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Title: Arabization  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Arabs, Palestinians, Ba'athist Arabization campaigns in North Iraq, Islamization, Tsvi Misinai
Collection: Arab, Arab Culture, Arab History, Arabic Languages, Arabization, Cultural Assimilation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Arabization or Arabisation (Arabic: تعريبtaʻrīb) describes either a forced conquest of a non-Arab area and migration of Arab settlers into the new domain or a growing Arab influence (either forced or voluntary) on non-Arab populations, causing a gradual adoption of Arabic language and/or incorporation of Arab culture and Arab identity. It was most prominently achieved during the 7th century Arabian Muslim conquests, in which Arab armies were followed by massive tribal migration into the Muslim-occupied territories across Middle East and North Africa, spreading the Arabic culture, language, and in some cases Arab identity upon conquered nations. Arabian Muslims, as opposed to Arab Christians, brought the religion of Islam to the lands they conquered. The result: some elements of Arabian origin combined in various forms and degrees with elements taken from conquered civilizations and ultimately denominated "Arab". The Arabization continued also in modern times, being aggressively carried by the Ba'athist regimes of Iraq[1] and Syria, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Sudan,[2] Mauritania, Algeria[2] and Libya, enforcing policies of expanding colonial Arab settlements, expulsion of non-Arab minorities and in some cases enforcement of Arab identity and culture upon non-Arab populations. Some also described the aggressive expansion and persecution of non-Arab minorities by the Arab-dominated terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant as Arabization.[3]

After the rise of Islam in Hejaz, Arab culture and language spread through conquest, trade and intermarriage of the non-Arab local population with the Arabs - in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Sudan. The Arabic language became common across these areas; dialects also formed. Although Yemen is traditionally held to be the homeland of Arabs, most[4][5] of the Yemeni population did not speak Arabic (but instead South Semitic languages) prior to the spread of Islam. The influence of Arabic has also been profound in many other countries, whose cultures have been influenced by Islam. Arabic was a major source of vocabulary for languages as diverse as Berber, Indonesian, Tagalog, Malay, Maltese, Persian, Punjabi, Sindhi, Somali, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali, Spanish as well as other languages in countries, where these languages are spoken; a process that reached its high point in the 10th to the 14th centuries, the high point of Arabic culture, and although many of Arabic words have fallen out of use since, many still remain. For example, the Arabic word for book /kita:b/ is used in all the languages listed, apart from Malay, Somali, and Indonesian (where it specifically means "religious book").


  • Early Arab expansion in the Near East 1
  • History of Arabization 2
    • Arabization during the early Caliphate 2.1
      • Southern Arabia 2.1.1
      • Eastern Arabia 2.1.2
      • The Fertile Crescent 2.1.3
      • Egypt 2.1.4
      • North Africa and Iberia 2.1.5
    • Arabic Islamic Iberia 2.2
    • Islamic Sicily, Malta, and Crete 2.3
    • Sudan 2.4
    • After the Caliphate 2.5
      • Sudan 2.5.1
      • Baggara Arabs 2.5.2
  • Modern times 3
    • Algeria, Morocco, Libya,and Tunisia 3.1
    • Iraq & Syria 3.2
      • Iraq 3.2.1
      • Syria 3.2.2
      • Islamic State of Iraq and Levant campaign 3.2.3
    • Mauritania 3.3
    • Sudan 3.4
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early Arab expansion in the Near East

After Alexander the Great, the Nabataean kingdom emerged and ruled a region extending from north of Arabia to the south of Syria. Nabateans were an amalgam of Arabian tribes originated from the Arabian peninsula, who came under the influence of the Aramaic culture, the neighbouring Hebrew culture of the Hasmonean kingdom, as well as the Hellenistic cultures in the region (especially with the Christianization of Nabateans in 3rd and 4th centurues). The pre-modern Arabic language was created by Nabateans, who developed the Nabataean alphabet which became the basis of modern Arabic script. The Nabataean language, under heavy Arab influence, amalgamated into the Arabic language.

The Arab Ghassanids were the last major non-Islamic Semitic migration northward out of Yemen in late classic era. They were Greek Orthodox Christian, and clients of the Byzantine Empire. They revived the Semitic presence in the then-Byzantine Syria. They initially settled in the Hauran region, eventually spreading to modern Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, briefly securing governorship of parts of Syria and Transjordan away from the Nabataeans.

The Arab Lakhmid Kingdom was founded by the Lakhum tribe that emigrated from Yemen in the 2nd century and ruled by the Banu Lakhm, hence the name given it. They were Nestorian Christians, opposed to the Ghassanids Greek Orthodox Christianity, and were clients of the Sasanian Empire.

