Islam is one of the three main monotheistic religions in the world, the other two being Judaism and Christianity. Given that there are 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, it’s likely that you may come into contact with a large number of Muslims in your lifetime. Therefore, in order for us to discuss Islam intelligently, it is necessary that we have a basic understanding of it. The distinction between a country classified as “Islamic” and one classified as “Arab” is one thing that many people find confusing. Making this distinction is crucial for understanding some of the current political processes in the Middle East as well as for communicating with Muslims in an informed manner.
Ethnicities in the Middle East
The Arabian Peninsula, the ancestral territory of the Arab ethnic group, is also the birthplace of Islam. Arabic is the language they speak. Across 22 countries, Arabs make up the largest ethnic group in the region, numbering over 475 million. While most Muslims are not Arabs, the majority of Arabs are. The percentage of Muslims worldwide who are Arab by ethnicity is only 15%.
There are other ethnic groups residing in the Middle East besides Arabs. There are many more, each with unique traditions, some even having its own language or religion. There may be only a few thousand members remaining in some of these communities, while others may number in the tens of millions. The Turks, who speak their own language and are a nation (Türkiye), and the Persians, who speak Farsi and are primarily from Iran, are two examples. The majority ethnic group in the area without a state of their own is the Kurdish population. They are primarily found in Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. These days, not all of these ethnic groups are Islamic, but many of them are. One example of an ethnic minority that is not Islamic is the Yazidis of Iraq.
Background of Islam
Islam was founded in what is now Saudi Arabia in the year 610. After going to a remote location for prayer, a man by the name of Muhammad returned and said that an angel had given him a sermon to preach. The concept that Muhammad is the prophet of a single God is the basis of the message. Five daily prayers, almsgiving to the needy, fasting during the daytime hours of Ramadan, and a minimum of one pilgrimage to Mecca were among the other significant tenets of the new faith.
Muhammad and his supporters encountered staunch opposition and fought bloody battles with weapons. The new way of thinking eventually gained traction and extended outside of the Arabian Peninsula. throughout due course, Muslims constituted the overwhelming population throughout Central and South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and the islands of Southeast Asia. Several parts of Europe, including Spain, southern Italy, and the Balkans, were ruled by Islam at one point. Therefore, the Arab people group essentially converted to Islam, after which they exerted influence on and converted a large number of other ethnic groups.
Arab in Culture, but Not Arab
The Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, is written in Arabic, and the actual source of confusion regarding the distinction between “Arab” and “Islamic” is that Arabs founded the religion. Thus, when Arabs brought their religion with them, they also taught others to pray in Arabic and assimilated into many facets of Arab society. One of the major tenets of Islam is that the Qur’an can only be considered accurate when it is studied, read aloud, or recited in Arabic. Translations are not regarded as the inspired words of God, but rather as human “interpretations.”
Other ethnic groups, such as the Somalis and Azerbaijanis, did not become Arabs; rather, they became somewhat Arab in culture. It does not make you Chinese, for instance, if you are not Chinese but have learnt to speak the language. It indicates that you have assimilated some of their culture. However, you cannot completely transform your ethnicity by altering your language, religion, or other cultural elements.
Why Does the Distinction Matter?
This is why it’s crucial to distinguish between the labels “Arab” and “Islamic”:
They Explain Distinct Things
The names are separate from one another and describe different things. The terms “Arab” and “British” are synonymous. It gives an account of an ethnic background. The terms “Christian” and “Islamic” are synonymous. It gives an explanation of a religious doctrine.
They Restrict or Widen the Purview of Religion
One of the world’s religions, Islam asserts that its teachings apply to all people, not simply members of a particular ethnic group. Identifying all Muslims as “Arabs” implies that Danes, Zulus, and Australians are excluded from the Muslim community.
They Aid in Our Understanding of Cultural Differences
Even those who have the same beliefs might occasionally have rather distinct practices. certain of the discrepancies become more understandable when we consider that certain individuals introduced rituals from their own distinct ethnic traditions to Islam.
They Aid in Our Understanding of Political Unrest
Ethnic heritage is a major source of tension between nations in the modern world. These tensions may or may not be related to religious differences. Understanding that separate ethnic groups—the Persians in Iran and the Arabs in Saudi Arabia—run these two fiercely competitive Islamic nations will help us better grasp this.
List of Islamic and Arab Nations
Lastly, we have prepared a table for you that shows the nations of the world with an Islamic majority and those with an Arab majority. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation consists of 57 Islamic nations. Of them, 22 are League of Arab States member countries. Remember that a nation does not automatically adhere to Islamic law just because it is designated as such. The governments of Islamic and Arabic nations varies, as does the extent to which Islamic law is enforced. Everything is dependent upon the system that their nation has established.