Eminent Muslim Personalities of African Origin
May 20, 2019
Male Sahabah of African Origin – Bilal ibn Rabah
May 20, 2019

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All praise belongs solely to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, who created diversity in our forms, colours, and languages; making this a token of His Magnificence and Brilliance.


وَمِنْ أٰيَاتِهٖ خَلْقُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافُ أَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَأَلْوَانِكُمْ إِنَّ فِي ذٰلِكَ لَأٰيَاتٍ لِّلْعَالِمِيْنَ

And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.[1]


We praise Him, thank Him, implore Him for help, seek His forgiveness, believe in Him, and have full reliance on Him alone. We seek His protection from the evil lurking in our souls and from our wicked practices. Salutations and peace be upon our guide and the leader of the pious, Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and upon his family, Companions, and entire ummah.

One of the primary objectives of the revelation of the Qur’an and the Nubuwwah of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was to eradicate all forms of darkness from the world; be it disbelief, oppression, cruelty, discrimination, etc. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala announces:


الرٰ كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّوْرِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلىٰ صِرَاطِ الْعَزِيْزِ الْحَمِيْدِ

Alif, Lam, Ra. [This is] a Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that you might bring mankind out of darkness into the light by permission of their Lord, to the path of the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy.[2]


The old system whereby positions of honour were awarded to people on account of their lineage and affluence was done away with. New parameters were set and a new barometer to determine a person’s rank was instituted: Piety. Allah says:


يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَّأُنْثىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوْبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللّٰهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ عَلِيْمٌ خَبِيْرٌ

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.[3]


The level of every individual’s piety is hidden. Hence, we treat every believer with the utmost respect and reverence, believing him to enjoy closer proximity to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala than us. This attitude will erase self-supremacy, pride, and prejudice from our hearts and ultimately from the earth. This was the exact message of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam during his Farewell Hajj, “Lo! Your Rabb is one and your father is one. Harken! An Arab holds no superiority over a non-Arab nor vice versa. A fair skinned individual is not better than a dark-skinned individual nor vice versa; except by taqwa.” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam then asked, “Which day is this?” “The sacred day (Day of ‘Arafah),” came the reply. “Which month is this?” “The sacred month (Dhu al Hijjah).” “Which city is this?” “The sacred city (Haram).” Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam declared, “Certainly, Allah has made your blood, wealth, and honour sacred just as the sacredness of this day, in this month, in this city.”[4]

This book, through the grace of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, emphasises the universal brotherhood which Islam embodies, and the manner in which Islam eradicated inequality and gave rights and honour to those who society looked down upon. Here you have Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the noblest of mankind from the noblest lineage, appointing a former African slave as his first Mu’adhin, the Imam of the Muhajirin at Quba’ being a former African slave, the person who Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam seated behind him as he rode into Makkah for the classic Conquest of Makkah was the son of a former African slave-girl, and the woman whom Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam referred to as his mother was an African woman. These are practical manifestations of the equality Islam brought and established.

The African continent and its inhabitants may be justly proud of the fact that three among the first seven to openly proclaim their faith were of African origin. From the soil of Africa, came the first martyr of Islam, the land of Africa was the first land the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum made hijrah to at the command of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the first king to accept Islam was from Africa; and the list can go on.

Our focus in this book is to highlight the outstanding qualities of eminent personalities of African origin, mainly among the cream of this ummah—the honourable Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum—as an encouragement for all to imbibe within themselves their praiseworthy characteristics and emulate these remarkable personalities, so that we may share in the divine promise:


وَالسَّابِقُوْنَ الْأَوَّلُوْنَ مِنَ الْمُهَاجِرِيْنَ وَالْأَنْصَارِ وَالَّذِيْنَ اتَّبَعُوْهُمْ بِإِحْسَانٍ رَّضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوْا عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِيْ تَحْتَهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِيْنَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيْمُ

And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajirin and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct—Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.[5]


Researching content for this book was inspirational as well as educational. Not in my wildest dreams did I envisage locating 38 names of Sahabah of African origin. Together with listing their impressive merits and achievements, their biographies were related, sourced from reliable books of the Ahlus Sunnah. At the end, the biographies of two oceans of knowledge among the Tabi’in, the students of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, were included, to bring the number to 40. We pray and hope that this book develops within ourselves humility, eradicates pride and its evil offshoots: self-supremacy and racism.

After studying the lives of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum of African origin, one will come to the realisation that most of them were slaves or children of slaves. Despite their humble beginnings, they rose to lofty ranks of glory and admiration. The message is loud and clear: Nobility does not lie in skin colour, lineage, beauty, or affluence. Rather, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala favours His righteous servants with honour. Another momentous observation one will make is that all of them were emancipated. This supports that Islam came to liberate mankind and grant them independence.

We praise Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala in the beginning and end. It is purely His benevolence upon us worthless souls to embark on such an adventure, through the life stories of the elite of this ummah, and bring such a project to completion.

This book would not have seen the light of day had it not been for the vision and encouragement of Brother Ridwan Laher, who supported this initiative to the very end. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala shower him with his choicest bounties. My heartfelt appreciation also goes out to the Mahajjah Research Institute for awarding me the opportunity to embark on this educational adventure, and for their continuous support, encouragement, and guidance. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala shower His choicest blessings on them and reward them tremendously.

O Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala, accept this through Your mercy and benevolence. Allow us to love, respect, and emulate Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his selected Companions radiya Llahu ‘anhum. Gather us with them under the shade of Your Throne on the Fearful Day of Qiyamah and unite us with them in the Gardens of Bliss, in Jannat al Firdaws. Amin.


Ebrahim Rawat

7 Ramadan 1440

13 May 2019



NEXT⇒ Male Sahabah of African Origin – Bilal ibn Rabah

[1]  Surah al Rum: 22.

[2]  Surah Ibrahim: 1

[3]  Surah al Hujurat: 13.

[4]Musnad Ahmed, Hadith: 22978.

[5]  Surah al Tawbah: 100.

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