What Is The Difference Between An Arab and A Muslim?

SHAFAQNA  -Muslims are those who hold to the Islamic faith. The word Muslim means “One who submits” to God, and their Islamic faith acted as a cohesive force upon the ancient peoples in areas like Egypt, Syria, and the Mesopotamian regions. Islam unified the people like nothing else ever had, and even though the Arabic people have a common ancestry, they were located in different parts of the region. From the 11th to the 13th century, there was a rapid expansion of Islam which finally brought all the different regions into commonality, and by doing so, created an enormous empire together, so their faith unified them as a people, much like the Jews were unified in their faith at one time. This created alliances between nations, and these mutually exclusive relationships began to benefit all the Muslim people, scattered among the nations of the Middle-east. Trade routes were opened, their civilization began to prosper, and the Arabic-speaking world grew as never before. As such, they became a formidable force, so while medieval Europe, the people of Spain, and the people of North Africa began to create larger and more cooperative nations among themselves, they absorbed much of the knowledge that the Islamic people had earlier preserved during the Dark Ages. It was after the decline and fall of the Roman Empire that the world entered into the Dark Ages, from the 8th to as late as the 15th century. It was a time of drastic cultural, economic, and social decline.

The Dark Ages

The Dark Ages means that it was a period of “intellectual darkness,” as far as previously acquired human knowledge was concerned; however, the Arabic-speaking people preserved that knowledge that had been acquired during the previous centuries prior to the before the Dark Ages. The Arabic-speaking people never did enter into a dark age like most of the other nations did, which primarily occurred in Europe and the Mediterranean nations, so they didn’t have the drastic decline of their cultural, economic, and social systems as did most of the other nations. They held on to much of the known knowledge that they had acquired over the centuries, so the Arabs were literally, “the keepers of knowledge,” including the important disciples of mathematics, science, astronomy, medicine, architecture, horticulture, agriculture, music, languages, philosophy, geography, and navigation. That is an amazing cache of knowledge that survived, thanks to the Arabic-speaking people. Clearly, their Islamic faith unified them and this served them well in preserving the knowledge that they had gained over the centuries.

Critical Arabic Contributions

We have already read that the Muslims (sometimes spelled Moslem), which are those of the Islamic faith, preserved much of the world’s knowledge, but they also made an important advancements in mathematics, but is it true that the Arab invented algebra, however it is common knowledge that the Alexandrian Greek mathematician Diophantus (3rd century AD) is called “the father of algebra,” and he wrote an important series of books, called Arithmetica, from which we get the word arithmetic, but we have archaeological evidence that the roots of algebra date back to the ancient Babylonians, which was further developed in Egypt and Greece. There are even indications that the Chinese and Indians yet further advanced algebra too and were among the first to write important works on the subject. The Canaanites, and probably the Egyptians at the same time, were among the first to develop the earliest navigational and geographical charts. These proved extremely useful for navigating land and sea, but the Arabs vastly improved this by the development of the magnetic needle, the precursor to the compass, one of the most significant discoveries of mankind. What more can we add except the Arab-speaking people also developed the knowledge and practice of medicine, and architecture, which is evident in their construction of buildings, homes, and Mosques.

Are Arabs and Muslims the Same?

When you speak of someone that’s Arabic, and someone that’s Muslim, are they mutually exclusive or mutually inclusive of one another? Those who are of the Islamic faith can certainly be Arabic, but Muslims are certainly not restricted to the Arabic-speaking nations and peoples. You can have a German whose Muslim, or the French, English, and so on can be Muslim. Not all Arabic people are practicing Muslims, although nearly all of the Arabic nations consist of Muslims, but strictly speaking, Arabs and Muslims are not the same at all; one can be Muslim but not Arabic and one can be Arabic and not Muslim; it’s just that in most cases, if you’re Arabic, you’re most likely a follower of Islam. The parallel is in the first century church, where most of the Christians were Jewish, but not all of them. Today, Christians are found in every nation in the world, almost like Muslims are today.


As a Christian, there is no animosity toward Muslims that I hold to. Although I hate to see Christians martyred, God will take care of everything in His own time (Rom 12:17-21). I have no hard feelings for anyone that’s of the Islamic faith. Yes, it is serious when radical Muslims martyr Christians, but this is not how the vast majority of Muslims respond to Christians. They might despise them, ridicule them, and socially shun them, especially in Arabic nations, but the large majority of Muslims don’t respond this way. Given this, we cannot make sweeping statements like “All Muslims are radical” or “Muslims are terrorists.” That is not fair to the Arabic-speaking people who are active in their Islamic faith and it is certainly not far to Muslims. Christians are commanded to not hate anyone, but rather do as Jesus taught: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), and love means we do no harm to another. Jesus reminds Christians to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).

By Jack Wellman – Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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