First ,I prefer to start
with a small definition for Arabs rather than answering the question which
needs a lot of explanation , clarification and reflection . Arabs are people
who did not create a special nation for them alone but  living in different places in the world , you
may find them in Europe , Africa, and more different continents . They may
share one specific language which is Arabic and it is said that it is  valid criteria for Arabs “the ideology of
Arabism has laid down language as a universally valid criterion”(Rodinson, p.6).
I see that the Arabic language is not a valid criteria for Arabs , some people
can easily learn it but they have nothing to do with Arabs or its culture or
history. Culture and History is another criteria for Arabs , we can never
neglect the fact that history and culture have a big impact on every
individuals . Arab people have a great history and a rich culture that are
unique and special . As I said before , not everyone admit his Arab identity
even with his language  “Some refuse to
accept an Arab identity even though Arabic is their mother tongue , as is now
the case with many Arabic-speaking Jews”(Rodinson, p.7). 

Moreover , we heard a lot
that Arabs are related to Islam . We can never reject the fact that Islam comes
from the prophet Mohammed who is an Arab and spoke Arabic and The Quran is
written in Arabic  but not every Muslim
is an Arab and not every Arabs is a Muslim . “This should suffice to put an end
to the common error of Westerns in frequently 
confusing the notions “Arab” and “Muslim” ” (Rodinson,  p.26-27).People should differentiate between
those terms because it has always been Arabic Christians and Arabic Jews .

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Second , to answer the
second question about the time period . I would say that is important to know
the time period because we may divide time into two periods : Before Islam and
After Islam . In my point of view , Arabs have been always present in both
periods but After Islam they discover a religion and a prophet who came to
people and spoke with them in Arabic language and a book written in Arabic
which is the Quran but I believe that Arabs were there before Islam . Before
Islam period which is known by Pre-Islamic period is not a good reason or
argument that deny the presence of Arabs . Furthermore , where the prophet
Mohammed belongs is a good reason where we could find Arabs before Islam “the tribe to which Muhammad belonged, and
who acquired thereby a special and privileged status among the pre-Islamic
Arabs”(Berkey, p.42).

To conclude,  According to
Rodinson  who was a French historian , Arabs
are people who speak the Arabic language and if not they know at least some
basics and can understand . Moreover , to be an Arab you need to share the
history of Arabs and believe in  Islam
even though it is not necessary to be an Arab if you are a Muslim as we
discussed before “belief in the Muslim region (which is not limited exclusively
to this people)”(Rodinson, p.45). Furthermore, Arab Identity means a lot for
Arabs , without an Arab identity you are not part of this community and you
will always be an Arab if you have your identity even if you deny it or not
admit it . In addition to this 3 criteria and the mistaken criteria of Islam
and others that Rodinson mentioned are the main and valid criteria for being an
Arab and define the Arabs .