Arabic is a Semitic language spoken by more than 200 million people. It originated in the Arabian Peninsula in antiquity, and was spread to its current extent by the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Today Arabic is the predominant language of much of the Middle East and North Africa, and is spoken by minorities in sub-Saharan Africa, Iran, and Central Asia. In addition, many languages of the Islamic world, such as Persian, have borrowed their alphabet and much of their vocabulary from it. Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam and is an official or co-official language in the 22 countries which together make up the Arab World.