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Rûm (pronounced [ˈruːm]), also transliterated as Roum or Rhum (in Koine Greek "Ρωμιοί" or "Romans", in Arabic الرُّومُ ar-Rūm, Persian/Turkish روم Rûm, from Middle Persian Rhōm), is a generic term used at different times in Muslim world to refer to:

The name derives from the Greek word Ρωμιοί (sg. Ρωμιός), a later form in Greek of Ῥωμαῖοι Rhomaioi, i.e. "Romans"; it refers to the Byzantine Empire which at the time was simply known as the "Roman Empire" and had not yet acquired the designation "Byzantine," which was only applied to the Empire after its dissolution. The city of Rome itself is known in Arabic as روما Rūmā. The Arabic term Rûm is found in the pre-Islamic Namara inscription[1] and later in the Quran.[2] In the Sassanian period (pre-Islamic Persia) the word Hrōmāy-īg meant "Roman" or "Byzantine", which was derived from Rhomaioi.


  • Origins 1
    • Rûm as a name 1.1
    • Rûm in geography 1.2
  • Ottoman usage 2
  • In Islamic Iberia 3
  • Modern usage 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6


The Qur'an includes Surat Ar-Rum (i.e., the Sura dealing with "The Romans", sometimes translated as "The Byzantines"). The people known as Byzantine Greeks, were the inhabitants of the Roman Empire, called themselves Ρωμιοί or Ρωμαίοι Rhomaioi, Romans — the term "Byzantine" is a modern designation, used to describe the Eastern Roman Empire, particularly after the major political restructuring of the seventh and eighth century. The Arabs, therefore naturally called them "the Rûm", their territory "the land of the Rûm", and the Mediterranean "the Sea of the Rûm." They called ancient Greece by the name "Yūnān" (Ionia) and ancient Greeks "Yūnānī" (similar with Hebrew "Yavan" [יוון] for the country and "Yevanim" [יוונים] for the people). The ancient Romans were called either "Rūm" or sometimes "Latin'yun" (Latins).

Rûm as a name

Al-Rūmī is a nisbah designating people originating in the Byzantine Empire, or lands that formerly belonged to Byzantine Roman Empire, especially Anatolia. Historical people so designated include:

  • Suhayb ar-Rumi, a companion of Muhammad
  • Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Rumi), the 13th century Persian poet
  • Qāḍī Zāda al-Rūmī, 14th century mathematician
  • Tadj ol-Molouk Ayrumlu, Former Queen of Iran (This may be incorrect. The WorldHeritage article Ayrums claims Tadj ol-Molouk Ayromlou (sic) as an Ayrum, and defines Ayrums as an Azeri subgroup which it says is unrelated to the Urums. This implies her name may not be derived from Al-Rūmī. Reviewing the history of the Ayrum article shows that at one point a different origin related to Rûm, Hayhurum, was proposed for the Ayrum people; but if Ayrum is derived from Hayhurum, then it is still not a form of Al-Rūmī.)

The Greek surname Roumeliotis stems from the word Rûm borrowed by Ottomans.

Rûm in geography

Later, because Muslim contact with the Byzantine Empire most often took place in Asia Minor (the heartland of the state from the seventh century onward), the term Rûm became fixed there geographically and remained even after the conquest by the Seljuk Turks, so that their territory was called the land of the Seljuks of Rûm, or the Sultanate of Rûm. But as the Mediterranean was "the Sea of the Rûm", so all peoples on its north coast were called sweepingly "the Rûm".

Ottoman usage

After the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II declared himself Kayser-i Rum, literally "Caesar of the Romans". However, later Ottoman Sultans abandoned this title and did not persist in claiming it. During the 16th century the Portuguese used "rume" and "rumes" (plural) as a generic term to refer to the Mamluk-Ottoman forces they faced then in the Indian Ocean.[3]

Under the Ottoman Empire's Millet system, Greeks were in the "Rum Millet" (Millet-i Rum), and also in today's Turkey Rum are the Turkish citizens of Greek ethnicity. The term "Urums", also derived from the same origin, is still used in contemporary ethnography to denote Turkic-speaking Greek populations. "Rumaiic" is a Greek dialect identified mainly with the Ottoman Greeks.

Among the Muslim aristocracy of South Asia, the fez is known as the Rumi Topi (which means "hat of Rome or Byzantium").[4]

In Islamic Iberia

In Al-Andalus any Christian slave girl who had embraced Islam was named Roumiya. Also the legendary lover of King Roderic and daughter of Count Julian is named La Cava Rumía [5] – her affair being the putative cause of the Moorish invasion of Hispania in AD 711. The crusades introduced the Franks (Ifranja), and later Arabic writers recognize them and their civilization on the north shore of the Mediterranean west from Rome; so Ibn Khaldun wrote in the latter part of the 14th century.

Modern usage

There are differing opinions among Islamic scholars regarding the identity of Rûm in the modern day. Various books have been written on the topic and due to the relevance of the identity of Rûm in Islamic eschatology much debate has taken place regarding the issue.

The book written by Islamic historian and "Australian hate preacher" Musa Cerantonio, 'Which Nation does Rūm in the Aḥādīth of the Last Days refer to?',[6][7] suggests that the title of Rûm was passed from the Roman Empire based in Italy, to the Byzantine Empire, then to the Ottoman Empire as the Ottomans defeated the Byzantines and openly proclaimed to be the inheritors of Rome and its leader Mehmed II called himself the Caesar of Rome (Qaysar al-Rûm), and the title of Rûm was then passed to the successors of Rûm who is the modern day Republic of Turkey. The book argues that the definition of Rûm has never been defined by ethnicity, geography or religion, rather that Rûm was always understood to be a political term and that it was only by conquest and succession that a nation would become the inheritors of the title of Rûm.

According to Imran N. Hosein, Rûm mentioned in the Quran refers to the Eastern Orthodox Church which was located in the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital. He argues that with the disappearance of the Byzantine Empire, the headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church is now located in Russia and hence is Rûm today.[8]

Other opinions have held that Rum may refer to the European Union or Europe as a whole, to Christendom, to the West or to NATO.

See also

Note: the following entries are arranged in an etymological tree.


  1. ^ Rûm, Nadia El Cheikh, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. VIII, ed. C.E. Bosworth, E. Van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs and G. Lecomte, (Brill, 1995), 601.
  2. ^ Nadia Maria El-Cheikh, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs, (Harvard University Press, 2004), 24.
  3. ^ Ozbaran, Salih, "Ottomans as 'Rumes' in Portuguese sources in the sixteenth century", Portuguese Studies, Annual, 2001
  4. ^ The “Rumi Topi” of Hyderabad, by Omair M. Farooqui, Esq.
  5. ^ Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter 41 (Spanish text, English text).
  6. ^ "Which Nation does Rūm in the Aḥādīth of the Last Days refer to?"
  7. ^
  8. ^ When would the Muslims make and alliance with Rum, Is Rum the Rome in Italy? by Imran N. Hosein
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