This is the full text of a book called “The Pride of the Blacks over the Whites” written in the second century of Islamic civilization to defend dark-skinned Arabs and Africans from the prejudices of the lighter-skinned Arabized Persians, Slavs and Turks living in Iraq.
al-Jāḥiẓ was an Arabic prose writer and author of works of literature, theology, and politico-religious polemics. Born: 776 AD, Basra, Iraq. Died: 868 AD, Basra, Iraq.
In the name of the Almighty, Merciful God ;
May God protect and keep you; let He make you obey Him and make you part of his favorites.
You mentioned – may Allah protect you from deception – that you read my treatise (kitab) on the refutation of the pure Arabs to those of mixed parentage, the replies of the mixed ones and the answers of their maternal uncles. But I did not mention in it anything about the boasts of the Sudan. So know, – may Allah preserve you – that I postponed that intentionally. And you mentioned that you would like me to write to you the boasts of the Sudan, so I have written what I recall of their boasts.
Al-Asma’I said : Al-Fizr, a slave of the Fazara, who had a pierced earlobe is known to have said: Harmony arrives quickly in the creation. Because of that goats stay away from the sheep as long as there are goats around. The lamb avoids the predators, and also does not feel close to the ones with big hoofs.
Abu Zaid al-Nahwi recited the following verse:
Without harmony, man perishes.
Saddad Al-Hariti – with erudite eloquence – tells: “I requested from a black slave of the desert steppe:
-To whom do you belong, O Black one?
-To the Lord of Hadr (sedentary settlement), O Bald person.
– Aren’t you black?
– Aren’t you a bald person?
-Does truth thus puts you so much in anger?
– It is this truth which puts you so much in anger! Do not insult and you will be dreaded; really best is than you give it up completely “.
Saddad concludes: “In truth, at the time when I addressed the word to her, I thought to be worth all the inhabitants of Nagd and, at the time when she left me, I had the thought not to be worth my slave”.
Al ‘Asma’ i reports according to ‘Isa b. ‘Umar these words of Du l-Rumma: “That Allah curses the black slave of the family of Such and Such! That she speaks well and that she is eloquent!”. I asked him: “How is the rain which falls at your place?”
She answered: “We received as far as we wanted it”.
Qualities of the Blacks:
Among the Blacks, there is Luqman the Wise-one and it is him which said: “There are three men who are known to us only into three (circumstances): he who preserves his control in anger, the courageous one in the face of danger, the friend when you need him.
He gave his son the following advice: If you whish to remain with someone, make him angry before that. You will learn in advance if he is just and good. This is the only quote of him we regularly hear, because he had o to many sayings to chose from. More important then this is that God called him “the Wise” in the Koran as well as his testament to his son.
Said ibn Jubair was also black. He got killed by Hajjaj at the age of 49 half a year before Hajjaj himself died at the age of 53. Said was a very pious man highly esteemed for his profound knowledge of the traditions of the prophet Mohamet and a companion of Ibn Abbas. The Hadith-scholars doubt even all Hadith who come from the companions of Ibn Abbas except those of Said ibn Jubair. His father was a marwa of the Asad tribe, and Said himself was a marwa of the Umayads. After he was killed people felt the loss.
Also among the blacks was: the Ethiopian, Bilal, of whom Caliph Omar said that he alone was worth a third of all Islam; Afga, the first to die in the holy wars of the Prophet; EI-Migdad, the first to fight in the holy war as a horseman; El Wanshi, who killed the false prophet, Musailima; known as “the Liar”. He had the habit to say; I’ve murdered the best one of all men; meaning Hamza ibn Abd al-Muttalib, may God’s peace rest on him
– and I killed the worst out of men, namely Musailima the impostor “.
And another Black, Makhul the lawyer.
And another Black, Al-Haiqutan the poet, who was higher [then the others] through his personal judgment, his reason and by the size of his insights. It is him who said in connection to friends: “the friend is recognized when one shares intimacy of the heart and when one accompanies one on a journey “.
And another Black, Gulaibib, on whom the transmitters said how the Envoy of Allah – How the blessing and the safety of Allah are on him! – left to carry out a raid and after it asked his companions: “Do we not miss somebody?”. They answered: “We seek Such and Such”. Then he left again and asked them [again]; “Do we not miss somebody? “. They answered: “We seek Such and Such”. Then he left again and asked them [again]: “Isn’t there somebody missing? ” ‘They answered for the third time: “We do not seek anybody”. The Prophet said: “As for me, I miss Gulaibib. Seek him!”. They went to seek and found him lying in the middle of seven [men], which he in fact had killed. The Prophet – That the blessing and the safety of Allah are on him – said: “He killed seven (men) and they killed him. This man is of me and me of him!” The Hadith specialists adds: “Then the Prophet held him in his arms until one had dug for him a tomb, without him having no other bed than the arms of the Prophet. We do not know if they were able to wash him before the burial.
One of the Blacks was Faraj, the barber-surgeon, who was so just that he was often called by the judges for council. He was a freedmen of Jafar ibn Sulayman. He served Jafar many years cutting his hair and beard. Jafar had never found him making mistakes in what he did or said. So he decided to test him. If it really turns out his behavior is the result of inner- wisdom, I will make him free, find him a wife, and make him rich. If things turn different, I will have to take other steps. And one day when Faraj was cupping him he asked: slave do you cup yourself?
– And when?
– When I need some.
– Do you know when you need some?
– I know it most of the time, but sometimes it happens to me to make an error.
– What do you eat?
– In winter of sweetened big Dakbirah and in summer Sikbaga bitter-sweet “.
Ga’ far b. Sulaiman kept his promises.
It is in connection to this that Abu Firun said (Ragaz):
“Out of the way, my wife is in front of me,
I am a very close friend of Farag the layer of suction cups “.
One says: Farag had acquired such a reputation of impartiality, of nobility of heart of piety and religious scruple, that his owners, the descendants of Ga’ far and the notable ones of Mirbad required his testimony only for healthy businesses and without dispute “.
