There was a black companion who was martyred who did not know how to make Salah, never paid Zakah, nor fasted Ramadan during the Madani era; this companion was known as Aslam Ar-Ra’i (RA).
According Al-Isabah compiled by ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, Aslam was from Abyssinian lineage and was a shepherd for Jewish people at Ghazwah Khaybar. He came to the Prophet (SAWS) and accepted Islam. Without making a single prayer, he then joined those who fought at Khaybar and was martyred.
Upon hearing of Aslam’s martyrdom, the Prophet (SAWS) declared, “Surely he is with his wife, al-hur al-‘ayn.”
An imam of knowledge and man of justice in early Islamic history was Imam Musa bin Ja’far (SA).
Imam Musa Al-Kathim bin Ja’far As-Sadiq bin Muhammad Al-Baqir bin Ali As-Sajjad bin Al-Husayn As-Sibt bin Ali Al-Murtada bin Abi Talib (SA) was born in Al-Madinah during the government of Bani Umayyah. His mother was named of Hamidah, who was of Berber ethnicity. He was described as being dark brown (asmar ‘amiq) in complexion.
Imam Musa mastered all of the religious sciences under the instruction of his father Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (SA). According to Adh-Dhahabi in Siffah As-Safwah, he would stand in prayer during the night while others were asleep, and his character was of perseverance and generosity.
Imam Musa is considered to be an imam of knowledge for madhhab Zaydi and is regarded as a transmitter in the unbroken chain (silsilah) of spiritual knowledge for the Qadiri and Naqshanbandi orders. He is also revered as the 7th imam of madhhab Ja’fari.
In Al-Madinah, Imam Musa witnessed his cousin Imam Al-Husayn bin Ali Al-Fakhi (SA) call the people towards revolution against the tyranny of Bani Abbas. After the thwarted revolution and massacre at Fakh, Imam Musa was eventually imprisoned in Iraq by the Abbasi oppressor Harun bin Musa otherwise known as Harun “Ar-Rashid.”
Imam Musa achieved martyrdom by being poisoned while in prison. By the order of Harun Al-Abbasi, his corpse was then displayed on a bridge in Baghdad for people to witness.
Prior to his martyrdom, he passed down the spiritual teachings of Ahl al-Bayt to his son Imam Ali Ar-Rida (SA). From the wisdom passed down was the saying of Imam Musa that “the best generosity is to help the oppressed.”
One of the black companions of the Prophet (SAWS) was Sa’ad Al-Aswad As-Sulami (RA).
Sa’ad was from the Ansar and suffered discrimination in Al-Madinah.
Due to an inferiority complex, Sa’ad asked the Prophet (SAWS) if he too could enter into Jannah because of his low position among the Muslims. The Prophet (SAWS) replied to him that he was entitled to the same reward as other believers. Sa’ad then inquired that if he was an equal believer then why would none of the Arabs allow him to marry one of their daughters.
The Prophet (SAWS) then told Sa’ad to go to the home of ‘Amr bin Wahb to ask him for his daughter for marriage. When Sa’ad told ibn Wahb that the Prophet (SAWS) sent him to request for his daughter for marriage, ibn Wahb became angry at the proposal. Ibn Wahb also stated to him that didn’t he know that his daughter is known for her beauty! When ibn Wahb’s daughter heard this, she told her father that she could not turn down a proposal that came at the suggestion of the Messenger of Allah (SAWS)!
Sa’ad was later martyred in a battle in which it is narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) wept over him while holding him in his lap.
One of the shining lights from the offspring of the Prophet (SAWS) was Imam Yahya bin Abdillah bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (SA).
Imam Yahya was described as having dark (adam) skin, a handsome face and short. He was also described as being of the foremost of his time from Ahl al-Bayt in knowledge and virtue. He narrated extensive ahadith from his brother Imam Muhammad (SA), also known as An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah, who was also described as having dark skin as well as narrating from his cousin Imam Ja’far As-Sadiq (SA).
Imam Yahya was born into an era in which Alawis, those from the family of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (KW), suffered persecution from the government of Bani Umawi plus targeting from the khawarij who deemed Alawis to be disbelievers. This environment of suppression and oppression of Alawis continued under Bani Abbas. Nonetheless, the Alawis continued to disseminate sacred knowledge, which was passed down to them from an unbroken chain reaching back to the Prophet (SAWS).
The knowledge of Ahl al-Bayt including from Imam Yahya influenced scholars of their times such as Muhammad bin Idris Ash-Shafi’i (RH). Ash-Shafi’i (RA) was also taught by Yahya bin Khalid Al-Madani and Ibrahim Abi Yahya Al-Madani, who were both students of Imam Zayd bin Ali bin Al-Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Talib (SA). The anti-Alawi current was so strong at the time that Ash-Shafi’i as well as Abu Hanifah (RH) and Malik (RH) were oppressed and labeled “Rafidi” meaning rejecter. Ash-Shafi’i famously answered to this in a poem, “If rejection means loving the Family of Muhammad then I bear witness to the two worlds that I am Rafidi.”
Imam Yahya witnessed the revolts of his brother An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah and his cousin Imam Al-Husayn Al-Fakhi bin Ali bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (SA) brutally put down by Bani Abbas. In fact, Imam Ali Ar-Rida (SA) stated that the most brutal massacre to the Alawis since the massacre of Karbala was the massacre of the Alawis at Fakh in which Imam Al-Husayn Al-Fakhi achieved martyrdom.
