Friday, July 15, 2011

The African-Arabian Conquest of Egypt and the Rest of North Africa

By Wesley Muhammad, PhD © 2011 Wesley Muhammad

  1. Islam and the Sword in Africa?

It is the case that the empire of Islam entered Africa with the sword. Black imperialism from all eras, including ancient Kemetic imperialism, relies on military advancement. It is not the case, however, that the religion of Islam spread at the same time and by the same means. In fact, the African Arabian Muslims saw Islam as exclusive to themselves and refused to proselytize at all [See Muhammad, 2009: 202-204]. The religion did not begin spreading in Africa until centuries after the Muslim conquest, and when it did it was carried by merchants and religious specialists, not soldiers. Too many scholars, black and white, have debunked the myth of the Arabs violently imposing Islam on Africans for it to still have circulation, though in some circles it still does. Cheikh Anta Diop, in his Pre-Colonial Black Africa, affirms:

Much has been made of Arab invasions of Africa: they occurred in the North, but in Black Africa they are figments of the imagination. While the Arabs did conquer North Africa by force of Arms, they quite peaceably entered Black Africa¼From the time of the Umayyad setbacks in the eighth century, no Arab army ever crossed the Sahara in an attempt to conquer Africa, except for the Moroccan War of the sixteenth century¼Nor was there ever any Arab conquest of Mozambique or any other East African territory. The Arabs in these areas, who became great religious leaders, arrived as everywhere else individually and settled in peacefully¼The Arab conquests dear to sociologists are necessary to their theories but did not exist in reality.

Only during the Almoravide movement of the first half of the eleventh century did some white people, Berbers,784 attempt to impose Islam on Black Africa by force of arms¼The primary reason for the success of Islam in Black Africa, with one exception, consequently stems from the fact that it was propagated peacefully at first by solitary Arabo-Berber travelers to certain Black kings and notables, who then spread it about
them to those under their jurisdiction"[Diop, 1987: 101-102, 162, 163].

Joseph E. Harris in his Africans and Their History says as well: "it is noteworthy that except for the northern coast, Islam spread rather peacefully until the eighteenth century, with one significant interruption-the Almoravid conquests"[Harris, 1987: 74]. J. Spencer Trimingham, in A History of Islam in West Africa, agrees:

The role of the Murabitun (Almoravids) in the Islamization of the Sudan has been exaggerated. The peaceful penetration of Islam along trade routes into borderland towns had begun before this movement was born¼The Murabitun simply accelerated a process that had already begun, and their conquest was ephemeral because the attraction of Morocco was stronger than that of the Sudan (emphasis mine-WM)” [Trimingham, 1970: 29-31].
I. Hrbek and M. El Fasi note:

During the great Arab conquests, there was certainly no attempt to convert the ahl al-kitāb (Jews and Christians) by force¼generations of scholars have¼clearly demonstrated that the image of the Muslim Arab warrior with sword in one hand and the Qoran in the other, belongs to the realm of mythology.[ Hrbek and El Fasi, 1992: 31]

Z. Dramani-Issifou: "Prior to the twelfth century, Islam advanced on African soil without wars, without violent proselytism [Dramani-Issifou, 1992: 54].” And finally Sylviane Anna Diouf notes:    

In contrast to its arrival in North Africa, where it had been brought by the invading Arabs, the spread of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa followed a mostly peaceful and unobtrusive path. Religious wars or jihad, came late-in the eighteenth and especially in the nineteenth century-and Islam was diffused not by outsiders…but by indigenousness traders, clerics, and rulers…Some fundamental features of traditional religions and customs, such as ritual immolation of animals, circumcision, polygamy, communal prayers, divination, and amulet making, also were present in Islam. Such affinities facilitated conversion as well as accommodation and tolerance of others’ rituals and beliefs. Africans themselves considered Islam an African religion. [Diouf, 1998, 4].   

            It is thus inaccurate to claim that the religion of Islam spread throughout Africa at the end of and by means of the Arabian sword. It is the case that there are some exceptions to this, but in general the religion established itself on the continent rather peacefully. And while the empire of Islam did indeed establish itself in North Africa by means of the sword, this was in the main neither a non-African nor an anti-African conquest. 

2. The Conquest of Egypt

The Prophet Muhammad had told one of his companions and military generals, “When you conquer Egypt, be kind to its Copts because you have a covenant of protection and kinship (rahim/rihm) with them.” This recipient of this instruction, the Arab general ‘Amr b. al-‘As (d. 664), will later lead the conquest of Egypt. This acknowledgment by Muhammad that the Arabs and the indigenous African population of Egypt (the Copts) were kith and kin is consistent with the archaeological and ethnographic evidence indicating the same: that the indigenous populations of Arabia and Northern and Eastern Africa were culturally and ethnically related [Muhammad, 2011: 8 n. 38, 9 n. 45; idem, 2009: 1-7]. Nor did ‘Amr and the African Arabian conquerors of Egypt disregard Muhammad’s command regarding treatment of the Copts.     
The conquest of Egypt by the Arab Muslims in 641 was in the main carried out by black-skinned Arabs. The historical and the genetic evidence indicates that “tribes of Yemeni origin formed the bulk of those Muslim contingents that conquered Egypt in the middle of the 7th century CE [Nebel et al, 2002: 1595; Diop, 1967: 52].” What do we know about these “Yemeni tribes,” i.e. South Arabian Arabs? Major-General Maitland, Political Resident in Aden for Britain, noted in 1932 that “All authorities agree that the southern Arabs are nearly related by origin to the Abyssinians” [Bury, 1998: xiii]. The South Arabian has been somatically or culturally identified with the dark skinned Toda and Dravidian of India, the Vedda of Ceylon, and the Ethiopian and Somalian “Hamites” of East Africa. Thus Carleton Coon observed in his, The Races of Europe:

It’s easy enough to account for the southern Arabian Bedawi of the course type. He is obviously related to the Veddas of Ceylon, and to the most important element in the Dravidian-speaking population of India. His hair form, his facial features, his pigmentation, and his general size and proportions confirm this relationship”[Coon, 1939: 429].

