For other uses, see Rum (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Rùm, a Scottish island.

Rûm (Arabic pronunciation: [ˈruːmˤ]), also transliterated as Roum or Rhum (in Koine Greek "Ρωμιοί" - Romioi, "Romans", in Arabic الرُّومُ ar-Rūm, Persian/Turkish روم Rûm), is a generic term used at different times in the Muslim world to refer to:

The name derives from the Greek word Ρωμιοί (singular Ρωμιός), a later form in Greek of Ῥωμαῖοι Rhomaioi: "Romans". It refers to the Byzantine Empire, which was then simply known as the "Roman Empire" and had not yet acquired the designation "Byzantine," an academic term applied only after its dissolution. The city of Rome itself is known in modern Arabic as Rūmā روما (in Classical Arabic Rūmiyah رومية). The Arabic term Rûm is found in the pre-Islamic Namara inscription[1] and later in the Quran.[2] In the Sassanian period (pre-Islamic Persia) the word Hrōmāy-īg (Middle Persian) meant "Roman" or "Byzantine", which was derived from Rhomaioi.


The Qur'an includes Surat Ar-Rum (the sura dealing with "the Romans", sometimes translated as "The Byzantines"). The people, known today as Byzantine Greeks, were the inhabitants of the Roman Empire and called themselves Ρωμιοί or Ῥωμαῖοι Rhomaioi, Romans. The term "Byzantine" is a modern designation to describe the Eastern Roman Empire, particularly after the major political restructuring of the seventh and eighth century. The Arabs, therefore, naturally called them "the Rûm", their territory "the land of the Rûm" and the Mediterranean "the Sea of the Rûm." They called Ancient Greece by the name "Yūnān" (Ionia) and ancient Greeks "Yūnānī" (like Hebrew "Yavan" [יוון] for the country and "Yevanim" [יוונים] for the people). Ancient Romans were called"Rūm" or sometimes "Latin'yun" (Latins).

Rûm as a name

Al-Rūmī is a nisbah designating people originating in the Byzantine Roman Empire or lands that formerly belonged to Byzantine Roman Empire, especially Anatolia. Historical people so designated include the following:

The Greek surname Roumeliotis stems from the word Rûm borrowed by Ottomans.

Rûm in geography

Later, because Muslim contact with the Byzantine Empire most often took place in Asia Minor (the heartland of the state from the seventh century onward), the term Rûm became fixed there geographically and remained even after the conquest by the Seljuk Turks so their territory was called the land of the Seljuks of Rûm or the Sultanate of Rûm. But as the Mediterranean was "the Sea of the Rûm", so all peoples on its north coast were called sweepingly "the Rûm".

Ottoman usage

After the conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II declared himself Kayser-i Rum, literally "Caesar of the Romans". However, later Ottoman Sultans abandoned the title and did not persist in claiming it. During the 16th century, the Portuguese used "rume" and "rumes" (plural) as a generic term to refer to the Mamluk-Ottoman forces they faced then in the Indian Ocean.[3]

Under the Ottoman Empire's Millet system, Greeks were in the "Rum Millet" (Millet-i Rum). In today's Turkey, Rum are the Turkish citizens of Greek ethnicity. The term "Urums", also derived from the same origin, is still used in contemporary ethnography to denote Turkic-speaking Greek populations. "Rumaiic" is a Greek dialect identified mainly with the Ottoman Greeks.

Among the Muslim aristocracy of South Asia, the fez is known as the Rumi Topi (which means "hat of Rome or Byzantium").[4]

Chinese, during the Ming dynasty, referred to the Ottomans as Lumi (魯迷), derived from Rum or Rumi. The Chinese also referred to Rum as Wulumu 務魯木 during the Qing dynasty. The modern Chinese name for Rome is Luoma 羅馬.

Islamic Iberia

In Al-Andalus any Christian slave girl who had embraced Islam was named Roumiya. Also, the legendary lover of King Roderic and daughter of Count Julian is named La Cava Rumía,[5] her affair being the putative cause of the Moorish invasion of Hispania in AD 711. The crusades introduced the Franks (Ifranja), and later Arabic writers recognise them and their civilization on the north shore of the Mediterranean west from Rome, as Ibn Khaldun wrote in the latter part of the 14th century.

Modern usage

There are differing opinions among Islamic scholars regarding the identity of Rûm in the modern day. Various books have been written on the topic and the relevance of the identity of Rûm in Islamic eschatology caused much debate to take place regarding the issue.

Islamist Musa Cerantonio, in his book 'Which Nation does Rūm in the Aḥādīth of the Last Days refer to?',[6] suggests that the title of Rûm was passed from the Roman Empire based in Italy to the Byzantine Empire, then to the Ottoman Empire when the Ottomans defeated the Byzantines, and openly proclaimed to be the inheritors of Rome and its leader Mehmed II called himself the Caesar of Rome (Qaysar al-Rûm), and the title of Rûm was then passed to the successors of Rûm, the modern Republic of Turkey. The book argues that the definition of Rûm has never been defined by ethnicity, geography or religion but that Rûm was always understood to be a political term and that it was only by conquest and succession that a nation would become the inheritors of the title of Rûm.

According to Imran N. Hosein, Rûm, mentioned in the Quran refers to the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was located in the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. He argues that with the disappearance of the Byzantine Empire, the headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church is now located in Russia and hence is Rûm today.[7]

Other opinions have held that Rum may refer to the European Union or Europe as a whole, to Christendom, to the West or to NATO.

See also

Note: the following entries are arranged in an etymological tree.


  1. Rûm, Nadia El Cheikh, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. VIII, ed. C.E. Bosworth, E. Van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs and G. Lecomte, (Brill, 1995), 601.
  2. Nadia Maria El-Cheikh, Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs, (Harvard University Press, 2004), 24.
  3. Ozbaran, Salih, "Ottomans as 'Rumes' in Portuguese sources in the sixteenth century", Portuguese Studies, Annual, 2001
  4. The "Rumi Topi" of Hyderabad, by Omair M. Farooqui
  5. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part I, Chapter 41 (Spanish text, English text).
  6. "Which Nation does Rūm in the Aḥādīth of the Last Days refer to?"
  7. When would the Muslims make and alliance with Rum, Is Rum the Rome in Italy? by Imran N. Hosein
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