual assimilation of the Nabataeans
Thamudi3.jpgThe Nabataeans, also Nabateans , were ancient peoples of southern Canaan and the northern part of Arabia, whose oasis settlements in the time of Josephus , gave the name of Nabatene to the borderland between Syria and Arabia, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea...

 by the Qahtanites in the early centuries CE, a pattern of expansion exceeded in the explosive Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests
Muslim conquests also referred to as the Islamic conquests or Arab conquests, began with the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He established a new unified polity in the Arabian Peninsula which under the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates saw a century of rapid expansion of Muslim power.They...

 of the 7th century. Sources of history include archaeological evidence, foreign accounts and oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

s later recorded by Islamic scholars--especially pre-Islamic poems--and al-hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

, plus a number of ancient Arab documents that survived to the medieval times when portions of them were cited or recorded. Archaeological exploration in the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 has been sparse but fruitful; many ancient sites were identified by modern excavations.

Pre-Historic to Iron Age

  • Ubaid period
    Ubaid period
    The Ubaid period is a prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The tell of al-`Ubaid west of nearby Ur in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate has given its name to the prehistoric Pottery Neolithic to Chalcolithic culture, which represents the earliest settlement on the alluvial plain of southern...

     (5300 BCE)-could have originated in eastern Arabia-.
  • Umm an-Nar Culture
    Umm an-Nar Culture
    Umm an-Nar is the name given to a bronze age culture that existed from 2600-2000 BC in modern day United Arab Emirates and Northern Oman. The etymology derives from the island of the same name which lies adjacent to Abu Dhabi. . The key site is well protected, but its location between a refinery...

     (2600-2000 BCE)
  • Sabr culture (2000 BCE)

Magan and 'ad

  • Magan is attested as the name of a trading partner of the Sumerians. It is often assumed to be located in Oman
    Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

  • The A'adids established themselves in South Arabia
    South Arabia
    South Arabia as a general term refers to several regions as currently recognized, in chief the Republic of Yemen; yet it has historically also included Najran, Jizan, and 'Asir which are presently in Saudi Arabia, and Dhofar presently in Oman...

     (modern-day Yemen
    The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

    ), settling to the east of the Qahtan tribe. They established the Kingdom of ʿĀd around the 10th century BCE to the 3rd century CE.

The ʿĀd nation were known to the Greeks
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ians. Claudius Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

's Geographos (2nd century CE) refers to the place by a Hellenized
Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

 version of the inhabitants of the capital Ubar
Iram of the Pillars
Iram of the Pillars , also called Aram, Iram, Irum, Irem, Erum, Wabar, Ubar, or the City of a Thousand Pillars, is a lost city on the Arabian Peninsula.-Introduction:Ubar, a name of a region or a name of a people, was mentioned in ancient records, and was spoken of in folk...



The Thamud
The Thamūd were a people of ancient Arabia who were known from the 1st millennium BC to near the time of Muhammad. Although they are thought to have originated in southern Arabia, Arabic tradition has them moving north to settle on the slopes of Mount Athlab near Mada'in Saleh...

  were a people of ancient Arabia, either a tribe or a group of tribes, that created a large kingdom and flourished from 3000 BCE to 200 BCE. Recent archaeological work has revealed numerous Thamudic rock writings and pictures not only in Yemen but also throughout central Arabia.

They are mentioned in sources such as the Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

, old Arabian poetry
Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry is the earliest form of Arabic literature. Present knowledge of poetry in Arabic dates from the 6th century, but oral poetry is believed to predate that. Arabic poetry is categorized into two main types, rhymed, or measured, and prose, with the former greatly preceding the latter...

, Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n annals (Tamudi), in a Greek temple
Greek temple
Greek temples were structures built to house deity statues within Greek sanctuaries in Greek paganism. The temples themselves did usually not directly serve a cult purpose, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them...

 inscription from the northwest Hejaz
al-Hejaz, also Hijaz is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to Jizan. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina...

 of 169 CE, in a 5th-century Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 source and in Old North Arabian graffiti around Tayma
Tayma is a large oasis with a long history of settlement, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia at the point where the trade route between Yathrib and Dumah begins to cross the Nefud desert...


They are mentioned in the victory annals of the Neo-Assyrian King, Sargon II
Sargon II
Sargon II was an Assyrian king. Sargon II became co-regent with Shalmaneser V in 722 BC, and became the sole ruler of the kingdom of Assyria in 722 BC after the death of Shalmaneser V. It is not clear whether he was the son of Tiglath-Pileser III or a usurper unrelated to the royal family...