It was this dark-skinned, Africoid/Dravidoid Arabian who formed the bulk of the troops who conquered Egypt, not the Europoid Arab that graces the cover of Chancellor Williams’ iconic text, The Destruction of Black Civilization.

Nor were the black-skinned troops led by white-skinned Arab commanders. The second caliph who authorized the conquest was ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb (d. 644), the chief architect of the Islamic state. ‘Umar was a Qurayshi Arab from the Banū Adi. His mother Hantama bt. Hāshim b. al-Mughīra, was from the exceptionally black Banū al-Mughīra. Al-Mas'ūdī (Prairies, IV, 192) says she was Black. His paternal grandmother was an enslaved Ethiopian. He was certainly no "fair, pale man, with a touch of redness [contra Abu-Bakr, 1993:32]. He was specifically described as a bald, black-skinned man (rajul ādam). His famous son, ‘Abd Allāh, was himself "very dark-skinned and huge" and said regarding their blackness: "We inherited our black complexion from our maternal uncles." [See sources in Muhammad, 2011: 15; Berry, 2002: 67].

Leading the troops into Egypt was the Arab general ‘Amr b. al-‘As who had previously commanded the Muslim forces in southern Palestine. He too had an Ethiopian mother and Qurashi father and was specifically described as “black-skinned, tall and bald, asmar shadīd al-sumra tawīil asla” [Berry, 2010].  ‘Amr was sent 4000 reinforcements divided into four detachments of 1000, each led by one of four commanders: al-Miqdād b. al-Aswad, who was black-skinned (ādam) and tall; the black (aswad) and tall Muhammad b. Maslama, an Arab from the Banū Aws; al-Zubayr b. al-Awwan, the cousin of the Prophet and nephew of Khadījah, who was dark brown-skinned (asmar al-lawn); and the famously black  (aswad) ‘Ubāda b. al-Sāmit (d. 654) [See sources in Muhammad, 2011: 16].

A famous incident involving ‘Ubāda b. al-Sāmit illustrates the overall complexion of the Muslim conquest of Egypt. When Cyrus, the Byzantine governor of Egypt, sought negotiations with ‘Amr  in October 640, the latter deputed ten of his officers to negotiate. They were led by ‘Ubāda. When the tall and black ‘Ubāda was ushered into Cyrus’ presence, the governor was terrified and exclaimed: “Take away that black man: I can have no discussion with him!” The party insisted that ‘Ubāda was the wisest, best, and noblest among them and their appointed leader, declaring that “though he is black he is the foremost among us in position, in precedence, in intelligence and in wisdom, for blackness is not despised among us.” ‘Ubāda himself then replied to Cyrus: “There are a thousand blacks, as black as myself, among our companions. I and they would be ready each to meet and fight a hundred enemies together.”  Benard Lewis makes an important observation here: “‘Ubāda is not African nor even of African descent but (as the chroniclers are careful to point out) a pure and noble Arab on both sides”[Lewis, 1990: 26]. ‘Ubāda was an eminent Ansārī from the tribe Awf b. al-Khazraj, in particular the clan Banu Ghanm b. Awf b. al-Khazraj, thus a pure, very black-skinned Arab. The thousand fellow blacks, possibly the detachment of which he was commander, were no doubt black Arabs like him.

The conquest of Egypt by the Muslims in 641 was thus a Black Op from top to bottom. The mainly southern Arab troops, ethnically Africoid/Dravidoid, were led by similarly black-skinned Arab commanders, all under the caliphal leadership of the black-skinned Umar. The phenomenon of one Black nation conquering another did not begin with these AfricanArabian Muslims. In 340 CE Axum’s ruler invaded and claimed Himyar, Raydan and Saba in South Arabia, ruling there from 340-378. The Axumites were kicked out by native Himyarites. However, Axum still claimed rulership over Himyar and Saba for another two centuries. In 523 Dhu’l Nuwas, a Himyarite Jewish ruler who was bitter over the Axumite rule and pretensions to rule, massacred some Arab Christians in Najran. The Byzantine emperor Justin I prompted the Negus of Abyssinia to assert his claims over the region. The Negus sent 70, 000 men across Red Sea who were victorious in reconquering southern Arabia. As Philip Hitti notes: “The Abyssianians came as helpers, but as often happens remained as conquers. They turned colonists and remained from 525 to 575 in control of the land” [Hitti, Arabs, 62]. In other words, the African-Arabian conquest of African Egypt followed an Ethiopian conquest of southern Arabia.     

Nevertheless, the conquest of Egypt should not be seen as an example of ancient black-on-black violence. On the contrary, the target of the African Arabian Muslim aggression was the oppressive Byzantine rulers of Egypt. As W.E.B. Du Bois affirmed: “the Arabs invaded African Egypt, taking it from Eastern Roman Emperors and securing as allies the native Negroid Egyptians [Du Bois, 1979: 185-86]. As Mamadou Chinyelu put it as well: "These African Copts no doubt saw the African Muslims from Arabia as liberators; after all they were kith and kin” [Chinyelu, 1991: 367]. This overthrowing of ‘white power’ in Africa was just leg of a larger campaign. Umar’s African-Arabian troops "broke the power of the Persian Sassanid empire and proceeded to annex Iran and Iraq to Arabia." He further brought Syria, Phoenicia, Persia, Jerusalem, and Egypt into the Dār al-Islām, out of the hands of the Byzantines. With the destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War (150-146 BCE) Rome became the supreme power in North Africa. It was ‘Umar and the black-skinned Muslim troops that broke up this White power block in Africa. Thus, Diop’s keen observation: “Except for the Islamic breakthrough, Europe has ruled Africa down to the present day” [Diop, 1967:119]. It was African Arabian Muslims who relived Africa of European rule for a brief period.