As for El-Haiqutan, he is the one who wrote the poem used in Yemen when arguing with the Quaresh and Mubar. The same poem the people from Persia and Ethiopia use against the Arabs. When the white poet, Jarir, saw El-Haiqutan in a white robe on a feast day, he remarked, “He looks like the penis of a donkey wrapped in white paper.” El-Haiqutan replied to him in a poem in which he said, “Though my hair is wooly and my skin black as coal I am generous and my honor shines. My color does not prevent my being valiant with my sword in battle. Know, you who would boast of your petty glory :
The people of the Negus have more reason for glory then you.
In the days that Islam was offered to El-Julanda, Ibn Kisra, Harith, Hawdha, the Copts, and Caesar they all refused.
Off al the kings only the Negus accepted.
As a result his kingdom lasted long, unmovable and prosperous.
Loqman was one of them, so to were his son and his mothers son.
As well as Abraha, the most renowned king.
Abu Yaksum’s invasion threatened the existence of your country,
And yet, you were as numerous as the grains (of sand), and more still,
Like the water birds, when, on them, fall
In a deserted country, the bird with the bent claws and gray of color. If another than Allah had wished to push back ‘Abraha. You would have noticed. That one which has the most experience of men is closest to the facts. There is no claim to fame, except that you live opposite the Sanctuary,
And that you lit fires in its vicinity.
If one of your chiefs, concerned his honor, advances (against us),
Or we face him, or he turns the back to us.
And as for what you say, that it is about a divine prophecy,
You did not know to protect the Sanctuary surrounded by veils.
You claim to be a tribe never subjugated and never paying tribute,
But it is simpler to pay a tax than to flee.
If a sovereign had wanted to seize it,
Then the Himyar and their Maqawil would have come there.
One can not stay there neither in summer nor in winter;
And its water is far from spouting out as in Guata.
There is neither place pleasant to the eye nor hunting ground,
But only the trade, and the trade is a disdainful thing.
Aren’t you (Garir) a puppy (kulaib) and your mother is she not a ewe?
Fats sheep are the source of your shame and your vanity.
As for the verses:
Gulanda, the son of Chosroes, Harit,
Hawda, the Copt and the worthy Cesar said no to Islam,
then he is referring to the time when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) wrote to the Bana Julanda, but they refused to listen. As was the case with Chosroes, of Harith ibn Abi Shamir, of Hawdha ibn Ali al-Hanafi, of the Muqawqis, the patriarch of the Copts and ruler of Alexandria, and of the emperor of Byzantium; Caesar. However the Bana Mulanda became Muslim some time later, there where the Negus became Muslim before the conquest of Mecca and so retained his dominions while God took away the treasures (meaning provinces) from the others. The emperor of Byzantium; his diminished empire still exist, but he has been driven from every place where the hoofs of horses can tread. What rests him are bays, the high mountains, the strongest castles, the cold places and the rainy-windery ones. The poet also talks proudly of Loqman and his son.
When the poet says:
Abu Yaksum invaded the very heart of your country,
And this despite the fact that you were as numerous as the grains of sand.
He alludes here to the Lord of the Elephant whose army’s attacked Mecca to destroy the Ka’ba.
The Poet says : You were as numerous as the grains of sand, so why did you flee from him ? None of you withstanding him until he reached Mecca. Mecca is the mother of the cities. The Arabian Peninsula is the homeland of the Arabs and Mecca is one of its towns, but an important and ancient one. Because of that it is considered the mother of the peninsula. That is why with the conquest of conquests is meant the conquest of Mecca. Similarly the Fatiha of the Book is called the Mother of the Book.
It happens that the Arabs say of a thing that it is the mother of what it did not generate. Thus the expressions: he hid him on the top (Mother) of his head, of the same; Mother of hell. The host calls his hostess “my hospital Mother”.
A Bedouin, having been bitten by flees at a woman of which he was the host, says (Ragaz):
O Hospital mother! That your face is saved to me;
And that the supreme Master delivers me from your residence
And of the bites of flees which – I see it! – will make me die.
I spent the night to scratch me, to scratch myself
as scrapes itself a scabrous camel, during the rest.
Allah – How He is exalted! – clarifies Mecca and the Temple, when He says: “In truth, the first temple [which] was founded for people, is certainly that located at Bakka, [temple] blessed and direction for the world ”.
The poet wants to say: when Mecca – Mother of the cities, place of the Holy Temple and your claim to fame – was the object of raids, it is you all which were the object of raids.
As for the verses of the poet:
And as for what you say, it is about a divine prophecy;
You did not know to protect the Sanctuary, surrounded by veils.
You claim that your people have never been subjugated or paid tribute.
But paying that you will find easier then fleeing.
This is why the poet Abid ibn al-Abras says:
They refused to submit to kings and are free-people.
When they hear the call of war they go.
What he says means; you say you pay no tribute but paying is easier then fleeing and surrender although you enormously outnumber your enemies.
When the poet says: Your country is not nice in winter or summer, nor is there the abundant water like Juatha (in Bahrayn).
He means conquering Mecca would never have brought profit, otherwise Yemen and other countries would have. The climate is bad; in winter its people go to Taif; during the heat to Jidda. And nothing in Mecca can compare with the lushness of Juatha.
When the poet says:
There is no grazing for the male oryx, no hunting either;
Only trading places and trade is never a right occupation.
He means Mecca has no lush green places, hunting is prohibited. There are only merchants which have no good reputation.
He also says that the people of Mecca lack strength and kings refrain from taking their means of living because they would not satisfy a king. Those from Mecca are unable to protect themselves.
Because of this the poet Muawiya ibn Aws said:
I bought, in a shop, more than one goatskin flask of wine,
As swarthy as a man with the dark skin,
I folded back the opening of it on the neck,
Folded back it resembled a mutilated hand;
I carried them to a greedy Arab merchant, or a wine merchant bearing earrings and with cripple Arab.
All these verses refer to the Quraysh. They say that the Quraysh are merchants who seek the protection of the Sanctuary, and when they travel, they carry the fruit of the palm tree and the bark of trees, so that they are recognized and that nobody kills them.
The poet says:
Are you not a member of the Kulayb tribe? Isn’t your mother one of those sheep?
Your fat sheep are both your pride and your shame.
It is rumored that the Kulayd tribe is having intercourse with their sheep just like the tribes of el-Araj and Sulaym. And the people of the Ashja are rumored to have intercourse with goats.
If only one of the tribes of the Quraysh had degraded me other then the goat buggers Sulaym and Ashja.
Al Farazdaq said:
As long as I live I will never be able to bring as sacrifice the milk sheep that belonged to the Araj.
After spending my money I may find the animal gives bird to a boy.
Another poet: If you want more money for your female donkey, just tell the Darimi that you sell it.
He will kiss its back, but for its dryness, would draw near to its buttocks.
The Darimi, when he copulates with the donkey wants his mouth to reach the animals mouth.
Abd ibn Rashid said:
They are bad people, the best of them are still bad.
To the sheep they herd they are the male and the shepherd.
When one of their women is made ready for marriage;
It will be the spotted sheep that weeps sincerely.
This is why Al ‘Ahtal said (Kamil);
Enjoy your ewes, O Garir.
Because your heart encouraged you only with the depravity in loneliness.
This is why Al-Haiqutan says:
Are not you not a puppy (kulaib) and your mother is she not a ewe?
Fat sheep are the source of your shame and your vanity.
As for shame, it is about their bad reputation in connection with the ewes. As for their claim to fame: the poet makes it clear that, when they are prevailed of something, it is ewes, if still they would arrive to the camels.
Among the claims to fame of the Blacks, of Zang and Abyssinians, in addition to the fragment of the Al-Haiqutan poem, which we have mentioned, it is necessary to count, after Garir b. Al-Hatafa who had turned against the Banu Taglib in (Kamil):
Do not seek really any maternal uncle at [Banu] Taglib,
Because Zang have maternal uncles nobler than them [Banu Taglib],
the verses of Sanih b. Ribah which, in anger, turns to Garir and, against him, glorifies the Zang (Kamil):
Why does this animal of the Kulayd talks bad about us?
Has he seen he is no match for Hajib and Iqal?
Somebody who compares the donkey called Maragha and her son (Jarir)
To al Farazdaq is unreal and beyond understanding.
If you would meet Zanj in formation for battle,
You would see noble heroes.
Ask Ibn Amr, when he sought out their spears,
Did he not find the Zanj spears to be long?
They took (killed) the son of Ziyad and they dismount their horses for battle.
And when they have dismounted to go to battle, what a battle.
They left in their courtyards the horses of war,
While you had only sheep and lambs in your corals.
Ibn Nadba, a warrior in your ranks, was one of us blacks
So was Khufaf, who had many problems to take care of,
And the two sons of Zubayba, Antara and Harasa.
We don’t see other people like that in your ranks .
Ask Ibn Jayfar, when he marched against our homeland,
How destructive they were when they attacked him.
Ans Sulayk, called the lion, or the respected Abbas,
When they attack, they all outshine you completely.
Among them is also Ibn Khazim ibn Ajla.
He surpassed all tribes in courage and honesty.
They were all sons of noble women, who were on they turn descendents of noble women.
They are the lions who bring up their little ones.
And so are we nobler then the Kulaib because of our maternal uncles;
You, however, you are viler than them under this same report.
And the sons of Al-Hubab, here are people who can strike a lance or to nourish you.
In winter, when the wind of the North blows.
The ibn ‘Amr of which we talked is Hafs b. Ziyad b. ‘Amr Al ‘Ataki; he replaced his father as the head of the Al-Haggag police force, when Ribah Sar az-Zangi seized the area of the Euphrate, Hafq b. Ziyad went then to meet him. Ribah killed them, him and his men, and pillaged his camp.
As for Ibn Gaifar, it is an-Nu’ man b. Gaifar b. ‘Ubad b. Gaifar b. Al Julanda (or Gulanda); they had made an incursion in Zang territory: The Zang killed them and plundered the camp.
Then the poet speaks about the sons of the Zang women, when they draw towards the Zang in bravery and self-esteem. He mentions then Hufaf bin Nadba, ‘Abbas b. Mirdas, the two sons of Saddad: ‘Antara ‘l-Fawaris and his brother Harasa, as well as Sulaik bin as-Salaka. The latter, lions among the men, have the boldest hearts, the most intrepid courage and they passed in proverb.
One counts among ( the sons of the Zang women) ‘Abd Allah b. Hazim as Sulami, and the sons of Al-Hubab: ‘Umair b. Al-Hubab and his brothers. Al Jahhaf ibn Hakim was one of them to.
They are also proud of Raban, Bilal’s brother, because of his piety also Amir ibn Fuhayra who was at Badr and died a martyrs dead on the day of Bir Mauna, and those present saw him being raised up by God up from the earth to the heaven, so he has no grave among us.
Among the blacks is also Yasir’s family.
They also say: El-Ghandaf who was with Ubayd Allah ibn al Hurr was one of us, he was the most courageous among men. He would attack caravans single-handed. Also a man with proverbial courage was Kabawayh who was with al Mughira ibn al Fizr. Marbah al Ashram ; the young slave of general Abu Bahr was black to. He came here from Syria in the days of Qutayba ibn Muslim. His reputation was so widespread that people tried not to meet him. Also among them was El Maglul and his sons, who though slaves were very generous and wise and were renowned among the people of the dessert about their knowledge of it. Also among us was Aflah, who attacked caravans in Khorassan single handed for twenty years.
Malik ibn al-Rayb killed him after he had sodomized him in the middle of the night, when he was to intoxicated and unarmed. The verses of his son testify about this (Tawil):
He Malik! If ‘Aflah had not been drunk, you would have seen undoubtedly that he is brother of the russet-red lion and even the eclipse!
The Blacks continue: coming from Abyssinia, we were Masters of the country of Arabia up to Mecca, and on all the country our law reigned. We put to rout Du Nuwas, killed by the ‘Aqyal Himyarites. You, you never dominated our country.
Your poet says (Tawil): They ruined Gumdan and threw its roof down.
Riyat and his troops, by an impetuous attack, with force.
The Abyssinians encircled it at night and threw down
A construction built by the ‘Aqyal at in remote times,
A multitude, of black color, coming from Al-Yaksum, such as
The lions of d’as-Sara, which would have been wearing a leopard skin.
[Blacks] add: we count among us Kabagila; no one of those who went up the Sulaiman channel and who fought in singular combat did resemble him.
