1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Origin of the Arab Race. Origin of Mustareb Race.

(Part 24)


(24) Origin of the Arab Race. Origin of Mustareb Race.

Origin of the Arab Race

The origin of the Arab race, like that of most others, can only be matter of conjecture; no credit can be attached to the assertions, evidently unbased on historical facts, of those authors who, building on the narrow foundation of Hebrew records, have included the entire nation under the titles of Ismael and Joktan; and Mahometan testimony on these matters can have no more weight than the Jewish, from which it is evidently derived. Setting, therefore, these vague and half-poetical traditions aside, the first certain fact on which to base our investigations is the ancient and undoubted division of the Arab race into two branches, the "Arab," or pure; and the "Mostareb," or adscititious. The geographical limits of both branches have already been sufficiently indicated. A second fact is, that everything in pre-Islamitic literature and record-the only reliable authorities in such a case, as preserved to us in the Hamasa, the Kitab-el-Aghanee, the writings of Musaoodee and Abul Feda, the stories of Antarah or Mohalhet, and the like-concurs in representing the first settlement of the "pure" Arabs as made on the extreme south-western point of the peninsula, near Aden, and thence spreading northward and eastward over Yemen, Hadramaut, and Oman. A third is the name Himyar, or "dusky," given now to the ruling class, now to the entire nation; a circumstance pointing, like the former, to African origin. A fourth is the Himyaritic language-now, indeed, almost lost, but some words of which have been preserved either in proper names or even in whole sentences handed down. They are African in character, often in identity. Indeed, the dialect commonly used along the south-eastern coast hardly differs from that used by the Somawlee Africans on the opposite shore; but later intermixture of blood and constant intercourse may have much to do with this. Fifthly, it is remarkable that where the grammar of the Arabic, now spoken by the "pure" Arabs, differs from that of the north, it approaches to or coincides with the Abyssinian. Now, it is well known to philologists that grammatical inflections are a much more abiding and intimate test of origin than separate nouns or even verbs. Sixthly, the pre-Islamitic institutions of Yemen and its allied provinces-its monarchies, courts, armies, and sergs-bear a marked resemblance to the historical Africo-Egyptian type, and even to the modern Abyssinian. Seventhly, the physical conformation of the pure-blooded Arab inhabitants of Yemen, Hadramaut, Oman, and the adjoining districts-the shape and size of the head, the slenderness of the lower limbs, the comparative scantiness of hair, and other particulars- point in an African rather than an Asiatic direction. Eighthly, the general habits of the people,-given to sedentary rather than nomade occupations, fond of village life, of society, of dance and music; good cultivators of the soil, tolerate traders, moderate artisans, but averse to pastoral pursuits-have much more in common with the inhabitants of the African than with those of the western Asiatic continent. Lastly, the extreme facility of marriage which exists in all classes of the southern Arabs with the African races; the fecundity of such unions; and the slightness or even absence of any caste feeling between the dusky "pure" Arab and the still darker native of modern Africa-conditions different from those obtaining almost everywhere else-may be regarded as pointing in the direction of a community of origin. Further indications are afforded both by local tradition and actual observation; but they are of a nature to be scarcely appreciable, except by those whom long familiarity has rendered intimate with the races in question; besides, the above are, for average criticism, sufficient.

Origin of Mustareb Race

It is harder to determine with precision the origin of the "adscititious" or "Mustareb" Arabs, and the circumstances under which they first peopled their half of the peninsula. Though in physical, mental, and lingual characteristics they offer too marked an affinity with the Arabs of the south to allow of any supposition except that of ultimate unity, so far as the stock is concerned; yet they present many and important divergences from them, and these divergences, whatever their nature, have all an Asiatic impress of their own. Such are their pastoral tendencies and proneness to nomade life; such the peculiarities of their idiom, drawing near to the Hebrew; such the strong clannish feeling, joined with a constant resistance to anything like regal power or settled comprehensive organization ; such even the outward and physical type. Time after time we may observe-in their history, their literature, their institutions or the absence of them, their past, their present-traits now Hebrew, now Syrian, now Chaldaean, now even Tatar; though the groundwork of the whole is undoubtedly identical with the Arab of the south. The probability, faintly indicated by tradition, is that at an early, indeed an absolutely pre-historic period, this branch of the Arab race, emigrating eastward, passed into Asia- not like their congeners, at the southern, but at the northern or isthmal extremity of the Red Sea; them pursued their inland way to the plains of Mesopotamia and Chaldaea, and perhaps even further; and after a long sojourn I these lands, during which they acquired the modifications, mental and physical, which distinguish them from their southern and more unchanged brethren, returned westward to the land already partly occupied by their kinsmen. This return would not be effected all at once, but by band after band, according to the pressure exercised on them by Iranian or Turanian neighbours, a fact witnessed to by many of the northern pre-Islamitic traditions, as found in Ibn-Atheer, Tabreezec, and others; while the well-known Ishmaelitic mythos, recorded alike in Hebrew and in Arab chronicles, probably points to the last batch of "adscititious" Arab immigrants, the special clan from which the family of Koreysh and the Prophet had origin.

Once established on the same soil, the two branches would naturally early manifest a tendency to unite, sufficient in time to produce a tolerable identity both of language and of usages; while the superinduced modifications of character and manners may well have originated the rivalry and even enmity between the Arabs of the north, or "Keysees," and those of Yemen, which, under various forms, has never ceased down to our own time.

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