Thursday, September 8, 2011

Were the Black Arabs Who Founded Islam Really African?

By Wesley Muhammad, PhD (c) 2011 Wesley Muhammad, Phd

It has been demonstrated that the Arabs who founded Islam in the 7th century, including the Prophet Muhammad (s), were a black-skinned group, contrary to the common imagery popularized by such media as Moustafa Akkad’s 1976 film, The Message.[1] I, among others, have documented this in my book, Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam as well as other writings. Now, a number of observers have taken issue with my use of the term “African” to describe these Black Arabs. I have often referred to them as “Africans in Arabia.”  Some, while not disputing the ‘blackness’ of these historical Arabs, find my use of “African” to describe them irresponsible. While I can, to certain degree, understand and appreciate this criticism, I hold fast to this description because I believe it is quite accurate. My reasons are simple: The empirical data convincingly converges and makes abundantly clear that Arabia was originally and continues to be today the geomorphic, climatological, phytogeographical (plant geography), zoogeographical  (animal geography), cultural and ethnological extension of  NE Africa or, better, the north-eastern extremity of the African continent. I have called this part of Africa, Afrabia. The Black Arabs are thus part of the Global African Community.   

1.] Afrabia as the Physical Extension of Africa

William H. Worrell, in his A Study of Races in the Ancient Near East (Cambridge: W. Hiffer & Sons Ltd., 1927) 6 noted:  

“Geologically Africa includes that part of Asia which we now call Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria…Arabia and the Syrian Desert are merely the extension of the great deserts of Northern Africa”

More recent data confirms Worrell’s affirmation. D.T. Potts, e.g., in his important work, The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, Vol. I: From Prehistoric to the Fall of the Achaemenid Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) 9, confirms:  “During the Precambrian time (c. 5, 000 million – 590 million BP)…Arabia was part of Africa”.

The environment of central and eastern Arabia during the Miocene (c. 25-12 million BP) and the Pliocene (c. 5.3 – 1.8 million BP) “has been called ‘lush’ and compared to that of a tropical Savanah,” Potts notes.[2] Geomorphological evidence suggests great rainfall during the Pliocene.  At that time, as Michael Rice suggests in his book, The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf (London and New York: Routledge, 1994) 69: “Arabia probably would have looked much like East Africa now”.

Plate tectonics caused the Arabian plate to break off from the African shield, creating the Red Sea. As the Encyclopedia Britanica explains:

“Western Arabia formed part of the African landmass before a rift occurred in the Earth’s crust, as a result of which the Red Sea was formed and Africa and the Arabian Peninsula finally became separated some five to six million years ago. Thus, the southern half of the peninsula has a greater affinity with the regions of Somalia and Ethiopia in Africa than with northern Arabia or the rest of Asia.[3]

Nevertheless Arabia remains today the geological and ecological continuation of Africa, despite the Red Sea cleavage. Maurizio Tosi, in his important article “The Emerging Picture of Prehistoric Arabia,”Annual Review of Anthropology 15 (1986): 461-490 confirms:

“In general, Arabia is the continuation of the African system across the Red Sea, spanning the Saharo-Arabian phytogeogrphical region comprising its northern and central parts and the Sudanese one for its tropical southern and eastern coastlands. 

  “Physically the (Arabian) peninsula is a part of Africa, landscaped by the same geological and climate processes as the eastern Sahara and the Ethiopian highlands.”

In terms of geomorphology and climatology Arabia is part of what’s called the “Saharo-Arabian Region.” (Figure 2). But the ecological evidence (phytogeographical and zoogeographical)  also points to Arabia being “Africa across the Red Sea”. In 1982 Stacey International published its Saudi-endorsed study of the region, noting:

“Maps and geography books make Arabia a part of Asia, but plant and animal life clearly bear out the theory that it is really an extension of Africa…Saudi Arabia’s wildlife is…an African complex of species…The animals and plants of northern and northeastern Saudi Arabia are generally closely related to or identical with Saharan species…”[4] 

Put simply, the Arabian Peninsula is actually just the north-eastern extremity of the African continent, a fact which the ‘tyranny of the Red Sea’ obscures. As Ali Mazrui notes:

“a European decision to make Africa end at the Red Sea has decisively de-Africanized the Arabian peninsula…the tyranny of the sea is in part a tyranny of European geographical prejudices. Just as European map-makers could decree that on the map Europe was above Africa instead of below (an arbitrary decision in relation to the cosmos) those map-makers could also dictate that Africa ended at the Red Sea instead of the Persian Gulf. Is it not time that this dual tyranny of the sea and Eurocentric geography was forced to sink to the bottom?[5]

The terminology Afrabia is proposed, and used here, as a pointer to the ancient cultural, geographical and historical relationship between Africa and Arabia and as a means of transcending the tyranny of the Red Sea. Afrabia as used here is not the same as the area popularly called ‘Arabia,’ i.e. Saudi Arabia. The latter is defined by European and Wahhabi political boundaries and excludes areas such as Yemen in the South and the Levant in the north (Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestinian territories, Jordan). Afrabia includes the whole area between the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the Arabian Sea to the south, i.e. the whole of the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, what others call “Western Asia,” “the Middle East” or the “Near East.”   

