Talking about black companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the first name that comes to our minds is Bilal ibn Rabah, the chief of all the people who give adhan, the chief of all of the Mua’dhins. However, this article is not about Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him).
This article highlights some of the early figures in Islamic history who were black. The usage of the word black will not be restricted to Nubians and Abyssinians but also for Arabs who had black and brown colored skin, which in contemporary times would be perceived as black such as Sudanese who are both Arabs and blacks.
The first luminous figure in this series that was a companion is Barakah also known as Umm Ayman. Umm Ayman was Abyssinian and a servant of Abdullah bin Abdil Muttalib, the father of the Prophet .
When Aminah, the mother of the Prophet died, Umm Ayman took over as primary care-giver of the Prophet . Umm Ayman was later emancipated at the time of the marriage of the Prophet to Sayyidah Khadijah bint Khuwaylid.
Umm Ayman (may Allah be pleased with her) was one of the early adherents of Islam in Mecca and was one of those who faced persecution from Quraysh. She was among those who migrated from Mecca to Al-Madinah.
2-Usamah bin Zayd
Usamah bin Zayd (may Allah be pleased with him) was one of the beloved companions of the Prophet (PBUH).
Both of Usamah’s parents, Zayd bin Harithah, who was Arab and Umm Ayman, who was Ethiopian, were freed from slavery by the Prophet (PBUH). He was born in Mecca seven years prior to hijrah and is described as having black skin.
Much of Usamah’s upbringing was done in the house of the Prophet (PBUH) in the same time-frame as the rearing of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Hasan bin ‘Ali .
Usamah was later married by the Prophet (PBUH) to Fatimah bint Qays, who was Arab and from Quraysh. It is narrated that this marriage took place when Usamah was at the age of 15 years old and that on his ring was etched at the time of the wedding “Love of the Messenger of Allah.”
While a teenager, Usamah was elected by the Prophet (PBUH) to lead the Muslim army in an expedition against the Romans in Syria. Some of the companions became extremely angry at Usamah being appointed as general over older companions from Quraysh.
The Prophet (PBUH) said after praising and thanking Allah (SWT), “Oh People! Word has come to me that some of you are mad that I appointed Usamah bin Zayd. I swear by Allah that surely your obeying Usamah is certainly your obeying me just as obeying his father before him.”
Usamah passed in 61 A.H. in Al-Madinah during the government of Mu’awiyah bin Abi Sufyan.
One of the black companions of the Prophet (PBUH) was Sa’ad Al-Aswad As-Sulami (may Allah be pleased with him).
Sa’ad was from the Ansar and suffered discrimination in Al-Madinah.
Due to an inferiority complex, Sa’ad asked the Prophet (PBUH) if he too could enter into Jannah because of his low position among the Muslims. The Prophet (PBUH) 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 (PBUH) 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 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 !
Sa’ad was later martyred in a battle in which it is narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) wept over him while holding him in his lap.
4-‘Ammar bin Yasir
One of the companions who has several narrated merits pertaining to his faith, personality and resilience is ‘Ammar bin Yasir (may Allah be pleased with him).
‘Ammar was one of the earliest Muslims to accept Islam and was regularly tortured along with his family. Once while being severely tortured, he unwillingly recanted Islam. He later came to the Prophet (PBUH) in a state of tears saying that he verbally recanted Islam but did not mean it, in which the Prophet (PBUH) wiped away his tears and recited Surah 16, ayah 106,
“Whoever disbelieves in Allah after belief except who is forced and whose heart is still content with faith…”
After much persecution, ‘Ammar with other companions migrated to Abyssinia finding protection under a just Christian king though ibn Ishaq disputes that he was one of those companions in Abyssinia. He later migrated with other companions to Al-Madinah making him within a select group of companions that made two migrations for the sake of Allah .
‘Ammar later participated in the major campaigns to protect the Muslim community including Badr and Uhud. He also was a witness to the Farewell Pilgrimage.
‘Ammar later achieved martyrdom at the Battle of Siffin.
One of the famed companions of the Prophet (PBUH) is Mihja’ bin Salih (May Allah be pleased with him). Mihja’ was one of the early adherents of Islam in Mecca, and one of those who migrated for the sake of Allah to Al-Madinah.
After migration according to At-Tabari and others, Mihja’ was the first to be martyred at Ghazwah Badr (battle of Badr).
One of the honorable companions, who is known for his faithfulness and concern for the poor was Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him).
Abu Dharr’s full name was Jundab bin Junadah from the Tribe of Ghifar.
In the Era of Ignorance, the Ghifari tribe was known for banditry and alcohol consumption besides worshiping idols. Abu Dharr, however, turned away from these tribal norms even before embracing Islam.
After meeting the Prophet (PBUH), Abu Dharr swiftly accepted Islam. He went to the Ka’bah to publicly declare his faith in which Quraysh proceeded to beat him. He went the following day to proclaim his faith again in which he was beaten again. After days of doing this and facing beatings, the Prophet (PBUH) told him to go back to his tribe, so he could declare his message to them.
He later migrated to Al-Madinah and participated in Ghazwah Badr (battle of Badr) and other expeditions with the companions.
7-Ayman, the shepherd
One of the faithful companions of the Prophet (PBUH) was Ayman bin ‘Ubayd (may Allah be pleased with him).
Ayman’s roots were Abyssinian through his mother. He was born through the union of his mother Barakah, a woman who was eventually freed from slavery by the Prophet (PBUH) and his father ‘Ubayd bin Zayd.
Ayman embraced Islam in Mecca and made migration for the sake of Allah to Al-Madinah. He was a shepherd and was entrusted by the Prophet (PBUH) to look after his goats.
Ayman was a participant in the campaigns to defend Islam. At Ghazwah Hunayn (battle of Hunayn) when some of the Muslims became panicked, Ayman was one of eight Muslims who stood by the Prophet PBUH) and defended him. The Muslims ended up winning the battle. In the process, Ayman achieved martyrdom.
After his martyrdom, Al-Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) , one of the Prophet’s uncles who was one of those eight that stood firmly with Ayman to defend the Prophet (PBUH), composed a poem praising the steadfastness and bravery of Ayman.