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In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions.
Jesur was mentioned in Greek inscriptions in the First Century B. E Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddima distinguishes between sedentary Arabian Muslims who used to be nomadic, and Bedouin nomadic Arabs of the desert.Arab Muslims primarily belong to the Sunni, Shiite, Ibadi, Alawite, Druze and Ismaili denominations.Arab Christians generally follow one of the Eastern Christian Churches, such as the Maronite, Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic or Chaldean churches. The earliest documented use of the word "Arab" to refer to a people appears in the Kurkh Monoliths, an Akkadian language record of the ninth century BC Assyrian conquest of Aram, which referred to Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula under King Gindibu, who fought as part of a coalition opposed to Assyria.And Ishmael and his sons, and the sons of Keturah and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering in of Babylon in all the land towards the East facing the desert.And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishmaelites.Additionally, from the beginning of the first millennium BC, Southern Arabia was the home to a number of kingdoms, such as the Sabaean kingdom, and the coastal areas of Eastern Arabia were controlled by the Parthian and Sassanians from 300 BC.
The first written attestation of the ethnonym Arab occurs in an Assyrian inscription of 853 BCE, where Shalmaneser III lists a King Gindibu of mâtu arbâi (Arab land) as among the people he defeated at the Battle of Karkar.Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.Before the expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), "Arab" referred to any of the largely nomadic and settled Semitic people from the Arabian Peninsula, Syrian Desert, North and Lower Mesopotamia.Yet another view is held by al-Masudi that the word "Arabs" was initially applied to the Ishmaelites of the "Arabah" valley.In Biblical etymology, "Arab" (in Hebrew Arvi ) comes both from the desert origin of the Bedouins it originally described (Arava means wilderness).The most popular Arab account holds that the word "Arab" came from an eponymous father called Ya'rub who was supposedly the first to speak Arabic.