Quraysh: see Kuraish.

Quraish is also the name of a Surah in the Qur'an.

Quraysh or Quraish (Arabic: قريش . Other transliterations include "Quresh", "Quraysh", "Koreish" and "Coreish". Turkish: Kureyş) was the dominant tribe of Mecca upon the appearance of the religion of Islam. It was the tribe to which the Islamic Prophet Muhammad belonged, as well as the tribe that led the initial opposition to his message.


The Quraish was a branch of the Kinana branch, which descended from the Khuzaimah, which descended from Elias bin Mudar, who descended from Adnan. The Quraish remained completely disunited until Qusai bin Kilab managed to rally their ranks on honourable terms attaching major prominence to their status and importance. After the introduction of Islam, the Quraish gained supremacy and produced the three dynasties of the Ummayads, Abbasids and Fatimides, which ruled as Caliphs.

Early history

For several generations the Quraish were spread about among other tribal groupings. About five generations before Muhammad the situation was changed by Qusai ibn Kilab. By war and diplomacy he assembled an alliance that delivered to him the possession of the Meccan Sanctuary (the Kaaba). He then gathered his fellow tribesmen to settle at Mecca, where he enjoyed such adulation from his kin that they adjudged him their de facto king, a position that was enjoyed by no other descendant of his.

Arab lineages

According to traditional legends, Arab lineages allegedly originate from three groups:

  1. Perished Arabs (العرب البائدة): These are the ancients of whose history little is known. They include ‘Ad, Thamûd, Tasam, Jadis, Imlaq and others.
  2. Pure Arabs (العرب العاربة): They allegedly originated from the progeny of Ya‘rub bin Yashjub bin Qahtan bin Hud so were also called Qahtanian Arabs.
  3. Arabized Arabs (العرب المستعربة): They allegedly originated from the progeny of Ishmael and were also called ‘Adnanian Arabs. The Quraish are a branch of the "Arabized Arabs".

The Quraish had become a prominent tribe in Mecca before the birth of Muhammad and essentially ruled the city. Before Muhammad's birth, the tribe had split into different clans, each with different responsibilities. There were some rivalries among the clans, but these became especially pronounced during Muhammad's lifetime. Some clan leaders did not appreciate Muhammad's claim of prophethood and tried to silence him by putting pressure on his uncle, Abu Talib. Many of the clans also began to persecute the followers of Muhammad, for example by boycotting them. This response led Muhammad to initially send some Muslims to Ethiopia, and later would lead to his own emigration to Medina.

After Muhammad's conquest of Mecca in 630, he pardoned many of those who had oppressed him before, and peace among the different clans was maintained. After Muhammad's death, clan rivalries reignited, playing central roles in the conflicts over the Caliphate and contributing to the Shi'a-Sunni divide.


Quraish branched out into various sub-clans, who in turn branched out into yet further sub-clans. Roughly the division corresponded to the family lines of the current chieftain of that clan having sons.

  • Banu Quraish — Quraish was divided into several sub-clans.

*Banu Abd-al-dar — sub-clan of Quraish
*Banu Abd Manaf — sub-clan of Quraish
*Banu Nawfal — sub-clan of Banu Abd Manaf, clan of Mut`im ibn ‘Adi
*Banu Muttalib — sub-clan of Banu Abd Manaf
*Banu Hashim — sub-clan of Banu Abd Manaf, clan of Muhammad and Ali.
*Banu Abd Shams — sub-clan of Banu Abd Manaf, parent clan of Banu Umayyah.
*Banu Umayyah — sub-clan of Banu Abd Shams, clan of Abu Sufyan and Uthman ibn Affan

*Banu Makhzum — sub-clan of Quraish, clan of Khalid ibn al-Walid
*Banu Zuhrah — sub-clan of Quraish, clan of Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas
*Banu Taim — sub-clan of Quraish, clan of Abu Bakr
*Banu Adi — sub-clan of Quraish, clan of Umar ibn al-Khattab
*Banu Asad (Quraysh) — sub-clan of Quraish, clan of Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr and Khadijah

(uncategorized Quraish sub-clans)

Leaders of the Quraish

The leaders of Quraysh, who formed Mecca's aristocracy upon the appearance of Muhammad, were referred to as the Leaders of the Quraysh (Arabic: Sadat Quraysh).

