This article was originally published on ciibroadcasting.com
A discussion on companions of the Messenger Muhammad SAW of African/black origin almost inevitably sparks reflection on Sayyidina Bilaal RA, Nabi SAW’s beloved Muezzin and stalwart of the Deen.
While such remembrance of Sayyidina Bilaal RA is a most fitting tribute to one of an elite crop of Sahaba, it needs to be understood that Sayyidina Bilaal RA was not the only companion of Nabi SAW who was of African origin.
In his book called Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam, Habeeb Akande lists numerous Sahabah who are known to be of African/black origin, who all featured in the vibrant multi-cultural society that the Messenger SAW created in Madinatul Munawarrah.
Included below are some illuminating biographical sketches of male companions:
Sayyidina Bilaal RA: A former slave, freed by Sayyidina Abu Bakr RA, Bilaal RA underwent great trials in defense of Tauheed. He was the first Muadhin of Islam and had the unique honour of performing the Athaan in Makkah, Madinah and Al Quds. He was also a great Mujahid, participating in great Islamic battles both during the era of the Messenger SAW as well as after his passing. Nabi SAW conveyed to him the glad tidings of hearing his footsteps in Paradise. He would be known among the Sahaba RA as their master. He passed away and is buried in Damascus.
Najashi(the Negus): Although he did not see the Messenger of Allah SAW and is not technically a companion, this just ruler of Abyssinia had the unique privilege of Nabi SAW performing his Janazah Salaah in abstentia on his passing. He offered refuge to a group of Muslims who sought asylum in his land from the oppression meted out to them by the Makkan Quraish. He embraced Islam, corresponded with Nabi SAW and passed away a believer. It is said about his grave that a light was constantly seen shining from it.
Sayyidina Usama bin Zayd RA: Usama was the son of Sayyidina Zayd bin Harithah RA and Umm Ayman, the wet nurse of the Messenger SAW. He was a great warrior and was appointed, despite his young age, as the leader of a large army which included senior Sahaba just prior to Nabi SAW’s demise.
Sayyidina Wahshi RA: Prior to embracing Islam, he was responsible for killing Sayyidina Hamza RA in the Battle of Uhud. Nabi SAW accepted his Shahadah, but requested Wahshi avoid appearing in front of him, so as to not open the painful wounds of Sayyidina Hamza’s martydom. In Islam, Wahshi devoted his spear to the defence of the faith and was responsible for the killing of the false prophet Musaylamah the Liar.
Sayyidina Sa’d al Aswad: This Sahabi complained to the Messenger of Allah SAW that many families had rejected his marriage proposals owing to his dark skin. The Messenger SAW instructed he be married to the daughter of one of his companions who was known to be extremely beautiful and intelligent. Despite reluctance from the family, the daughter accepted the request of the Messenger of Allah and they were married. As Sa’d was busy gathering possessions for his marital home, the call to Jihad was sounded and he abandoned everything to immediately respond to the call. He fought valiantly and was martyred. Nabi SAW spoke of his high status and conveyed his sighting of Sa’d's pure female companions in Jannah
Sayyidina Julaybib: He was a black man from the Ansaar. Similar to the story of Sayyidina Sa’d above, Nabi SAW got Julaybib married to a woman of very high status from among the Ansaar. He too passed away in Jihad and was personally buried by the Messenger of Allah SAW.
Sayyidina Abu Bakrah RA: He was a former slave who embraced Islam, but was only able to see Nabi SAW after the liberation of Taif. His sons grew to be very influential, wealthy and knowledgeable members of the Muslim community in Basrah
Sayyidina Salim Mawla Abu Hudhaifah RA: He was the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifah RA, and an expert Qari of the Quraan who used to often lead the Sahabah in Salaah. He held the standard in the Battle of Yamamah and was martyred there too
Sayyidina Shuqran RA: He was an Abyssinian slave, potentially purchased and freed by Nabi SAW. He served Nabi SAW and played a role in his burial
Sayyidina Muhja RA: He was a black Muhajir who was the first Muslim to be martyred in the Battle of Badr. He was an extremely observant worshipper of Allah SWT.
Sayyidina Yassar al Aswad RA: He was a black man who used to clean the Masjid of Nabi SAW. The Messenger of Allah SAW praised him as one whom Allah SWT would use to defend the people of the earth.
Sayyidina Ayman al Habshi RA: The son of Umm Ayman RA and half brother of Sayyidina Usama bin Zaid RA. He was martyred in the Battle of Hunain
Sayyidina Anjashah RA: The camel driver for Nabi SAW who had a very sweet voice
Sayyidinah Asim al Habashi RA: He was a servant who was named personally by Nabi SAW
For further details on the status and legacy of blacks and North Africans in Islam, you may read Illuminating the Darkness by Habeeb Akande. More information available HERE