3. Relations of Black Muslims in Egypt and Black Christians in Egypt and Nubia

Having secured Egypt in 641-642, the Muslims attempted to take Nubia in 643. These excursions are given special treatment in Chancellor Williams classic work, The Destruction of Black Civilization [1987]. The main weaknesses of Williams discussion of the Muslim invasion of Egypt in 641 and attempted invasions of Nubia in 643 and again in 651-52 is his inaccurate ethnographic assignments. Williams saw the Muslim/Nubian conflict as one between White Arabs and Black Nubians: the Arab conquerors were "Caucasians," he informs us [142-148]. As we have demonstrated above, the Muslims who conquered Egypt were mainly Black Arabs from Southern Arabia led by Black Arabs from Mecca in North Central Arabia. With regard to the Nubian invasion, we thus have to do with a Black-on-Black conflict, not a White on Black one.

The Byzantine emperor Heraclius supported the minority Chalcedean church led by the Patriarch from the Caucasus, Cyrus, against the majority Coptic (Monophysite) church. Coptic sources tell of ruthless and systematic persecution of the Copts by the Byzantines. As St. Clair Drake observes: "The Coptic Christians of Egypt welcomed the Arab Muslims as 'liberators' from what they considered the tyranny of their fellow Christians in Constantinople." [Drake, II:90]. According to Hugh Kennedy's research, the Arabian conquerors distinguished between the Egyptian Copts and what they called the 'Rūm' (Romans): the latter were considered the enemy and the former actually assisted the Muslim 'liberators' who were as black as they and even darker [Kennedy, 2007: 149-150]. Copts at Farāma for instance aided the Muslims, and at the little town of Bahnasā the African-Arabian Muslims slaughtered all the 'Rūmī' men, women and children they came across. When Babylon fell to the Muslims, ‘Amr granted protection to the Copts and killed the Romans [Kennedy, 2007: 150; Morimoto, 1997: 98].

There was no attempt to convert the Copts to Islam. As Ira Lapidus explains:

The necessary arrangements between the conqueror(s) and conquered were implemented in the reign of the second Caliph, 'Umar (634-644)¼(A) principle of 'Umar's settlement was that the conquered populations should be disturbed as little as possible. This meant that the Arab Muslims did not, contrary to reputation, attempt to convert people to Islam¼At the time of the conquests, Islam was meant to be a religion of the Arabs, a mark of caste unity and superiority. When conversions did occur, they were an embarrassment because they created status problems¼Just as the Arabs had no interest in changing the religious situation, they had no desire to disturb the social and administrative order¼local situations were left in local hands¼(In the conquered lands) the whole of the former social and religious order was left intact [Lapidus, 2002: 36; idem, 1972].

In terms of the local Christian community, Lapidus points out that "Arab policy attached no liability to the church or to membership in it. Nor¼did the Arabs encourage conversion to Islam." The black Muslims had a 'pro-Black' policy: in direct contrast to the Byzantines who empowered the minority, Roman church, the Muslims empowered the Coptic church. In fact, the Muslims gave all of the Chalcedonian churches over to the Copts and refused to appoint any Chalcedonian Patriarchs. "Thus the [Copts] gained in Egypt and gained in Nubia as well” [Lapidus, 1972: 249]. The Umayyad caliphs Mu’āwīya and ‘Abd al-Mālik (d. 705) built several churches in Alexandria and Fustat, as did the Egyptian governor ‘Abd al-‘Azīz b. Marwān (d. 705). The Church of St. George and the monastery of Abū Qarqar at Hawān are but two examples.

This policy lasted for most the Umayyad period (661-750), when Islam was 'a Black thing'. However, toward the end of this period, attitudes and then policy changed. The reign of ‘Umar II (717-720) signaled this changed attitude. He was less protective of the Coptic church and more encouraging of conversion, though Egyptian policy did not change in that regard except that he decreed any converts exempt from the poll-tax that non-Muslims paid. By the Abbasid period, however, things are radically different. Chalcedian Patriarchs were being appointed again and their churches returned to them from the Copts. In other words, the transition from 'Pro-Black Isam' under the black Umayyads to Aryanized Islam under the Abbasids signaled a change in the status for the Coptic church. From 767-868 numerous Coptic revolts occurred in Egypt. In the ninth century Egypt was mainly governed by Turks. From 832 onward, Arabs and Copts together revolted against the government.

