Fear of Blackness: Descriptions and Ethnogenesis of the original Afro-Arabian tribes of “Moorish” Spain
“…a fair-skinned Arab is something inconceivable… “ Ibn Abd Rabbu of Cordoba born 9thc. in El Iqd el Farid (The Precious Necklace), quoting Shuraik el-Qadi a 7th century Arab of the clan of Nakha’l of the Maddhij in the Yemen.
“…the Arabs describe their color as black and they describe the color of the non-Arab Persians as red.” Assertion of the 13th c. grammarian Ibn Manzur or Mandhur in Lisaan al Arab, Vol. 4 (born in Tunis or Northern Egypt.)
“Red, in the speech of the people from Hejaz means fair-complexioned, and this color is rare amongst the Arabs. This is the meaning of the saying … a red man as if he is one of the slaves.” From Seyar A’laam al-Nubalaa, vol. 2, by the Syrian Al-Dhahabi (Thahabi),of the century 14th c. A.D.
The Book of Oaths (Kitab al Aiman)
Book 015, Number 4046:
Ayyub said: We were sitting in the company of Abu Musa that he called for food and it consisted of flesh of fowl. It was then that a person from Banu Tamim visited him. His complexion was red having the resemblance of a slave.
Lisaan al Vol. 4.
“Lank hair is the kind of hair that most non-Arab Persians and Romans have while kinky hair is the kind of hair that most Arabs have.” Lisaan al Arab, vol 3. Ibn Mandhur.
“All the lands became inhabited by Arabs completely mixed with non-Arabs.” Ahmed Amin in Fajr el Islam, 1975, p. 91.
The above quotes cited in The Unknown Arabs, Tariq Berry, published, 2002.
TERMS TO KNOW
Batn – clan; literally meaning ‘from the belly of”
Ibn, bin, banu, beni – meaning “son of”
Harrah or el Harra the northwestern volcanic region of Arabia stretching from border of Jordan southward through region of Medina
Hejaz – western coastal region of Arabia stretching towards Yemen
Nejd – central Arabian land including Riyadh and Yemamah
Totemism – veneration of ancestral consciousness represented by animal names with cosmological significance and associations.
The Yemen – the southern part of the Arabian peninsula
The following treatise documents the tribes of Afro-Arabians descended from the original Arab-speaking occupants of the Arabian peninsula. In the early centuries after the birth of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed early European documents describe the Moors in such descriptive phrases as “black as melted pitch” or “black as burnt brands” as in the epic of Morien. It is more than likely the original Arab populations of Spain that gave rise to such exclamations as they are also often described as black or jet black by authors of Near Eastern derivation.
Although the Arabians were not the first to be called Moors, it was the color
of the people leaving the peninsula of Arabia that was mainly due the use of
the term “Moor” for black and woolly haired people in Spain, France, Italy and
other parts of Europe in Islamic times. When the Chanson de Roland which speaks
of the time of the Moorish battles in Gallic France speaks of “those hordes
and hordes blacker than the blackest ink – no shred of white on them except
their teeth…” it is no mere exaggeration. Anyone familiar with the Arabic writings
of the Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian historians up until the 14th century
knows that this is also their description of the early “pure” Arab clans of
the Arabian peninsula.
Therefore, the use of the term “Moor” in this article refers to the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula who long after the time of Mohammed shared the appearance of Ethiopians and other sub-Saharan Africans, as well as customs of present day Africans stretching from the present country of Sudan to Somalia in the East to Mauritania, Mali and Nigeria in the West.
Arabian dialects, totemism, ancestral veneration, including knowing the genealogy of cattle and sheep back many generations (almost all early Arabian tribal names are also the names of their animals and have an astronomical reference), matrifocal societies (including worship of Goddesses), the wearing of cowry shells, nose rings, plaited and totemic hair-styles, ululations, hennaed limbs and scarred faces are all African-associated traits and customs most of which date back several thousand years into the Neolithic.
These are the facts of pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabia, which is why the Greeks and Romans considered Arabia an extension of Ethiopia and for Syrians much of Arabia part of “the Sudan” long after the time of the prophet Muhammed. (See Richmond Palmer’s, Bornu, Sahara and Sudan with regard to the Syrian Al Omari). It was from this colony of “blacks” (as the original Arabs invariably called themselves), that the numerous tribes of the men Europeans once called “Moors” left after the time of the Muslim prophet to also spread over parts of the Middle East, North Africa and the Iberian peninsula.
