Black and Arab Inter-Racial Marriage in Early Islam

A policy of deeper implications for Muslim society during the Prophetic epoch was
his practice of marrying his black companions to the women of aristocratic Arab families.
These marriages were intentionally designed to rid his society of attitudes about class and
race-based bigotry. Had this prophetic practice endured, many of the racist attitudes plaguing
some contemporary Muslim societies may have been alleviated.

An example of such marriages is that of Zayd b. Haritha, who we have previously
mentioned, to Zaynab bint Jahsh, before her marriage to the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of
God upon him. Zaynab was an exceedingly beautiful and refined Arab woman of noble
lineage, and exalted character. She was from the Prophet’s very family, being the daughter of
his paternal aunt, Umaymah. Here she was being called to marry a black man, who had
formerly been enslaved. She and her brother resisted the idea of marrying Zayd until the
issue was addressed by revelation, It is not becoming of a believing man or woman, once God and His Messenger have decreed an affair, to have an option to follow their own choice.56 After learning of this verse, Zaynab was pleased, and submitted to marry Zayd. Their marriage addressed both the class and race-based prejudices that were prevalent in Arabian society at that time.

Another marriage of this type was that of Julaybib, a black companion, to the
daughter of an Ansar57 man whose wife defiantly refused the order of the Prophet, Peace
and blessing of God upon him. However, the daughter, owing to her piety, intervened and
asked that the Prophet’s decree, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, be implemented,
expressing her confidence in the wisdom of his decision. The Prophet, Peace and Blessings
of God upon him, appreciating her piety, prayed that she be blessed by God, and given a life of ease. Their marriage was very successful. Julaybib was subsequently martyred, slaying
seven enemy combatants in his immediate vicinity, before meeting his own demise. The
Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, learning of his state repeatedly said, “He is
of me and I am of him.”58

These marriages were not isolated events. Hence, one has to see them as part of a
conscious policy being undertaken by the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, to
address a flaw in the fledgling Muslim polity. I will mention one other marriage of this type.
It was that of a black Arab named S’ad al-Aswad. Sa’d was an Arab of pure lineage, from
Bani Sulaym. He came to the Prophet, Peace and blessings of God upon him, and asked him
if his dark complexion and unpleasant features would prevent him from entering Paradise.
The Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, responded that they would not, as long
as he was mindful of his Lord and believed in Him. Sa’d immediately accepted Islam. Sa’d
then explained to the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, that he had searched
assiduously for a wife, but had been rejected by all and sundry because of his dark
complexion. The Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, sent Sa’d to marry the
daughter of ‘Amr bin Wahhab, a recent convert from Bani Thaqif, who retained many pre-
Islamic prejudices.

Sa’d attained to ‘Amr’s door and informed him that the Prophet had ordered him to
marry his daughter to him. ‘Amr flatly refused. His daughter, overhearing the conversation
between her father and the stranger, interceded telling her father to relent before he be
disgraced by revelation. ‘Amr went to the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him,
and was strongly rebuked for repulsing Sa’d. ‘Amr promptly married his daughter to Sa’d. As
Sa’d was in the market purchasing provisions for his new wife, he heard a caller rallying the
faithful for a military expedition. He forgot about his marriage, purchased arms and a steed
and proceeded to the battlefield, where he fought valiantly until he was slain. Learning of his
death, the Prophet, Peace and Blessings of God upon him, went to him and placed his head
in his lap until his grave was prepared. He ordered that his arms and mount be sent to his
wife’s family, informing them that God had married him to one better than their daughter in

Taken from Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and Blackness
By Imam Zaid Shakir

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