After the failed uprisings, Imam Yahya retreated to Daylam in Persia, which had sympathy for the Alawis. Eventually, Imam Yahya was imprisoned by Harun bin Musa Al-Abbasi, who is commonly known as Harun “Ar-Rashid.” In prison, Imam Yahya achieved martyrdom after being brutally tortured and starved to death.
One of the pious teachers of the Qur’an among the companions was Salim bin Ma’qil (RA).
Salim roots were from Istakhr, which is in the southern portion of modern day Iran. He was the first black companion of the Prophet (SAWS) mentioned in Tanwir Al-Ghabash written by Hanbali scholar ibn Al-Jawzi, a book that chronicles Arab relations between Africans and early Muslims who were black.
Salim embraced Islam in Makkah and was freed from slavery, becoming a client of Abu Hudhayfah. He was one who migrated to Al-Madinah for the sake of Allah (SWT). Abdullah bin ‘Umar said that he was the most knowledgeable in the Qur’an of those who first migrated to Al-Madinah. Later on in Al-Madinah, the Prophet (SAWS) told the people that they should learn the Qur’an from four companions, those being Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Salim Mawla Abi Hudhayfah, Ubay bin Ka’ab and Mu’adh bin Jabal.
Salim accompanied Khalid bin Al-Walid, who was the general sent by the Prophet (SAWS), to get allegiance from the Tribe of Jadhimah through Islam or have them pay taxes. Even though the men of Jadhimah declared Islam upon their visitation, Khalid began to kill them anyway. Salim reprimanded Khalid and listed off to him the crimes that he committed according to the sacred law. When word got back to the Prophet (SAWS) regarding Khalid’s unlawful killings, the Prophet (SAWS) proclaimed loudly, “Oh Allah! Surely I am free of what Khalid has done!” The Prophet (SAWS) said of Salim that “Allah loves the truth from his heart.”
In Ghazwah Al-Yamamah, Salim urged the Muslims on by chanting, “Oh People of the Qur’an! Beautify the Qur’an with your deeds!” When the standard bearer Zayd bin al-Khattab was martyred, Salim lifted the standard. When his right hand was severed in the battle, he then continued by lifting it with his left hand. In this battle, Salim achieved martyrdom next to Abu Hudhayfah, his client.
One of the first Muslims to accept Islam among the People of Al-Madinah was ‘Ubadah bin As-Samit (RA).
‘Ubadah was born in Al-Madinah and was from the Tribe of Khazraj. He was described as being tall, dark (asmar) and handsome.
‘Ubadah was one of those who took the pledge with the Prophet (SAWS) on the 2nd night of ‘Aqabah before the Prophet (SAWS) and the Muslims in Makkah had migrated to Al-Madinah. He was one of the first 12 people of Al-Madinah to accept Islam. He later participated with the Prophet (SAWS) in all of the major campaigns including Badr, Uhud and Khandaq. He was also one of the scribes who wrote down the Qur’an.
During the government of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab when Egypt was conquered, ‘Ubadah led a delegation to visit the Coptic leader Al-Muqawqis. Seeing that ‘Ubadah was black, Al-Muqawqis said, “Take this black man (aswad) away from me and have someone else come speak to me!” The Muslims replied, ““This black man is the best of us in knowledge and wisdom. He is our leader, the best of us, and has been appointed over us. We all refer to his opinions, and our leader has appointed him over us and ordered us not to go against him.” He replied to the delegation, “How can you accept this black man as the best among you? Rather he should be the least among you!”
‘Ubadah then spoke to Al-Muqawqis in which he was troubled by being addressed by a black man and even more of his words, which emanated from the Prophetic Sunnah.
During the government of ‘Uthman bin Affan, ‘Ubadah spoke about problematic issues, which he witnessed in Syria. His speech upset the Governor of Syria Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan. Mu’awiyah wrote to ‘Uthman, “Surely ‘Ubadah is the most troublesome in Syria to me and its people.” ‘Ubadah was then sent to ‘Uthman in which ‘Ubadah responded to Mu’awiyah’s accusations by saying, “The Prophet (SAWS) said, ‘Torrential will be your affairs after me when men recognize what is wrong, but it will not be disliked for themselves what they recognize. So do not obey whoever disobeys nor send astray people from your Lord.’”
‘Ubadah later moved to Jerusalem where he was buried at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa during the government of Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan.
A man of knowledge and character among the early generations of Muslims was Imam Muhammad bin Idris (RA).
Imam Muhammad was from Ahl al-Bayt, the Household of the Prophet (SAWS), being a descendant of Imam Al-Hasan bin Ali (SA). He was born in Fas, which resides in modern day Morocco. He was described as having brown (asmar) skin and very kinky (aj’ad) hair.
Imam Muhammad was the third ruler of the Adarisah government in North Africa, which was established by his grandfather Mawla Idris (SA) after he escaped the massacre of the Alawis, meaning the offspring of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (KW), in Fakh by the government of Bani Abbas.
Imam Muhammad was known to be a man of piety and justice to the point that people envied his character.
Imam Muhammad’s rule lasted for a short period, beginning at 213 AH and ending upon his demise in 221 AH. He was succeeded by his son Imam Ali bin Muhammad (RA) also known as Haydarah. After Imam Ali ruled for 12 years, he was succeeded by his brother Imam Yahya bin Muhammad (RA). Imam Yahya founded Al-Qarawiyyin masjid in Fas in which the religious sciences passed down through his father Imam Muhammad’s chain of knowledge were taught. Al-Qarawiyyin is considered to be one prestigious centers of Islamic learning to this day.