The Byzantines and Sasanians used the Ghassanids and Lakhmids to fight proxy wars in Arabia against each other.

History of Arabization

Arabization during the early Caliphate

The earliest and most significant instance of "Arabization" was the first Muslim conquests of Muhammad and the subsequent Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphates. They built a Muslim Empire that grew well beyond the Arabian Peninsula, eventually reaching as far as Spain in the West and Central Asia to the East.

Southern Arabia

Old South Arabian was driven to extinction by the Islamic expansion, being replaced by Classical Arabic which is written with the Arabic script. The South Arabian alphabet which was used to write it also fell out of use. A separate branch of south semitic, the Modern South Arabian languages still survive today as spoken languages.

Although Yemen is traditionally held to be the homeland of Arabs, most[6][7] of the sedentary Yemeni population did not speak Arabic (but instead South Semitic languages) prior to the spread of Islam.

Eastern Arabia

The sedentary people of pre-Islamic Eastern Arabia were mostly Aramaic speakers and to some degree Persian speakers, while Syriac functioned as a liturgical language.[8][9] According to Serjeant, the indigenous Bahrani people are the Arabized "descendants of converts from the original population of Christians (Aramaeans), Jews and ancient Persians (Majus) inhabiting the island and cultivated coastal provinces of Eastern Arabia at the time of the Arab conquest".[10] In pre-Islamic times, the population of eastern Arabia consisted of Christian Arabs, Aramean Christians, Persian-speaking Zoroastrians[11] and Jewish agriculturalists.[8][10] The Dilmun civilization of Eastern Arabia was not Arab; however, Dilmun was still a Semitic civilization.

Zorastarianism was one of the major religions of pre-Islamic eastern Arabia, the fire-worshippers of eastern Arabia were known as Majoos in pre-Islamic times.[12]

The Fertile Crescent

After the rise of Islam, the Arab tribes unified under the banner of Islam and Arabs colonized modern Jordan, Palestine and Syria. However, even before the emergence of Islam, the Levant was already a home for several pre-Islamic Arabian kingdoms. The Nabateans kingdom of Petra which was based in Jordan, the Ghassanids kingdom which was based in Syria. Some of these kingdoms were under the indirect influence of the Romans, Byzantines, and the Persian Sassanids. The Nabateans transcript developed in Petra was the base for the current Arabic transcript while the Arab heritage is full of poetry recording the wars between the Ghassanids and Lakhmids Arabian tribes in Syria. In the 7th century, and after the dominance of Arab Muslims within a few years, the major garrison towns developed into the major cities. The local Arabic and Aramaic speaking population, which shared a very close Semitic linguistic/genetic ancestry with the Qahtani and Adnani Arabs, was somewhat Arabized, although Neo-Aramaic speaking minorities persist to the present day.


Since the foundation of the Ptolemaic kingdom in Alexandria, Egypt had been under the influence of Greek culture, and later under the control of the Roman Empire. Eventually it was conquered from the Eastern Romans by the Arab Muslims in the 7th century CE. The Coptic language, which was written using the Coptic variant of the Greek alphabet, was spoken in Egypt before the Arabic Islamic conquest. As a result of Egypt's Arabization, the native language of all Egyptians including the Copts is now Arabic with the Egyptian Arabic dialect. Currently the Coptic language only survives as a liturgical language of the Coptic Church.

North Africa and Iberia

Neither North Africa nor the Iberian Peninsula were strangers to Semitic culture: the Phoenicians and later the Carthaginians dominated parts of the North African and Iberian shores for more than eight centuries until they were suppressed by the Romans and by the following Vandal and Visigothic invasions, and the Berber incursions. The Berbers allied themselves with the Umayyad Arab Muslims in invading Spain. Later, in 743 AD, the Berbers defeated the Arab Umayyad armies and expelled them for most of West North Africa (al-Maghreb al-Aqsa) during the Berber Revolt but not the territory of Ifriqiya who stayed Arabic(East Algeria, Tunisia, and West-Libya) Centuries later some migrating Arab tribes settled in some plains while the Berbers remained the dominant group almost everywhere. The Inland North Africa remained exclusively Berber until the 11th century; the Iberian Peninsula, on the other hand, remained Arabized, particularly in the south, until the 16th century.