A list of them include:

Muhammad's Tribe

Arabia at the time of Muhammad, in the 7th century AD, was a nation of tribes who had no central government; this was most beneficial in one way: since there was no nation in the usual sense, Arabia was one of the very few nations that had never been subjugated. Arabia then was divided into 3 portions: 1) Arabia Petra, the north of the peninsula; 2) Arabia Deserta, the middle desert region called the Rub al Khali; and 3) Arabia Felix, the prosperous southern regions. Most of the Arabs were Bedawi (Bedouin) Arabs. Trading cities were not unknown, in fact some cities were thriving trading centers, like Mecca and Medina; and within these centers were council houses which transacted the issues that were put before it. Here again the tribe and its position were of prime importance: the most powerful tribe had the most say in the council and smaller tribes signed treaties for protection. Arabia lived a life of plundering caravans that passed through their areas.

The races that have peopled Arabia are considered under the following names:

  1. al-Arab-ul-Baidah, meaning ‘the lost Arabs’: these are the races that no longer exist but are referenced in traditional songs and written about in folklore;
  2. al-Arab-ul-Ariba meaning ‘the pure Arabs’: these are the tribes that are considered to have been descended from Qahtan, who is in turn traced to have been descended from Noah’s son Shem;
  3. al-Arab-al-Mustariba meaning ‘the mixed Arabs’: this line of Arabs traced their line to Ishmael, the son of the prophet Abraham, who migrated and married to the Arab-ul-Ariba of Mecca. Muhammad’s line is traced to Kedar, one of the sons of Ishmael.

Abraham was the prophet after Noah (and Noah was after Adam) to have been inspired by the word of God. He had two sons Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac is the father of the Jews and Ishmael is the father of the Quraishi Arabs. It is believed that the word Arab comes from Yereb, who was one of the descendants of Qahtan, the originator of the 2nd type of Arabs: Arab-ul-Ariba.

Within the tribes they were sub-divided into various families, with each family being identified by the name of the patriarch; for example: Muhammad belonged to the Quresh tribe and within that tribe he was of the Beni Hashim clan; within the tribe of Quraish there were numerous other family clans that made up the Quraish. ‘Beni’ means ‘children of’, hence the name Beni Hashim means ‘the family, or children of Hashim’.

Hashim was the name of Muhammad’s great grand father. His tribe, the Quraishis, were of the third kind of Arabian tribes – Arab-al-Mustariba, the ones who traced their lineage back to Ishmael, the son of Abraham. Due to this fact of their ancestry, that the Quraish were the tribe that traditionally provided food and water to the pilgrims who visited the Kaaba in Mecca, because they believed that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The family tree of Muhammad has been traced by the Arabian scholars back 21 generations to a patriarch called Adnan, who is their link to Ishmael bin Abraham. The time span of this ancestry goes back 660 years backward from the birth of Muhammad in the year 570 AD.

The fortunes of this tribe waxed and waned, and to be honest: the history that is provided for the time period before the birth of Christ is not very trustworthy. At the dawn of the Christian era the authority of the Quraish was usurped by another tribe called the Jurhum. The Juhrum belonged to the tribe of the pure Arabs as against the Kuresh who were the mixed Arabs. They were in control of Mecca till the 3rd century till another tribe called the Khozaa dislodged the Jhurum from their place. Before retreating from Mecca, they filled up the Zamzam well that lay in the vicinity of the Kaaba.

The Khozaa tribe hung on till the mid of the 5th century, when there appeared on the Quraishi horizon a man named Qusai, and he vowed to return the Quraish their rightful place of command in Mecca. Qusai won the fight. Qusai was the 4th generation grand father of Muhammad and the grand father of Hashim. The name Quraish signifies a shark or big sea creature, and thus a connotation for power and strength. Quosai expanded the city of Mecca and gathered all his kinfolk around him. He gave each of them special quarters in the city. He built a council hall near the Kaaba for the transaction of important business. As the custodian of the Kaaba, Qusai assumed five important functions: 1. possession of the keys of, and to, the Kaaba 2. distribution of food and water to the pilgrims. (the Kaaba was a center of Arabian worship and veneration centuries before the advent of Islam) 3. command of the troops in war 4. affixment of the standard and giving it to the standard bearer in times of war 5. presidency of the council in Mecca.