2.] Afrabia as the Cultural and Ethnological Extension of Africa

Afrabia is also an ethnological extension of Africa. Charles S. Finch, in his article “Nile Genesis: Continuity of Culture From the Great Lakes to the Delta,” in Ivan Van Sertima (ed.), Egypt: Child of Africa (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Publishers, 1994) 44 correctly affirms:  

“It has been customary to separate the Near East from Africa. Ethno-culturally though, in the light of increasing Neolithic evidence, it is perhaps more nearly correct to consider the lands between Khartoum in the south and the Tigris-Euphrates in the north as constituting one broad horizon in the period between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. This broad horizon was composed substantially of ‘Saharo-Nilotic’ ethno-cultural elements. Regional differences and variations were certainly evident in this larger cultural complex, but ongoing techno-commercial relations linked the various groups of this horizon. It is certainly true that what is known as the Near East is more properly thought of as Africa’s ‘Northeast extension,’ because geologically and geographically that is in fact what it is.”

The first hominines of the Arabian Peninsula were African migrants. Lower Miocene (c. 17-14 million BP) hominid remains similar to those found in East Africa have been found in Arabia.[6] In fact, Arabia was likely the first territory reached as these migrants expanded out of Africa. As Michael D. Petraglia remarks, the Arabian peninsula was “a key geographic region that, without doubt, played a critical role in Out of Africa dispersals.”[7]  These African migrants likely entered the peninsula by the south over the Bab el-Mandeb and by the north through the Levantine corridor (Figure 1). As Norman M. Whalen and David E. Peace point out in their article, “Early Mankind in Arabia,” ARAMCO World 43:4 (1992): 20, 23:

“whether migration (out of Africa) proceeded by way of the north or the south, it was necessary to cross Arabia first before continuing further. For that reason, the oldest cities in the world, next to those in Africa, should be found in Arabia, which occupied a pivotal position astride the path of early intercontinental migration in Lower Pleistocene times…Arabia (is) humankind’s doorway to the world.”  

Figure 1

Jeffrey I. Rose and Michael D. Petraglia confirm the same in their article “Tracking the Origin and Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia,” in Michael D. Petraglia and Jeffrey I. Rose (edd.), The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia: Paleoenvironments, Prehistory and Genetics(London and New York: Springer, 2009) 1. See also Michael D. Petraglia, “The Lower Paleolithic of the Arabian Peninsula: Occupations, Adaptations, and Dispersals,” Journal of World History 17 (June 2003): 173.

Archaeogenetics indicate that the progenitor African group that gave birth to today’s human population migrated out of Africa into Arabia about 70,000 years ago. Richard Gray, writing for theTelegraph [UK] announced on 09 May 2009:

“The entire human race outside Africa owes its existence to the survival of a single tribe of around 200 people who crossed the Red Sea 70,000 years ago, scientists have discovered…Research by geneticists and archaeologists has allowed them to trace the origins of modernhomo sapiens back to a single group of people who managed to cross from the Horn of Africa and into Arabia. From there they went on to colonize the rest of the world.”[8]  

After adapting in Arabia for approximately 5000 years, these Afrabians or Africans in Arabia went on to populate the rest of the world. P.A. Underhill et al have done genetic research with the non-recombining portion of the Y-chromosome (NRY) polymorphisms suggesting that human diversity today can be traced back to a migration out of Africa ca 50-45 kya (kya=thousand years ago) to the Middle East. From there, after adapting for ca 5-10 ky, these groups expanded North to Europe, East to India and Southeast Asia, and West (back go Africa?). See P.A. Underhill et al, “The Phylogeography of Y chromosomes binary haplotypes and the origins of modern human populations,” Annals of Human Genetics 65 (2001): 43-62. See further J.R. Luis et al, “The Levant versus the Horn of Africa: Evidence for Bidirectional Corridors of Human Migrations,” American Journal of Human Genetics 74 (2004): 532; Bernard Vandermeersch, “The Near Eastern Hominids and the Origins of Modern Humans in Eurasia,” in Takeru Akazawa, Kenichi Aoki, and Tasuku Kimura (edd.), The Evolution and Dispersal of Modern Humans in Asia (Tokyo: Hokusen-sha, 1992): 29-38.

Craniofacial measurements in nearly 2000 recent and prehistoric crania from major geographical areas of the Old World indicated that ancient West Asians and Africans resembled each other. See Tsunehiko Hanihara, “Comparison of Craniofacial Features of Major Human Groups,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 99 (1996): 389-412.