Although Iranians had settled the Yemen or south of the peninsula in the centuries immediately preceding the Prophet Mohammed; though Turks, Circassians, mercenaries, concubines and slaves from all parts of he world had come to settle the land of the true Arabs later in Islamic times, large numbers of inidigenous peoples of African appearance still occupy the peninsula Arabia preserving their indigenous and original Afro-Arab customs.
Descriptions and Ethnogenesis of the Original Arabs:
The tribes leaving the north and central parts of Arabia occupying the Hejaz and Nejd can be divided into major branches. They include those traditional genealogy called “Ishmaelites” or descendants of Kedar, like the tribes of Qays ibn Ailan or El Nas and El Yas, and the Rabi’ah and Wa’il all based in the central regions of the peninsula. Many of these were “the Saracens” whom Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman general of the 4th c. A.D. claimed had originated “from the cataracts of the Nile” in Sudan.
It is the north and central group of Arabians inhabiting the Jordan, the Harra and the Nejd whose ancestors came to be called Ishmaelites, descendants of Thamud (the second A’d), Kedar and Naba’it (all traditionally children of Ismail). (The Nabataeans were among those known also as Amurru or Amorites in late Assyrian texts.)
In the tradition of Syria and in the later European Jewish or Rabbinic tradition the term “Kushi” signified black peoples, and in fact, became a derogatory term. A European Jewish Targum text Song 1:5 employs the phrase “as black as the Kushi who live in the tents of Kedar.”
Because many of the indigenous Arabian people of Jordan and Hejaz were near black in color and claim descent from the Kedar, Kinanniyya (Kana’ani or Cana’an), and Nabataeans (such as the modern Haweit’at), the Syrians and others who had come to adopt Arabic nationality (or who had been colonized by the Arabs), came to presume names such as Nabit, Kedar, Kanaan meant “black” people.
David Goldberg’s author of The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity and Islam wrote “Dimashqi, who lists the Nabataeans (Nbt) among the descendants of Ham together with the Copts, the BrBr (Berbers) and the Sudan … and the Akkbar al Zaman, which lists the Nabit , among the children of Canaan… also said the word, ‘Nabit’ signifies ‘black’…” see p. 313 The 10th c. Al Masudi of Baghdad , is thought to have written the text, Akbar al Zaman. Al Dimashqi of Syria belonged to the 13th century.
In the southern part of Arabia the modern Qahtan Arabs’ are descendants of the peoples known mainly as Sabaeans, Himyarites, Ma’in and Azd (also called Asad, Zayyed or Sid) in Arab genealogy. These came to spread north and became the progenitors of many “Ismailites” . Thus, many groups have genealogies which make them both north Arabian descendants of Ismail and descendants of Qahtan through the Azdites (Zayyed) or Maddhij of Yemen, two descendants of Himyar and Kahlan sons of Saba. Most of the living Qahtan tribes told the European colonial ethnographers that they came in remote times from Africa. Thus, Bertram Thomas in 1929 said that the Shahara (Banu Shahr), Mahra or Maheyra, and Bautahara and Qarra or Kara had “a tradition of African origin” in “The Southeastern Borderlands of the Rub-al Khali”,in Geography Journal, Vol. 73, 3. These clans are also described as having a “dark pigmentation” and “fuzzy hair” as recently as 2001 (see David Philips, Peoples on the Move, pp. 250-251).
In 1872, a European named von Maltzan commenting on the inhabitants of southwest Arabia in Yemen said, “The inhabitants of this part of Arabia nearly all belong to the race of Himyar. Their complexion is almost as black as the Abyssinians,” see p. 121 in “Geography of Southern Arabia” by Baron von Maltzan, in Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Vol. 16, No. 2 , pp. 115-123.
who are said to descend from the Yemen, it was recently written, “European observers have made much of their physical resemblance to Somalis and Ethiopians…” P. 261 J. E. Peterson “Oman’s Diverse Society: Southern Oman”, Middle East Journal Vol. 38, No. 2 Spring 2004.
THE QAYS AILAN BIN MUDAR – DESCRIPTIONS AND SETTLEMENT IN SPAIN: The descriptions of the Qays clans families and individuals are many. To the Qays Ailan groups belonged the famous northern Arabian tribes of the Harra and Hejaz including the well-described children of Mansur (Mansour or Manas’ir) Sulaym bin Mansur, Mazin bin Mansur and Hawazin bin Mansour whose sub clans are in the dozens. The descendants Mansur bin Ikrima bin Khasafa bin Qays bin Ailan in Arabia, like most early Arabs in Arabia are referred to as black and dark brown in texts. Although they were famous for their slave raiding and use of Greco- Romans (Rum) concubines in ancient times, many clans, in fact, remain near black in color in the peninsula today.
