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 "Yūnānīm" (similar to 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:
- Suhayb ar-Rumi, a companion of Muhammad
- Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Rumi), the 13th century Persian poet
- Qāḍī Zāda al-Rūmī, 14th century mathematician
- Tadj ol-Molouk Ayrumlu, Former Queen of Iran (This may be incorrect, aa the Wikipedia article Ayrums claims Tadj ol-Molouk Ayromlou [sic] as an Ayrum, and defines Ayrums as an Azeri subgroup, which, it says, is unrelated to the Urums. This implies her name may not be derived from Al-Rūmī. Reviewing the history of the Ayrum article shows that at one point a different origin related to Rûm, Hayhurum, was proposed for the Ayrum people; but if Ayrum is derived from Hayhurum, then it is still not a form of Al-Rūmī. )
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".