Arabian archaeology further shows links with African materials, as noted in Jakub Rídl, Christopher M. Edens, and Viktor Lerny, “Mitochondrial DNA Structure of Yemeni Population: Regional Differences and the Implications for Different Migratory Contributions,” in Michael D. Petraglia and Jeffrey I. Rose (edd.), The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia: Paleoenvironments, Prehistory and Genetics (London and New York: Springer, 2009) 71.

Rock-art from the Rub al-Khali dated to the 4th – 2nd millennia BCE depict, according to renowned archeologist and Near Eastern ethnologist Emmanuel Anati,  a “Cushite” population of “oval-heads” who were a “beautifully built people of high stature, with elegant body features, slender and longs legs and harmonious shapes and movements.”[9]  

On the cultural links between Bronze Age Yemen and the Horn of Africa see Christopher Edens and T.J. Wilkinson, “Southwest Arabia During the Holocene: Recent Archaeological Developments,”Journal of World History 12 (1998): 55-119. 

On the ancient colonization of Western Asia from Africa see further Ofer Bar-Yosef, “Early colonizations and cultural continuities in the Lower Palaeolithic of western Asia,” in Michael D. Petraglia and Ravi Korisettar (edd.), Early Human Behaviour in Global Context: The Rise and Diversity of the Lower Palaeolithic Record (London: Routledge, 1998): 221-279. On ancient migration from Ethiopia to the south of Arabia, then north into the Levant see O. Bar-Yosef, “Pleistocene connexions between Africa and Southwest Asia: an archaeological perspective,” The African Archaeological Review 5 (1987): 29-38.

For a discussion of the recent genetic data suggesting ancient and more recent gene-flow from Africa to Yemen see Rídl, Edens, and Lerny, “Mitochondrial DNA Structure of Yemeni Population,” 69-78.

Thus, Arabia’s oldest population was an African population, making the original Arabians, Africans. This explains the observations of early twentieth century European observes and ethnographers who assumed that the original Arabians were black-skinned Hamites, part of a supposed ‘black belt of mankind’ stretching from Africa to Melanesia.[10] Sir Arthur Keith, renowned anthropologist from the Field Museum of Natural History, observed for example:

“The enigma of modern anthropology is the Black Belt of mankind.  It commences in Africa and peters out amongst the natives of the Melanesian Islands of the Pacific.  At each extremity of the belt, in Africa as in Melanesia we find peoples with black skins, woolly hair, more or less beardless, prognathous and long-headed. We cannot suppose these negro peoples, although now widely separated, have been evolved independently of each other. We therefore suppose that at one time a proto-negroid belt crossed the ancient world, occupying all intermediate lands, Arabia, Baluchistan, India, Further India, the Philippines and Malay Archipelago.”[11]

That this Black Belt of Mankind commenced in Africa and extended into Arabia is an important suggestion to keep in mind when considering our question. These ancient African immigrants to Arabia are the ancestors of the black Arabs of a later time. That the aboriginal Arabians and their descendants had kinship with the populations west of the Red Sea in Africa was pointed out by several ethnographers. Major-General Maitland, Political Resident in Aden for Britain, noted in 1932:

“The people of Arabia…belong to two distinct and apparently quite different races. The common idea of the Arab type…(is) tall, bearded men with clean-cut hawk-like face. The Arabs of South Arabia are smaller, darker, coarser featured and nearly beardless…All authorities agree that the southern Arabs are nearly related by origin to the Abyssinians.[12]

This black-skinned southern Arab is best represented today by the Mahra, Qara, and Shahra tribes of Oman and Hadramawt. Undoubtedly a modified version of South Arabia’s original inhabitants, these groups show an affinity to both the so-called ‘Hamites’ of East Africa (Somalis, Abyssinans) and the South Indian Dravidians, and they possibly represent a ‘genetic link’ between these two populations.[13] Speaking of the Qara, J. E. Peterson notes: “European observers have made much of their physical resemblance to Somalis or Ethiopians”. Se his “Oman’s diverse society: Southern Oman,” The Middle East Journal 58 (Spring 2004): 261.