All this achieved, Qusai became the Sherif of Mecca and chief of the surrounding areas.

Included among the sons of Qusai were: Abd-ad-Dar, Abd-al-Ozza and Abd Menaf. As Qusai aged, he transferred the rights of his office to his son Abd-ad-Dar. The tenure of Abd-ad-Dar and his sons passed without incident, and time came for the grandsons of Abd-ad-Dar come to the helm. His grandsons were very young and were unable to carry out the functions of the office of the Sherif of Mecca. Abd Menaf, a brother of Abd-ad-Dar and another son of Qusai, plotted with his sons to wrest the office from the hands of the grandsons of Abd-ad-Dar. They put their claim before the Quraish tribal council and demanded to be put in charge of the office of the Sherif of Mecca. The members of the council were equally divided over the matter and no decision could be reached. It seemed that a bloody clash would ensue, when, unexpectedly a truce was called between the warring factions of the grand sons of Abd-ad-Dar and the sons of his brother Abd Menaf.

Among Abd Menaf's sons were: Hashim, Abd Shams (the Muslim legends say that there were joined at birth and severed with a stroke of the sword), Naufal and Al-Muttalib. Hashim, the son of Abd Menaf, was given the prestigious task of providing food and water to the pilgrims and the rest was retained by the grandsons of Abd-ad-Dar. Peace was called. As the years passed the prosperity of Hashim grew on account of his commercial endeavors and his fame grew because of his unparalleled generosity. His growing fame and wealth were like a thorn in the side of Omeya. Omeya was the son of Abd Shams - another son of Abd Menaf and brother to Hashim. Like Hashim had challenged the office holder before sitting in it, Omeya challenged Hashim, his uncle, to a test of superiority. What this test of superiority was the books don’t say, suffice to say that Hashim won the test and this resulted in Omeya going into exile for ten years after a payment of 50 camels. Hashim married, and his wife bore a son, and went to live in Medina with her new born son. On his death bed Hashim transferred his office to his brother Al-Muttalib. When Hashim son, Shayba, attained maturity, his uncle Al-Muttalib- brother of Hashim –went to Medina to get him to Mecca. Wandering in the streets of Mecca someone called Hashims son ‘Abd al-Muttalib’ meaning ‘servant of Muttalib’; the name stuck on and henceforth Hashims son was called Abd al-Muttalib. In due course Abd al-Muttalib was given his fathers, Hashim’s property and this was vehemently opposed by Naufal, the brother of Al-Muttalib and Hashim. Abd al-Muttalib was violently deprived of his rights by his uncle Naufal. Abd al-Muttalib appealed in vain to the tribal elders, but this was to no avail. He then beseeched the tribe of his mother Selma to help him. They responded and 80 riders came to his rescue. Naufal was subdued and the rights of Abd al-Muttalib were restored to him.