In terms of Nubia, ‘Amr b. al-‘As, the conqueror-turned- governor of Egypt, had a non-aggression policy. As Chancellor Williams admits: "despite the continued raids by the Blacks [of the South] he (‘Amr) chose not to extend his operations into their land." This policy, however, will be revoked in 643 by then governor ‘Abd Allāh b. Abī Sarh, who launched an invasion of the northern Nubian kingdom of Makuria. This invasion was a failure, to say the least: the Nubians dealt the Muslims a devastating defeat, and again in 651-652. Williams, aptly describing this conflict as 'one of the decisive battles of history', perceptively remarks: "The psychological effects of being defeated by the Blacks twice on national fronts caused the Arabs to adopt a peaceful relationship with these countries that lasted 600 years." This six-hundred year peace was the result of the baqt agreement, signed by both parties at the conclusion of the 651-652 battle. The baqt was both a non-aggression pact and a trade agreement between Muslim Egypt and Nubia, terms which were determined by the victors: Nubia. The basic terms were:

1. The citizens of each country were allowed free passage to the other, with security guaranteed by the host country.
2. A mosque was to be built in Nubia and a church in Egypt.
3. 360 slaves annually sent by Nubia to Egypt, in exchange for 1300 ardeb of wheat and 1300 kanīr of wine, linen and cloth.

The last stipulation has been the focus of some criticism and misrepresentation in some Christian and Afrocentrist circles, with support even from Muslim misrepresentation. This part of the agreement is often described as tribute imposed on the hapless Nubians by the lustful Muslim slavers, a covert plan to eventually conquer the Sudan. But this interpretation completely fails to take proper notice of a simple fact: the Nubians were the victors and therefore had the leverage. As Jay Spauling explains:

The Nubians won decisively. 'The Muslims¼had never suffered a loss like the one they had in Nubia.' For the next six centuries thereafter the Nubian authorities were able to impose their own terms upon relations with the Islamic world, an arrangement commonly known¼as the baqt. The baqt exemplified the institution of administered diplomatic trade through which eastern Sudanic kings normally preferred to conduct their foreign relations¼With the passage of centuries, various Islamic intellectuals, eager to forget the initial Nubian victory, devised increasingly elaborate and fanciful accounts that undertook to construe baqt shipments as payment of tribute (emphasis mine-WM) [Spauling, 2000:117].”

The baqt was thus a Nubian arrangement made with the defeated Muslims, not the other way around, and it had precedent in common Sudanic diplomacy: trading with Nubian slaves goes back to ancient Kemet [Redford, 2004]. In fact, the import of slaves from Nubia to the Muslims in Egypt should probably be seen in context of earlier Egyptian/Nubian relations. As Drake points out:

(Ancient) Egyptian cultural imperialism there certainly was-and it involved economic exploitation of Nubia as well-but there was no color discrimination involved. Some of the pharaohs were as dark or darker than any of their Nubian subjects…The Egyptian and Nubian masses were both exploited, although Egyptians were never enslaved. Some Nubians undoubtedly were enslaved, but slavery was not racial. European and Asian war captives predominated in Egypt and in Nubian gold mines as slaves [Drake, 1987, II:218-219].

Nonetheless, it should be reemphasized that in the working out of the baqt agreement, the victorious Nubians had the leverage. The arrangement guaranteed Nubia's independence and facilitated Nubian national/cultural progress for six centuries.

The [baqt]¼secured the independence of the Christian Nubian state for many centuries to come. Although there were occasional attempts to convert the rulers¼the general policy of the Muslim Egyptian government was to leave the Christian kingdom undisturbed. The friendly relationship between the Egyptian rulers and Nubian monarchs opened the door for (Muslim traders) [Hrbek and El Fasi, 1992: 44].

The resulting trade opportunities contributed to a Nubian florescence. As S. Jakobielski notes in his study of Christian Nubia:

The truce was upheld throughout the next five centuries of Christian civilization in Nubia and in its initial phase was crucial for maintaining peace and the possibilities for national development. The lack of any real threat on the part of the Arabs and the possibilities of carrying on trade with Egypt and maintaining contacts with Byzantium led to the development of a distinctive Nubian culture¼Thus the end of eighth century saw Nubia moving into its period of prosperity, which lasted up to and including over a half of the twelfth century and was also conditioned by a favorable economic situation. [Jakobielski, 1992: 103].  

Williams makes the same point:

The 600-year détente with the Arabs in Egypt was a period of¼reconciliation and progress¼Even church and cathedral building expanded from this center of Black culture over the Western regions of Chad and adjoining states." [Williams, 1987:147].

Hostilities between Muslim Egypt and Christian Nubia began in the 13th century. Egypt was ruled by the Turkish oligarchy, the Mamluks. In 1269 the Mamluk sultan Baybars rejected a Makuria baqt initiative, a rejection for which the Nubian king retaliated by sacking the Egyptian Red Sea port of Aydhab in 1272. Four years later Mamluk forces invade and conquer Makuria and by 1324 the land became a rich slaving ground for Muslim merchants. It is to be emphasized here that while Islam was 'still black', if you will, relations with the Copts and Nubians were relatively peaceful and mutually beneficial. As John Henrik Clark admits: "The peaceful Arab and African partnership in the city- states of Africa went on for more than a century before the Arabs turned their normal trading apparatus into a human slave trading enterprise." [Clarke, 1992: iv]. That century was the period of the black Umayyad Dynasty. In post-Umayyad Islam which went through a process of Persianization and Turkifization (sic) or, in short, Aryanization, racism became rampant such that Islam went from Pro-Black to Anti-Black. This process impacted the literature, the theologies, and the policies of the Islamic world. The most horrendous legacy of this process is the East African Slave Trade.


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Berry, Tariq (2010) “What Did The Arabs Who Conquered Egypt Look Like,”

Idem. (2002) The Unknown Arabs: Clear, Definitive Proof of the Dark Complexion of the Original Arabs and the Arab Origin of the So-Called African Americans (n.p., n.p.).

