The population size of Muḥammad’s Mecca and the creation of the Quraysh

Majied Robinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


n this paper we will show how Qurashī patrilines and marriage records can be statistically analysed to generate an estimate of the tribe’s size at the time of Muḥammad. By extension this will also give us an estimate for the population size of Mecca. We will begin by using the marriage data preserved in a genealogical work to identify a cohort of adult Qurashī male contemporaries of Muḥammad. We will then divide this cohort into men who had brothers versus those who did not. It will be shown that this ratio is exactly what we would expect if we were modelling a complete population and therefore it cannot be a sample. With this in place we can extrapolate the number of women and dependants that would have been linked to each man, giving us an estimate of the tribe’s size in the period. Supplementing this with selected historiographical data will give us the population size of Mecca. The resulting findings raise a series of questions concerning Qurashī origins that will then be addressed by applying a similar methodology to the eras before Muḥammad’s. This will illuminate the manner and timing of the emergence of the Quraysh as a distinct entity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-37
JournalDer Islam
Issue number1
Early online date6 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022


  • Early Islam
  • Quraysh
  • Nasab
  • Mecca
  • Jāhiliyya
  • Prosopography


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