Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) - Part 9 | The Origins of the Arab Race

By Halal Trip | 06, Apr, 2022
Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) - Part 9 | The Origins of the Arab Race

Who are the Arabs that the Prophet (ﷺ) appeared amongst? Ibn Ishaq himself begins Seerah with this topic.  

The Arabs trace their ancestry to specific people. Some present-day Arabs can trace their lineage back to these people. However, some Arabs in our times are not descendants of them. Instead, they have become Arab through culture, assimilation, and language. For example, when the Arabs conquered Egypt, the Egyptians at the time were not the descendants of these classical Arabs. When the Arabs conquered Sham, they were Romans, but eventually, their descendants became Muslims and started speaking Arabic.

The scholars have divided Arabs into two broad categories; "Extinct Arabs" or Al-Arab Al-Ba-idah (الـعـرب الـبـائـدة) and Al-Arab Al-Baqia (the remaining Arabs).


Extinct Arabs - Al-Arab Al-Ba-idah (الـعـرب الـبـائـدة)

The first of these categories is the "Extinct Arabs" or Al-Arab-al-Ba-idah. Extinct here means they are no more. These are humanity's earliest civilizations in the Arabian Peninsula, thousands of years before Islam.

The Quran mentioned some of the stories of two of the earliest civilizations, the Ad and Thamud. They are not linked to the later Arabs. They are called Arabs because they inhabited the land, which was later called Arabia. Thamud is considered to be the earliest humans in the Arabian Peninsula. No remnants were found of humanity before Thamud.

Ibn Khaldun mentions that these people fled from the ancient city of Babel. The Bible tells us that Babel was the mother of all cities. They fled when there was civil war and strife, and they made their way to Arabia. This is the earliest civilization that has been discovered in the Arabian Peninsula. All these tribes became extinct through civil war, natural disasters, and migration. That is why they are called the extinct Arabs - Al-Arab-Al-Ba-idah.


Al-Arab Al-Baqia - Al-Arab al-Ariba" (العرب العاربة) & Al-Arab al-Mustarabah (العرب المستعربة)

The second group of Arabs, Al-Arab Al-Baqia, the opposite of Baida, is the one relevant to the Seerah. They are composed of two tribes; descendants of two people, Qahtan and Adnan.


The Arabs from Qahtan - Al-Arab al-Ariba" (العرب العاربة) 

Qahtan is considered to be the father of the Arabs. His son was Ya'rab or Ya'rib. The word Arab comes from Ya'rab. So the name Ya'rab became the basis of Arab, and it is said that Ya'rab was the first to speak Arabic. As languages do not just come from one person, perhaps Ya'rab was the one who began speaking differently. So the Arabic language and the race are traced back to him. They are called the Qahtani Arabs.

Not much is known about Qahtan or Ya'rab. However, there are two or three opinions on his lineage. The majority opinion is that Qahtan was one of the descendants going back many generations to Saam, the son of Nooh (AS). Legend has it that Nooh had three sons. This is not in Islamic traditions, even though there is a weak Hadith, but it is found in the Old Testament. 

Saam is the father of the Semites. Semite means descendants of Saam. A group of people who speak a similar type of languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. The Nabateans are also considered Semites. Ibrahim (AS) is a descendant of Saam.

It is said that Saam's brother Yaafith is the father of the Roman or the Caucasian peoples. His other brother Haam is said to be the father of the Africans. The Bible says it, and there is a weak Hadith in Tirmidhi that also mentions this.  

The majority opinion is that Qahtan is a descendant of Saam. It is not known how many generations are between Saam and Qahtan. If this is the case, Qahtan and Ibrahim (AS) come from Saam, but no direct connection links them.

A minority opinion is that Qahtan is a descendant of Prophet Ibrahim (AS). A third opinion is that Qahtan is the descendant of the Prophet Hud (AS). This is a very weak opinion.