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Damani-Issifou, Z. (1992) "Islam as a social system in Africa since the seventh century," in I Hrbek (ed.), UNESCO General History of Africa, III: Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century (Abridged Edition; Paris, UNESCO, 1992)

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Excerpts: Kitab Fakr As-Sudan ala Al-Bidan by Al-Jahiz

Al-Jahiz: Islamic Black History according to Black Arab Scholar 1200 years ago

The Blacks say: "This is our nobility- The Prophet (S) never prayed for someone's soul except at a funeral or over a grave- except in the case of the Negus, for whom he prayed at Medina, while the grave of Negus was in Ethiopia."

They say:  "It was Negus who arranged the marriage between Umm Habiba, daughter of Abu Sufyan, and the Prophet (S) called Khalid ibn Sa'id, and made him her guardian, and gave the Prophet (S) four hundred dinars as a bride-price." (1) 

1. Umm Habiba was the daughter of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb.  Her (real) name was Ramala.  Married to Ubayd Allah ibn Jansh, she bore him Habiba, then migrated with him to Ethiopia.  Her husband, Ubayd Allah, became Christian and renounced Islam.  The Messenger of Allah (S) sent Amr ibn Umayya Ad-Damari to the Negus to seek her, and the Negus engaged her to him.  Al-Isaba, 423, from the section of women, Sira, 144, 883.

They say:  "Three things came to you from us.  One is the treasure, and its finding pleasure in what is good, being proud of it, and honoring it.  Another is the bier (?), and it is the seclusion of women and the chasity of wives.  The last is the Book (Quran) and its maintaining what is in it, strenghtening it, and making it more splended and beautiful." (2)

2. Hazrat Fizza (SA) mastered the Quran to such a degree, that she could answer any question by reciting its verses.  She is reported to have spoken the Quranic language for a full twenty years.  She was raised in the House of Muhammad (S) and recieved her knowledge of Quran directly from Ahlul Bayt (AS).  Surah Al-Insan (76) was revealed in honor of Ahlul bayt (SA) and Hazrat Fizza (SA).  In addition, Zayd ibn Harrith, adpoted son of Prophet Muhammad (S), is the only Sahaba mentioned by name in the Holy Quran ref Surah Ahzab 33:37

They say:  "We are more striking to the heart and full to the eye, like the Black girl is more striking to the eye and full in the breast than a white girl, and as the night is more striking than the day."

They say:  "Black is always more striking.  Indeed, when the Arabs describe their camels they say, 'Red-brown is fast, but red is plentiful and Black is beautiful.'  And that is (only) for camels."

They says:  "Blackness in horses is more beautiful and stronger, and the Black cow is better and more beautiful, its skin more valuable, useful and long lasting.  Black donkeys are more valuable, better and stronger.  Black sheep give richer milk and more butter, and dark breast are more fertile than red breast are.

And every Black hill and stone is harder and dryer in texture, and nothing can overcome the Black lion.  There is no date sweeter than the Black date, and none more widely used or lasting over time.  And the date palm is stronger than the others if its trunk is Black.  And it is reported, 'On you is the greater Blackness.'" (3)

3.  Al-Lisan, sawada, p. 211. In the hadith, "When you see the difference (between the colors of men), then on you is the greater Blackness."

Al-Ansari said:  "I profess that no debt have I, out of liablity, but on every tall palm are date stalks, on every full fruited tree, as if they were trunks covered with tar or the blood of sacrifice."

They say:  "The best Green is that which resembles Black."  Allah the Almighty said:  'And besides these two, are two other gardens.' (4)  Then He said, after He had described them and made them desirable, 'Dark green in color.' (5)

4. Surah Ar-Rahman 55:62 وَمِن دُونِہِمَا جَنَّتَانِ
"And beside them are two other gardens,"

5.  Surah Ar-Rahman 55:64  فَبِأَىِّ ءَالَآءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ
"Dark green with foliage"

Ibn Abbas (RA) said, 'Green becomes black from irrigation.'

There is no wood on earth of better quality or greater value, heavier in weight or freer from wood rust, and more blemishless than ebony.  It is known for its sturdiness, compactness, smoothness and hardness, and that it sinks in water unlike all other woods.  It has even exceeded some stones in this property, for when it begins to sink, these stones do not.

A person is best regarded when his hair is Black- a feeling that is shared in heaven.  Most noble for a person is having Black pupils in his eyes, and the most noble (of makeup) is cinnabar, which is Black.  Because of this it is related that Allah lets all believers into heaven beardless and pure, with eyes Blackened by cinnabar.

The most useful thing that is in a person is his liver, which restores his stomach, breaks up his food, and maintains his body- and the liver is Black.  The most precious and dear thing inside of a person are the little Black spots in his heart.  This is a clot of blood inside the heart, which maintains in the heart, a position analogous to the brain in the head.

The most enjoyable and coveted thing a woman has for kissing are her two lips- and they are best when their color is dark.  Dhu Ar-Rumma said, 'Lamiya with her puckered, soft red lips, has a mustache on her gums and eye-teeth.'

The most pleasant and coolest shade is that which is dark.  Rajiz said, 'The Black crows are like the shade of a rock.'

Humayd ibn Thur said, 'We took shade in a cave and our mounts were shaded in resting places for them.  The sunset in the trees gathered up the shadows, as if they were Monks forbidding themselves drink out of atonement.'

Allah made the night as an abode and a relaxation, and day as an acquisition and a labor.  And that which shows that Blackness has another sense is linked with severity and suffering, agitation and activity, the appearance of snakes and scorpions (their poison is stronger at night), and the agitation and ferocity of wild beast- all of which occure at night.  The excitation of pain and the appearance of ghouls also occurs at night.
He said, 'We resemble the night in this sense.'"

They said, "The exaggeration of stories relaxes the spirit- they come quickly if you want them, and go away slowly if you hate them- or what there is in them in the way of unfairness at the closing of curtains or the locking of doors."

