The argument of Arab vs Persian has been cooking up since ancient times. This argument is no different than Chinese vs Korean or Japanese. Each culture and ethnicity has its own beliefs and traditions which make them unique. Here we put the argument of Arab vs Persian to rest once and for all by understanding the difference between Arabs and Persians.
Persian vs Arab
Through time, people have been grouped and represented by their ethnicities. These ethnicities shape their life and death. Each aspect of their life is affected by the country they are born in, by the religion they are given or choose later, and by the culture they follow.
However, the Earth is a social village, which is why all the cultures and religions are found in countries that are not native to that same culture or religion.
Due to such diversity, many arguments have arisen about the originality and identity of many communities. One such debate is the Persian versus Arab debate. They may seem identical in looks but are surely not at a closer look. This debate has been around for many years and is of a critical nature for understanding these two peoples.
The following parameters of comparison will help us understand the two civilizations in detail:
- History of origin
- Humanities and arts
- Traditions and cultures
- Yearly calendars
History of Origin
Persians live in Iran, a country in the Asian continent. Persians arrived on that continent around 1000 BC. Since then, they have been very political and vocal about their culture and religion. In ancient times, Iran was known as Persia, the kingdom of the Persian people.
With the advent of stronger geopolitical powers in the world, the once great and massive kingdom of Persia fell and what remains is now known as Iran. Persians now constitute about 60 percent of the total Iranian population.
The Arabs, on other hand, are present in many different parts of the world, gaining the collective title of “the Arab world”. Their history of origin starts from the Arabian peninsula. This Arab world comprises a total of 22 countries spread across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. T
here are approximately 400 million Arabs in the world.
The natives of the original Persia spoke the Persian language. The Persian language is an Indo-European language with distant ties to the Latin and Greek languages. This language was passed down to the Iranian people of today. Different regions within Iran and outside speak different dialects of the Persian language.
Some parts of different countries like Afghanistan and Uzbekistan have Persian as their official language. This decision has always been a point of contention among the citizens of these countries, as different official languages create division and distort harmony.
On the other hand, Arabs speak Arabic. Arabic is an Afroasiatic language with a very long history. The 22 different countries of the Arab world speak a culturally and geographically affected dialect of the Arabic language. The Arabic language is highly associated with the religion Islam and Muslims because all the religious texts of the Muslims are written in Arab.
Even though the two languages have considerably different origins and uses, there are some similarities. In the seventh century, when Muslims invaded Persia, the use of the two languages collided.
The government was Arab and the people were Persian. To work on common ground, the Persian language absorbed many characteristics and much vocabulary of the Arabic language.
Even after Persia was free of all Arab rulers, the Arabic language found a permanent resort in the Persian language and it remains there till now. The memory of the Arabian language was so deep that the Persian language is written in the same script as that of the Arabic language.
Before the invasion of Persia by the Muslims, the Persian people had their own deities whom they worshipped wholeheartedly. The Persian religion was influenced by the Egyptians and the Greeks. Most of the Persians were devout Zoroastrians. The Muslims brought the religion of Islam with them and soon many Persians reverted to Islam until it became the dominating religion of the area.
From the outside, the Arabs and the Persians identify as Muslims. They follow the laws of Islam and believe in one God. If both ethnicities have the same beliefs then how is religion a differentiating factor between the Persians and the Arabs?
Sunni vs Shia Islam
Well, you should know that Islam was divided into two sects after the death of the last Prophet in 632 AD. The Mulsim denominations that arose were from two different parts of the world: Saudi Arabia and Iran, representing respectively the Sunni Muslim and Shia Muslim sects. Both sects are found throughout the Arab World and Persia, but most prominently Iran is a Shia Muslim majority country and the Arab World has a majority Sunni Muslims.
The basic ideologies of both sects are the same. The differences lie in the answer to the question of who deserves to be the Caliph after the demise of their Prophet.
This question has been the reason for civil wars, deaths and hostile takeovers throughout history. Many different points of view have been added to this debate and not a single solution has been agreed upon by both parties.
The fight over the right caliphs has brought the two sects to the point that they call each other non-Muslims. That is why religion is a very big differentiating factor between Arabs and Persians and in between Muslims of the world. This will continue to be a point of contention until everyone just accepts the feelings and religious beliefs of each other as they are.
Humanities and Arts
Persia is world-famous for its art, be it architecture, painting, literature, music, and overall aesthetics. Persian art is known for its subliminal and geometrically perfect designs. Arabs, on the other hand, are not that artsy people. Even though modern architecture is present in both countries, the colorful intricate patterns, the carved arched hallways and the use of symbolism are only native to Persia.
The Persian ethnicity and its art can be found scattered in the world because the Persians traveled and took their art with them.
The Arabs, however, are a different story. They focused on the spread of their religion and on building diplomatic relations with the world.
