In the long term, however, it was the ideas and people that traveled with the camel caravans that were the most important. By 500 A.D., the traditional ritual of Arab worship was but one of a number of religious options. The Sabaeans of southern Arabia followed their own system of beliefs, and these had some adherents in the interior. Followers of pagan beliefs, as well as Hanifs, mentioned in the Quran and believed to be followers of an indigenous monetheistic religion, were widespread in the peninsula. In addition, there were well-established communities of Christians and Jews. Along the gulf coast were Nestorians, while in Yemen Syrian Orthodox and smaller groups of Christians were to be found among beduin and in monasteries that dotted the northern Hijaz. In the sixth century, shortly before the birth of Muhammad, the city of Najran in what is now southwestern Saudi Arabia had a Christian church with a bishop, monks, priests, nuns, and lay clergy, and was ruled by a Jewish king. Jews were an important part not only of the Yemeni population, but also of the oases communities in the region of Medina.
Data as of December 1992
Source: Library of Congress Country Studies