A Collection of Wisdom: Proverbs

Arabic Proverbs

Habit is the sixth sense that dominates the other five.

He who wants to sell his honor will always find a buyer.

Call someone your lord…and he’ll sell you in the slave market.

The garlic complained to the onion, “You stink!”

How can the person who is eating dates prohibit the eating of dates?

If you count your friend’s mistakes, he will desert you.

Many wars have been caused by a single word.

Wisdom consists of ten parts: nine parts silence, and one part a few words.

Examine what is said, not who is speaking.

A sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to our steps as we walk the tightrope of life.

There has to be a first time for everything—even the most natural habits.

Don’t celebrate someone’s departing unless you know who will succeed him.

The person who predicts the future is lying, even when he is right.

Trust God, but tie up your camel.

It’s better to be a free dog than a caged lion.

It’s better to have a thousand enemies outside of the tent than one inside the tent.

There is no greater misfortune than your own.

Throw a resourceful person into a river, and he will probably come out with a fish in his hand.

Don’t pour away your water due to a mirage.

If you stop every time a dog barks, then your road will never end.

If man’s mouth was silent, then another part would speak.

Example is better than law.

Iraqi Proverbs

Lebanese Proverbs

Live near water, and ask not about sustenance. (Oman)

Birds align with grain, but not with the stick. (Oman)

If your motive is good, a farting donkey won’t harm you. (Oman)

Build with silver and cover with gold. (Oman)

Every village has certain drawbacks to it. (Oman)

Nobody is perfect. (Palestine)

Hit the iron while it’s still hot. (Palestine)

Do not drink poison to quench a thirst. (Palestine)

A small house is enough room for a thousand friends. (Syria)

In every village, there is a path that leads to the mill. (Syria)

Keep away from trouble and sing to it. (Syria)

A little spark can kindle a great fire. (Syria)

Choose the neighbor before the house. (Syria)

The person who deals in camels should make the doors high. (Syria)

Setting the conditions before you make an agreement is better than having an argument in the middle of the work. (Yemen)


Arabia is a term that generally refers to a group of countries throughout the Middle East region that have similar culture and language. Some African countries that speak Arabic are also sometimes referred to as part of Arabia. Throughout much of history, most Arabs were tribal people that were either desert nomads or farmers that formed small villages near Oasis.

The Arabia region and nearby territories is where many of the world’s early cities and Empires began, including Sumer (c3000 BC-c2000 BC), Akkad (c2300s BC-c2100 BC), Mesopotamia (name of the region where many of these civilizations existed), Babylonia (on-and-off c2000 BC-c539 BC), Assyria (c2500 BC-600s BC), Canaanite Cities (c2000 BC-900s BC), Judah (on-and-off 900s BC-300s BC), and Judea (100s BC-100s AD). (Note: Judah and Judean Proverbs are covered in the Hebrew Proverbs section of this chapter.)

From around the 600s BC to 500 AD, some Arab regions also became under control of the Persian Empire, the Alexander of Macedon and successors Empire, the Seleucid Kingdom, the Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire.

In the 600s AD, most of Arabia was unified under religious leader Muhammad, who founded the religion of Islam (see the Islam chapter of this book for more info). Arab Muslim groups ruled much of Arabia and other territories until Mongols invaded and ruled in the 1200s to 1300s. The Crusaders also ruled some of Arabia for parts of the 1300s.

From the 1500s to the early 1900s, the Ottoman Empire became a major force in Arabia. The Portuguese also controlled several Arabic territories in the 1500s and 1600s.

By the early 1900s, British and other European groups established a presence in many Arabic regions, which soon comprised of over a dozen separated countries. By the mid 1900s, most Arab countries gained full independence from European influence.

Today, about half of all Arabs live in cities and towns, while the other half live in small villages. Most people have Arab ethnicities, but other cultural groups also exist in the region.

Current Middle Eastern Arab countries and regions include Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (also see the African Proverbs section for African Arab countries.)

Common themes of the Arab world include Islam (which is based on an Arabic holy book called the Quran), hospitality, strong family ties, hot summers, petroleum, camels, mustaches, dancing (including belly dancing), music, films, soccer, weapons, art, poetry, museums, architecture, the Al Jazeera television network, rice, bread, yogurt, cheese, dates, tea, stew, chickpeas, and lentils.

Note: Most Arab proverbs apply to the entire Arab region; however, I have accompanied some of them with a single country source.