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Najd or Nejd (Arabic: نجد ‎, Najd) is the central region of Saudi Arabia.

28% of Saudis live in Najd.[1] Najd consists of the regions of Riyadh, Al-Qassim, and Ha'il.

Najdis are the "dominant minority" in Saudi Arabia.[2][3] Unlike Hejaz, Najd is very remote and largely avoided falling under foreign control.


During Muhammad's era[edit]

During the Islamic Prophet Muhammad's era, Muhammad carried out military expeditions in the area. The first was the Nejd Caravan Raid, which took place in 624.

The Invasion of Nejd, happened in Rabi‘ Ath-Thani or Jumada Al-Ula, 4 A.H i.e. in October, 625 AD.[4]

Muhammad led his fighters to Nejd to scare off some tribes he believed had suspicious intentions.[5] Some scholars say the Expedition of Dhat al-Riqa took place in Nejd as part of this invasion.[5]

The caravan goods that were captured was valued at 100,000 Dirhams.[6] The goods were distributed among the fighters, and Muhammad kept one-fifth.[7]

The guide in this raid, called Furat, became a prisoner of the Muslims. According to Tabari, he was told “If you accept Islam, the Messenger of God will not kill you” (according to Tabari's version of the event),[8] he accepted Islam out of his own free will, and was allowed to go free according to Ibn Hisham.[9] The Sunan Abu Dawud hadith collection also mentions that a man called Furat was captured[10]

The most authentic opinion according to "Saifur Rahman al Mubararakpuri", however, is that Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ campaign took place after the fall of Khaibar (and not as part of the Invasion of Nejd). This is supported by the fact that Abu Hurairah and Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari witnessed the battle. Abu Hurairah embraced Islam only some days before Khaibar, and Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari came back from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and joined Muhammad at Khaibar. The rules relating to the prayer of fear which Muhammad observed at Dhat Ar-Riqa‘ campaign, were revealed at the Asfan Invasion and this scholars say, took place after Al-Khandaq (the Battle of the Trench).[5]

The Expedition of Qatan also took place in Nejd. Banu Asad ibn Khuzaymah tribe (not to be confused with the Banu Asad tribe), were the residents of Katan, in the vicinity of Fayd, was a powerful tribe connected with the Quraysh. They resided near the hill of Katan in Nejd. Muhammad, purportedly, received intelligence reports that they were planning a raid on Medina. So he dispatched a force of 150 men under the leadership of Abu Salama `Abd Allah ibn `Abd al-Asad to make a sudden attack on this tribe. On the first day of Muharram.[11][12]



A view of the Tweig (Tuwaiq) Escarpment from the west. The Saudi capital Riyadh lies just beyond the horizon.
Najd superimposed over the modern political divisions of Saudi Arabia
Najd was the next step after Hijaz in the campaigns of the Nejd Expedition.

The Arabic word najd literally means "upland" and was once applied to a variety of regions within the Arabian Peninsula. However, the most famous of these was the central region of the Peninsula roughly bounded on the west by the mountains of the Hejaz and Yemen and to the east by the historical region of Eastern Arabia and the north by Iraq and Syria.

Medieval Muslim geographers spent a great amount of time debating the exact boundaries between Hejaz and Najd in particular, but generally set the western boundaries of Najd to be wherever the western mountain ranges and lava beds began to slope eastwards, and set the eastern boundaries of Najd at the narrow strip of red sand dunes known as the Ad-Dahna Desert, some 100 km (62 mi) east of modern-day Riyadh. The southern border of Najd has always been set at the large sea of sand dunes known today as Rub' al Khali (the Empty Quarter), while the southwestern boundaries are marked by the valleys of Wadi Ranyah, Wadi Bisha, and Wadi Tathlith.

The northern boundaries of Najd have fluctuated greatly historically and received far less attention from the medieval geographers. In the early Islamic centuries, Najd was considered to extend as far north as the River Euphrates, or more specifically, the "Walls of Khosrau", constructed by the Persian Empire as a barrier between Arabia and Iraq immediately prior to the advent of Islam. The modern usage of the term encompasses the region of Al-Yamama, which was not always considered part of Najd historically.