They continue: also the forty are ours who revolted, at the time of the qadi Sawwar b. ‘Abd Allah, in the area of the Euphrates; they drove out their dwellings the populations of this area and went on to an immense massacre of the inhabitants of Ubulla.
The one who did cut the head of Isa ibn Jafar in Oman with a Bahrayni scythe when all were afraid was one of us.
Everybody knows that the Zanj are among the most generous of mortals ; a quality that is found only among noble characters. These people have a natural talent for dancing to the rhythm of the tambourine, without needing to learn it. There are no better singers anywhere in the world, no people more polished and eloquent, and no people less given to insulting language. All other peoples in the world have their stammerers, those who have difficulty in pronouncing certain sounds, and those who cannot express themselves fluently or are downright tongue-tied, except the Zanj. Sometimes some of them recite before their ruler continuously from sunrise to sunset, without needing to turn round or pause in their flow. No other nation can surpass them in bodily strength and physical toughness. One of them will lift huge blocks and carry heavy loads that would be beyond the strength of most Bedouins or members of other races. They are courageous, energetic, and generous, which are the virtues of nobility, and also good-tempered and with little propensity to evil. They are always cheerful, smiling, and devoid of malice, which is a sign of noble character. Some people say that their generosity is due to their stupidity, shortsightedness and lack of foresight, but our reply is that this is a scurvy way of commending generosity and altruism. At that rate the wisest and most intelligent man would be the most stingy and ungenerous. But in fact the Slavs are more stingy than the Byzantines, and the latter more intelligent and thoughtful; according to our opponents’ argument, the Slavs ought to be more generous and open-handed than the Byzantines.
Likewise we see that women have less sense than man and children have less sense than women, but are meaner than they are. If more sense meant greater meanness, then the child should be the most generous of all. Yet in fact we know nothing on earth that is worth than a boy, for he is the most untruthful of mankind, the most calumnious, the nastiest, and the meanest, the least inclined to do good, and the most ruthless. Only gradually does the boy leave these qualities as he gains in sense and gains in good deeds. How then can the lack of sense be the cause of generosity in the Zanj? You have admitted that they are generous, and then you make assertions which are untenable, and we have already shown you the fallacy of your argument according to true reasoning. This opinion would mean that the coward is wiser than the brave man, the treacherous wiser than the loyal, and that the worrier is wiser than the patient man. This is something for which you have no proof. These qualities in man are a gift of God. Sense is a gift, and good character is a gift, and generosity and courage likewise.
The Zanj say to the Arabs: You are so ignorant that during the jahiliyya (the times of ignorance ) you regarded us as your equals when it came to marrying Arab women, but with the advent of the justice of Islam you decided this practice was bad. Yet the desert is full of Zanj married to Arab wives, and they have been princes and kings and have safeguarded your rights and sheltered you against your enemies.
You even have sayings in your language which vaunt the deeds of our kings–deeds which you often placed above your own; this you would not have done had you not considered them superior to your own.
Al Namr ibn Tawlab recited the following poem:
Bad luck came over his rule as over Tubba
And the great king Abraha, placed him higher then the princes of his own country.
Labid ibn Radi’a recited the following:
If a person could reach eternity during his lifetime, Abu Yaksum would be among those.
This kind of virtue has never been ascribed to anyone before.
The (Zanj) also say: from Labid’s verses it becomes also clear that you put our kings higher then your own.
Darkness came over those who survived from Muharriq’s family.
Darkness that had done its work with Tubba and Heraclius,
Darkness that had vanquished Abraha, who was living in the palace of Mawkal.
So he prefers Abraha , but he would like the other kings to be his equals.
The (Zanj) say : The Ethiopian, Akym ibn Akym, was more eloquent than Eli-Ajjaj. It is from him that the Syrians learnt the sciences and also from El Montagi ibn Nabhan, who was a native of Negroland and had a pierced ear. He had come to the Arabian desert as a child and left it with a complete knowledge of Arabic.
Hakim ibn Ayash al Kalbi said:
Don’t feel pride in the maternal uncle from the Asad tribe;
Because even the Zanj and Nubians are more noble to have as uncles then they.
Akym ibn Akym the Abyssinian made the following response:
On the day of the battle of Ghumdun we were like lions and on the day of Yathrib we were the stallions of the Arabs. On the fearful day of the elephant the hearts of the Arabs deserted them and they fled on their camels.
The negus is one of us; and Dhul Aqsayn is your brother in law. The grandfather of Abraha, the protector of Abu Talib was one of us.
I have to forgive Adnan if he makes fun with us ; because what can be said of the genealogy of the Himyari? They are muleteers, assembled from everywhere, gathered as a net gathers fish in the stormy sea.
Gumdan, a fortress, ordinary the residence of the king – then Persian – who reigned on Yemen. When Abyssinians seized Yemen, they let remain only of the ruins which ‘Utman b. ‘Affan – That Allah satisfied with him! – destroyed at the time of the coming of Islam, while saying: “It is necessary to extirpate the vestiges of the gahiliya (the false prophet)”. The fortress comprised a cistern, capped by an asbestos roof, of which Halaf Al ‘Ahmar said;
And an asbestos cistern, which demolished
By the attacking Abyssinian, and his king.
About it, Qudama, the wise of the Moslem East and Master in alchemy, has said (Tawil); He lit its fire there; nevertheless fire
Would last indefinitely, the cistern does not disappear,
Because asbestos, even if a fire burned there thousand years, would not heat. Those which launch the naphtha coat themselves with some, when they want to penetrate into the fire.
Labid says (Wafir);
O friendly, do you not see a flash illuminating the black night,
Like the flame on the wick of the lamp?
I could not find the sleep, while the flash moved away towards Nagd in the motionless night,
And when the companions were held dormant on their saddles of wood.
Its shoddy cloud illuminated the heavy clouds and there cut out silhouettes of Abyssinians, Armed with small swaths and javelins.
“Labid,” he says, “used this imagery because when the Ethiopians, splendid in the blackness of their skins and in the vigor and strength of their superb bodies, attacked with their spears, bows, and arrows they spread an unimaginable terror around them.”
When Ukaym says : On the day of Yathrib we were the stallions of the Arabs.