The dark-skinned South Arabian today is short and “extremely round-headed (brachycephalic)”[14] but he was no doubt originally much taller and dolichocephalic (long-headed) like the so-called Hamites of East Africa. In the 13th century CE the Muslim traveler Ibn al-Mujāwir described the Mahra as “tall, handsome folk” in his Tārīkh al-mustabsir, 271.1.17 and early pre-Christian skulls found in Hadramawt were markedly dolichocephalic.[15] It has been suggested that the ‘definite change’ in the racial constitution of the people of Hadramawt resulted from the invasion and inbreeding of brachycephalic whites such as Armenoids or Persians. See e.g. Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, “The Physical Character of the Arabs: Their Relations with Ancient Persians” Anthropological Society of Bombay 7 [1919]: 724-68 and Keith and Krogan, “Racial Characteristic,”301-333. Henry Field suggested that Arabia’s current ethnography is the result of the mixing of two distinct basal stocks: The dolichocephalic (long-headed), dark-skinned Mediteranean/Eur-African and the brachycephalic (round-headed) fair-skinned Armenoid. See his “Ancient and Modern Inhabitants of Arabia,” The Open Court 46 (1932): 854 [art.=847-869]. See also Bertram Thomas, “Racial Origin of the Arabs,” in idem, The Arabs: The life-story of a People who have left their deep impress on the world (London: Thorton Butterworth Ltd., 1937) 353-359; C.G. Seligman, “The Physical Characters of the Arabs,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 47 (1917): 214-237.

That these dark-skinned ‘Ethiopic’-type Arabs, no doubt the aboriginal Arabians, belong to an African cultural complex was highlighted in The Encyclopedia Britanica [9th Edition; 1:245-46 s.v. Arabia] which lists ten literary, linguistic, cultural, and ethnological evidences indicating some relation between South Arabians and Africa.     

“(Regarding) [t]he origin of the Arab race…the first certain fact on which to base our investigations is the ancient and undoubted division of the Arab race into two branches, the ‘Arab’ or pure; and the ‘Mostareb’ or adscititions…A second fact is, that everything in pro-Islamitic literature and record…concurs in representing the first settlement of the ‘pure’ Arabs as made on the extreme south-western point of the peninsula, near Aden, and then spreading northward and eastward…A third is the name Himyar, or ‘dusky’…a circumstance pointing, like the former, to African origin. A fourth is the Himyaritic language language…(The preserved words) are African in character, often in identity. Indeed, the dialect commonly used along the south-eastern coast hardly differs from that used by the (Somali) Africans on the opposite shore…Fifthly, it is remarkable that where the grammar of the Arabic, now spoken by the ‘pure’ Arabs, differs from that of the north, it approaches to or coincides with the Abyssinian…Sixthly, the pre-Islamitic institutions of Yemen and its allied provinces-its monarchies, courts, armies, and serfs-bear a marked resemblance to the historical Africao-Egyptian type, even to modern Abyssinian. Seventhly, the physical conformation of the pure-blooded Arab inhabitants of Yemen, Hadramaut, Oman, and the adjoining districts-the shape and size of head, the slenderness of the lower limbs, the comparative scantiness of hair, and other particulars-point in an African rather than an Asiatic direction. Eighthly, the general habits  of the people,-given to sedentary rather than nomade occupations, fond of village life, of society, of dance and music; good cultivators of the soil, tolerable traders, moderate artisans, but averse to pastoral pursuits-have much more in common with those of the inhabitants of the African than with those of the western Asiatic continent. Lastly, the extreme facility of marriage which exists in all classes of the southern Arabs with the African races; the fecundity of such unions; and the slightness or even absence of any caste feeling between the dusky ‘pure’ Arab and the still darker native of modern Africa…may be regarded as pointing in the direction of a community of origin.”

That the black-skinned Arabs of the North as well as of the South derive from a “community of origin” with Africans across the Red Sea is indicated by the linguistic evidence.   

3.] Ancient Semites and African Arabs

Arabs are quintessential Semites. “Semitic” is properly a linguistic designation, not racial, and describes native speakers of one of the several living or dead Semitic languages. But Danna Reynolds observation here is critical:

“the indigenous or ‘black’ tribes of Arabia were those who in ancient times migrated from Africa…and were the earliest purveyors and dispersers of the Semitic dialects.”[16]

The Semitic family of languages, the most widespread of which is Arabic, is a branch of a larger language phylum called Afroasiatic which consists of the Semitic, Ancient Egyptian, Berber, Cushitic, Omotic and Chadic families. While some scholars maintain that Afroasiatic originated in Asia,[17] most linguists now accept that it originated in Africa where five of the six generally recognized branches still reside.[18] It likely evolved in the Darfur-Kordofan region along the present-day border between Chad and Sudan.[19]  Regarding the Semitic branch in particular, a number of scholars postulate an African origin of the linguistic family and its speakers.[20] George A. Barton, who wrote on Semitic and Hamitic Origins,[21] spoke of an “African origin and Arabian cradle-land of the Semites.” He opined in 1929.