Najd, as its name suggests, is a plateau ranging from 762 to 1,525 m (2,500 to 5,003 ft) in height and sloping downwards from west to east. The eastern sections (historically better known as Al-Yamama) are marked by oasis settlements with lots of farming and trading activities, while the rest has traditionally been sparsely occupied by nomadic Bedouins. The main topographical features include the twin mountains of Aja and Salma in the north near Ha'il, the high land of Jabal Shammar and the Tuwaiq mountain range running through its center from north to south. Also important are the various dry river-beds (wadis) such as Wadi Hanifa near Riyadh, Wadi Na'am in the south, Wadi Al-Rumah in the Al-Qassim Province in the north, and Wadi ad-Dawasir at the southernmost tip of Najd on the border with Najran. Most Najdi villages and settlements are located along these wadis, due to ability of these wadis to preserve precious rainwater in the arid desert climate, while others are located near oases. Historically, Najd itself has been divided into small provinces made up of constellations of small towns, villages and settlements, with each one usually centered on one "capital". These subdivisions are still recognized by Najdis today, as each province retains its own variation of the Najdi dialect and Najdi customs. The most prominent among these provinces are Al-'Aridh, which includes Riyadh and the historical Saudi capital of Diriyah; Al-Qassim, with its capital in Buraidah; Sudair, centered on Al Majma'ah; Al-Washm, centered on Shaqraa; and Jebel Shammar, with its capital, Ha'il. Under modern-day Saudi Arabia, however, Najd is divided into three administrative regions: Ha'il, Al-Qassim, and Riyadh, comprising a combined area of 554,000 km2 (214,000 sq mi).

Major towns[edit]

Riyadh is the largest city in Najd, as well as the largest city in the country as a whole, with a population of more than 4,700,000 in 2009. Other cities include Buraidah (505,845 in 2005), Unaizah (138,351 in 2005) and Ar Rass (116,164 in 2005).[13] Smaller towns and villages include Sudair, Al-Kharj, Dawadmi, 'Afif, Al-Zilfi, Al Majma'ah, Shaqraa, Tharmada'a, Dhurma, Al-Gway'iyyah, Al-Hareeq, Hotat Bani Tamim, Layla, As Sulayyil, and Wadi ad-Dawasir, the southernmost settlement in Najd.


Social and ethnic groups[edit]

Prior to the formation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the native population of Najd consisted mainly of members of several Arabian tribes, who were either nomads (bedouins), or sedentary farmers and merchants. The rest of the population consisted mainly of Arabs who were, for various reasons, unaffiliated with any tribes, and who mostly lived in the towns and villages of Najd working in various trades such as carpentry or as Sonnaa' (craftsmen). There was also a small segment of the population made up of African as well as some East and South Eastern European slaves or freedmen.

Most of the Najdi tribes are of Adnanite origin and emigrated from Tihamah and Hijaz to Najd in ancient times. The most famous Najdi tribes in the pre-Islamic era were Banu Hanifa, who occupied the area around modern-day Riyadh, `Anizzah, Banu Tamim, who occupied areas further north, the tribe of Banu Abs who were centered in Al-Qassim, the tribe of Tayy, centered on modern-day Ha'il, and the tribe of Banu 'Amir in southern Najd. In the 15th through 18th centuries, there was considerable tribal influx from the west, increasing both the nomadic and settled population of the area and providing fertile soil for the Wahhabi movement.[14] By the 20th century, many of the ancient tribes had morphed into new confederations or emigrated from other areas of the Middle East, and many tribes from other regions of the Peninsula had moved into Najd. However, the largest proportion of native Najdis today still belong to these ancient Najdi tribes or to their newer incarnations. Many of the Najdi tribes even in ancient times were not nomadic or bedouin but rather very well settled farmers and merchants. The royal family of Saudi Arabia, Al Saud, for example, trace their lineage to Banu Hanifa. On the eve of the formation of Saudi Arabia, the major nomadic tribes of Najd included Dawasir, Mutayr (historically known as Banu Abs), Shammar (historically known as Tayy), 'Utaybah (historically known as Hawazen), Subay', Suhool (historically known as Banu 'Amir), the Harb, and the Qahtanite. In addition to those tribes, many of the sedentary population belonged to Banu Tamim, `Anizzah (historically known as Bakr), Banu Hanifa, Banu Khalid, and Banu Zayd.

