Shu'ubiyyah (Arabic: الشعوبية) refers to the response by non-Arab Muslims to the privileged status of Arabs within the Ummah. There has been discrimination and in many cases oppression of minority groups resulting in many defined periods of cultural struggle throughout Islamic History.


The name of the movement is derived from the Qur'anic use of the word for "nations" or "peoples", "shū'ub". The verse (49:13) is often used by Muslims to counter prejudice and fighting among different p"eople.

:يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوباً وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

:"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations (shū'ub) and tribes (qabā'il), that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." [Qur'an in Surah 49, verse 13.(translated by Yusuf Ali)]

ocio-political movements

The use of the word in the context of a movement existed before the 9th century. The Kharijites, an early splitoff sect from mainstream Islam, used it to mean extending equality between the shu'ub and the kaba'il to bring about equality among all followers of Islam. It was a direct response to the claims by the Quraysh of being privileged to lead the Ummah, or community of believers.

In Iran

"Shu'ubiyyah" When used as a reference to a specific movement, the term refers to a response by Persian Muslims to the growing Arabization of Islam in the 9th and 10th centuries in what is now Iran. It was primarily concerned with preserving Persian culture and protecting Persian identity. The most notable effect of the movement was the survival of Persian language, the language of the Persians, to the present day. The movement never moved into apostasy though, and has its basis in the Islamic thought of equallity of races and nations.

In the late 8th and early 9th centuries there was a resurgence of Persian national identity. This came about after years of oppression by the Abbassid caliphate. The movement left substantial records in the form of Persian literature and new forms of poetry. Most of those behind the movement were Persian, but references to Egyptians, Berbers and Aramaeans are attestd. [Enderwitz, S. "Shu'ubiyya". "Encylcopedia of Islam". Vol. IX (1997), pp. 513-14.]

In Al-Andalus

Two centuries after the end of the Shu'ubiyyah movement in the east, another form of the movement came about in Islamic Spain. It was fueled mainly by the Berbers, but included many European cultural groups as well including Galicians, Franks and Calabrians. A notable example of "Shu'ubi" literature is the epistle of the Andalusian poet Ibn Gharsiya (Garcia). According to the "Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature", this epistle was of minor importance, and its few exponents tended to repeat clichés adopted from the earlier Islamic East.

See also

*Islamicization in post-conquest Iran
*Islamistan, movement of non-Arab Islamic unity
*Bashar ibn Burd, famous Shu'ubi poet



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first = Hans
authorlink =
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year = 1994
title = Arabic-English Dictionary
publisher = Spoken Language Services Inc.
location = Urbana, IL
id = ISBN 0-87950-003-4

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title = Dictionary of Islam
publisher = Kazi Publications Inc. USA
location = Chicago, IL
id = ISBN 0-935782-70-2

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title = Encyclopedia of Islam, the
publisher = Leiden Brill
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Mottahedeh, Roy, "The Shu'ubiyah Controversy and the Social History of Early Islamic Iran," "International Journal of Middle East Studies", Vol. 7, No. 2. (Apr., 1976), pp. 161-182

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