 (8th century BCE), who defeated these people in a campaign in northern Arabia. The Greeks also refer to these people as "Tamudaei", i.e. "Thamud", in the writings of Aristo, Ptolemy, and Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

. Before the rise of Islam
Spread of Islam
The Spread of Islam started shortly after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 632 AD. During his lifetime, the community of Muhammad, the ummah, was established in the Arabian Peninsula by means of conversion to Islam and conquering of territory, and oftentimes the conquered had to either...

, approximately between 400-600 CE, the Thamud totally disappeared.

South Arabian kingdoms

Kingdom of Ma'in (7th century BCE – 1st century BCE)

During Minaean rule, the capital was at Karna (now known as Sa'dah
Sa`dah is the capital city of Saada Governorate in north-western Yemen. It is located at , at an elevation of about 1,800 meters. Known in antiquity as Karna, its population in 2004 was estimated at 51,870.- External links :*...

). Their other important city was Yathill (now known as Baraqish
Baraqish or Barakish is a town in northwestern Yemen. It is located at around . It was known to the Greeks and Romans as Athlula , from the ancient Sabaean YTL. A Roman army passed through it during the 20s B.C., under the command of Aelius Gallus. The tomb of a Roman cavalryman, P. Cornelius, has...

). The Minaean Kingdom was centered in northwestern Yemen, with most of its cities lying along the Wadi
Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.-Variant names:...

 Madhab. Minaean inscriptions have been found far afield of the Kingdom of Ma'in, as far away as al-`Ula
The Al-`Ula oasis , some 110 km southwest of Tayma in northwestern Arabia was located at the incense route.It was the capital of the ancient Lihyanites...

 in northwestern Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 and even on the island of Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

 and in Egypt. It was the first of the Yemeni kingdoms
History of Yemen
Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Its relatively fertile land and adequate rainfall in a moister climate helped sustain a stable population, a feature recognized by the ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy, who described Yemen as Eudaimon Arabia meaning "fortunate...

 to end, and the Minaean language
Minaean language
The Minaean language was an Old South Arabian language spoken in Yemen between 1200 BC and AD 100. The main area of its use may be localized in al-Jawf part of North-East Yemen, first of all in the Wadi Madhab...

 died around 100 CE .

Kingdom of Saba (9th century BCE – 275 CE)

During Sabaean rule, trade and agriculture flourished, generating much wealth and prosperity. The Sabaean kingdom was located in Yemen, and its capital, Ma'rib
Ma'rib or Marib is the capital town of the Ma'rib Governorate, Yemen and was the capital of the Sabaean kingdom, which some scholars believe to be the ancient Sheba of biblical fame. It is located at , approximately 120 kilometers east of Yemen's modern capital, Sana'a...

, is located near what is now Yemen's modern capital, Sana'a
-Districts:*Al Wahdah District*As Sabain District*Assafi'yah District*At Tahrir District*Ath'thaorah District*Az'zal District*Bani Al Harith District*Ma'ain District*Old City District*Shu'aub District-Old City:...

. According to South Arabian tradition, the eldest son of Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

, Shem
Shem was one of the sons of Noah in the Hebrew Bible as well as in Islamic literature. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth, but with sufficient ambiguity in each...

, founded the city of Ma'rib.

During Sabaean rule, Yemen was called "Arabia Felix" by the Romans, who were impressed by its wealth and prosperity. The Roman emperor Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 sent a military expedition to conquer the "Arabia Felix", under the orders of Aelius Gallus
Aelius Gallus
Gaius Aelius Gallus was a Roman prefect of Egypt from 26 - 24 BC. He is primarily known for a disastrous expedition he undertook to Arabia Felix under orders of Augustus.-Life:...

. After an unsuccessful siege of Ma'rib, the Roman general retreated to Egypt, while his fleet destroyed the port of Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

 in order to guarantee the Roman merchant route to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...


The success of the kingdom was based on the cultivation and trade of spices and aromatics including frankincense
Frankincense, also called olibanum , is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia, particularly Boswellia sacra, B. carteri, B. thurifera, B. frereana, and B. bhaw-dajiana...

 and myrrh
Myrrh is the aromatic oleoresin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which grow in dry, stony soil. An oleoresin is a natural blend of an essential oil and a resin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum....

. These were exported to the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Basin
In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin refers to the lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation...

, India, and Abyssinia
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

, where they were greatly prized by many cultures, using camels on routes
Camel train
A camel train is a series of camels carrying goods or passengers in a group as part of a regular or semi-regular service between two points. Although they rarely travelled faster than the walking speed of a man, camels' ability to handle harsh conditions made camel trains a vital part of...

 through Arabia, and to India by sea.

During the 8th and 7th century BCE, there was a close contact of cultures between the Kingdom of Dʿmt in northern Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 and Saba. Though the civilization was indigenous and the royal inscriptions were written in a sort of proto-Ethiosemitic
Ethiopian Semitic languages
Ethiopian Semitic is a language group, which together with Old South Arabian forms the Western branch of the South Semitic languages. The languages are spoken in both Ethiopia and Eritrea...

, there were also some Sabaean immigrants in the kingdom as evidenced by a few of the Dʿmt inscriptions.

Agriculture in Yemen thrived during this time due to an advanced irrigation system which consisted of large water tunnels in mountains, and dams. The most impressive of these earthworks, known as the Marib Dam
Marib Dam
The Marib or Ma'rib or Ma'arib Dam blocks the Wadi Adhanah in the valley of Dhana in the Balaq Hills, Yemen. The current dam is close to the ruins of the Great Dam of Marib, dating from around the eighth century BC...

, was built ca. 700 BCE and provided irrigation for about 25000 acres (101 km²) of land and stood for over a millennium, finally collapsing in 570 CE after centuries of neglect.

Kingdom of Hadhramaut (8th century BCE – 3rd century CE)

The first known inscriptions of Hadramaut are known from the 8th century BCE. It was first referenced by an outside civilization in an Old Sabaic
Sabaean language
Sabaean , also known as Himyarite , was an Old South Arabian language spoken in Yemen from c. 1000 BC to the 6th century AD, by the Sabaeans; it was used as a written language by some other peoples of Ancient Yemen, including the Hashidites, Sirwahites, Humlanites, Ghaymanites, Himyarites,...

 inscription of Karab'il Watar from the early 7th century BCE, in which the King of Hadramaut, Yada`'il, is mentioned as being one of his allies. When the Minaeans took control of the caravan
Caravan (travellers)
A caravan is a group of people traveling together, often on a trade expedition. Caravans were used mainly in desert areas and throughout the Silk Road, where traveling in groups aided in defence against bandits as well as helped to improve economies of scale in trade.In historical times, caravans...

Trade route
A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries which may further be connected to several smaller networks of commercial...

 in the 4th century BCE, however, Hadramaut became one of its confederates, probably because of commercial interests. It later became independent and was invaded by the growing Yemeni kingdom of Himyar toward the end of the 1st century BCE, but it was able to repel the attack. Hadramaut annexed Qataban
Qataban was one of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms. Its heartland was located in the Baihan valley. Like some other Southern Arabian kingdoms it gained great wealth from the trade of frankincense and myrrh incense which were burned at altars...

 in the second half of the 2nd century CE, reaching its greatest size. The kingdom of Hadramaut was eventually conquered by the Himyarite king Shammar Yahri'sh
Shammar Yahri'sh
Shammar Yahri'sh was a Himyarite king. In AD 275, he led his troops to victory over Najran, Mareb and Hadhramaut. He succeeded in uniting much of Yemen, assuming the title "King of Saba and Dhu Raydan and Hadhramaut and Yamnat"...

 around 300 CE, unifying all of the South Arabian kingdoms.

Kingdom of Awsan (8th century BCE – 6th century BCE)

The ancient Kingdom of Awsan in South Arabia (modern Yemen), with a capital at Hagar Yahirr in the wadi Markha, to the south of the wadi Bayhan, is now marked by a tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

 or artificial mound, which is locally named Hagar Asfal.

Kingdom of Qataban (4th century BCE – 3rd century CE)

Qataban was one of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms which thrived in the Beihan
Beihan , also known as Bayhan al Qisab , is a city in western Yemen. According to the census of 2005 conducted by the Yemeni government, the town has about 100,000 inhabitants...

 valley. Like the other Southern Arabian kingdoms, it gained great wealth from the trade of frankincense and myrrh incense, which were burned at altars. The capital of Qataban was named Timna
Timna is an ancient city in Yemen, the capital of the Qataban kingdom; it is distinct from a city in Southern Israel that shares the same name....

 and was located on the trade route which passed through the other kingdoms of Hadramaut, Saba and Ma'in. The chief deity of the Qatabanians was Amm
Amm (god)
Amm was a moon god worshipped in ancient Qataban, in what is now southern Arabia. The inhabitants of the kingdom referred to themselves as the Banu Amm, or the "Children of Amm". He was also revered as a weather god, as his attributes included lightning bolts. His consort is the goddess Asherah....

, or "Uncle" and the people called themselves the "children of Amm".

Kingdom of Himyar (2nd century BCE – 525 CE)

The Himyarites rebelled against Qataban and eventually united Southwestern Arabia, controlling the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 as well as the coasts of the Gulf of Aden
Gulf of Aden
The Gulf of Aden is located in the Arabian Sea between Yemen, on the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. In the northwest, it connects with the Red Sea through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which is about 20 miles wide....