It is a reference to Musrif ibn Uqba al Murri the general who gave the conquered city (Medina) over to the troops for pillage and the Negroes cohabited with the captured women, which are mentioned in the following verses of Mudar;
Ask Musrif El Mwirri the general in question about the morning when he gave the captured virgins over to his weather-beaten Negro soldiers. On this occasion the Zanj fought you, Whites, in spite of your rage. Wahrig defended you with his Persians, whilst the Ethiopian general commanded in the midst of destruction. It was then the women of your race were enjoyed by a Negro, whose phallus was the size of a donkey’s.
When the poet says:
They are muleteers, assembled from everywhere, gathered as a net gathers fish in the stormy sea.
He here accepted what story tellers say about Himyar.-That they used to be muleteers.
The Negroes can also be proud of the fact that the single dead person over whom the Prophet ever prayed was their ruler, the Emperor of Ethiopia.
He prayed for the Negus, while the Prophet was in Medina, and the tomb of the Negus in Abyssinia.
And also: “the Negus is who gave in marriage to the Prophet – That blessing and the safety of Allah be on him! – ‘Umm Habiba, girl of Abu Sufyan: he asked Halid b. Sa’ id to be the tutor of ‘Umm Habiba, offering in the name of the Prophet – How the blessing and the safety of Allah are on him! – a dowry of four hundred dinars.
And also: we made you three presents: the civet, the most sweet perfume, most exquisite and noblest; the litter; it is the best defense for the women and best protection for what is sacred for man; the codex: it preserves best its contents and ensure best preservation; it is splendid and most handy.
And also: we inspire the most fear in the heart and catch most of the glances (of the onlookers), just as the carriers of black (Abbasid) inspire more fear and fill up more the heart than the carriers of white (Umayyad), in the same way the night inspires more fear than the day.
And also: the color black always inspires the most fear. The Arabs, to describe their camels, say: “the black horses are most beautiful and most robust, the black cows best and most beautiful, and their skins are most valuable, most useful and most durable. The black ewes give the fattiest milk and creamy, moreover the dark brown ewes give more milk then the russet-red ewes”. while every stone and hill is dryer and harder the more it is black.
The black lion is invincible.
The black date is the highest quality. Healthy date palms have black stems.
A hadith of the Prophet says : Follow the great black color.
The poet al-Ansari says:
I’m in debt but I do not have to worry;
Because I own tall date groves, well pruned.
And every heavy laden palm seems to have been smeared with the pitch of blood of sacrificed animals.
The Zanj say that the best green is the darkest green. God, may he be exalted said: And besides these there are two gardens. When describing them so as to make people long for them God called them dark green. Ibn Abbas said : they became dark green through irrigation.
Black ebony is the most solid and most durable of woods. It s also most expensive , free of disease, best fit for art-work. It is so heavy that of all woods expensive and cheap ones only ebony sinks in the water. Remember that even certain stones do not sink while ebony sinks immediately.
A person remains handsome as long as his hair is still black and in paradise everyone will have black hair. The pupils of the eye, too are black and are they not the most precious part of the human body. The most expensive kohl is made of antimony which is black. This is why a hadith of the Prophet states that God will have all the faithful enter paradise hairless (on their body) beardless, and their eyes blackened with kohl.
Man doesn’t have anything more useful in him than his liver, which ensures the good operation of the stomach and the digestion of food and the good functioning of the unit maintains the life of the body; however, the liver is black.
Man does not have anything more valuable, more expensive in him than the black bile of his heart, a clot of black blood situated in the folds of this internal organ; it holds in this heart the same place as the brain in the head.
The woman does not have anything sweeter and more pleasant than her lips, for the kiss; however, they are all the more beautiful as they are as close to the black as possible. Du r-Rumma says (Basit):
Sunk are its lips blood-colored and purple,
Of the same are her gums, fine and bright her teeth.
The most pleasant shade and freshest is the shade [well] black. The poet says (Ragaz): Jet black, similar to the shade projected by the stone.
Humaid b. Tawr says (Tawil):
We sought the shade of a cave, while our mounts
Sought the wood shade shaded on which would fall the evening,
Trees in the major shades, like
Ascetic nuns, who prohibit the wine.
Allah created, the night for the rest and recovery, and the day for the profit and the labor.
One can also say that black is associated with activity as scorpions and snakes come out at night and bring their poison into the night. This activity counts for most wild animals and also ghosts. All this happens during the night. The blacks say; we also resemble the night like this.
They also say : the greatest of siestas that last the longest is in the darkness of the closed door and windows.
They also say : no color is deeper and homogeneous then black.
A proverb to say that something is very far :
You will not see this until tar becomes white and the raven gray-haired.
According to the philosophers, black is the accident that fills the area.
Musk and amber are the best perfumes. Both are black; as are the hardest rock.
Abu Daddil al-Jumahi said the following lines in praise of al Azzaq al Makhzumi who was called Abd Allah ibn Abd Shams ibn al Mughira. :
My gratefulness to you is boundless;
As long as there are rocks in the valley of the Lebanon
You will be the object of praise and precious in value.
Just as there is no fault in the Black Stone.
The Arabs draw glory from the black color. If an objector advances; “On what is that based, as they say: Such is of a pure white, bursting of whiteness, white and of clear face? We will answer: By this, the Arabs do not mean the whiteness of the skin, but rather the nobility and purity of character. The Hudr (of Banu) Muharib draw glory from their dark color, and people with the black dye are called among Arabs the hudr.
As-Sammah b. Dirar says (Tawil):
The camels leave in the evening Zarud, and [the setting sun] covered
Zubala with the coat of the night.
The poet says (Ragaz);
Until the moment when the morning draws me from a dark night,
Like the valiant knight who takes from the sleeve the well soaked sword.
The Arabs qualify the iron as dark, because it is hard, and that it is dark means black.
Al-Harit b. Hilliza says (Munsarih):
When we force our camels from the branches of palm tree of Bahrain,
A race not stopped until Al-Hisau retains them.
We then put to defeat the troop of the son of Umm Qatam,
The ones with the dark weapons of Persia.
Al-Muharibi said the following about his being a member of the Khudr clan.
Every man of virtue knows I’m a member of the Khudr clan of the tribe of Qays.
