Saturday, December 3, 2011

Abyaḍ and the Black Arabs: Refuting the Would-be Refuters

Wesley Muhammad, PhD 2011.

This is only the Intoduction.  To see the full, 22-page response go to: 

  1. Determined to Defend White Supremacy in Islam

Waqar Akbar Cheema from Pakistan and Gabriel Keresztes Abdul Rahman the Romanian have written what they believe is a refutation of my and other’s documentation that the Arab prophet Muhammad was black-skinned, contrary to popular representations in both the Muslim and non-Muslim world according to which the last prophet of Islam was ruddy-white. Their “refutation” may be found here:

Cheema and Keresztes believe, or try to make their reading audience believe that their motivation is non-racial/racist; that their concern is only to deal with the “racist theology” of the NOI which supposedly has no place in the Islam that they are urgently trying to protect. The simple claim that Prophet Muhammad was black-skinned rather than white-skinned is seen as “racist”:

“Mr. Wesley Muhammad in his article tries hard to ‘prove’ that Prophet Muhammad may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was black in complexion. The racism within him prompts him to come up with such ‘interesting research’.”

Yet, Cheema and Keresztes unequivocally declare themselves that “In fact (Muhammad’s) complexion was white but not extremely white.” I maintain that it is in fact the racism deep within them – their terrified disdain for the thought that their Beloved Prophet was black - that prompted this amateurish attempt at a refutation which seeks to reassure for all readers that the Holy Prophet was not one of ‘them’, but one of ‘us’. Cheema and Keresztes claim:

“Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not venerated or worshiped (except by deviant-ignorant), nor is his color important to the ideology or practice of Islam.  It is true that scholars have written books and composed poetry on the physical characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but never has such an issue become a theological one.”

But the hegemony of this fabricated white-skinned Muhammad has had profound theological consequences, for white and black peoples. Anthropologist Prof Janice Boddy reveals in her study of black women in a Northern Sudanese village:

“Hofriyati (village women) are especially conscious of skin color. White skin is clean, beautiful, and a mark of potential holiness. I, being Caucasian, was repeatedly told that my chances of getting into heaven-should I chose to become Muslim-were far greater than those of the average Sudani. This is because the Prophet Mohammed was white, and all white-skinned peoples are in a favored position of belonging to his tribal group.”[1]                

The fabricated white-skinned Muhammad has been the license for racism  - theological and practical - in Islam throughout the ages. All of Cheema and Keresztes’s efforts in this so-called refutation were to preserve and protect this chimera of White Supremacy against the deconstructing force of the available evidence.   

Cheema and Keresztes try to demonstrate that I have misrepresented the meaning of the Arabic termabya as it relates to Prophet Muhammad. The term normally signifies the whiteness of such objects as milk, teeth, ect. However, Classical Arabic has a linguistic phenomenon called al-addad, which we call antiphrasis, in which in certain contexts a word signifies its lexical opposite. In Classical Arabic the term abya when applied to human complexion rarely means ‘white-skinned’. For that, the term amar– lit. “red” – was used. As an Arab self-description abya normally denoted a clear, blemish-free blackcomplexion. This is the crux of the issue with Cheema and Keresztes and myself, as well as between them and Tariq Berry, author of The Unknown Arabs (2002). Cheema and Keresztes want to insist that the descriptions of the Prophet in the Classical Arabic literature that describe him as abya intend to describe him as white-skinned. In this Part I of my response to Cheema and Keresztes I will address this issue.

Before I begin, a caveat: reading through some of the exchange between Cheema and Keresztes and Tariq Berry compels to me make this point. Tariq Berry is my Brother whom I respect and admire. We travel in two different lanes though. While we have numerous fundamental agreements and are both (along with some others) trying to get the information of the historical blackness of the early Arabs and Muhammad out to a critical mass, it is also the case that I take positions with which he fundamentally disagrees and he takes positions with which I fundamentally disagree. Thus, he or anyone else should not be saddled with or called upon to answer for my positions. Tariq can answer for Tariq, and Wesley can answer for Wesley.

[1] Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men, and the Zār Cult in Northern Sudan(Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989) 64. 


  1. Peace bro Wesley

    Can you put up another link to the full article because the current one is not working?

  2. Yes Sir. I have just updated it. Here is the better link as well:

  3. ^^^^
    Thank you so much Sir! I greatly appreciate your efforts.
    May Allah continue to bless you and your family!

  4. I would think more important is understanding the documented appearance of the Hijaz families and clans in that period. We know from European colonial writings that towns like Mecca and Jidda have been in the last few centuries inundated with foreign peoples ranging from all over the Islamic world.

    In the time of Ibn Mudjawir the region from Mecca southward to the Yemen including Tihama - according to Jan Retso - was apparently considered Kush. (The Arabs in Antiquity 2003 p. 231.)

    By the 14th century in Chinese accounts the the region extending from from Mecca to Medina and Yanbu and southward 300 miles to Djizan is said to be inhabited by people of "a very dark purple color". (Mancall, P. Travel Narratives in the Age of Discovery, 2006, p.126; Waley-Cohen, J. The Sextants of Beijing, 2000 p. 28)

    We also know that in the 14th century, Syrian el-Dhahabi speaks of fair skin or "ahmar" or "red" complexion being "rare" in the Hijaz. We know that Dhahabi says the ahmar or fair-skinned people were the Syrians, Persians and Rum., and that in that century in Arabia these people were considered to be what was most representative of the slave population. In this same time period Tunisian/Egyptian Ibn Manzur states most Arabs were "dark brown" with "kinky hair" in Lisaan al Arab, and "the Arabs attribute white skin to the slaves".

