Banu Kilab (/ALA-LC: Banū Kilāb) was an Arab tribe that dominated central Arabia during the late pre-Islamic era. It was a major branch of the Banu 'Amir ibn Sa'sa' tribe and was thus of north Arabian or Qaysi lineage. During and after the Muslim conquest of Syria, Kilabi tribesmen migrated to northern Syria. Their chieftain Zufar ibn al-Harith al-Kilabi led the Qaysi revolt against the Umayyad Caliphate until he secured peace with the latter in 691.
Two more mass migrations of Kilabi tribesmen to northern Syria occurred in the 9th and 10th centuries, the last wave being associated with the rebellious Qarmatian movement. By their numerical strength, skilled swordsmanship and Bedouin mobility, the Banu Kilab emerged as the dominant military force in the desert steppe north of Palmyra and around Aleppo at the expense of well-established, semi-sedentary tribes. They were involved in the rise of the Hamdanid dynasty in the late 10th century, but often rebelled and participated in intra-dynastic disputes. In the early 11th century, the Kilabi chief Salih ibn Mirdas assumed leadership of the tribe and by 1025 established an emirate (principality) based in Aleppo that included much of western Upper Mesopotamia and northern Syria. His Mirdasid dynasty ruled Aleppo more or less continuously until 1080.
The Banu Kilab were a major branch of the Banu 'Amir ibn Sa'sa', a large Bedouin (nomadic Arab) tribal confederation, which was first mentioned in the mid-6th century. The Banu Kilab's progenitor was a certain Kilab ibn Rabi'ah ibn 'Amir. The Banu Kilab's original homeland was in central Najd, in a large area that would become known as the Ḥima Ḍarīyya. A ḥima (pl. aḥmāʾ; protected or forbidden place) was an area with some vegetation in the desert reserved for the breeding of Arabian horses, that unlike camels, required water and herbaceous vegetation daily. The zone was controlled by a certain tribe and access to the ḥima was restricted to members of the tribe. The aḥmāʾ first emerged in Najd in the 5th or 6th centuries, and the most famous ḥima was the Ḥima Ḍarīyya, according to historian Irfan Shahid. At one point in the pre-Islamic era (pre-630s), the Banu Kilab controlled nine-tenths of the Ḥima Ḍarīyya.
There were at least ten first-tier divisions of the Banu Kilab, each named after a son of Kilab ibn Rabi'ah. They were the following: 'Abd Allah, Abu Bakr, al-Adbat, 'Amir, 'Amr, Ja'far, Ka'b, Mu'awiyah al-Dibab, Rabi'ah and Ru'as. According to historian Werner Caskel, the major divisions were 'Abd Allah, Abu Bakr, 'Amr, Ja'far and Mu'awiyah al-Dibab. In the pre-Islamic era, the preeminent chieftains of the Banu Kilab came from the Ja'far division, but the largest and strongest division of the Banu Kilab was the Abu Bakr. The 'Amr were the second largest and the other divisions were somewhat smaller.
Each division was composed of several branches and sub-tribes. Of the Abu Bakr were 'Abd, 'Abd Allah and Ka'b; the latter's largest sub-tribes were the 'Arar, Awf and Rabi'ah, all descended from Ka'b ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Abu Bakr. The Mirdasid dynasty belonged to the Rabi'ah sub-tribe. The Ja'far's branches were al-Ahwas, Khalid, Malik and 'Utba. The well-known Arab poet, Labīd, was a member of the Malik branch.