They said:  "No color is more firmly established in value or more deeply rooted in goodness than Black.  A parable has been given concerning the whitening of a thing- 'You will not see that, until tar becomes white, and until the cow gets white feathers.'

This is the best proof among the wise.  The most noble of spices are musk and ambergris- and they are Black.  The hardest rocks are Black.  Abu Dhahbi Al-Jamhay said, in praise of Al-Azraq Al-Makhzumi, who was Abd Allah ibn Abd Shams ibn Al-Mughira, 'Truely my thanks to you will never end, as long as onyx is a stone from Lebanon.  You are the praised, made dear in price, one cannot discuss the purity of the Black stone.'

The Arabs take pride in Blackness of color.  If a man says (to a girl), 'That is a star!' she says, 'A base person, pink, white and deceptive!'  We say, she does not mean white skin by this, but instead means nobility and cleanliness of substance.  She extolled the 'greatness' of a warrior because she was Black- for Black to the Arab is the same as green.  Shamakh ibn Darar said, 'She left, leaving Zaruda, they fought over refuse, covered by the green night.'

Rajiz said,'Until the morning disrobes me from a green night; like disrobing the usefulness of a man's sword."
They also call iron 'Green', because it is hard, and Green is the same as Black.  Harith ibn Hilliza said, 'Since we raised the camels up from the palm fronds of Bahrain, continuing until the senses negated them, and we defeated the gathering of ibn Umm Qatam, who had a Green Persian woman.'

Al-Muharibi said, proud of the fact that he was green, 'In the Greeness of Qays is my surfeit of all pride.  Hard is the lead of Abu Daym Sha'sha'.

The Banu Al-Mughira were 'Green' Banu Mukhzum.  Umar ibn Abd Allah ibn Abu Rabi'a ibn Al-Mughira Al-makhzumi said (supposedly to Fadl ibn Al-Abbas Al-Lahbi),  'And I am green to him who knows me, Green the skin in the House of the Arabs.  Whoever records my lineage, records a glory.  He fills a bucket up to the knot of wrong.'

The Ghassanid kings, the sons of Jafana, were also 'Green'.  Al-Ghassani said, 'Truely the generous ones, the Greens, who paid blood money to the people of Baris, increasing, thereby, their justice.' 

And Hasan, or someone else, mentioned the 'Greens' of Banu 'Ukaym's when he said, 'You are not from the house of Makrama of Banu Hashim, or Banu Jumakh, the Green Jala'id.' (6)

6.  This verse is from the Diwan of Hasan, 123-38.  With it he reviles Musafi ibn Ayad At-Taymi.  It begins: "If you were from Hashim or from banu Asad, or Abd Shams, or the Companion of Lus the Hunter."  And in the middle is:  "Or in the features from Taym I was pleased with them."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Uthman Dan Fodio

Shaihu Usman dan Fodio (Arabic: عثمان بن فودي ، عثمان دان فوديو‎), born Usuman ɓii Foduye, (also referred to as Shaikh Usman Ibn Fodio, Shehu Uthman Dan Fuduye, or Shehu Usman dan Fodio, 1754–1817) was the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1809, a religious teacher, writer and Islamic promoter. Dan Fodio was one of a class of urbanized ethnic Fulani living in the Hausa States in what is today northern Nigeria. A teacher of the Maliki school of law and the Qadiriyyah order of Sufism, he lived in the city-state of Gobir until 1802 when, motivated by his reformist ideas and under increased repression by local authorities, he led his followers into exile. This exile began a political and social revolution which spread from Gobir throughout modern Nigeria and Cameroon, and was echoed in an ethnicly Fula-led Jihad movement across West Africa. Dan Fodio declined much of the pomp of rulership, and while developing contacts with religious reformists and Jihad leaders across Africa, he soon passed actual leadership of the Sokoto state to his son, Muhammed Bello.

Dan Fodio wrote more than a hundred books concerning religion, government, culture and society. He developed a critique of existing African Muslim elites for what he saw as their greed, paganism, or violation of the standards of Sharia law, and heavy taxation. He encouraged literacy and scholarship, including for women, and several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers. His writings and sayings continue to be much quoted today, and is often affectionately referred to as Shehu in Nigeria. Some followers consider dan Fodio to have been a Mujaddid, a divinely inspired "reformer of Islam".[2]

Dan Fodio's uprising is a major episode of a movement described as the Fulani (Peul) hegemonies in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It followed the jihads successfully waged in Fuuta-Ɓundu, Fuuta-Jalon and Fuuta-Tooro between 1650 and 1750, which led to the creation of those three islamic states. In his turn, Shehu inspired a number of later West African jihads, including those of Masina Empire founder Seku Amadu, Toucouleur Empire founder El Hadj Umar Tall (who married one of dan Fodio's granddaughters), and Adamawa Emirate founder Modibo Adama.


Dan Fodio was well-educated in classical Islamic science, philosophy and theology and became a revered religious thinker. His teacher, Jibril ibn 'Umar, argued that it was the duty and within the power of religious movements to establish the ideal society free from oppression and vice. His teacher was a North African Muslim alim who gave his apprentice a broader perspective of the Muslim reformist ideas in other parts of the Muslim world. Dan Fodio used his influence to secure approval to create a religious community in his hometown of Degel that would, dan Fodio hoped, be a model town. He stayed there for 20 years, writing, teaching and preaching.