Arabic Islamic Iberia

After the Umayyad conquest of Hispania, under Muslim rule Iberia (al-Andalus) incorporated elements of Arabic language and culture. The Mozarabs were Iberian Christians who lived under Islamic rule in Al-Andalus. Their descendants remained unconverted to Islam, but did however adopt elements of Arabic language and culture and dress. They were mostly Roman Catholics of the Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite. Most of the Mozarabs were descendants of HispanoGothic Christians and were primarily speakers of the Mozarabic language under Islamic rule. Many were also what the Arabist Mikel de Epalza calls "Neo-Mozarabs", that is Northern Europeans who had come to the Iberian Peninsula and picked up Arabic, thereby entering the Mozarabic community.

Besides Mozarabs, another group of people in Iberia eventually came to surpass the Mozarabs both in terms of population and Arabization. These were the Muladi or Muwalladun, most of whom were descendants of local Hispano-Basques and Visigoths who converted to Islam and adopted Arabic culture, dress, and language. By the 11th century, most of the population of al-Andalus was Muladi, with large minorities of other Muslims, Mozarabs, and Sephardic Jews. It was the Muladi, together with the Berber, Arab, and other (Saqaliba and Zanj) Muslims who became collectively termed in Christian Europe as "Moors".

The process of Arabization and Islamization was reversed as the mostly-Romance speaking Christian kingdoms in the north of the peninsula gradually conquered al-Andalus and re-Romanized and re-Christianized the region.

The Andalusian Arabic language was spoken in Iberia during Islamic rule, it is now extinct, except in Andalusi music played in Morocco.

Islamic Sicily, Malta, and Crete

A similar process of Arabization and Islamization occurred in the Emirate of Sicily (as-Siqilliyyah), Emirate of Crete (al-Iqritish), and Malta (al-Malta), albeit for a much shorter time span than al-Andalus. However, this resulted in the now defunct Sicilian Arabic language to develop, from which the modern Maltese language derives.


The Arab Ja'alin tribe migrated into 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 the Islamic prophet Muhammad. They are of Arab origin, but now of mixed blood mostly with upper Egyptians and nubians. They emigrated to Nubia in the 12th century.[13][14] They were at one time subject to the Funj kings, but their position was in a measure independent. Johann Ludwig Burckhardt said that the true Ja'alin from the eastern desert of Sudan are exactly like the Bedouin of eastern Arabia.

In 1888, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain claimed that the Arabic spoken in Sudan was "a pure but archaic Arabic". The pronunciation of certain letters was like Syrian, and not Egyptian, such as g being the pronunciation for Kaph and J being the pronunciation for Jim.[15]

After the Caliphate


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.[16] The Rashaida speak Hejazi Arabic.

Baggara Arabs

The Baggara Arabs who speak Shuwa Arabic migrated in Medieval times into Africa, currently they live in a belt stretching across Sudan, Chad and Niger. Arabic is an official language of Chad.

Modern times

Algeria, Morocco, Libya,and Tunisia

Arabization means introduction of Arabic education and an increased usage of Arabic where French was used before. Governments in North African countries have long promoted Arabization as a nationalist platform. Both Literary Arabic and Dārija are on the rise.

In Algeria, there is some tension between some Berber groups (such as the Kabyle people) and the government on formalizing their language which feeds the Berbers feelings that their ancestral culture and language are threatened and that Arabic is given more focus at the expense of their own identity.

Iraq & Syria


Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party had Arabization policies involving driving out many races mainly including Kurds, Assyrians as well as Armenians and other inhabitants and replacing them with Arab families. This policy drove out 500,000 people in the years 1991-2003.


According to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, successive Syrian governments continued to adopt a policy of ethnic discrimination and national persecution against Kurds, completely depriving them of their national, democratic and human rights. Syrian governments imposed ethnically-based programs, regulations and exclusionary measures on various aspects of Kurds’ lives – political, economic, social and cultural – among which are the following:[17][18]