It is not known when Qahtan lived, but he was way before Adnan. The Qahtanese lived in the Southern part of Arabia, and they had several dynasties and kingdoms. Hemiraites and Ghassanids were the descendants of Qahtan. The Aus and the Khazraj in Medinah were Qahtani. 

These are called the original Arabs - Al-Arab al-Ariba" (العرب العاربة) because they were the first to speak Arabic. 


The Arabs from Adnan - Al-Arab al-Mustarabah (العرب المستعربة)

There is a lot more information about Adnan because he is the ancestor of our Prophet (ﷺ). Adnan is one of the descendants of Prophet Ismail (AS). As they trace their lineage to Saam, the son of Nooh (AS), both Qahtan and Ibrahim (AS) are Semites and distant cousins.

Ibrahim (AS) is from the Ur region of Iraq and not from Arabia. Ibrahim (AS) fled Iraq and made his way to Egypt with his wife, Sarah. While going through Egypt, the King gifted him Hajar, an Egyptian. 

Ismail (AS), the son of Ibrahim (AS) was left as a baby with his mother, Hajar, in Makkah. Makkah is in central Hijaz and was barren land, and there was no civilization at that time. One of the tribes of Qahtan, Jurhum, passed by, and Ismail (AS) married a lady from the tribe of Jurhum. So Ismail (AS) married into the Qahtanis and began speaking their language, Arabic. Ismail's (AS) children are the merging between the Ibrahim (AS) bloodline and the Qahtanis. 

A few generations later, a luminary appears by the name of Adnan as a direct descendant of Ismail (AS). There were seven or ten generations between Ismail (AS) and Adnan, or around 400 years. All of the Adnani tribes, the most famous being the Quraysh, go back to this person, Adnan.

Ismail had many other children, and they had other non-Arab civilizations. So there is an opinion that the Nabateans, whose remnants are still there, were descendants of Ismail (AS) from another son.

The Adnani Arabs are called Al-Arab al-Mustarabah (العرب المستعربة), the Arabs who learned Arabic. The Arabs, who were Arabicized because Arabic was not their language. They learned it from the Al-Arab al-Ariba (العرب العاربة). 

There is no difference of opinion amongst the scholars of genealogy that the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is the 20th offspring, i.e., there are precisely 20 generations between Adnan and the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). So the Prophet is Adnani taking his lineage from Adnan. 

Because of their location, the Al-Arab al-Mustarabah became better in Arabic than the Al-Arab al-Ariba. As they were in central Hijaz, all of the other tribes of Arabia would go through them, and they began to take the best of all the Arab tribes. So after a while, Al-Arab al-Mustarabah became more powerful, eloquent, and more prestigious than Al-Arab al-Ariba. That is why Allah (SWT) chose the Prophet (ﷺ) to be from the Al-Arab al-Mustarabah. 

From Adnan onwards, they say that the Arab tribes from Ismail (AS) began to flourish. So we have the tribes of Muddhar, Rabiyah, Nizar, and Quraysh; all of these tribes come from the descendants of Adnan. 

So Adnan is the father of one branch of Arabs, who are called Al-Arab al-Mustarabah, and the father of the other branch of Arabs is called Qahtan, and Qahtan is Al-Arab al-Ariba. Qahtan and Adnan were not contemporaries. Qahtan was way before Adnan. Therefore, when Ismail (AS) came to Arabia, there were civilizations already there, from Qahtan, and to this day, the Qahtan tribe is the largest tribe.


اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ

اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ

O Allaah, send prayers upon Muhammad (ﷺ) and upon the family of Muhammad (ﷺ) as You sent prayers upon the family of Ibraaheem (AS), and send blessings upon Muhammad (ﷺ) and upon the family of Muhammad (ﷺ), as You sent blessings upon the family of Ibraaheem (AS), You are indeed Worthy of Praise, Full of Glory.


The Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), the life and times of the greatest human being who ever lived and walked on the face of this Earth, series is based on the lectures by Dr. Sh. Yasir Qadhi. 

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