- in your view what do we actually know about the history of seventh century Arabia? (that is the peninsula as opposed to Iraq, Palestine, Syria and neighbouring areas). I’m assuming that you would see Mecca and Yathrib/Medina as insignificant at this time so they don’t need any further mention. But what about Yemen, the rest of South Arabia, and the east coast?
One knows (relatively) well Yemen (in which Najran is included), 5, 6th c. Yathrib is a step in caravan road in the 4th c. (Roman source). One knows the Nabatean/Roman area (1st-4th c.) Hegra- Dedan. One knows the East coast until Qatar where there are monasteries 5 (?) 6th c.With all of this, has to be considered the interaction of Persia, Roman Empire and Axum (Ethiopia) in those areas until the end of the 6th c.
If we rule out the traditional narrative are there any other sources that can be used?
All the sources concerning the areas aforementioned (epigraphic, archaeologic and scribal)have to be examined to have a landscape of what's going on there before the 7th c.
Or can the traditional narrative still be used to extract something about the history?
History before Islam recounted by the traditional narrative is shaped through the prism of the frame Mecca/Medina/Muhammad. Therefore it has to be always checked with the other sources available.
Are there any secure dates for when different areas came under ‘Arab’ rule?
Nope.Difficult question. When (exactly) Yemen came under ‘Arab’ (Muslim) rule? One have only the traditional narrative. The East coast (for me...) was the first ruled.
How significant was the role of soldiers recruited from Arabia in the wider conquests and do you think the conquests involved a significant migration of people out of Arabia (as opposed to Arabic speakers from Iraq, Palestine etc)?
Not very significant (for me...) in the beginning. But, once the Arabs ruled Iraq-Persia,Syria-Palestine, Egypt, it's seems rather plausible that (for me...) it drained the what little population there was in the peninsula outside the areas aforementioned. People had no reason to leave Yemen (in 630 considering that the Maarib issue was already settled; people were gone since a certain time) or the East coast.
I’ve noticed before that accounts of the conquests don’t see the taking of Yemen, say, as requiring any real explanation although to me it doesn’t seem any less important than somewhere like Egypt. Or is this just an issue with a lack of sources?
Interesting remark.I didn't really look at the history of the conquest of Yemen. Maybe I should. Egypt was wealthier and a dominion of the Romans. This was not the case of Yemen. I have to see what Tabari says about the conquest.