Black History Month: Bilal ibn Rabah

The Gregorian month February is known (in the United States, at least) as Black History Month.

From the Annals of Black History, we bring you…   Bilal ibn Rabah.

Bilal was an Ethiopian who answered the call to Islam in secret because he was enslaved to a man who opposed the new religion. He never submitted his heart to even the worst torture, until Abu Bakr purchased his freedom, whereupon Umar declared “Abu Bakr, our master, has freed our master.” Bilal would eventually get his revenge against his former oppressor in the battle of Badr.

Bilal was the first Muslim to ever sound the melodious athan, or call to Islamic prayer. When the Muslims conquered Mecca in a bloodless campaign, it was he, who climbed atop the Ka’aba, to which all Muslims pray, with his black feet, and called the world to prayer in Islam’s holiest city.

Edward Blyden, himself a black man, wrote in 1874:
“The eloquent Adzan or Call to Prayer, which to this day summons at the same hours millions of the human race to their devotions, was first uttered by a Negro, Bilal by name, whom Mohammed, in obedience to a dream, appointed the first Muezzin or Crier. And it has been remarked that even Alexander the Great is in Asia an unknown personage by the side of this honoured Negro.” (1)

To this day, you can find Muslims of all races who are proud to name their sons Bilal.



3 comments on “Black History Month: Bilal ibn Rabah

  1. Here’s my reply to his comment:

    “I don’t think you’re reading the situation with full knowledge. Black History Month was created by American-Africans to fill the void of the (mis-)education system. It was and is a measure to restore pride and self-esteem at a time (then & now) when American-Africans are ashamed of their past. Even in my Honors World History class, for example, there was no mention of Africa until it was “discovered” by Europe. Little does anyone know of the countless contributions Africans and American-Africans have been making to the world. It gives us standards of accomplishment besides sports and entertainment. As such, I and many feel that it is a very valid designation, that erases, rather than reinforces, racism. As a Muslim, I am only trying to point out the value that Muslims, who happened to be from Africa, have been adding to world history.”

  2. Here’s a comment I got from a friend of mine on Facebook:

    “I thought history was colorless and only stained with the blood of strife and suffering which is common to all races and nations. As a muslim if someone wants to talk about Black History month surely you’ve missed something – color is meaningless we are all one in God’s eyes. Calling a month black, white or yellow history month is racism because it marks out people by the color of their skin – and as if they are less American because they are black – shame on the US if they still categorize people in this way.”

  3. Good post of what could be a great introduction to conversation that I feel is needed out here in the Arabian Gulf region. Race shouldn’t be a brushed-over topic out here.

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