. From their capital city, Zafar
Zafar, Yemen
Ẓafār or Dhafar is an ancient Himyarite site situated in the Yemen, some 130 km south-south-east of the capital Sana'a. Given mention in different ancient texts, there is little doubt about the pronunciation of the name...

 (Thifar), the Himyarite kings launched successful military campaigns, and had stretched its domain at times as far east to the Persian Gulf and as far north to the Arabian Desert
Arabian Desert
The Arabian Desert is a vast desert wilderness stretching from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of...


During the 3rd century CE, the South Arabian kingdoms were in continuous conflict with one another. Gadarat
GDRT was a king of the Kingdom of Aksum , known for being the first king to involve Axum in the affairs of what is now Yemen. He is known primarily from inscriptions in South Arabia that mention him and his son BYGT...

 (GDRT) of Axum
Axum or Aksum is a city in northern Ethiopia which was the original capital of the eponymous kingdom of Axum. Population 56,500 . Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from ca. 400 BC into the 10th century...

 began to interfere in South Arabian affairs, signing an alliance with Saba, and a Himyarite text notes that Hadramaut and Qataban were also all allied against the kingdom. As a result of this, the Aksumite Empire
Aksumite Empire
The Kingdom of Aksum or Axum, also known as the Aksumite Empire, was an important trading nation in northeastern Africa, growing from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period ca. 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD...

 was able to capture the Himyarite capital of Thifar in the first quarter of the 3rd century. However, the alliances did not last, and Sha`ir Awtar of Saba unexpectedly turned on Hadramaut, allying again with Aksum and taking its capital in 225. Himyar then allied with Saba and invaded the newly taken Aksumite territories, retaking Thifar, which had been under the control of Gadarat's son Beygat, and pushing Aksum back into the Tihama
Tihamah or Tihama is a narrow coastal region of Arabia on the Red Sea. It is currently divided between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In a broad sense, Tihamah refers to the entire coastline from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Bab el Mandeb Strait but it more often refers only to its southern half, starting...


Aksumite occupation of Yemen (525 – 570 CE)

The Aksumite intervention is connected with Dhu Nuwas
Dhu Nuwas
Yūsuf Dhū Nuwas, was the last king of the Himyarite kingdom of Yemen and a convert to Judaism....

, a Himyarite king who changed the state religion to Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 and began to persecute the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

s in Yemen. Outraged, Kaleb
Kaleb of Axum
Kaleb is perhaps the best-documented, if not best-known, king of Axum. Procopius of Caesarea calls him "Hellestheaeus", a variant of his throne name Ella Atsbeha or Ella Asbeha...

, the Christian King of Aksum with the encouragement of the Byzantine Emperor Justin I
Justin I
Justin I was Byzantine Emperor from 518 to 527. He rose through the ranks of the army and ultimately became its Emperor, in spite of the fact he was illiterate and almost 70 years old at the time of accession...

 invaded and annexed Yemen. The Aksumites controlled Himyar and attempted to invade Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 in the year 570 CE, Eastern Yemen remained allied to the Sassanids
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 via tribal alliances with the Lakhmids
The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

, which later brought the Sassanid army
Sassanid army
The birth of the Sassanid army dates back to the rise of Ardashir I , the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, to the throne. Ardashir aimed at the revival of the Persian Empire, and to further this aim, he reformed the military by forming a standing army which was under his personal command and whose...

 into Yemen ending the Aksumite period.

Sassanid period (570 – 630 CE)

The Persian king Khosrau I
Khosrau I
Khosrau I , also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just Khosrau I (also called Chosroes I in classical sources, most commonly known in Persian as Anushirvan or Anushirwan, Persian: انوشيروان meaning the immortal soul), also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just...

 sent troops under the command of Vahriz
Vahriz was a Deylamite spahbod in the service of the Sassanid Empire. He was the head of a small expeditionary force of low ranking Azatan nobility, numbering around 700, sent by Khosrau I to Yemen....

 , who helped the semi-legendary Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan
Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan
Sayf ibn dhī-Yazan was a Yemeni Himyarite king who lived between 516 and 574 CE, known for ending Aksumite rule over Southern Arabia...

 to drive the Ethiopian Aksumites out of Yemen. Southern Arabia became a Persian dominion under a Yemenite vassal and thus came within the sphere of influence of the Sassanid Empire. After the demise of the Lakhmids, another army was sent to Yemen, making it a province of the Sassanid Empire under a Persian satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

. Following the death of Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 in 628, the Persian governor in Southern Arabia, Badhan
Badhan (Persian Governor)
Bādhān was the Persian Governor of Yemen, during the reign of Khosrau II. He ruled from Sana'a. During his rule, he was ordered by Khosrau II to send some men to Medina to bring Muhammad to Khosrau II himself. Badhan sent two men for this task. When these two men met Muhammad and demanded he come...