Not easily to command; not enduring any injustice, and mentally sharp.
The clan of Mughira are the Khudr of the tribe of Makhzum .
Al Makhzumi spoke the following lines, which were also from al-Fadl ibn al-Abbas al Lihbi:
I am the famous Al Akhdar, very well known
The dark one in the land of the Arabs.
Those finding me in a contest as adversary, find a noble man.
The one who fills the bucket to the knot in the rope.
The Khudr of the Ghassan tribe are the royal house of Jafna.
Al Ghassani said:
According to Al Hakam I’m a descendent from the royal Khudr.
Of those who paid the blood money to those of Baris.
Some poet; maybe Hassan mentions the Khudr of the Ukaym tribe; saying;
You are not from the nobles of the clan Hashim, neither from the Jumah, Khudri, and the other powerful.
The ten sons of Abd el Mottalib the grandfather of Mohammed were all black and strong. The Amir ibn al Tufayl said that the Kaba was well guarded when he saw them on black camels going around the Kaba.
Ibn Abbas was black and very tall. Those of Abu Talib’s family , who are the most noble of men, are more or less black.
The Zanj say: The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: I was send to the red and the black. And everybody knows that the Zanj, Abyssinians and Nubians or surely not white or red but definitely black.
We know that Allah, the Most Powerful and Exalted, sent His Prophet (to the people), all of them: Arabs and non-Arabs (ajam) alike. And if he (Muhammad) said: I was sent to the ruddy (Al-ahmar) and the dark-skinned (al-aswad), then in his view we are neither ruddy nor light-skinned (bid); so he was sent to us. Indeed, his use of the dark-skinned refers to us, as the people (of our community) are in one of these categories (i.e. either ruddy or dark-skinned).
Therefore, if the Arabs are ruddy, then they belong to the Byzantines (Rum), Slaves (Saqaliba), Persians and Khurasanis. But if they belong to the dark-skinned peoples, then they are a sub-category of our stock. So they are called medium-complexioned and brownish-black (sumr sud) when they are classified with us, as the Arabs use the masculine gender to refer to a group consisting of females and males.
And if the Prophet – may Allah be pleased with him – knew that the Zanj, Ethiopians and Nubians were not ruddy or light-skinned, rather dark-skinned, and that Allah Most High sent him to the dark-skinned and the ruddy, then surely he made us and the Arabs equals. Hence, we are the only dark-skinned people. If the appellation dark-skinned applies to us, then we are the pure Sudan, and the Arabs only resemble us. Therefore we are the first people to whom he was missioned. Thus the appellation of the Arabs is predicated on ours, since we alone are designated dark-skinned, and they are not so designated unless they are part of us.
The Zanj also say: The Arabs think that the more people the better but we are the most numerous on this world, and have the most children. You can say there are two kinds of people among us (among the Zanj) the ants and the dogs. Trying to measure the amount of Arabs with the amount of ants you will see the ants are more numerous. Well then still add the dogs to that amount. You really have to add on the people of Abyssinia, Nubia, Fazzan, Marawa, Zaghawa and all the other black tribes.
Qahtan is far from Adnan. We are closer kin to the Abyssinians and our mothers are closer kin then those of Adnan are to Qahtan. When talking about languages the one from Ajuz of the Hawazin tribe is very different. Languages can be very different but still have the same origin; or have different origins but resemble each other anyhow. The language in the different regions of Khurasan differ as well as those of Jibal and Faris it all depends on the region but they have the same origin.
They say: You have never seen the genuine Zanj. You have only seen captives who came from the coasts and forests and valleys of Qanbuluh, from our menials, our lower orders, and our slaves. The people of Qanbaluh have neither beauty nor intelligence. Qanbaluh is the name of the place by which your ships anchor.
The natives in the Bilad Zanj are in both Qambalu (Pemba) and Lunjuya (Unguja), just as Arabs are the descendants of Adnan and Qahtan in the Middle East.
You have yet to see a member of the Langawiya kind, either from the coast (al-Sawahil), or from the interior (al-Jouf). If you would meet these, you would forget the issue of fair looks and perfection. Now if you refuse to believe this, saying that you have yet to meet a Zanji with the brains even of a boy or a woman, we would reply to you, have you ever met among the enslaved of India and Sindh individuals with brains, education, culture and manners so as to expect these same qualities in what has fallen to you from among the Zanj.
Yet you know how much there is in India of mathematics, astronomy, medical science, turnery and woodwork, painting, and many other wonderful crafts. How does it happen that among the many Indian captives you have made there has never been one of this quality, or even a tenth of this quality?
If you say, People of standing, intelligence and knowledge only live in the centre, near the seat of government; these are hangers-on uncouth types, peasants, people of the coast and swamps and forests and islands, plowmen and fishermen, we answer you; the same is true of those who you see and those you do not see of us. Our answer to you is as your answer to us.
They say; If a Zanji and a Zanji women marry and their children remain after puberty in Iraq, they come to rule the roost thanks to their numbers, endurance, knowledge, and efficiency. On the other hand, the child of an Indian and an Indian woman, or of a Greek and a Greek woman, or of a Khurasani and a Khurasani women remain among you and in your country in the same condition as their fathers and mothers. The child of two Zanji parents does not remain thus after puberty, so that we do not find, among ten thousand, one who does what we said, except when a Zanji mates with a non-Zanji woman or a Zanji women with a non-Zanji man. Were it not for the fact that neither the Zanji man nor the Zanji women has much desire for people of other races, we would see an abundant progeny for Zanji men, while Zanji women hardly respond to non-Zanji men.
They say: Likewise, you whites are not very active in seeking progeny from Zanji women, and the Zanji women falls pregnant more swiftly to a Zanji than to a white man.
They say; it hardly ever happens among you that a man has a hundred children sprung from his loins, unless it is a Caliph, and then it is because of the large number of his women. You don’t find this among the rest of you. Among the Zanj so large a progeny would not be considered remarkable, for there are many such in their country. A Zanji woman bears about 50 times in about 50 years, each bird being twins, so that there are more then ninety. For it is said that women do not bear children when they reach 60, except for what is told of the women of Quraysh in particular.
The Zanj are the most eager of all God’s creatures for their women, and so also their women for them. They are also better compared to other women.