    Is dark brown that the same thing as off white or "wheatish" tan?

    We know that the early Quraish, Khazraj, Sulaym, Kinanah and Hudhail ((Hatheyl) Makhzumi and al-Mugira are described with words that can only mean black and even "extremely black" in the classical Arab dialect while as late as the 18th century Charles Doughty in Travel in Arabia Deserta vol 2 notes the "black and shining" skins of the ancient Hudheyl ( which he writes Hatheyl) p. 535 extending between Medina and Taif. He calls them and the Quraish "blackish" elsewhere and "a kind of tropical Arab".

    Of course Quraish, Hatheyl and Harb are known to have practiced endogamy and kept their blood purer being considered of closer relation to the prophet's ancestry. The appearance of the Quraish in modern Israel today is similar.

    These are just a few of the things which run counter to the view that modern Arabs of tan, yellow or bronze appearance native to parts of the Syrian desert and modern Arabia are what early Arabians who were most commonly designated Khudr, Sumr and Sud, looked like.

  5. Keep up the excellent work Dr. Wesley Muhammad!

  6. Dr. Wesley Muhammad, I enjoy reading your books. Black Arabia and God's black prophets. I enjoy reading your blogs and pdf writings! Keep up the great job! May Allah keep blessing you! Peace! Health! Beautiful-harmony! Happiness! and Bliss!

  7. Peace be upon the one who follows the righteous guidance

    Here is the reality of Wesley's arguments. Our latest response

    1. I am not Muslim, but am I missing something here?

      I would like to add Peace be upon the one who is not full of fear and hypocrisy.

      Hi Wesley - I wanted to say I was reading the refutation to your writing about the use of color terminology in the Arabic writings and how they said you were non-scholarly and racist. I thought it was rather unscholarly and demeaning of them to use insults, when you've obviously put so much effort into research of the interpretations.

      The early use of the term "abyad" or "white" by Arabized Syrians and other authors of the early Arabic world in general is expressly illustrated and exemplified in the writings of people like Al-Umari of Damascus who in the 14th century said the following according to most translators:
      "In the North of Mali there live white Berbers under their ruler. Their tribes are Antasar, Yantar'aras, Meddusa and Lemtuna ..." Masalik al Absar II Book X, by Al Umari, 14th century That's Maurice Gaudefroy-Demombynes translation d. (1957)

      It is one you will find all over the web by people who would like to think white Berbers ruled some Negroes!

      An author of, Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History translates these Tuareg names as "Yantasar, Tin Gharas, Madusa and Lamtuna" p. 262 published 2000.

      Now these tribes of "abyad" Berbers the modern Yantaras/Yantasir, Kel Antassar and Kel Auelamidden (Lamtuna) to this day in Mali and Niger especially the noble castes are for the most part your color and darker, Wesley.

      Do you consider yourself "wheatish" by any chance, Wesley?lol! Apparently the Arabic writers did!

      They look nothing like the Persian and Syrian looking individuals the refuters have on their site. So much for the wishful thinking of "red" men like Cheema and!

      One 1933 Bulletin says "le nom d'Iforas, dit-il, s'applique à des hommes absolument libres, nobles, mais pauvres, dangereux et déconsidérés.
      Ce sont des Touareg sur lesquels on conserve des doutes: on les croit issus de la tribu de Kallantasar (Kel Antassar) qui vivait autrefois sur les deux rives du Niger au sud de Tombouctou. Venus en Aïr il y a une cinquantaine d'annéesils s'installèrent sur les terres du sultan (d'Agadès) avec sa permision et tous les droits que keur conférait leur origine noble..." Source: Bulletin de la Société de Géographie d'Alger
      Procès·Verbaux des Séances de la Sociétéet de l'AFRIQUE DU NORD
      Trente-huitième année, 3e trimestre 1933. n°135.

      Above it seems certain scholars had identified already the Kel Antassar and Kel Iforas clans of the Tuareg of Mali as the same people.

      You were also correct and accurate, Wesley, in asserting that this wheatish or golden brown color common to West Africans such as Tuareg Fulani etc. is a late expression of "abyad" as it appears certain early Islamic Arabian texts are known in which Ethiopian faces are called "white".
      An ancient Arab poem describes the “sons of Abyssinia” as having both “white faces” and “black faces” with "hair of long peppers" (Nicolle & McBride, Romes enemies 5: The desert frontier. Oxford and New York: Osprey Publishing,1991.

      Thus the idea of "abyad" meaning pale or tanned or like a swarthy Syrian is absolutely and forever out of the question!

      Furthermore you had already shown that European scholars have confirmed that even today the word "Sumra" or "Samar" among the bedouin still means a brown that is just short of black!

      I wonder why your so-called refuters don't bring up that scholarship and call it racist?

  8. Dana and Wesley. Why don't you guys colloborate on a webpage and maybe even a book. Dana do you have a book that I can purchase?