Black Africans in Arabic Sources: A Critical Assessment of Method and Rhetoric

Book Section

Blacks of African background played a pioneering role in the intellectual and political life of pre-Islamic Arabia. Their presence weighs heavily on some of the illustrative language of the Quran as well as on the historical timeline used in Al-Sīra al-Nabawiyya of Ibn Hishām, the first biography about the life and time of Prophet Muhammed. Blacks were also widely represented in the first generation of soldiers and military commanders that spearheaded the Muslim conquests of Egypt. However, this situation changed with the expansion of the Arab Muslim empire. As the quest for knowledge increased in the centuries that followed the birth of Islam, Arab armies, traveler historians, duʿāt (preachers), and traders used the existing knowledge to access Bilād al-Sūdān (the Land of Blacks) or to acquire new knowledge on Africa as they promoted Islam among its inhabitants. In this new era of expansion in Africa, many Arabic sources perpetuated held stereotypes and learned prejudices about blackness, which they subsequently equated with slavery. Faced with this challenge, Black poets and writers vigorously resisted and crafted their personal narratives of triumph, resistance, and resilience.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Duke Contributors

Published Date

  • September 27, 2020

Book Title

  • The Palgrave Handbook of Islam in Africa

Published By

Place of Publication

  • New York

International Standard Book Number 10 (ISBN-10)

  • 3030457591

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9783030457594