“As many of the linguistic phenomena which Hamites and Semites possess in common appear in the Hamitic languages in a more primitive form than in the Semitic, the one theory which satisfies the facts is that the Hamito- Semitic race originated in North Africa and the Sahara region, and that at a very early time-say 10,000 to 8000 B.C. or earlier-some of this stock migrated to Arabia-probably South Arabia via the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb-where they spread over the peninsula in the course of subsequent millennia. As Arabia suffered desiccation, in common with North Africa, they were gradually forced to migrate in various directions in search of subsistence. It was under this pressure that, by migration and mingling with other races, the various Semitic nations of history, other than the Arabs, were formed.”[22]

More recent data supports this suggestion of an African origin of Semitism and, thus, Arabism.  According to Nicholas Faraclas in 1995, several lines of evidence converge to suggest that the Proto-Semites (i.e. the original group of Semitic speakers) separated from the Proto-Afroasiatic group in Middle Africa and followed the Blue Nile to the Ethiopian Highlands (where most of the Semitic languages are found to this day), crossing over into Arabia from the Bab el-Manded[23]; other Proto-Semites probably continued north down the Nile eventually entering Syria-Palestine from the Isthmus of Suez. As Gregorio del Olmo Lete, scholar of Semitic philology from the University of Barcelona, noted most recently (2008) based on the most current evidence:

“[Proto-Semites] formed part of a mass of peoples  who, moving out from the heart of Africa, spread north and reached the Mediterranean coast and beyond…The Semitic family [was] the spearhead of one of the expansive movements of peoples toward Asia  (from Africa)…”[24]

An African origin of the Proto-Semites makes the evidence of an African background to the early Arabs comprehensible. The Arabic language is indeed first documented among Africans in Arabia (Afrabians). University of Michigan Professor Emeritus George Mendenhall, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Near East and Near Eastern languages, notes that “Arabic could not be a gift of the prophet Muhammad, as many Islamic clerics claim, since its origins are in the early Bronze Age,” over 3,000 years before Muhammad.[25] Mendenhall has identified the “earliest identifiable Arabic-speaking social group” as the Midianites, an important political entity that came into existence suddenly in the 13th century BCE in northwest Arabia. This highly sophisticated culture spoke a language which is an archaic ancestor of modern Arabic.[26] This is significant because, as David Goldenberg affirms: “Kush is the ancient name of Midian.”[27] These Midianites, the earliest identifiable Arabic-speaking social group, are documented as a Kushite tribe.[28] Jan Restö suggests as well that the Priestly author(s) of the Hebrew Bible offers us the earliest attempt at a systematic description of peoples living on the Arabian peninsula around the 7th century BCE,[29] and these peoples in general are there identified as Kushites (Gen 10:7) too.[30] Kushites were the dominant ethnic group in Syro-Palestine in late 8th and 7th centuries BCE,[31] though the Africoid presence there went back as far as the Natufian culture of the 10th millennium BCE.[32]  These were no doubt black or dark-skinned (though not necessarily Negroid) Syro-Palestinians.[33] Being that peoples designated as Arabs first appear in sources connected with events in Syria in the first centuries of the first millennium BCE,[34] it is not unlikely that the historical Arabs emerged out of these various groups of Arabian Kushites. Arabic tradition in fact records an Arabian Kush. Ibn al-Mujawir in his Tarikh al-mustabsir (83) records a tradition according to which the southern Tihama was called Kush.

This identification of the Arabs as Kushites is recorded as well in Jewish literature on the eve of the rise of Islam. Rabbi Akiba, famous first century Rabbi who is said to have visited Arabia, is presented in a 5th/6th century Jewish text commenting on Numbers 5:19, a passage dealing with how one knows if a wife has committed adultery. The Jewish (midrashic) text Numbers Rabbah says:

“The King of the Arabs put this question to R. Akiba: “I am black (kushi) and my wife is black (kushit), yet she gave birth to a white son. Shall I kill her for having played the harlot while lying with me?”[35]

As Jan Restö notes, while this midrash is probably completely legendary, it does give us a hint of Arabian ethnography, or what the views of the 5th/6th century redactors of this text were regarding Arabian ethnography at the time. See also the Jewish text Targum Shir ha-Shirim commenting on Song of Songs 1:5 (“I am black and comely, O Daughters of Jerusalem, [black] as the tents of Qedar”):

“When the people of the House of Israel made the Calf, their faces became black like the sons of Kush who dwell in the tents of Qedar.”

The Qedar was a black Arab tribe, the most powerful Arab tribe of Syria and North Arabia who fought the Assyrians in the 7th century BCE.[36] Here they are identified as Kushites. They were not active at the time of Rabbi Akiba’s 5th/6th century CE redactors, but apparently their black memory was still alive and was transferred to the contemporary Black Arabs of the time and their Kushitic origins remembered. As Restö points out:

“The blackness of the Arabian king is due to his dwelling in the land of the Qedar whose inhabitants are black, according to the Song of Songs…Rabbi Aqiba’s Arabia is thus identical with that of Qedar, which was the area between Egypt and Palestine.”[37] 

That the Arabs of the 5th/6th century Arabia are identified in these texts as Kushites is consistent with the much earlier evidence cited above, all of which cumulatively confirm the Arabs as an African people, descendants of the aboriginal African migrants in the peninsula. Dana Marniche’s conclusion is appropriate here:

“the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula…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 (emphasis mine).”[38]

4.] Conclusion

To close this review of the evidence out I will cite a brief exchange I had previously with a white Muslim. “Charles,” who objected to my reference to Muhammad and his Arab people as Africans in Arabia.

