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In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions.
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.
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.
Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani had another view; he states that Arabs were called Gharab ("West") by Mesopotamians because Bedouins originally resided to the west of Mesopotamia; the term was then corrupted into "Arab".
Today, "Arab" refers to a large number of people whose native regions form the Arab world due to the spread of Arabs and the Arabic language throughout the region during the early Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries and the subsequent Arabisation of indigenous populations.
The Arabs forged the Rashidun (632–661), Umayyad (661–750) and the Abbasid (750–1258) caliphates, whose borders reached southern France in the west, China in the east, Anatolia in the north, and the Sudan in the south.
This makes them the world's second largest ethnic group after the Han Chinese.