Bear in mind that such nai'vc questions as "What is the origin of this people? Where did it come from?" make almost no sense. All peoples are formed of a mixture of ethnic elements, and in most cases the constituents have often been present since pre- historic times. As a general rule what happens is that a relatively small contingent of immigrants with superior military forces conquers a region and assimilates its inhabitants. The prehistoric in- 49
50 Chapter Two habitants of what is now France were conquered by the Gauls and thereafter became first Gauls, then Latins. The influence of a small number of con- querors led to the abandonment of the Gallic lan- guage. For a variety of sociological reasons, this rule no longer applied when France was subjected to later immigrations and conquests. The Arab World To begin with we shall look at what will here be called the Arab zone or world. By this we mean the group of states in which the Arab ethnos is domi- nant, and in which its language is the official state language in use by administrative officials who claim to be Arabs. This group constitutes a coher- ent geographical region, except for certain "de- Arabized" enclaves: the tiny state of Israel, and the two Moroccan cities of Ceuta and Melilla (Sabta and Malila in Arabic), which have been His- panicized for more than four centuries. Arabia The birth place of the Arab people is the Arabian peninsula. It is presently divided into several states, all independent in theory, and all laying claim to Arabhood and giving voice to Arabism. The Arabs of the peninsula (jazirat ai-'Arab, "the isle of the Arabs," in Arabic) are for the most part descendants of members of the Arabic-speaking tribes of the pre-Islamic era. As we have seen, how- ever, they were joined by the South Arabians, in small numbers in the few centuries prior to Is- lam, and on a large scale at the time of Islamization.
The Nature and Growth of Arabhood 51 Most of these South Arabians were also connected with "tribes" (sha'b in South Arabian, a word which in Arabic has come to designate a "people"), though this association does not necessarily imply that they were nomadic shepherds. For the most part they were quickly Arabized. In the relatively inaccessible mountainous areas, however, as well as on the isolated islands and in coastal areas, isolated South Arabian communities continued to exist for a long time, and some are still to be found today. These South Arabian communities include the whole of the Dhofar region, recently risen in revolt against the sultanate of Muscat and Oman, which claims to rule it (Dhofar has perhaps 1 50,000 in- habitants?) ; the island ofSocotra and its neighboring islands ( 1 5,000 inhabitants), which are part of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) ; together with the groups adjacent to Hadramaut (the eastern part of the latter state) and in Oman to the east of Dhofar. Most the people who speak these dialects (called-mistakenly- Himyarite in Arabic) now also speak Arabic. This is the only language of culture they know, and the
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- Spring '07
- Old Testament, Arab World, Arabs