Shared language is generally recognised as one of
the defining characteristics of Arabs. The word "Arab" may be derived from a
verb which means to "speak clearly" (i.e. be easily understood by other Arabs).
However, many Arabs speak local dialects which are not always mutually intelligible.
Within the Arab world there are also distinct groups - the Berbers, the
Kurds, etc - whose
main language is not Arabic, though they may have absorbed some of the prevailing Arab
There is no doubt that Islam has
played a major part in shaping Arab culture. The prophet of Islam was an Arab and Arabic
is the language of its holy book, the Qur'an; the Arab people were the nucleus for the
expansion of Islam. But it would be wrong to assume that Muslims are mainly Arabs or that
Arabs are necessarily Muslims.
Today, there are almost a billion Muslims worldwide; the
largest group live in the Indian sub-continent, and only 20% of the total are Arabs. Among
the Arabs, there are substantial Christian communities in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and
Palestine. Many of the older Arab cities also have a Jewish quarter, though the number of
Jews in Arab countries today is small.
For some Arab writers, the proud
heritage of the past contrasts starkly with the present. In the 20th century the failed
dreams of Arab unity, successive defeats in the conflict with Israel and corrupt or
oppressive regimes in many countries mean that a shared perception of suffering has also
become one of the Arabs' defining characteristics.
There is room for argument about which
countries should be regarded as "Arab". For the
purposes of this website, AL-BAB decided to consider
"Arab" countries as those which belong to the Arab
See Wikipedia: Arab;