Charles: “My final thought: Muhammad was NOT from Africa. It's that simple! Now, can you trace his ancestry to Africa. Regardless - it still does NOT make him from Africa. He's from where he's from. It's like saying I'm a White-European because I look it BUT I've never been to Europe.” 

Wesley: “Well, this final thought is factually right is one sense, and factually incorrect in another. Where it is factually right, it is a moot point because that was never the argument. That is to say, up to this point neither I [hadn’t] argued that the Prophet was “from Africa”. He was from Mecca in west-central Arabia. No one disputes that. On the other hand, I said that his people, the pure Arabs, were African-Arabians or Afrabians, but this is not the same as saying that he was “from Africa.” I am a so-called African-American, but when I introduce myself to academic colleagues at international conferences I don’t say “I’m from Africa”. While such a claim has some ‘distant truth-value’ to it, the most immediately factual statement is: “I’m from the US, specifically Michigan.” However, the immediate factuality of this latter statement does not diminish the distant truth-value of the former statement…

Muhammad and his Arab kin are, in fact, actually ‘from Africa’ in one sense: Arabia…is actually Northeastern Africa. All of the physical evidence indicates this, and it was European map-makers that ‘de-Africanized’ the peninsula, arbitrarily making the Red Sea the dividing line between Africa and Africa. But the physical, linguist, cultural, and ethnographic evidence all indicate that Arabia is Northeast Africa and indigenous Arabians are Northeast Africans.

You see Charles, this is the premise:

1.]Muhammad is from Mecca, Arabia
2.]Arabia is, according to all of the relevant physical data, simply Northeast Africa
3.]Ergo, Muhammad is from Northeast Africa.

Figure 2


[1] Wesley Muhammad, God’s Black Prophet’s: Deconstructing the Myth of the White Muhammad of Arabia and the Jesus of Jerusalem (Atlanta: A-Team Publishing, 2010); Idem,Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam (Atlanta: A-Team Publishing, 2009); Idem. “Anyone who says that the Prophet is black should be killed”: The De-Arabization of Islam and the Transfiguration of Muhammad in Islamic Tradition,” @; Idem. “Prophet Muhammad and the Black Arabs: The Witness of Pre-Modern Chinese Sources,” @; Dana Reynolds (Marniche), “The African Heritage & Ethnohistory of the Moors,” in Ivan van Sertima,Golden Age of the Moor (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992); Idem. “Afro-Arabian Origins of the Early Yemenites and their Conquest and Settlement of Spain” @ accessed October 23, 2009; Tariq Berry, The Unknown Arabs: Clear, Definitive Proof of the Dark Complexion of the Original Arabs and the Arab Origin of the so-called African Americans (Morocco, 2002); Idem. “A True Description of the Prophet Mohamed's Family (SAWS),” Accessed October 22, 2009.

[2] D.T. Potts, The Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, Vol. I: From Prehistoric to the Fall of the Achaemenid Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990)16.

[3]Encyclopedia Britanica s.v. Arabian Desert. Britanica Online at Accessed February 12, 2009.

[4] The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Stacey International, 1982), apud Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq al-Mansour, Seven African Arabian Wonders of the World: The Black Man’s Guide to the Middle East (n.d.: First African Arabian Press, 1991) 116. 

[5] Ali A. Mazrui, Euro-Jews and Afro-Arabs: The Great Semitic Divergence in World History (Lanham: University Press of America, 2008) 140.

[6] P. Andrews, W.R. Hamilton and P.J. Whybrow, “Dryopithecines from the Miocene of Saudi Arabia,”Nature 274 (1978): 249-51; Pott, Arabian Gulf in Antiquity, 11.

[7] “The Lower Paleolithic of the Arabian Peninsula: Occupations, Adaptations, and Dispersals,”Journal of World History 17 (June 2003): 173 [art.=144-179]. 

[8] Richard Gray, “African tribe populated rest of the world,” Accessed July 25, 2009.   

[9] Emmanuel Anati, Rock-Art in Central ArabiaVol 1: The “Oval-Headed” People of Arabia(Louvain and Leuven, 1968) 180.

[10] See e.g. C.G. Seligman, “The Physical Characters of the Arabs,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 47 (1917): 214-237; Henry Field, “Ancient and Modern Inhabitants of Arabia,” The Open Court 46 (1932): 847-869; Bertram Thomas, “Racial Origin of the Arabs,” in idem, The Arabs: The life-story of a People who have left their deep impress on the world (London: Thorton Butterworth Ltd., 1937) 353-359.

[11] Sir Arthur Keith and Dr. Wilton Marion Krogman, “The Racial Characters of the Southern Arabs,” in Bertram Thomas, Arabia Felix, Across the ‘Empty Quarter’ of Arabia (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932) 320f. Sees also Henry Field, “Racial Types from South Arabia,” The Open Court 50 (1936): 33-39; Sir Harry H. Johnston, The Negro in the New World (1910; rp. 1969: New York, Johnson Reprint Corporation), 25f; Percy Sykes, History of Persia (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969) 51.

[12] Major-General Maitland, Preface to Wyman Bury’s The Land of Uz (London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1911), xiiif.

[13] Vitaly V. Naumkin, Island of the Phoenix, an Ethnological Study of the People of Socotra (Ithaca Press Reading, 1993) 67 notes also: “Socotra, and possibly all of Southern Arabia, may after all be the missing intermediate link in the race-genetic ‘west-east’ gradient for which anthropologists search in order to fill the gap between the African Negroids and the Australo-Veddo-Melanesian types in the equatorial area.”

[14]Henry Field, “Racial Types From South Arabia,” The Open Court 50 [1936]: 33-39.

[15] G.M. Morant, “A Description of Human Remains Excavated by Miss G. Gaton Thompson at Hureidha” in G. Caton Thompson, The Tombs and Moon Temple of Hureidha (Hadhramaut)[Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London # 8; Oxford: University Press, 1944] 107-112.

[16] Dana Reynolds, “The African Heritage & Ethnohistory of the Moors,” in Ivan van Sertima, Golden Age of the Moor (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992).105.

[17] Jared Diamond and Peter Bellwood, “Farmers and Their Languages: The First Expansions,”Science 300 (2003): 597-603; idem, “Response,” Science 306 (2004) 1681; Werner Vycichl, “The Origin of the Hamito-Semitic Languages,” in Herrmann Jungraithmayr and Walter W. Müller (edd.),Proceedings of the Fourth Internation Hamito-Semitic Congress, Marburg, 20-22 September, 1983 (Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjaminus Publishing Company, 1987) 109-121; Alexander Militariev, “Home for Afrasian: African or Asian,” in Cushitic and Omotic Languages: Proceedings of the Third International Symposium, Berlin, March 17-19, 1994 (Berlin, 1994) 13-32; “Evidence of Proto-Afrasian Cultural Lexicon (1. Cultivation of Land. II. Crops. III. Dwelling and Settlement),” in Hans G. Mukarovsky (ed.), Proceedings of the Fifth International Hamito-Semitic Congress (Wien, 1990) I: 73-85.

[18]John Huehnergard, “Afro-Asiatic,” in Roger D. Woodard (ed.), The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 225; Christopher Ehret, S.O.Y Keita and Paul Newman, “The Origins of Afroasiatic,” Science 306 (2004) 1680-1681; Carleton T. Hodge, “Afroasiatic: The Horizon and Beyond,” in Scott Noegel and Alan S. Kaye (edd.),Afroasiatic Linguistics, Semitics, and Egyptology: Selected Writings of Carleton T. Hodge(Bethesda, Maryland: CDL Press, 2004) 64; ML Bender Upside Down Afrasian, Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 50 (1997): 19-34; Christopher Ehret, Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian): vowels, tone, consonants, and vocabulary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995) 487; Joseph H. Greenberg, "African linguistic classification," in Joseph Ki-Zerbo (ed.), General History of Africa, Volume 1: Methodology and African Prehistory (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1981) 292–308. On the Africa vs. Asia AA Origin dispute see Daniel P. Mc Call, “The Afroasiatic Language Phylum: African in Origin, or Asian?” Current Anthropology 39 (1998): 139-143.

[19] Nicholas Faraclas, “They Came Before the Egyptians: Linguistic Evidence for the African Roots of Semitic Languages,” in Silvia Federici (ed.), Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and Its “Others” (Westport, Connecticut and London: Praeger, 1995) 175-96.

[20] See e.g. Gregorio del Olmo Lete, Questions of Semitic Linguistics. Root and Lexeme: The History of Research (Bethesda, Maryland: CDL Press, 2008) 115; Edward Lipiński, Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters and Departement Oosterse Studies, 1997) 42-43; A. Murtonen, Early Semitic (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1967), 74.

[21] George Aaron Barton, Semitic and Hamitic Origins: Social and Religious (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1934).

[22] George Aaron Barton, “The Origins of Civilization in Africa and Mesopotamia, Their Relative Antiquity and Interplay,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 68 (1929) 303-312.

[23] Faraclas, “They Came Before the Egyptians” 190.

[24] del Olmo Lete, Questions of Semitic Linguistics, 115. .

[25] Quoted in interview by Jeff Mortimer, “Language of the Desert,” Michigan Today, Spring 1997 online version: accessed July 30, 2009.

