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The Judham (Arabic: بنو جذام‎, Judhām) was an Arab tribe that inhabited the southern Levant and northwestern Arabia during the Byzantine and early Islamic eras (5th–8th centuries). Under the Byzantines, the tribe was nominally Christian and fought against the Muslim army between 629 and 636 when the Byzantines and their Arab allies were defeated at the Battle of Yarmouk. Afterward, the Judham converted to Islam and became the largest tribal faction of Jund Filastin (district of Palestine).

The genealogical origins of the Judham are unclear. They may have been descendants of the northern Arabs, though the tribe itself claimed Yemenite (southern Arab) origins. However, this may have done to draw closer to their Yemenite allies in Syria.


The Judham ultimately traced their descent to the Yemenite Kahlan ibn Saba and claimed kinship ties with the tribes of Lakhm and Amila.[1] The 9th-century Arab genealogist and historian Ibn Abd Rabbihi recorded that the Judham, Lakhm (progenitor's name was Mālik) and Amila (progenior's name was al-Ḥārith) were all sons of ʿAdī ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Murra ibn Udad ibn Zayd ibn Yashjub ibn ʿArīb ibn Zayd ibn Kahlān ibn Sabaʾ.[2] As such, the Judham and Lakhm were, on record, brother tribes.[3] The Lakhm were mainly concentrated in the northern Euphrates valley, but they maintained smaller numbers in Palestine where they intermixed with the Judham.[3] The tribes' genealogical claims may have been made out of political convenience to draw closer to each other and their Yemenite allies in Syria.[1] Their rivals claimed that the Judham, Lakhm and Quda'a were all northern Arabs descended from Nizar ibn Ma'add that forged Yemenite genealogies for political considerations.[1]

Prior to the rise of Islam in the mid-7th century, the Judham nomads roamed the desert frontier areas of Byzantine Palestine and Syria, controlling places such as the Madyan, Amman, Ma'an, Adhruh, Tabuk as far south as Wadi al-Qura.[1] They served as foederati (tribal federates) of the Byzantines and through their contact with the latter became Christians, albeit superficially.[1][4][5] However, their Christianity was disputed by the 9th-century historian Hisham ibn al-Kalbi who asserted that during the Byzantine era, the Judham worshipped the pagan idol al-Uqaysir.[1] Some sections were also inclined towards Judaism, however, few actually converted to the faith.[6] The Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir in Yathrib (Medina) descended from the Judham.[1]

Islamic eraEdit

During the lifetime of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the Judham rejected Islam and remained loyal to the Byzantine Empire.[7] They blocked Muhammad’s northward expansion into Syria by fighting alongside the Byzantine’s at the Battle of Mu'tah in 629.[1] One of their clans, the Dhubayb, afterward converted to Islam, but the tribe as a whole still opposed the Muslims, who launched punitive expeditions against them under the command of Zayd ibn Haritha and Amr ibn al-As.[1] The tribe formed part of the Arab contingents of Byzantine emperor Heraclius’ army at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, but were defeated.[1] The Muslim conquest of the Levant ensued, during which the Judham converted to Islam and participated in the Muslim campaign.[1]

In the Muslim military administration of Syria, the Judham became the largest faction in Jund Filastin (military district of Palestine).[1] They were close allies of the Banu Kalb and together the two tribes formed the lynchpin of the Yemenite tribal alliance in Syria during the struggle with the Qays.[1] Upon the death of the Umayyad caliph Muawiyah II in 684, the Judham became divided with one of its leaders, Natil ibn Qays, allying with the rival caliphate of Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and another leader, Rawh ibn Zinba, allying with the Umayyad caliph Marwan I.[1][8] The latter and his sons ultimately prevailed against Ibn al-Zubayr and the Judham remained closely allied with the Umayyads until their demise in 750.[1]

The Judham eventually fused with the Amila in the Galilee area, and in the early 11th century, they moved into southern Lebanon.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Bosworth 1965, p. 573.
  2. ^ Ibn Abd Rabbih, ed. Boullata, pp. 296–297.
  3. ^ a b Gil 1997, p. 19.
  4. ^ Ian Gilman; Hans-Joachim Klimkeit (11 Jan 2013). Christians in Asia before 1500. Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 9781136109782.
  5. ^ Smith, Gerald Rex; Smart, James R.; Pridham, Brian R., eds. (1 Jan 1996). New Arabian Studies, Volume 3 (illustrated ed.). University of Exeter Press. p. 95. ISBN 9780859894791.
  6. ^ Gil 1997, p. 18.
  7. ^ Gil 1997, p. 24.
  8. ^ Gil 1997, pp. 76–77.
  9. ^ Kenneth M. Setton; Norman P. Zacour; Harry W. Hazard (1 Sep 1985). A History of the Crusades: The Impact of the Crusades on the Near East (illustrated ed.). Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 91. ISBN 9780299091446.