, converted to Islam and Yemen followed the new religion.

Kingdom of Qedar (8th century BCE - ?)

The most organized of the Northern Arabian tribes, at the height of their rule in the 6th century BCE, the Kingdom of Qedar spanned a large area between the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 and the Sinai
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

. An influential force between the 8th and 4th centuries BCE, Qedarite monarchs are first mentioned in inscriptions from the Assyrian Empire. Some early Qedarite rulers were vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

s of that empire, with revolts against Assyria becoming more common in the 7th century BCE. It is thought that the Qedarites were eventually subsumed into the Nabataean state after their rise to prominence in the 2nd century CE.

The Achaemenids in Northern Arabia

Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 Arabia corresponded to the lands between Egypt and Mesopotamia, later known as Arabia Petraea
Arabia Petraea
Arabia Petraea, also called Provincia Arabia or simply Arabia, was a frontier province of the Roman Empire beginning in the 2nd century; it consisted of the former Nabataean kingdom in modern Jordan, southern modern Syria, the Sinai Peninsula and northwestern Saudi Arabia. Its capital was Petra...

. According to Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

, Cambyses did not subdue the Arabs when he attacked Egypt in 525 BCE. His successor Darius the Great
Darius I of Persia
Darius I , also known as Darius the Great, was the third king of kings of the Achaemenid Empire...

 does not mention the Arabs in the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون The Behistun Inscription (also Bistun or Bisutun, Modern Persian: بیستون...

 from the first years of his reign, but mentions them in later texts. This suggests that Darius conquered this part of Arabia.


The Nabataeans are not to be found among the tribes that are listed in Arab genealogies because the Nabatean kingdom ended a long time before the coming of Islam. They settled east of the Syro-African rift
Syro-African Depression
The Syro-African Depression is a large area of low-lying land in the Middle East. It comprises all of the land that is part of the drainage basin of the Dead Sea and is spread over Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Syria...

 between the Dead Sea
Dead Sea
The Dead Sea , also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface. The Dead Sea is deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world...

 and the Red Sea, that is, in the land that had once been Edom
Edom or Idumea was a historical region of the Southern Levant located south of Judea and the Dead Sea. It is mentioned in biblical records as a 1st millennium BC Iron Age kingdom of Edom, and in classical antiquity the cognate name Idumea was used to refer to a smaller area in the same region...

. And although the first sure reference to them dates from 312 BCE, it is possible that they were present much earlier.

Petra is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited...

 (from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 petrae, meaning 'of rock') lies in the Great Rift Valley
Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa...

, east of Wadi `Araba
The Arabah , also known as Aravah, is a section of the Great Rift Valley running in a north-south orientation between the southern end of the Sea of Galilee down to the Dead Sea and continuing further south where it ends at the Gulf of Aqaba. It includes most of the border between Israel to the...

 in Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 about 80 km (49.7 mi) south of the Dead Sea. It came into prominence in the late 1st century BCE through the success of the spice trade
Spice trade
Civilizations of Asia were involved in spice trade from the ancient times, and the Greco-Roman world soon followed by trading along the Incense route and the Roman-India routes...

. The city was the principal city of ancient Nabataea and was famous above all for two things: its trade and its hydraulic engineering
Hydraulic engineering
This article is about civil engineering. For the mechanical engineering discipline see Hydraulic machineryHydraulic engineering as a sub-discipline of civil engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water and sewage. One feature of these systems is the extensive...

 systems. It was locally autonomous until the reign of Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

, but it flourished under Roman rule
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. The town grew up around its Colonnaded Street in the 1st century and by the middle of the 1st century had witnessed rapid urbanization. The quarries were probably opened in this period, and there followed virtually continuous building through the 1st and 2nd centuries CE.

Palmyra and Roman Arabia

There is evidence of Roman rule in northern Arabia
Romans in Arabia
Romans in Arabia were present since Augustus times until the Islamic invasions during the early Byzantine Empire.-Initial contacts:The volume of commerce between Rome and India was huge since the conquest of Egypt by the Romans, according to the historian Strabo: 120 Roman vessels sailed every year...

 dating to the reign of Caesar Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE). During the reign of Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

 (14–37 CE), the already wealthy and elegant north Arabian city of Palmyra, located along the caravan routes linking Persia with the Mediterranean ports of Roman Syria and Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

, was made part of the Roman province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 of Syria
Syria (Roman province)
Syria was a Roman province, annexed in 64 BC by Pompey, as a consequence of his military presence after pursuing victory in the Third Mithridatic War. It remained under Roman, and subsequently Byzantine, rule for seven centuries, until 637 when it fell to the Islamic conquests.- Principate :The...

. The area steadily grew further in importance as a trade route linking Persia, India, China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, and the Roman Empire. During the following period of great prosperity, the Arab citizens of Palmyra adopted customs and modes of dress from both the Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

n world to the east and the Graeco-Roman
Greco-Roman world
The Greco-Roman world, Greco-Roman culture, or the term Greco-Roman , when used as an adjective, as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries that culturally were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture,...

 west. In 129, Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

 visited the city and was so enthralled by it that he proclaimed it a free city and renamed it Palmyra Hadriana.

The Roman province of Arabia Petraea was created at the beginning of the 2nd century by emperor Trajan. It was centered on Petra, but included even areas of northern Arabia under Nabatean control. Recently has been discovered evidence that Roman legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

s occupied Mada'in Saleh in the Hijaz mountains
Hijaz mountains
The Hijaz or Hejaz range of mountains is located in the Hejaz region, close to the western coast of Saudi Arabia. The western coastal escarpment is composed of two mountain ranges, the Hijaz and the Asir, with a gap between them near the middle of the peninsula's coastline...

 area of northwestern Arabia, increasing the extension of the "Arabia Petraea" province. The desert frontier of Arabia Petraea was called by the Romans the Limes Arabicus
Limes Arabicus
The Limes Arabicus was a desert frontier of the Roman Empire, in the province of Arabia Petraea. It ran -at its biggest extension- for about 1,500 km, from Northern Syria to Southern Palestine and northern Arabia, forming part of the wider Roman limes system...

. As a frontier province, it included a desert area of northeastern Arabia populated by the nomadic Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...



In Sassanid times, Arabia Petraea was a border province between the Roman and Persian empires, and from the early centuries CE was increasingly affected by South Arabian influence, notably with the Ghassanids
The Ghassanids were a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Holy Land....

 migrating north from the 3rd century.

The Ghassanids, Lakhmids and Kindites were the last major migration of non-Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s out of Yemen to the north and southwestern borders.
  • The Ghassanids
    The Ghassanids were a group of South Arabian Christian tribes that emigrated in the early 3rd century from Yemen to Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Holy Land....

    revived the Semitic presence in the then Hellenized Syria. They mainly settled the Hauran
    Hauran, , also spelled Hawran or Houran, is a volcanic plateau, a geographic area and a people located in southwestern Syria and extending into the northwestern corner of Jordan. It gets its name from the Aramaic Hawran, meaning "cave land." In geographic and geomorphic terms, its boundaries...

     region and spread to modern Lebanon, Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

    , the Palestinian Territories
    Palestinian territories
    The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

     and Jordan. The Ghassanids held Syria until engulfed by the expansion of Islam.

Greeks and Romans referred to all the nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic population of the desert in the Near East as Arabi. The Greeks called Yemen "Arabia Felix" (Happy Arabia). 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 (Larger Arabia).
  • The Lakhmids
    The Lakhmids , Banu Lakhm , Muntherids , were a group of Arab Christians who lived in Southern Iraq, and made al-Hirah their capital in 266. Poets described it as a Paradise on earth, an Arab Poet described the city's pleasant climate and beauty "One day in al-Hirah is better than a year of...

    settled the mid Tigris
    The Tigris River is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq.-Geography:...

     region around their capital Al-Hirah
    Al Hīra was an ancient city located south of al-Kufah in south-central Iraq.- Middle Ages:Al Hīra was a significant city in pre-Islamic Arab history. Originally a military encampment, in the 5th and 6th centuries CE it became the capital of the Lakhmids.The Arabs were migrating into the Near East...

     they ended up allying with the Sassanid against the Ghassanids and the Byzantine Empire. The Lakhmids contested control of the central Arabian tribes with the Kindites, eventually destroying Kindah in 540 after the fall of Kindah's main ally at the time, Himyar. The Sassanids dissolved the Lakhmid kingdom in 602.
  • The Kindites
    The kingdom of Kindah was a vassal kingdom which ruled from Qaryah dhat Kahl in Nejd, Central Arabia . The kingdom controlled much of the northern Arabian peninsula in the 4th and 5th centuries AD.-Origin:...

    migrated from Yemen along with the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, but were turned back in Bahrain
    ' , officially the Kingdom of Bahrain , is a small island state near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family. The population in 2010 stood at 1,214,705, including 235,108 non-nationals. Formerly an emirate, Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002.Bahrain is...