In time Abd al-Muttalib succeeded to the office of providing food and water to the pilgrims; this office at that time lacked the power and influence that it enjoyed in earlier times; and coupled with the fact that he had only one son, Abd al-Muttalib found it difficult to counter the factional friction that was ever present. It was at this time that Abd al-Muttalib found the well of Zam Zam that the Jurum tribe had filled up when they were forced out by the Khozaa tribe in the 3rd century AD, about 300 years before the time of Abd al-Muttalib. The discovery of this well changed his fortunes. He became the father of many sons and his fortunes grew until he was regarded as the virtual chief of Mecca. A promise that he had made to his deities began to take precedence at the back of his mind: he had promised that if the deities gave him ten sons he would sacrifice one son to them. He decided to choose the son by drawing lots. The lot fell on his son Abdullah. He tried to seek a compromise by offering the sacrifice of ten camels instead of Abdullah. But the lot again fell on Abdullah; Abd al-Muttalib kept increasing the number of camels by ten until it finally reached to one hundred. Now the lot fell on the camels and Abdullah was spared. In any case the life of Abdullah was short lived. After getting married to a woman called Amina, he went for a commercial enterprise to Gaza; his wife at time was pregnant. Abdullah died on that journey, a few months later his widow gave birth to a son. The name of that son was Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The prosperity of Abd al-Muttalib, the current patriarch of the Beni Hashim, invited the envy again of Omeya, the representative of the family of Abd Shams. This time Harb, the son of Omeya challenged Abd al-Muttalib to a contest of superiority; like his father he too lost and was exiled; but this event cemented the rivalry between the two families. When Abd-al-Muttalib died he was survived by his remaining six sons; he had bequeathed his office to the his son Az Zubeir; he, unable to function the office of providing food and water to the pilgrims, gave the office to his brother Abi Talib. Abi Tailb was the foster father of Muhammad and father of the celebrated Ali of Islamic history. Abi Talib too was unable to manage the office and he, in turn surrendered it to Al Abbas. During the office of Al Abbas the fortunes of the Beni Hashim deteriorated, and he was compelled to give the right of providing food up to another family. Such was the state of the families of Quraish at the time of birth of Muhammad the prophet of [Islam]. The Quraish also stretch to modern day northwestern Somalia because it is known among Somalis there was a Sheikh called Sheikh Is-haaq bin Ahmad from the Banu Hashim branch of the Quraish who went to the north coast of modern day Somalia. He had eight sons there, and his descendants are now known as Reer Sheikh Ishaaq in Somali, which means family of Sheikh Ishaaq.

Muhammad was sent to the tribe of Sa’d for the first four or five years of his childhood. On returning to Mecca, his grand father Abd al-Muttalib took care of him. But he died just two years later; while dying he entreated his son Abi Talib to take care of the young Muhammad. The word Muhammad come from the word ‘hamda’, which means ‘the praised’. Rivalries between the family of Abd Shams and the family of Hashim was a vortex which Muhammad was to face and finally counter in the earliest days of Islam.

Clans and the Caliphate

The split between the Shi'a and Sunni branches of Islam centers over the succession to Muhammad. The Sunnis believe Abu Bakr was elected as Muhammad's successor while the Shi'a (literally "party [of Ali]") believe Muhammad appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor.

Ali was a member of Muhammad's clan, the Banu Hashim. Abu Bakr, while a close companion of Muhammad, came from the Banu Taim clan.

The second Caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, was from the Banu Adi clan.

The third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, was from the Banu Umayyah clan.

When Ali was made caliph after the death of Uthman, the Caliphate was in the hands of the Banu Hashim, but he was almost immediately challenged by Muawiyah, who was a member of the Umayyad clan. After Ali's assassination at the hands of the Kharajites, the Shi'a hoped his son Hasan would become Caliph, but he deferred to Muawiyah, who established the Umayyad line of Caliphs.

After the death of Muawiyah, his son Yazid became Caliph but was almost immediately challenged by Ali's younger son, Hussein, who would not swear allegiance to Yazid for a number of reasons, among which that the Caliphate was not supposed to be hereditary, and that Yazid was said to be corrupt. Yazid's forces were stronger than those of Hussein and Hussein was killed at the Battle of Karbela. This event would ultimately lead to a full schism between Shi'a Islam and Sunni Islam.

The fact that Muhammad's descendants through Ali would be persecuted by Umayyad Caliphs did not help the matter.

Hawk of Quraish

The Hawk of Quraish is an Islamic symbol which is found on a number of emblems and flags. These include:

See also


Muhammad's Tribe: (References)

Life of Mohamet: Sir William Muir: 1894 edn / A Dictionary of Islam: Thomas Patrick Hughes: 1885 edition / Foundations of Islam: Benjamin Walker / Muhammad: Karen Armstrong / A History of Muslim Philosophy: M. M. Sharif / Selections from The Quran: Edward William Lane. 1890 edn. / Muhammad: The Benefactor of Mankind: Naseem Sadiqui. 1994 / Life of Muhammad (Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat): A. Guillaume. 2004 /

External links


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