Some of the countries of the Arab World are world-famous for their wealth. These countries have been blessed with huge deposits of petrol and gold. They fully take advantage of these reservoirs and the elites are known to be extravagantly rich. The Persians, on the other hand, were and are simple people with sophisticated living and an artistic mindset.
Traditions and Cultures
The Arab vs Persian debate is an old fight. Some light can be shed on their differences with the help of their traditions and cultures. The Arabs invaded Persia and a lot of authentic Persian culture and traditions were lost.
Nevertheless, the Persians managed to keep most of their Zoroastrian traditions. These traditions are celebrated in full swing and are one of the differentiating factors between the Arabs and Persians.
The most important and widely celebrated Persian traditions are Nowruz, Yalda night, Chaharshanbe Suri, Mehregan, and Tirgan. Nowruz is celebrated on the first day of each new Persian year. Yalda Night is the celebration of the longest night of the year. None of these traditions and celebrations are found in Arabic cultures.
The biggest Arabic tradition is the celebration of two Eids: Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha. Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated after the month of fasting, Ramadan, and Eid-ul-Azha is celebrated in the month of Zilhaj. The two Eids are celebrated with sheer joy and enthusiasm around the world. These traditions are a big part of Islam which is why every Muslim — Arab or not — celebrates them.
The two civilizations do not share any tradition or culture in this way but the whole purpose of any tradition is for the people to get together and spread happiness. And these two ethnicities surely do that, just in their own way.
Both ethnicities differ in their history of origin, language, and religion. They also follow different yearly calendars as well.
The Arabs use the Hijri calendar, which started with the migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Madinah when early Muslims were fighting the pagan Meccans. The calendar started in 622 AD and has 12 months: Muḥarram, Safar, RabI al-Awwal, RabI al-Sani, Jumada al-Awwal, Jumada al-Sani, Rajab, Shaban, Ramadan (the month of fasting), Shawwal, Dhu al-Qadah and Dhu al-Ḥijjah.
The Persians use the Iranian calendar, which is based on the ancient Zoroastrian, pre-Islamic calendars. The first day of every year is a celebrated holiday called Nowruz.
The origin of the Persian calendar can be traced back to the 11th century. The Iranian calendar is one of the world’s most accurate calendar systems. It has less than 1 second per year (1 day in 110,000 years) error percentage.
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Ties With the World
The Arabs and Persians have worked hard to make and maintain good ties with the Western world. The people of both ethnicities are found in all parts of the world because of good diplomatic relations between their countries and international partners. These alliances have given new horizons to the people of these two civilizations in terms of trade, culture, and education.
Sunni and Shia Muslims from all around the world visit Saudi Arabia and Iran for religious pilgrimage purposes. These pilgrimages have boosted the revenue of tourism to both countries, which has positively impacted their economy. In the past year, though, heavy economic sanctions on Iran and a general situation of instability have hindered tourism and, with it, economic progress.
Arabs vs Persian: Past, Present, Future
The conflict, comparison, difference, debate and contrast between the Arabs and Persians is neverending. To the Western world, the two ethnicities may seem similar but they are indeed very different from each other. The people of both sides take pride in their identity. They take offense when they are mistaken for another ethnicity.
This debate was seen in the past, is being seen in the present, and will surely be seen in the future as well if the world leaders and the leaders of these ethnicities do not agree upon a friendly dialogue.
Many Arabs and Persians from around the globe have extended the hand of friendship to the other ethnicity, which is a heartwarming gesture. But it will take more than just ordinary people to sort this issue for once and for all.
Iran has seen some turbulence in the government sector. Each new government takes office with a new agenda. So the issue of making peace between Arabs and Persians, which has been pending for some time now, still remains pending. Hopefully, the two civilizations can figure their problems out on the common ground.
Let’s sum up what you have learned on the Arab vs Persian debate:
- Arabs and Persians are two different civilizations.
- The difference between Arabs and Persians are summarized in the following table:
|Parameters of Differences||Arabs||Persians|
|History of Origin||Arabian Peninsula||Indo-European Continent|
|Religion||Muslim (Sunni)||Muslim (Shia)|
|Humanities and Arts||Simple but Modern Architecture||World-Renowned Architecture and Literature|
|Traditions and Cultures||Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha||Nowruz, Yalda night, and more|
|Yearly Calendars||Hijri Calendar||Iranian Calendar|
- The Persian language contains some important vocabulary and scripts from the Arabic language,
- The Iranian calendar is one of the most accurate calendars in the world.
- The religion of Islam is denominated into two major sects: Sunni and Shia.
- Nowruz is the most famous Iranian/Persian holiday which is celebrated on the first day of each new Iranian year.
- The Hijri calendar started from 622 AD.
- Before the invasion of Persia by the Arabs, Persians followed the religion of Zoroastrianism.
Now that you know the differences between these ancient peoples, do you think that they will be able to solve their divergences?
- Kaushik, N. (2012, September 24). Difference Between Arabs and Persians. Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects