Before the Arabian Peninsula became the stronghold of Islam, it was home to a collage of tribal nomads and fierce warriors, most of whom were Arabs. There were, however, several famous Jewish warrior tribes. The best-known of these tribes was the “Kaibar,” which eventually settled to the north of Medina (present day Saudi Arabia). The majority of these tribes were wiped out during the Moslem rise to power.

While history does not have many authoritative records about those ancient Jewish desert tribes, legend speaks of their influence on a desert sheik named Tub’a Abu Kariba As’ad, who reigned as king of Yemen (known then as Himyar) from 390-420 C.E. When Abu Kariba took his army north towards Medina, his intent was to conquer the Jews of that city. Instead, Abu Kariba returned home, bringing with him two Jewish scholars and became a convert to Judaism. Shortly thereafter, his tribesman followed suit and converted as well.

The Jewish leadership of Yemen lasted only until 525 C.E. The last and most famous Jewish king was Yosuf Dhu Nuwas, who ruled over a land already troubled by Ethiopian attempts at conquest. The Ethiopians had become Christians in the fourth century and were zealous missionaries. King Dhu Nuwas tried valiantly to free his country from the ever-increasing agitation of the Ethiopians. As part of this campaign, Dhu Nuwas conquered the city of Najran, and many of its Christian citizens were killed when they refused to surrender and live in peace. The fall of Najran, however, aroused the anger of the Christian-Byzantine world. In 525, Dhu Nuwas was killed during a Christian counter-attack. Thus ended the Jewish kingdom in Yemen.