[26] George E. Mendenhall, “Arabic in Semitic Linguistic History,” JAOS 126 (2006): 17-26; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman et al, 6 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 4:815 s.v. Midian by George E. Mendenhall; idem, “The Syro-Palestinian Origins of the Pre-Islamic Arabic,” in Studies in the History and Archaeology of Palestine, vol. III (Aleppo University Press, 1988) 215-223.

[27] David M. GoldenbergThe Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005) 28, 54.

[28] “the people of Northwest Arabia (Midian) were called Kushites.” Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 54.

[29] Jan Retsö, The Arabs in Antiquity: Their History from the Assyrians to the Umayyads(London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003) 212. Fred V. Winnett similarly saw the genealogies of Gen. 10:7 as Arabian genealogies which “contain information of considerable value for the reconstruction of early Arabian history.” He assumes these genealogies reflect the political and tribal situation in 6th cent BCE Arabia. Fred V. Winnett, “The Arabian Genealogies in the Book of Genesis,” in Harry Thomas Frank and William L. Reed (edd.), Translating and Understanding the Old TestamentEssays in Honor of Herbert Gordon May (Nashville and New York: Abingdon Press, 1970) 173. 

[30] Regarding the genealogies of Gen. 10:7 Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary(Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1984) 511 notes: “It is certain that the majority of the names describes peoples in Arabia,” not Africa.

[31] On the Kushite presence in the Syro-Palestine region see Roger W. Anderson, Jr. “Zephaniah ben Cushi and the Cush of Benjamin: Traces of Cushite Presence in Syria-Palestine,” in Steven W. Holloway and Lowell K. Handy (edd.), The Picture is Broken: Memorial Essays for Gösta W. Ahlström (JSOTSupp 190; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995) 45-70. William Foxwell Albright documented a district or tribe called Kush in southern Transjordan in the 19th century BCE and aKusan-rom, “high Kushan” in Northern Syria in 13th -12th cent BCE. Williams Foxwell Albright,Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1956) 205 n. 49. On the Kushite presence in North Arabia see also Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 20: “The existence of a Kushite people in the general area and references to it in the Bible have become well accepted in biblical scholarship.”

[32] On the Natufians of Palestine see C. Loring Brace et al, “The questionable contribution of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age to European craniofacial form,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 103 (2006): 242-247; Margherita Mussi, “The Natufian of Palestine: The Biginnings of Agriculture in a Palaeoethnological Perspective,” Origini 10 (1976) 89-107; F.J. Los, “The Prehistoric Ethnology of Palestine,” Mankind Quarterly 7 (1966): 53-59; Sir Arthur Keith, “The Late Palaeolithi Inhabitants of Palestine,” Proceedings of the First International Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, London August 1-6 1932 (London: Oxford University Press, 1934) 46-47; idem, New Discoveries Relating to the Antiquity of Man (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1931) 210-211.

[33] As Roger W. Anderson, Jr. notes: “The Cushites were probably dark-skinned or burnt-faced people, ones whom we would classify today as black.” Anderson, “Zephaniah ben Cushi,” 68. But Anderson wants to connect these Syrian Kushites with the Nubian rulers of Egypt’s 25th Dynasty who had some influence in the area. On the other hand Robert D. Haak has shown that this association is untenable. “ ‘Cush’ in Zephaniah,” in Holloway and Handy, Picture is Broken, 238-251. On Kushites in the area see also Israel Eph’al, The Ancient Arabs: Nomads on the Borders of the Fertile Crescent 9th – 5th Centuries B.C. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1982) 78-79. The ancient Egyptians also depicted Syro-Palestinians as having “dark hair, brown complexions and Semitic features”: Frank J. Yurco, “Were the Ancient Egyptians Black or White,” BAR 15 (Sept/Oct 1989): 26. In sum, in Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, Biblical and post-biblical Jewish literatures, Kushites are noted for their black skin. Goldenberg, Curse of Ham, 113-114.

[34] Retsö, Arabs in Antiquity, 119.

[35] Num. R. IX.34 (Soncino translation).

[36] The verbal root qēdār q – d – r means “to be dark”. As Marvin Pope informs us, “The root qdritself carries the idea of darkness.” Song of Songs: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible; Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1977) 319. See also Tremper Longman III, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids, Michigan and Cambridge: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 2001) 97. Qedar is related to the Arabic root kh-∙-r, from which we get akh∙ar “of blackish hue inclining to green, black-complexioned.” See Jaroslav Stetkevych, MuÈammad and the Golden Bough: Reconstructing Arabian Myth (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996) 73.

[37] Restö, Arabs in Antiquity, 530.

[38] Dana Marniche, “Fear of Blackness: Descriptions and Ethnogenesis of the original Afro-Arabian tribes of ‘Moorish’ Spain Part I,”

1 comment:

  1. Peace To the God True Islam. Great work. Keep up the building Lord.