In 1802, the ruler of Gobir and one of dan Fodio's students, Yunfa turned against him, revoking Degel's autonomy and attempting to assassinate dan Fodio. Dan Fodio and his followers fled into the western grasslands of Gudu where they turned for help to the local Fulani nomads. In his book Tanbih al-ikhwan ’ala ahwal al-Sudan (“Concerning the Government of Our Country and Neighboring Countries in the Sudan”) Usman wrote: “The government of a country is the government of its king without question. If the king is a Muslim, his land is Muslim; if he is an Unbeliever, his land is a land of Unbelievers. In these circumstances it is obligatory for anyone to leave it for another country”.[3] Usman did exactly this when he left Gobir in 1802. After that, Yunfa turned for aid to the other leaders of the Hausa states, warning them that dan Fodio could trigger a widespread jihad.[4]

The Fulani War

Usman dan Fodio was proclaimed Amir al-Muminin or Commander of the Faithful in Gudu. This made him political as well as religious leader, giving him the authority to declare and pursue a jihad, raise an army and become its commander. A widespread uprising began in Hausaland. This uprising was largely composed of the Fulani, who held a powerful military advantage with their cavalry. It was also widely supported by the Hausa peasantry who felt over-taxed and oppressed by their rulers. Usuman started the jihad against Gobir in 1804.

The Fulani communication during the war was carried along trade routes and rivers draining to the Niger-Benue valley, as well as the delta and the lagoons. The call for jihad did not only reach other Hausa states such as Kano, Katsina and Zaria but also Borno, Gombe, Adamawa, Nupe and Ilorin. These were all places with major or minor groups of Fulani alims.

After only a few short years of the Fulani War, dan Fodio found himself in command of the largest state in Africa, the Fulani Empire. His son Muhammed Bello and his brother Abdullahi carried out the jihad and took care of the administration. Dan Fodio worked to establish an efficient government grounded in Islamic law. After 1811, Usman retired and continued writing about the righteous conduct of the Muslim belief. After his death in 1817, his son, Muhammed Bello, succeeded his as amir al-mu’minin and became the ruler of the Sokoto Caliphate, which was the biggest state south of the Sahara at that time. Usman’s brother Abdullahi was given the title emir of Gwandu, and he was placed in charge of the Western Emirates, Nupe and Ilorin. Thus, all Hausa states, parts of Nupe, Ilorin and Fulani outposts in Bauchi and Adamawa were all ruled by a single politico-religious system. From the time of Usman dan Fodio there were twelve caliphs, until the British conquest at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Religious and Political Impact

Many of the Fulani led by Usman dan Fodio were unhappy that the rulers of the Hausa states were mingling Islam with aspects of the traditional regional religion. Usuman created a theocratic state with a stricter interpretation of Islam. In Tanbih al-ikhwan ’ala ahwal al-Sudan, he wrote: “As for the sultans, they are undoubtedly unbelievers, even though they may profess the religion of Islam, because they practice polytheistic rituals and turn people away from the path of God and raise the flag of worldly kingdom above the banner of Islam. All this is unbelief according to the consensus of opinions.”[5]

In Islam outside the Arab World, David Westerlund wrote: “The jihad resulted in a federal theocratic state, with extensive autonomy for emirates, recognizing the spiritual authority of the caliph or the sultan of Sokoto.”[6]

Usman addressed in his books what he saw as the flaws and demerits of the African non-Muslim or nominally Muslim rulers. Some of the accusations made by him were corruption on various levels of the administration along with injustice regarding ordinary people's rights. Usman also criticized the heavy taxation and obstruction created in the business and trade of the Hausa states by the legal system.

Folio of Iqtibas'l Ilm of Shaykh Uthman Dan Fodio

“He was the Shaykh of Islam, the most learned among the scholars, the regal erudite, perpetual deliverer, the scholar of humanity, the one who realized the highest stations, Abu Muhammad Sa`d Uthman ibn Muhammad ibn Uthman ibn Salih ibn Harun ibn Muhammad Ghurtu ibn Muhammad Jubbu ibn Muhammad Sanbu ibn Maasiran ibn Ayyub ibn Buba Baba ibn Abu Bakr ibn Musa Jokoli ibn Imam Danbu. He was famous as Dan Fuduye’. He was my father. The protected friends of Allah (al-awliya) foretold of his coming before his appearance… From that is what was related from sound narrators on the authority of Umm Hani al-Fulani, the righteous saintly women when she said: “There will appear in this region of the land of the Blacks, a waliy from among the protected friends of Allah. He will renew the deen, revive the Sunna and establish the religion. The fortunate people will follow him and his remembrance will be spread throughout the horizons. The common people and the elite will obey his commands. Those connected to him will be known as the Jama`aat. Among their signs is that they will not heard cattle, as is the custom of the Fulani. Whoever encounters that time should follow him.” In short, many of the protected friends of Allah recognized him and informed us of his affair even before his appearance and at the time of his appearance as well.
Realize that this shaykh was reared from the time he was young to invite people to Allah. The Shehu said: “As for as the matter of protected friendship with Allah is concerned, for the most that I know about myself is that Allah ta`ala had established me in a spiritual presence which manifested from a divine state, from the time I was a young boy up until the time I reached the age of thirty-one years. I was seized by an instantaneous spiritual magnetic gravitational orbit that emerged from the lights of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, due to the baraka of sending blessings upon him. I was extracted up until I was in the very presence of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, which caused me to continuously weep. In that presence I had an intense desire to recite the poem by Abu Sufyan ibn al-Haarith, may Allah be pleased with him, where he eulogized the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace after his death. Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace ordered me to recite it in his presence, so I began to recite it… When I had recited the poem and reached the point in the poem where I said: ‘And he guided us and now we do not fear misguidance among us, while the Messenger is our guide on the Path’; the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace then said: “Stop there.” So I stopped. He then gave me the good news by his words to me: “I am your guide on the Path of the religion, for you will not go astray.” This good news was better to me than the entire world and what it contained.” Sultan Muhammad Bello

Sultan of Sokoto, Amir al-Muminin





Place of death Sokoto
Buried Hubare, Sokoto.[1]

Eastern areas (Sokoto):
Muhammed Bello, son.

