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Arabization (Arabic: تعريب ) describes a growing cultural influence on a non-Arab area that gradually changes into one that speaks Arabic and/or incorporates Arab culture. It was most prominently achieved during the 7th century Arabian Muslim conquests which spread the Arabic language, culture, and—having been carried out by Arabian Muslims as opposed to Arabian Christians or Arabian Jews—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", as opposed to "Arabian".

Arabisation is perceived by Arabs as de-westernization, promotion of the usage of Arabic among Arab nationals and expatriates.

The term also means transliteration of loanwords into the Arabic alphabet and sometimes adjustment of pronunciation to suit the Arabic phonology. Certain sounds, not present in standard Arabic or Arabic dialects may be replaced with others. The consonants, which may not be always transliterated and pronounced correctly or consistently are /g/, /p/, /v/, /tʃ/, /ʒ/, vowels: /o/ and /e/.

Pre-Islamic Arabization

It should be noted that the Arabs were not the first Semitic peoples who migrated out of the peninsula (see: Aramaeans, Canaanites , Akkadiansmarker who branched into the Northern Semitic civilizations Assyrians, Phoeniciansmarker, Babylonians, Hebrews and Amorites) [75801] part of Qahtan the origin of the Arabs. However, pre Islamic Modern Arabic script groups are mainly the Ghassanids, Nabataeans, while the Kindites used the South Arabian Musnad Script.

Post-Islamic Arabization

Early Islamic Arabization

Syria/Iraq 7th century

After Islam the Arab tribes unified under the banner of Islam and flooded into Byzantine Syria and Sassanid Assyria and Mesopotamia, within few years the major garrison towns developed into the major cities. The local Aramaic speaking population which shared a very close Semitic linguistic/genetic ancestry with the Qahtani and Adnani Muslims and were somewhat Arabized, although Neo-Aramaic speaking minorities persist to the present day.

North Africa and Iberia 7th century

Neither North Africa nor the Iberian Peninsula were strangers to Semitic culture: the Phoeniciansmarker and later the Carthaginiansmarker dominated the North African and Iberian shores for more than 8 centuries until they were suppressed by the Romans and the following Vandal and Visigothic invasion. In the Inland the Nomadic Berbers allied themselves with the Arab Muslims and joined them in invading Spain. During this period the Arab tribes mainly settled the old Phoenicianmarker/Carthaginianmarker towns while the Berbers remained the dominant group inland. The Inland North Africa remained partly Arabized until the 11th century; the Iberian Peninsula, on the other hand, remained Arabized, particularly in the south, until the 16th century.

Medieval Arabization

Banu Hilal in North Africa 1046Ad

The Banu Hilal, a populous Arabian tribal confederation organized by the Fatimids in Egypt, struck first in Libyamarker reducing the Zenata Berbers (a Berber clan that claimed Yemeni ancestry from pre-Islamic periods) and Sanhaja Berber confederation to the small coastal towns. The Banu Hilal, as well as the Banu Muqal, Jashm and others, eventually settled modern Morocco and Algeria and had reduced the Sanhaja in some regions.

Banu Sulaym in North Africa 1049Ad

The Banu Sulaym another Bedouin tribal confederation from Nejd followed through the trials of Banu Hilal and helped them defeat the Zirids in the Battle of Gabis 1052Ad, and finally taking Kairuanmarker in 1057Ad. The Banu Sulaym mainly settled and completely Arabized Libya.

Banu Hassan Mauritania 1644-1674AD

The Banu Ma'qil is a Yemeni nomadic tribe that settled in Tunisia in the 13th century. The Banu Hassan a Maqil branch moved into the Sanhaja region in what's today the Western Sahara and Mauritania, they fought a thirty years war on the side of the Lamtuna Arabized Berbers who claimed Himyarite ancestry (from the early Islamic invasions) defeating the Sanhaja berbers and Arabizing Mauritania.

In general After the rise of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, Arab culture and language spread through trade with African states, conquest, and intermarriage of the nonarab local population with the Arabs,in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraqmarker and the Sudanmarker. Also, though Yemenmarker is traditionally held to be the homeland of Arabs, most of the population did not speak Arabic (but instead South Semitic languages) prior to the spread of Islam.

The peninsular Arabic language became common among these areas; dialects also formed. Today, an Arab from the Levant finds the Arabic of a North African almost incomprehensible. Modern Standard Arabic functions as something of a dachsprache, allowing speakers of disparate dialects to communicate.

The influence of Arabic has also been profound in many other countries whose cultures have been influenced by Islam. Arabic is a major source of vocabulary for languages as diverse as Berber, spoken Hindi, Indonesian, Kurdish, Malay, Maltese, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi , Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken. For example the Arabic word for book /kita:b/ is used in all the languages listed, apart from Malay and Indonesian (where it specifically means "religious book") and Spanish (which uses the Latin-derived "libro").

Cultural context

The term "Arabised-Arabs" has historically been used to signify Arabs who are descendants of Adnan, the descendant of Ishmael and Abraham.

Modern times


In part of the Al-Anfal Campaign, Saddam Hussein's Iraqimarker Ba'athist regime drove hundreds of thousands of Kurdish, Assyrian, families out of their homes in Kirkukmarker after a Kurdish revolt, and gave their homes to Arab-speaking oil field workers as well as to other non-Kurdish people whom Saddam moved from southern Iraq to the city. This violent campaign of Arabization was an attempt to transform the historically multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk into an Arab city. Kurdish families were left with no homes after being evicted forcefully by Saddam's Iraqi soldiers, and therefore had to migrate to refugee camps. After the fall of Saddam's regime, many Kurdish families came back to Kirkuk.

Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia

In Algeria and Morocco, there is tension between the Berber groups (such as the Kabyle people) and the central Arab government and feel their culture and language are threatened by arabization. Several incidents of strikes and rioting occurred as part of cultural conflicts, for example the death of Lounes Matoub.

Arabisation also means introduction of Arabic education and an increased usage of Arabic where French was used before. The governments in Western Arabic countries has long promoted arabisation as a nationalist platform. Both Literary Arabic and Dārija are on the rise.

See also


  1. Nebes, Norbert, "Epigraphic South Arabian," in von Uhlig, Siegbert, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (Wiesbaden:Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), pps.335; Leonid Kogan and Andrey Korotayev: Sayhadic Languages (Epigraphic South Arabian) // Semitic Languages. London: Routledge, 1997, p. 157-183.
  2. 11
  3. Assyrian Oppression - 14/09/1993 - ADJ - NSW Parliament
  4. House of Commons - International Development - Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence
  5. IDPs and Ethnic Cleansing Conference

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