Please think about what we have said. We have used facts from history as arguments and explained or quoted poetry from Arabs and others.
Al Farazdaq was the one specialist of women and he had tried all races and remained unsatisfied. So he finally married Umm Makkiya the Zanj women and stayed with her. Forgetting all others because of her qualities. He made the following verse:
He quotes Arab poet Farazdaq (d730) How many a tender daughter of the Zanj walks about with a hotly burning oven as broad as a drinking bowl.
Dananir the daughter of Kabawayh al Zanji lived with Asha Sulaym. She was extremely black. Once she dyed her hands with henna and her eyes with black kohl. He made the following verse of it.
She dyes the palm of her hands, palms as if clipped off from her forearm.
She dyes the henna with her black color.
She seems with the kohl in her pencil,
As if she is applying kohl to her eyes with part of her skin.
She answered with the following poem:
Uglier than my color is the blackness of his arse.
Contrasting with his skin, which is like palm pith or even whiter.
In the streets they started calling him black and the street kids yelled it and he divorced her.
The day of their wedding he had said: Dinars are of poor metal; and her response was: A white head is worse then my black color. The worst however are gray eyebrows.
He kept quiet for some time and then attacked again. When she finally brought disgrace on him he divorced her.
They say; If white men look on black women without desire, so too do black men look on white women without desire, for passions are habits and mostly convention. Thus, for the people of Basra, the most desirable women are Indians, the daughters of Indian women and Ghuris; for the Yemenis the most desirable women are Ethiopians and the daughters of Ethiopian women; for the Syrians the most desirable women are Greeks and the daughters of Greek women. Each people has a taste for the women whom they import as slaves and captives, apart from the exceptions, and no inferences can be drawn from exceptions.
The Negroes also have the sweetest breath and the greatest amount of saliva being in this respect like the dog as compared with other animals.
The Zanj say: Black delights the eye. When the eyes hurt a common prescription is sitting in the dark with a rag over the eyes. Good eyesight is the most precious thing for a person. They say :
The blacks are more numerous than the whites. The whites at most consist of the people of Persia, Jibal, and Khurasan, the Greeks, Slavs, Franks, and Avars, and some few others, not very numerous; the blacks include the Zanj, Ethiopians, the people of Fazzan, the Berbers, the Copts, and Nubians, the people of Zaghawa, Marw, Sind and India, Qamar and Dabila, China, and Masin… the islands in the seas between China and Africa are full of blacks, such as Ceylon, Kalah, Amal, Zabij, and their islands, as far as India, China, Kabul, and those shores.
They say; Al-Ishtiyan the blind man used to say; There are more blacks than whites, more rocks than mud, more sand than soil, more saltwater than sweet water.
They say; The Arabs belong with us and not with the whites, because their color is nearer to ours. The Indians are more bronzed than the Arabs, and they belong to the blacks. For the Prophet, God bless and save him, said; I was sent to the red and the black, and everyone knows that the Arabs are not red, as we already have stated above.
He said; This advantage belongs to us and to the Arabs, as against the whites, if the Arabs want it. If they do not want it, then the advantage is ours alone against all the rest.
The Zanj also say: If we are more numerous because of Zabaj alone we would still be far superior to you because of our merit. If it happens that the king of Zabaj has problems with the citizens, and they don’t pay their taxes, he sends his army of thousands of people not with orders to beat and fight them. He does give orders for his soldiers to settle between them till they pay them. His army is bothering the people so badly by taking food and clothing from them that it is easier to pay the taxes. If they still don’t pay he sends more regiments. The local rulers always wind up paying for fear he and his people will finally be destroyed by the army.
Once a king of Zabay reached an estuary which is several parasangs long and wide. In his camp he heard a women crying. He interrupted his meal to go and ask what had happened. He was told that the son of the women was eaten by a crocodile in the swamp. The king got angry because a creature existed that just like him took the right to decide on live or dead of his people. He dived into the water, all his soldiers followed him. They finished every single crocodile in the place with their hands. The people of Zabay alone are half of the population on earth. On the ends of the inhabited world all are black people. These ends are more populated then the central area, just like the circumference of a windmill in the wind is bigger than the pivot of that windmill. It is like the balcony of a house; it is narrow but as it goes all around the house its total area is bigger then the house itself. After the land of Zabay there are no more white people as we have reached there the periphery of the world where all are black. This is a proof that we are more numerous then the whites and we have the right to be proud of it.
One of the white poets said:
You are not more then they in number
And glory belongs to those bigger in number.
The Zanj also say: The Copts too are blacks. Abraham the friend of God married one of them and so was born a big prophet the ancestor of the Arabs; Ismael. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) also married one of them and Ibrahim was born. The angel Gabriel when addressing the prophet called him father of Ibrahim.
To those who despise the color black, we would reply that the excessive lanky, thin, and reddish hair of the Franks, Greeks, and Slavs, the redness of their locks and beards, the whiteness of their eyelashes, are uglier and more loathsome. There are no albinos among blacks, but only among you.
The Zanj also say : We also have philosophers from among us as well as theologians and we have fine manners. God may he be exalted , did not make them black in order to disfigure them; rather it is their environment that made them so. The best evidence of this is that there are black tribes among the Arabs, such as the Banu Sulaim bin Mansur, and that all the peoples settled in the Harra, besides the Banu Sulaim are black. These tribes take slaves from among the Ashban to mend their flocks and for irrigation work, manual labor, and domestic service, and they take their wives from among the Byzantines; and yet it takes less than three generations for the Harra region to give them all the complexion of the Banu Sulaim. This region is such that the gazelles, ostriches, insects, wolves, foxes, sheep, asses, horses and birds that live there are all black. White and black are the results of environment, the natural properties of water and soil, distance from the sun, and intensity of heat. There is no question of metamorphosis, or of punishment, disfigurement or favor meted out by Allah. Besides, the land of the Banu Sulaim has much in common with the land of the Turks, where the camels, beasts of burden, and everything belonging to these people is similar in appearance: everything of theirs has a Turkish look.
