Musa Al-Jawn: Pious & Knowledgeable Revolutionary

Musa  Al-Jawn (RA) was a transmitter of Islamic knowledge and a mujahid in the early generations of the Ummah.

Musa  Al-Jawn was a Hashimite and the son of Imam Abdullah bin Al-Hasan bin Al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib (AS).  He was described as having black/aswad skin.

Regarding his character, Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Hanbal stated that Musa Al-Jawn was a righteous man.  Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi and Adh-Dhahabi stated that Yahya bin Ma’in viewed him as trustworthy pertaining to his narrations of ahadith.

Ibn Khaldun states that Musa Al-Jawn participated with his brother Imam An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah Muhammad bin Abdillah (AS) in an uprising against the first Abbasi khalifah Abu Ja’far Al-Mansur.  It is also narrated by Al-Bayhaqi that he was imprisoned, beaten and martyred in prison in the uprising; An-Nafs Az-Zakiyyah was also martyred in the process.  Malik bin Anas (RA) supported the uprising of An-Nafs Zakiyyah as well as a later one by his brother Imam Ibrahim bin Abdillah (AS), which led to Imam Ibrahim being martyred like his brothers; Malik was subsequently imprisoned and beaten for his support of the Hashimites.

Shaykh Abdul-Qadir Al-Jilani (RH), Hanbali jurist and father of the Al-Qadiriyyah order, has Musa Al-Jawn in his family tree.

Nafi’ Al-Madani: Transmitter of the Qur’an

Nafi’ Al-Madani was one of the prolific readers and teachers of the Qur’an in early Islamic history.

Nafi’ bin Abdir Rahman bin Abi Na’im was born in 70 A.H., and his roots are from Isfahan in modern day Iran.  Though his family came from Isfahan, he was described as having black (aswad) skin and having been enslaved.  He was a client (mawla) of Ja’wanah Al-Laythi, who was described by Adh-Dhahabi as being the ally of Hamza (RA) and Al-Abbas (RA), the uncles of the Prophet (SAWS).

It is said that when Nafi’ was asked a question pertaining to the Qur’an, his speech was like a breeze of musk perfume.  Malik bin Anas (RH), one of the imams of the four Sunni schools of thought, considered him to be the top teacher of his time in Al-Madinah of the Qur’an in all seven readings.  Two of out the seven readings of the Qur’an, which we have today are transmitted through the chain of Nafi’.  Those two readings which are the prominent recitation styles of the Qur’an currently in Africa are Warsh and Qalun.

He passed in the year 169 A.H.

From ‘Abd to Mawla: Prophetic Empowerment Through Language

Prophet Muhammad (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) created a new paradigm, which revolutionized social relationships as never seen prior to his time.  One of these was how he shifted power dynamics through redefining relationships including what terms to use in describing people.  One such shifting related to the word ‘abd (slave).

During the Prophet’s era, slavery was a major part of the Arab culture and economy.  Arabs enslaved the young and old through wars and through the purchasing of people.  Arabs enslaved other Arabs as well as non-Arabs.  These slaves, of course, had no freedom of movement and belief and were constantly humiliated by their slave-masters.

The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) redefined what the true Master – servant relationship is.  The Master is the Creator, and the servant is His worshipper. 

Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) said, “Don’t call anyone my slave for all of you are servants of Allah.” [Muslim]

He then gave an alternative term, which not only humanized the ex-slaves in front of the Arabs but also provided a term that elevated the esteem of those who were formerly enslaved.

The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) said, “The freed slave of a people is of them.” [An-Na’sa’i, Ahmad & others]

The word for a person freed from slavery as redefined by him is mawla; mawla is a term which originally meant master and then also took on the meaning of freed slave and an ally according to ibn Ash-Shajari Al-Hasani (see pg.381)  Hence, people such as Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) and Khabbab (may Allah be pleased with him) who were once addressed as from the ‘abeed later were written about in Islamic history books with a term that also means master in front of their names.  The term sayyid, which also means master or leader besides meaning a descendent of the Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) is also used to describe such personalities.

The Prophet (prayers & peace be upon him and his family) said, “Bilal is the master of those who call the adhan on the Day of Resurrection.” [ibn Abi Shaybah]

I’ve commented in previous articles and blogs about the un-Islamic usage of the terms ‘abd/’abeed and adoon (Somali for slave) that too many use to describe Black Americans.  There’s also been recent news of a Black Saudi sister who has waged a campaign against such ignorant words after she was called ‘abda, which is a word that does not even have a foundation in classical Arabic and isn’t even the word for slave-woman, which is amah.  The term ‘abda, which is a recent slur in the history of the Arabic language, can be seen specifically as a way to otherize sisters who are Black. 

This just goes to show how far many Muslims have strayed from the Sunnah.  I pray that during Black History Month with the awareness being raised both here and abroad that we can refocus on the Prophet model and purge ourselves from the classism and racism which resides in us.