     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 Qaryat al-Fāw) in Central Arabia. They ruled much of the Northern/Central Arabian Peninsula until the fall of the Himyarites in 525 CE.

Bedouin tribes

Consisted of major clans and the tribes were nomadic. The lineage followed through women.


Much of the information available relating to the early lineages of the predominantly desert-dwelling Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 Arabs is based on biblical genealogy. The general consensus among 14th century Arabic genealogists was that Arabs are of three kinds:
  1. "Perishing Arabs": These are the ancients of whose history little is known. They include ʿĀd, Thamud, Tasm, Jadis, Imlaq and others. Jadis and Tasm perished because of genocide. ʿĀd and Thamud perished because of their decadence. Some people in the past doubted their existence, but Imlaq is the singular form of 'Amaleeq and is probably synonymous to the biblical Amalek
    The Amalekites are a people mentioned a number of times in the Hebrew Bible. They are considered to be descended from an ancestor Amalek....

  2. "Pure Arabs": They allegedly originated from the progeny of Ya‘rub bin Yashjub bin Qahtan so were also called Qahtanite Arabs.
  3. "Arabized Arabs": They allegedly originated from the progeny of Ishmael
    Ishmael is a figure in the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, and was Abraham's first born child according to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Ishmael was born of Abraham's marriage to Sarah's handmaiden Hagar...

     (Ismā'īl), son of the biblical patriarch
    Patriarchs (Bible)
    The Patriarchs of the Bible, when narrowly defined, are Abraham, the ancestor of all the Abrahamic nations; his son Isaac, the ancestor of the nations surrounding Israel/Judah; and Isaac's son Jacob, also named Israel, the ancestor of the Israelites...

     and Islamic prophet
    Prophets of Islam
    Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

    , Abraham
    Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

     (Ibrāhīm), and were also called Adnan
    Adnan is the traditional ancestor of the Adnani Arabs of northern, central and western Arabia, as opposed to the Qahtani of Southern and south eastern Arabia who descend from Qahtan.-Origin:...


The several different Bedouin tribes throughout Arabian history are traditionally regarded as having emerged from two main branches: the Rabi`ah
Rabi`ah purported patriarch of one of the two main branches of the so-called "North Arabian" tribes, the other branch being known as Mudhar.According to the classical Arab genealogists, the following were the most important branches of Rabi`ah:...

, from which amongst others the Banu Hanifa
Banu Hanifa
Banu Hanifa were an ancient Arab tribe inhabiting the area of al-Yamama in the central region of modern-day Saudi Arabia. The tribe belonged to the great Rabi'ah branch of North Arabian tribes, which also included 'Anizzah, Abd al-Qays, Bakr, and Taghlib...

 emerged, and the Mudhar
Mudhar or Mudar , is one of two major branches of the "North arabian" tribes, the other branch being Rabi'ah....

, from which amongst others the Banu Kinanah
Banu Kinanah
Banu Kinanah is the largest Adnanite tribe of western Saudi Arabia in Hejaz. Since Islamization they started to claim that they are descended from Kinanah, who was a grandson of Ilyas who was named after the prophet Elijah.- Ancestry :The tribe traces a genealogical history backwards from their...

 (and later Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

's own tribe, the Quraysh) emerged.


There is very little material on which to base a description of pre-Islamic religion, particularly in Mecca and the Hejaz. The Qur'an and the hadith, or recorded oral traditions, give some hints as to this religion. Islamic commentators have elaborated these hints into an account that, while coherent, is doubted by academics in part or in whole.

Many of the tribes in Arabia had practiced Judaism
History of the Jews in Saudi Arabia
The history of Jews in Saudi Arabia refers to the Jewish history in the areas that are now within the territory of Saudi Arabia. It is a history that goes back to Biblical times.-Early history:...

. Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 is known to have been active in the region before the rise of Islam, especially unorthodox, possibly gnostic
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 forms of it.

Late Antiquity

The early 7th century in Arabia began with the longest and most destructive period of the Byzantine–Sassanid Wars
Byzantine–Sassanid Wars
The Byzantine–Sassanid Wars refers to a series of conflicts between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanid dynasty of the Persian Empire...

. It left both empires exhausted and susceptible to third-party attacks, particularly from nomadic Arabs united under a newly formed religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. According to historian George Liska, the "unnecessarily prolonged Byzantine–Persian conflict opened the way for Islam"

Fall of the Empires

Before the Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628, the Plague of Justinian
Plague of Justinian
The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the Eastern Roman Empire , including its capital Constantinople, in 541–542 AD. It was one of the greatest plagues in history. The most commonly accepted cause of the pandemic is bubonic plague, which later became infamous for either causing or...

 erupted, spreading through Persia and into Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

 territory. Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

; Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

's local historian that lived to witness the plague, documented that citizens were dying at a rate of 10,000 per day. The exact number; however, is often disputed by contemporary historians. Both empires were permanently weakened by the pandemic as their citizens struggled to deal with death as well as heavy taxation, which increased as both empires campaigned for more territory.