The soldiers of the frontier garrisons on this side of the Awsim sometimes come across Byzantine sheep mixed up with sheep belonging to the local inhabitants, but they have no difficulty in distinguishing the Byzantine flocks from the Syrian by their Byzantinity. When one comes across the descendents of Bedouin men and women who have ended up in Kurasan it is immediately apparent that they are the barbarians of these parts.
This exists in all things. Thus we see that locusts and worms on plants are green, and we see that the louse is black on a young man’s head, white if his hair whitens, red if it is dyed.
Our blackness, O people of the Zanj, is not different from the blackness of the Banu Sulaym and other Arab tribes we have mentioned.
And the very blackness of the Zanj is like the total whiteness of the white men. The same rules apply to the brown color of the children of mixed marriages, also on their appearance, their habits in eating and desires.
A poet when talking about Usaylim ibn al Alnaf al Asadi mentioned the blackness of the people of Yemen :
There is Usaylim, easily noticed by those searching
He belongs to the elite chiefs through his line of descent
Others then in fear of his royal birth clap their hands.
Black musk is applied to his hair as well as perfumed oil.
If the black Yemenites would make him a woolen cloak
They have to make it thin and wide.
A slave of the Bana Jada; being laughed at because of his black color said:
They ridicule me because of my black color. I answered that only very stupid men can do so. Because as much as my skin is black I am in character white.
I help friends in their needs as well as women traveling in their litters.
When I have to face a fight (litt: the lance) I am called father of Saraq.
The wife of Amr ibn Sha treated Irar ibn Amr badly. Because he was the son of a black women. Because of this he said the following on the children of Abyssinian and Zanj women:
Did she not notice that I’m grown up and humble
So that I do not answer anger with anger
Like the courageous I bow in silence
If a courageous man would find it proper he would bite deeply.
Her aim was to humiliate Irar
And those wanting to do so are very unjust.
Although he is dark
He has a very good figure
If you really are like me and have principles
Then be for him like the date butter which smoothens the skin.
If not get away even by horse, with provisions for 5 days without rest stops.
As regards the Indians, they are among the leaders in astronomy, mathematics in particular, they have Indian numerals, and medicine; they alone possess the secrets of the latter, and use them to practice some remarkable forms of treatment. They have the art of carving statues and painted figures. They possess the game of chess, which is the noblest of games and requires more judgment and intelligence than any other. They make Kedah swords, and excel in their use. They have splendid music, including that of the kankala, an instrument with a single string mounted on a gourd, which takes the place of the many stringed lute and cymbals. They know a number of sprightly dances. To them belong the variety of arts from sword fighters to magicians and fumigators and medical skills. They posses a script capable of expressing the sounds of all languages as well as many numerals. They have a great deal of poetry, many long treatises, and a deep understanding of philosophy and letters; the book Kalila wa-Dimna originated with them. They are intelligent and courageous, and have more good qualities than the Chinese. Their sound judgment and sensible habits led them to invent pins, cork and toothpicks, the drape of clothes and the dyeing of hair. They are handsome, attractive and forbearing, their women are proverbial, and their country produces the matchless Indian aloes which are supplied to kings. They were the originators of the science of fikr by which a poison can be counteracted after it has been used, and of astronomical reckoning, subsequently adopted by the rest of the world. When Adam descended from Paradise, it was to their land that he made his way.
The Zanj also say : Among our good qualities are our good singers. As you can find among the slave girls from Sind. Also nobody is a better cook then the black slaves from Sind. Also moneychangers will never entrust their money then to those from Sind or their descendents as they are found to be better in those affairs, more alert and worthy of thrusting . One hardly ever finds a Greek or a Khorassan in a position of trust in a bank. When the bankers of Basra saw the excellent affairs that Faraj Abu Kub, a Sindi, had negotiated for his master, each of them took a Sindi assistant. They all wanted to make the profit his master had made. Caliph Sultan Abdelmalik ibn Mcrwan often said, “El Adgham is a master among all the Orientals.” This El Adgham is also mentioned by Abdullar ibn Khnazim, who calls him, “An Ethiopian, a black son of Ethiopia.
And this is all that came to my mind about what the blacks could be proud about.
In former books we wrote of the pride of the Qahtan and later on if God whshes I will write on the pride of the Adnam against the Qahtan in much of what they said.
The complete text of this book here given was composed in the following way:
Taken from : http://www.cwo.com
These are the web-sides out of which I cut and pasted extracts from the book of Jahiz.
More extracts I took from books and articles.
-Bernard Lewis : Islam from the Prophet Muhammad to the capture of Constantinople
-G. Rotter ; Die Stellung des Negers in der islamisch-arabischen Gesellschaft bis zum XVI Jahrhundert
-Oscar Rescher, Excerpte und Übersetzungen aus den Schriften des Philologen und Dogmatikers Gahiz aus Bacra (150-250H) nebst noch unveroffentlichten Originaltexten Gahiz, Stuttgart 1931
-Rescher, Oskar: Orientalische Miszellen, Band 2, Konstantinopel (Stambul) 1926
-Susanne Enderwitz ; Gesellschaftlicher Rang und ethnische legitimation der arabische Schriftsteller Abu Utman al Gahiz (gest.868) uber die Africaner, Perser und Araber in der islamischen Gesellschaft
-Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, vol 1 , Islam and the Ideology of Slavery
Finally I did find three complete translations of Jahiz book.
-Book of the Glory of the Black race translated by : Vincent J. Cornell
-The boast of the blacks over the whites translated by T. Khalidi in Islamic Quarterly.
-Guy Ducatez et Jacky Ducatez; Al Gahiz, Kitab Fahr as Sudan Ala l-bidan
After having found those I arranged all the extracts I had and filled in the missing text from the full translations. My text so will have the faults that cut and paste work brings, like differences in ways of writing names from one extract to the other as well as the words Negro Black and Zanj become this way randomly used as every author translated differently. (My regrets)
I decided to put the whole text of this book on the inter-net instead of only those parts very relevant to East Africa as this is a book in defense of Black people.
When reading this book and the extracts from Jahiz other books who are given after this text one will see a striking difference. In his other works he speaks about the Zanj in a very racist way. This has made some authors think that he wrote this booklet on demand from higher authorities so as to win the loyalty of the blacks for the government. Jahiz was from Basra in the years just before the big Zanj rebellion. A similar book in defense of the Turks is known from him.