Hamamah: One of the Early Female Companions

One of the early companions who sacrificed for the sake of Allah (SWT) was Hamamah Al-Habashiyyah (RA).

Hamamah was born in Abyssinia as a free person but was later enslaved by a man from Quraysh. While enslaved, she was able to marry Rabah, who was an Arab.

It is narrated that Abu ‘Umar stated in Al-Isbah by ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani that Hamamah was torture because of her belief in Allah (SWT), thus is a testimony that she was recognized as being Muslim. She was freed from slavery by Abu Bakr.

Abu Ali Al-Ghassani stated that this woman of honor was the mother of Bilal the Prayer Caller (RA), who the Prophet (SAWS) gave the title Master of the Prayer Callers (Sayyid Al-Mu’adhdhinin).

Hamidah: Virtuous Woman Attached to Ahl al-Bayt

Hamidah bint Sa’id (RA) was from the early generations of Muslims.  She was a black woman who was born from a mother who was enslaved.  Her ethnic background was Berber though there are conflicting narrations of whether she was born in North Africa or Muslim Spain.

Imam 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) proposed to Hamidah due to her intellect, manners and chastity.  It is reported that Imam As-Sadiq said to her, “You are praiseworthy in the world, and should be worthy of praise in the next-life.”

Hamidah gave birth to 4 children, with Imam As-Sadiq; those children were Imam Musa Al-Kathim (SA), Ishaq (SA), Muhammad Ad-Dibaj (SA) and Fatimah (SA).

It is reported that Hamidah was visited in a dream by the Prophet (SAWS) in which he (SAWS) told her to marry her son Musa Al-Kathim to Najmah Khatun, an enslaved lady who was Nubian.  Hamidah later emancipated Najmah from slavery, and her son Musa Al-Kathim then married Najmah.  Najmah later gave birth to Imam Ali Ar-Rida (SA).

Eight Abyssinians Who Migrated With Ja’far bin Abi Talib

There were two delegations of Muslims who fled Makkah to Abyssinia due to the persecution of Quraysh. After Muslims were given protection in Abyssinia, there were eight Abyssinians who accepted Islam, then left Abyssinia to Al-Madinah with Ja’far bin Abi Talib (RA).

Those men were Abrahah, Idris, Ashraf, Ayman, Bahir, Tammam, Tamim and Nafi’.

Al-Isbah by ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani states that Tammam was a Jewish rabbi before accepting Islam.

Relating to Surah Al-Qasas, ayah 52 which states, “Those to whom We gave the scripture before, they believe in it [Al-Qur’an],” Al-Mawardi in his tafsir stated that one opinion is that this ayah is related to those eight Abyssinians who were from the People of the Book that accepted Islam.
May Allah (SWT) be pleased with them.

‘Uways bin ‘Amir: The Best of the 2nd Generation

One of the stellar early Muslims was Uways bin ‘Amir Al-Qarni (RA). He was born in Yemen and came from the Tribe of Murad. He was described as having brown (asmar) skin.

Uways embraced Islam during the time of the Prophet (SAWS) though never personally meeting him. The Prophet (SAWS) told his companions of a man in Yemen who was “The Best of the Followers,” being Uways. Ahmad bin Hanbal’s opinion was that he was the most austere and the most given to salah among the second generation of Muslims. Ash-Shatibi in Al-‘Itisam also referred to him as “The Best of the Worshippers after the Companions” during their era.

Uways achieved martyrdom participating in the army of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (KW) at the Battle of Siffin. The masjid in which he was buried in Ar-Raqqah, Syria was destroyed in an attack by Daesh.

11 Lesser Discussed Aspects of Bilal bin Rabah

The most known companion of the Prophet (SAWS) who was black is Bilal bin Rabah (RA). He is known to have suffered severe torture in Makkah, to be the first caller to prayer and to have participated in the major campaigns such as Badr, Uhud and Khandaq.

Some other and perhaps lesser known aspects about Bilal are the following:

1) Bilal was born in Hijaz, not Abyssinia.

2) His father Rabah was an enslaved Arab, not Abyssinia though he is frequently referred to as Bilal Al-Habashi/The Abyssinian. His mother Hamamah was an enslaved Abyssinian.

3) The Prophet (SAWS) gave him the title “Master of the Callers to Prayer.”

4) He was the treasurer of Ummah’s wealth. He distributed funds to the poor, orphans, widows and wayfayers.

5) The Prophet (SAWS) arranged his marriage to an Arab woman from Bani Bukayr.

6) He entered the Ka’bah with the Prophet (SAWS) on the day of the Conquest of Makkah and helped cleanse it of the false idol deities.

7) He is the only companion to have had the honor of calling to prayer on top of the Kab’ah per the command of the Prophet (SAWS).

8) The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The best of the blacks are three: Bilal, Luqman and Mihja’.” A weaker narration states that he (SAWS) said, “The best of the blacks are four: Luqman, Annajashi, Bilal and Mihja’.”

9) He did not call to prayer during the government of Abu Bakr after the death of the Prophet (SAWS). Upon Abu Bakr telling him to call to prayer after Bilal stated that he wanted to leave Al-Madinah, Bilal told him, “If you freed me for yourself, then I will do what you wish. But if you freed me for Allah, then let me be.” He then left Al-Madinah for Syria.

10) The Prophet (SAWS) visited him in a dream and asked him as to why he had not come to visit him. Bilal then set off for Al-Madinah. When getting to his (SAWS) grave and beginning to weep, Al-Hasan (SA) and Al-Husayn (SA) asked him to call to prayer. Upon Bilal calling to prayer, the People of Al-Madinah wept profusely as they remembered the days of the Prophet (SAWS) walking among them. It’s narrated of this day that the People of Al-Madinah wept the most since the day that the Prophet (SAWS) passed away.

11) Oral traditions state that Bilal’s ancestors went to West Africa and that his descendants were in the royal Keita family of the Malian empire.

Thawrah Az-Zanj: Revolution of Blacks in Early Islamic History

Early Islamic history is chronicled with several rebellions against the tyranny of the Umawi and Abbasi dynasties.  One of those rebellions is referred to as Thawrah Az-Zanj or the Black revolution, Zanj being a term that referred to people of Abyssinian and Nubian heritage.

The leader of Thawrah Az-Zanj was Ali bin Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS).  Ali bin Muhammad was born in Samarra, Iraq during the era of the Abbasi government.  In Iraq, he saw the machinations of the Abbasi regime as well as slavery of fellow Muslims throughout Iraq.  He eventually left Iraq and moved to Bahrain in which he rallied the people to revolt against the Abbasi government.

After a failed rebellion attempt being led from Bahrain, Ali bin Muhammad relocated to Basrah, Iraq in 247 A.H. in which he called the poor people to follow him, invoking that he was an Alawi, meaning a descendent of Ali bin Ali Talib (KW).  His eloquence combined with his lineage attracted followers among the poor in Basrah, which was also a city that had many disenfranchised blacks who both suffered economically as well as had difficulties getting married.

With the support of poor Africans and marginalized Arabs, Ali bin Muhammad unseated the Abbasi authority in Basrah.  The Zanji movement had autonomy from the Abbasi government for approximately 15 years before it regained control through brutal force.

Aslam the Shepherd: Martyred Before Making a Single Salah

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.”