Western areas (Gwandu):
Abdullahi dan Fodio, brother.



Offspring 23 children, including:

Muhammed Bello
Nana Asmau
Abu Bakr Atiku

Sokoto Caliphate

Muhammadu Fodio (Legal and Religious teacher)


Usman dan Fodio wrote about 480 poems in Arabic, Fulfulde and Hausa.

See Also


1.^ SOKOTO STATE, Background Information (2/10/2003).
2.^ John O. Hunwick. African And Islamic Revival in Sudanic Africa: A Journal of Historical Sources : #6 (1995).
3.^ Usman dan Fodio: Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
4.^ The Islamic Slave Revolts of Bahia, Brazil: A Continuity of the 19th Century Jihaad Movements of Western Sudan?, by Abu Alfa Muhammed Shareef bin Farid, Sankore' Institute of Islamic African Studies,
Also see Lovejoy (2007), below, on this.
5.^ Usman dan Fodio: Biographical Dictionary
6.^ Christopher Steed and David Westerlund. Nigeria in David Westerlund, Ingvar Svanberg (eds). Islam Outside the Arab World. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. ISBN 0312226918
7.^ Yahaya, Ibrahim Yaro. 1988. "The Development of Hausa Literature." in Yemi Ogunbiyi, ed. Perspectives on Nigerian Literature: 1700 to the Present. Lagos: Guardian Books, as cited in Obafemi, Olu. 2010. "50 Years of Nigerian Literature: Prospects and Problems" Keynote Address presented at the Garden City Literary Festival, at Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 8-9 Dec 2010
[edit] Web sitesWebPulaaku
Sokoto Online
[edit] Other primary sourcesWritings of Usman dan Fodio, in The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Fourth Edition/ Volume II: Since 1500, ISBN 0-6`8-04247-4 (page:233-236)
Asma'u, Nana. Collected Works of Nana Asma'u. Jean Boyd and Beverly B. Mack, eds. East Lansing, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
[edit] Other secondary sourcesMervyn Hiskett. The Sword of Truth: The Life and Times of the Shehu Usuman Dan Fodio. Northwestern Univ Pr; 1973, Reprint edition (March 1994). ISBN 0810111152
Ibraheem Sulaiman. The Islamic State and the Challenge of History: Ideals, Policies, and Operation of the Sokoto Caliphate. Mansell (1987). ISBN 0720118573
Ibraheem Sulaiman. A Revolution in History: The Jihad of Usman dan Fodio.
Isam Ghanem. The Causes and Motives of the Jihad in Northern Nigeria. in Man, New Series, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Dec., 1975), pp. 623–624
Usman Muhammad Bugaje. THE TRADITION OF TAJDEED IN WEST AFRICA: AN OVER VIEW . Paper Presented to the International Seminar on the Intellectual Tradition in the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno. Organized by the Center for Islamic Studies, University of Sokoto from 20–23 June 1987.
Usman Muhammad Bugaje. The Contents, Methods and Impact of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio's Teachings (1774-1804)
Usman Muhammad Bugaje. THE JIHAD OF SHAYKH USMAN DAN FODIO AND ITS IMPACT BEYOND THE SOKOTO CALIPHATE . A Paper to be read at a Symposium in Honour of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodio at International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan, from 19–21 November 1995.
Helen Chapin Metz, ed. Nigeria: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1991.
B. G. Martin. Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century Africa. 1978.
Jean Boyd. The Caliph's Sister, Nana Asma'u, 1793-1865: Teacher, Poet and Islamic Leader.
Nikki R. Keddie. The Revolt of Islam, 1700 to 1993: Comparative Considerations and Relations to Imperialism. in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jul., 1994), pp. 463–487
R. A. Adeleye. Power and Diplomacy in Northern Nigeria 1804-1906. 1972.
Hugh A.S. Johnston . Fulani Empire of Sokoto. Oxford: 1967. ISBN 0192154281.
S. J. Hogben and A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, The Emirates of Northern Nigeria, Oxford: 1966.
J. S. Trimgham, Islam in West Africa, Oxford, 1959.
'Umar al-Nagar. The Asanid of Shehu Dan Fodio: How Far are they a Contribution to his Biography?, Sudanic Africa, Volume 13, 2002 (pp. 101–110).
Paul E. Lovejoy. Transformations in Slavery - A History of Slavery in Africa. No 36 in the African Studies series published by Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-78430-1
Paul E. Lovejoy. Fugitive Slaves: Resistance to Slavery in the Sokoto Caliphate, In Resistance: Studies in African, Caribbean, and Afro-American History. Gary Y. Okihiro - editor. University of Massachusetts: Amherst, MA. (1986).
Paul E. Lovejoy, Mariza C. Soares (Eds). Muslim Encounters With Slavery in Brazil. Markus Wiener Pub ( 2007) ISBN 1558763783
F. H. El-Masri, “The life of Uthman b. Foduye before the Jihad,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria (1963), pp. 435–48.
M. A. Al-Hajj, “The Writings of Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio”, Kano Studies, Nigeria (1), 2(1974/77).
David Robinson. "Revolutions in the Western Sudan," in Levtzion, Nehemia and Randall L. Pouwels (eds). The History of Islam in Africa. Oxford: James Currey Ltd, 2000.