Despite almost succumbing to the plague, emperor of Byzantine, Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

; attempted to resurrect the might of the Roman Empire by expanding into Arabia. The Arabian Peninsula had a long coastline for merchant ships and an area of lush vegetation known as the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

 which could help fund his expansion into Europe and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

. The drive into Persian territory would also put an end to tribute payments to the Sasanians, which resulted in an agreement to give 11000 lb (4,989.5 kg) of tribute to the Persians annually in exchange for a ceasefire.

However, Justinian could not afford further losses in Arabia. The Byzantines and the Sasanians sponsored powerful nomadic mercenaries from the desert with enough power to trump the possibility of aggression in Arabia. Justinian viewed his mercenaries as so valued for preventing conflict that he awarded their chief with the titles of patrician, phylarch
A phylarch is a Greek title meaning "ruler of a tribe", from phyle, "tribe" + archein "to rule".In Classical Athens, a phylarch was the elected commander of the cavalry provided by each of the city's ten tribes....

, and king – the highest honours that he could bestow on anyone. By the late 6th century, an uneasy peace remained until disagreements erupted between the mercenaries and their client empires.

The Byzantines' ally was a Christian Arabic tribe from the frontiers of the desert known as the Ghassanids. The Sasanians' ally; the Lakhmids, were also Christian Arabs, but from the life giving rivers of modern day Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. However, denominational
Religious denomination
A religious denomination is a subgroup within a religion that operates under a common name, tradition, and identity.The term describes various Christian denominations...

 disagreements about God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 forced a schism in the alliances. The Byzantines' official religion was Orthodox Christian
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

, which believed that Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 and God were two natures within one entity. The Ghassanids were Monophysite Christians
Monophysitism , or Monophysiticism, is the Christological position that Jesus Christ has only one nature, his humanity being absorbed by his Deity...

 from Iraq, who believed that God and Jesus Christ were only one nature. This disagreement was unforgivable and resulted in a permanent break in the alliance.

Meanwhile, the Sassanid Empire broke their alliance with the Lakhmids due to false accusations that the Lakhmid's leader committed treason and the Lakhmid kingdom was destroyed. The fertile lands and important trade routes of Iraq were now open ground for upheaval.

Rise of Islam

When the stalemate was finally broken and it seemed like Byzantine had finally gained the upper hand in battle, nomadic Arabs invaded from the desert frontiers bringing with them a new social order that emphasized religious devotion over tribal membership.

By the time the last Byzantine-Sassanid war came to an end in 628, Islam was already united under the power of the religious-politico Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

 (or leader). The Muslims were able to launch attacks against both empires which resulted in destruction of the Sassanid Empire and the overthrowing of Byzantine's territories in the Levant, the Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, Egypt, Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and North Africa. Over the following centuries, most of the Byzantine Empire and the entirety of the Sassanid Empire came under Muslim rule.

"Within the lifetime of some of the children who met Muhammad and sat on the Prophet's knees, Arab armies controlled the land mass that extended from the Pyrenees Mountains
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

 in Europe to the Indus River
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 valley in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

. In less than a century, Arabs had come to rule over an area that spanned five thousand miles."

See also

  • History of Saudi Arabia
    History of Saudi Arabia
    The modern state of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 with the union of the kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd. Although the territory within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's boundaries is largely arid desert or rocky infertile terrain – home for much of its history to tribal nomadic societies with...

  • History of the United Arab Emirates
    History of the United Arab Emirates
    The United Arab Emirates was formed from the group of tribally organised Arabian Peninsula sheikhdoms along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf and the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Oman.-Advent of Islam:...

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    History of the Arabic alphabet
    The history of the Arabic alphabet shows that this abjad has changed since it arose. It is thought that the Arabic alphabet is a derivative of the Nabataean variation of the Aramaic alphabet, which descended from the Phoenician alphabet, which among others gave rise to the Hebrew alphabet and the...

  • Ancient Near East
    Ancient Near East
    The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

  • Soviet Orientalist studies in Islam
    Soviet Orientalist studies in Islam
    Soviet Orientalist studies in Islam are academic discourses by Soviet Marxist theoreticians about Islam, its origins and development based on Historical materialism and Muslims. The central question of this discourse was how Muslim society would fit into the general development of human history....

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