  • On 1962 the Syrian authorities in Hasaka randomly stripped tens of thousands of Kurdish families (more than 120,000 Kurds[19]) of their Syrian nationality. A census was implemented exclusively in Hasaka province for a period of just 24 hours only, and as a result tens of thousands of Syrian citizens of Kurdish origins lost their nationality and found themselves deprived of their citizenship. The census prevented all those affected by it from exercising all the natural rights that are based on citizenship – civil, social, political, cultural and economic – from exercising their right to work, to employment, to education, travel, the right to own a property and use agricultural land and from living normal lives.[17][18]
  • In 1973 in the province of Hasaka, the Syrian authorities confiscated an area of fertile agricultural land owned and cultivated by tens of thousands of Kurdish citizens and gave it to Arab families brought in from the provinces of Aleppo and Ar-Raqqa. The National Leadership Bureau of the ruling Baath Party issued orders to establish 41 settlement centers in these areas, in order to change the demographic composition of these areas by evicting and displacing the Kurdish inhabitants. On 2007, Syrian authorities in the Agricultural Association in Malikiyah, Hasaka province, signed contracts granting 150 Arab families from the Shaddadi region, Hasaka province, about six thousand square kilometers in Malikiyah. At the same time, it evicted tens of thousands of Kurdish people from these villages, and forcing them to move to other areas inside and outside of Syria in search of a decent living.[17][18]
  • In 1967, all references to Kurds in Syria were removed from geography curriculum books, and many Kurdish citizens were subject to pressure from the staff of the Civil Registry Departments to not give their children Kurdish names.[17][18]
  • On 1986, the governor of Hasaka issued a Resolution which prohibits the use of the Kurdish language in the workplace. In 1989, the governor of Hasaka, Mohammed Mustafa Miro, issued another resolution to re-confirm this ban on speaking Kurdish and added to it a prohibition on non-Arabic songs at weddings and holidays.[17][18]
  • In the 1960s, Syrian authorities planned to change the original Kurdish names of scores of villages in Hasakeh governorate in the northeast and in the Kurdish area in Kurd Dagh, in the northwest near Afrin in the governorate of Aleppo, and began to implement it in the 1970s. In Afrin the place names of all Kurdish villages have been changed to Arabic. Some of the names which had been changed to Arabic are: Kobaniya (now Ain al-Arab), Girdeem (Sa`diyya), Chilara (Jowadiyya), Derunakoling (Deir Ayoub), and BaniQasri (Ain Khadra).[18]

Islamic State of Iraq and Levant campaign

It was claimed that ISIL campaigns against Kurdish and Yezidi enclaves in Iraq and Syria were a part of an organized Arabization plans. For instance, a Kurdish official in Iraqi Kurdistan claimed that the ISIL campaign in Sinjar was a case of Arabization campaign.[3]


[20] Recent Black Mauritanian protesters have complained of "comprehensive Arabization" of the country.[21]


Sudan is an ethnically-mixed country that is economically and politically dominated by the northern Sudanese who identify as Arabs and Muslims. The southern Sudanese are largely a Christian and Animist Nilotic people. The Second Sudanese Civil War (1983–2005) is typically characterized as a conflict between these two peoples. In 2011 South Sudan voted for secession and became independent.

See also


  1. ^ Iraq, Claims in Conflict: Reversing Ethnic Cleansing in Northern Iraq. [1]
  2. ^ a b [2]
  3. ^ a b [3]
  4. ^ Nebes, Norbert, "Epigraphic South Arabian," in Uhlig, Siegbert, ed. Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), p. 335
  5. ^ Leonid Kogan and Andrey Korotayev: Sayhadic Languages (Epigraphic South Arabian) // Semitic Languages. London: Routledge, 1997, p[. 157-183.
  6. ^ Nebes, Norbert, "Epigraphic South Arabian," in Uhlig, Siegbert, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), p. 335
  7. ^ Leonid Kogan and Andrey Korotayev: Sayhadic Languages (Epigraphic South Arabian) // Semitic Languages. London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 157-183.
  8. ^ a b "Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Language And Literature". J R Smart, J. R. Smart. 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity". Averil Cameron. 1993. p. 185. 
  10. ^ a b "Dialect, Culture, and Society in Eastern Arabia: Glossary". Clive Holes. 2001. pp. XXIV–XXVI. 
  11. ^ "E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 5". M. Th. Houtsma. p. 1993. 
  12. ^ "Glossary Of Islamic Terms". Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Chisholm 1911, p. 103.
  14. ^ Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR (Organization) (1888). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 17. p. 16. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  15. ^ Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR (Organization) (1888). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 17. p. 11. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  16. ^ "Eritrea: The Rashaida People". Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c d e "Persecution and Discrimination against Kurdish Citizens in Syria" (PDF). Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f "SYRIA: The Silenced Kurds; Vol. 8, No. 4(E)". Human Rights Watch. 
  19. ^ "A murder stirs Kurds in Syria". The Christian Science Monitor. 
  20. ^ a b [4]
  21. ^ Alicia Koch, Patrick K. Johnsson (8 April 2010). "Mauritania: Marginalised Black populations fight against Arabisation - : Africa news, Maghreb news - The african daily newspaper". Retrieved 11 December 2014. 


  •  This article incorporates text from Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 17, by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR (Organization), a publication from 1888 now in the public domain in the United States.
  •  This article incorporates text from Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 17, by Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR (Organization), a publication from 1888 now in the public domain in the United States.

External links

  • Arabization vs. Islamization (video)- Ali Mazrui
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