The Iraqi Al Jahiz (9th c.) and Ibn Athir, the Kurd (12th -13th c.) both refer to the Sulaym bin Mansour in particular as “pure” Arabs and “black” in color, not simply dark brown which was also common in the Hejaz. Al Jahiz said that all the tribes of the Harra an area south of Jordan and extending into Hejaz were black like the lava and animals in the region.
Some Sulaym (Sulaym ibn Mansour bin Ikrima bin Khasafa) had settled in North Africa and entered Spain with the first governor of Andalusia, Abd el Azziz ibn Musa, and others also settled in Tudmir. But most of the clans of early settlers from the Qays tribes of Sulaym, Ghatafan, Fahm, Abs, and Dhubyan (Zubyan) of the Ghatafan or Ghutayf came later from Jazira in Mesopotamia where they had been settled for some time.
Ghatafan bin Sa’ad bin Qays Ailan, “settled the plain of Granada in a village called Ibra” in Spain, while the Abs of the Ghatafan (Abs bin Baghid bin Raith bin Ghatafan) settled in Jaen. (See bib. Taha, below) The closely related Banu Fezara (Fezara bin Dhubyan bin Raith) settled in Elvira where there was a section named for them. An early eyewitness upon seeing the Abs tribe in Arabia describes them as “black-skinned men shaking their spears and digging in the earth with their feet.” (From Ibn Abd Rabbu of Andalusia, El Iqd El Fareed, vol. 6, cited in The Unknown Arabs, p. 78). Both Ghutayf and Abs are originally known as batn or clans of the dark-skinned Murad of the Maddhij in Yemen according to original sources mentioned in, The Yemen in Early Islam, 1988.
The clans of Hawazin bin Mansour, like those of his brothers Sulaym and Mazin bin Mansour were also described in early Arabia. Among their modern remnants are the black and tall Dawasir of Yemamah and the “dark brown” Utayba (Oteiba or Ateibeh) and the lithe short “chocolate colored” Hamida of the Harb.
“A great number of Hawazin settled in Seville and Valencia” others settled in Elvira and Grenada. (see below, Taha, p. 135 The Muslim Conquest…)
Circa 1879, the famed British adventurer Sir Richard Burton describing the Hamida as a large clan of the Banu Salim bin Auf of Hejaz, Sir Richard Francis Burton describes the men as, “small chocolate colored beings, stunted and thin… with mops of bushy hair… straggling beards , vicious eyes, frowning brows … armed with scabbards slung over the shoulder and Janbiyyah daggers…” a people “of the great Hejazi tribe that has kept his blood pure for the last 13 centuries…” ( Burton in Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to el Medina and Mecca .p. 173 3rd edition William Mullen and Son.)
Concerning the Otaiba (also written Ateyba, Utaiba, Ateibe, etc.) a century ago, James Hamilton wrote , “they wore their hair in long curly plaits” and their skin was “a dark brown”. See pp. 129-130, Wanderings Around the Birthplace of Mohammed, published by R. Bentley, 1857.
Mazin bin Mansour’s descendants:
Clans of Khazraj and Aus based in Medina and the surrounding area are two tribes whose individuals are often described in Arabic texts because of their being the “companions” of the Prophet. When individuals of these tribes are described by non-Arabian writers, they are usually called ‘black- skinned” and “huge” or massive in stature making it likely this group originally from the Yemen belong to the remnants of the old Ubaid or Obeid stock of neolithic Arabia and Syria, whom are described as having unusually “large bodies” and “negroid” aspect by early anthropologists like Archibald Sayce. The Ubaid crania show they were a people that with long, wide and platyrrhine noses according to early physical anthropologists A. Sayce and others.
The Khazraj (Jazar or Gezer) and Aus (Uz) are the tribes from which came most of the Ansar or “companions” of Mohammed, the Prophet. One famous leader of the Ansar visiting the Byzantine ruled Egypt, Obadah bin Samit an aristocrat and chief of the Khazras or Khazaraj is described as “black” and by tradition was at least 8 ft tall, which may be an exaggeration of course, but then again may not have been. The famous Mohammed ibn Maslama of the Aus clan of al Ansar is also “tall, black-skinned, and huge.” By Ibn Saad (9th century Baghdad, Iraqi) in El-Tabaqat El Kubra vol. 3. (See Berry). While El Baladhuri (a 9th century Iranian ) also calls Nabtali ibn Harith from the Aus Ansar as tall, jet black and huge, with nappy hair”. See Tariq Berry’s book, The Unknown Arabs for more description of members of Aus and Khazraj.