Most of the nomadic tribes are now settled either in cities such as Riyadh, or in special settlements, known as hijras, that were established in the early part of the 20th century as part of a country-wide policy undertaken by King Abdul-Aziz to put an end to nomadic life. Nomads still exist in the Kingdom, however, in very small numbers – a far cry from the days when they made up the majority of the people of the Arabian Peninsula.

Since the formation of modern Saudi Arabia, Najd, and particularly Riyadh, has seen an influx of immigrants from all regions of the country and from virtually every social class. The native Najdi population has also largely moved away from its native towns and villages to the capital, Riyadh. However, most of these villages still retain a small number of their native inhabitants. About a quarter of the population of Najd, including about a third of the population of Riyadh, are non-Saudi expatriates, including both skilled professionals and unskilled laborers.

Slavery was abolished in Saudi Arabia by King Faisal in 1962. Some of those freed slaves chose to continue working for their former slave-owners, particularly those whose former owners were members of the royal family.

Unlike Hejaz and Tihamah, Najd is remote and stayed outside of the reign of important Islamic empires such as the Umayyads and the Ottoman Empire. This fact largely shaped its current dissimilarity to Hejaz.[15]


The region is known for its puritanical interpretation of Islam and is generally considered a bastion of religious conservatism, known today as Wahhabism or Salafism.


The people of Najd have spoken Arabic, in one form or another, for practically all of recorded history. As in other regions of the Peninsula, there is a divergence between the dialect of the nomadic Bedouins and the dialect of the sedentary townspeople. The variation, however, is far less pronounced in Najd than it is elsewhere in the country, and the Najdi sedentary dialect seems to be descended from the Bedouin dialect, just as most sedentary Najdis are descendants of nomadic Bedouins themselves. The Najdi dialect is seen by some to be the least foreign-influenced of all modern Arabic dialects, due to the isolated location and harsh climate of the Najdi plateau, as well as the apparent absence of any substratum from a previous language. Indeed, not even the ancient South Arabian language appears to have been widely spoken in Najd in ancient times, unlike southern Saudi Arabia, for example. Within Najd itself, the different regions and towns have their own distinctive accents and sub-dialects. However, these have largely merged in recent times and have become heavily influenced by Arabic dialects from other regions and countries. This is particularly the case in Riyadh.


In the early 20th century, Najd produced coarse wool cloth.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

Bahiyyih Nakhjavani’s first novel The Saddlebag – A Fable for Doubters and Seekers describes events set in the Najd plateau along the pilgrim route between Mecca and Medina in 1844–1845.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Saudi Arabia Population Statistics 2011 (Arabic)" (PDF). p. 11. 
  2. ^ Fouad N. Ibrahim. "The Shiʻis of Saudi Arabia". pp. 56–57. 
  3. ^ "Saudi Society". p. 258. 
  4. ^ Hawarey, Dr. Mosab (2010). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War (Arabic). Islamic Book Trust. Note: Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic, English translation available here
  5. ^ a b c Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Saifur (2005), The Sealed Nectar, Darussalam Publications, p. 192 
  6. ^ Watt, W. Montgomery (1956). Muhammad at Medina. Oxford University Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-19-577307-1.  (online)
  7. ^ Mubarakpuri, The sealed nectar: biography of the Noble Prophet , p. 290.
  8. ^ Tabari, vol vii, p.99
  9. ^ Mubarakpuri, The sealed nectar: biography of the Noble Prophet , p. 291.
  10. ^ Sunan Abu Dawood, 14:2672
  11. ^ Mubarakpuri, The sealed nectar: biography of the Noble Prophet , p. 349.
  12. ^ Ibn Sa’d, vol.ii, p. 150
  13. ^ جريدة الرياض – عين على القصيم
  14. ^ Uwidah Metaireek Al-Juhany, Najd Before the Salafi Reform Movement: Social Political and Religious Conditions During the Three Centuries Preceding the Rise of the Saudi State (Garnet & Ithaca Press, 2002: ISBN 0-86372-401-9).
  15. ^ Riedel, Bruce (2011). "Brezhnev in the Hejaz" (PDF). The National Interest 115. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  16. ^ Prothero, G. W. (1920). Arabia. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 99.