Most of the “Medina al Ansar” settled in the region of Saragossa in Spain. (See below, Taha, p. 118) The Khazraj clan of Sa’d bin Abada settled in Qarabalan near Saragossa in Spain, while the Aramramma clan settled Sidonia and Cordoba and “later moved to Elvira, Grenada, Toledo, Tortua and Jerica in the province of Castellon.”
ELYAS (ELIAS BIN MUZAR, MUZIR OR MUDAR)
Muzar’s other descendants were the clans of Elyas of the southern Hejaz. When the tribes and individuals of the clans of Elyas are described, they are described in writings as “dark brown” or “black”. They were centered in Hejaz or western Arabia stretching southward toward the Yemen. The El Yas or Elias bin Muzir or Mudar was exemplified by the Kinaniyya or Kinana bin Khuzaima bin Mudrika bin Elyas (who became famously known as the Canaanites) from which came Mohammed’s tribe of the Qureish, and the tribes of Tamim bin Murra, Hudhail, Nadir, Mustaliq, Makhzumi and Zahra.
Elyasa or Elias included the famous Kinana who were described in European Talmudic texts as “black, thieving people” with “large male members”. Wah ibn Munabbih a 7th century descendant of Iranian mercenaries who had settled in the Yemen just before the period of Islam also made Cana’an “black”, being quite familiar with the Kinaaniyya tribe of Hejaz. The Banu Umayya who founded the Umayyad dynasty of Islam among the clans descended from tribes of Qureish founded the Umayyad dynasty.
Some Kinana or Kinaniyya who now live in Jericho today, the modern state of Israel are black, and many with the keenest features are jet black. (Some have tried to say they descend from Nubian slaves, which may be the case, but certainly not for the blacker ones.) The Quraish clan of the Kinaniyya were with Musa’s army (the first Arab governor in of Al-Andalus in Spain). Kinana also came to live in Jaen in Spain.
When individuals of the Qureish clan of the Kinana in Arabia – especially relatives of the Prophet are mentioned in texts they described as “black”. Ali, the son of the prophet’s cousin described as “black skinned” by the Turkish and Iranian writer el Suyuti and by Ibn Saad, a Baghdad, Iraqi of the 8th c. in El Tabaqat ael Kabra vol. 8. (cited in Berry). Ali’s great grandson according to Kitab el Aghani by Esfahani of Central Asia was “black skinned and huge”.
The black nationalistic views and horrifying racism of the original Arabs towards fair skinned peoples settling in Arabia is aptly illustrated by early writings and expressions from individuals of Mohammed’s own tribe in Arabia. Yazid ibn Muawia of the Omayya ibn Shams bin Abd Manaf of the Qureish tribe was “black skinned” and “hairy” and “kinky haired” according to Ibn Abd Rabbu 9th c. of Cordoba and el Dhahabi the Syrian of the 14th c. It was apparently Yazid’s father, Muawia, who said “I see these white folks have become very numerous and are saying bad things about those who have passed. I can envision a daring enterprise from them against the Arabs and authority. I am thinking of killing half of them and leaving half of them to set up markets and to build roads. Whats your opinion?” (This statement reported by Ibn Abd Rabbu, in El Iqd al Farid, vol 3. cited in The Unknown Arabs. P. 81)
The Zuhra clan of Qureish also settled Saragossa. (see Taha) A member of the Banu Zuhra in Arabia named Saad ibn Waqqas is called very dark, “tall” and “flat-nosed” by El Dhahabi, of Syria. While Jahiz of Iraq (9th.c.) calls him black-skinned and huge.
The tribe of Hudhail bin Mudrika bin El Yas settled Murcia and Saragossa. El Baladhuri, the 9th century Iranian, describing Abdella ibn Mas’ud, a famous member of the Hudhail clan of Arabians says he was “short, thin and black”. (p. 17, Tariq Berry). Tabikha was brother of Mudrika in the genealogy. When the Central Asian or Iranian writer Al Esfahan (from Esfahan in Iran) described an Arab of the clan of Tabikha and Banu Asad he described him as “black- skinned” with “black eyes”. According to Taha (p. 137, The Muslim Conquest…), Banu Asad bin Khuzaima bin Mudrika settled in al Bushra near the Sierra Nevada mountains and Barajila. The Unknown Arabs Tariq Berry, 2002. Available at Amazon.com
The Muslim Conquest and Settlement of North Africa and Spain, by Abdul Wahid Dhunan Taha, 1989.
CENTRAL ARABIAN TRIBES OF THE NEJD IN SPAIN PART II To Be Continued…
NORTHERN ARABIAN “ISHMAELITES” IN SPAIN – EL NAS AND AL YAS