Mamadou Chinyelu deals with the pivotal role of Africans in the birth of the Islamic faith and shows that they figure not only in the Prophet Mohammed's lineage but in his upbringing and development. St Clair Drake points out and with supportive evidence that Mohammed himself was described as being of a red color.
However, the ten sons of Abdal-Muttalib, Mohammed's grandfather, were all, according to D.S. Margoliouth, "men of massive build and of dark colour." This would not make Arabs see Mohammed as "a black man" in the popular American sense. Remember that we are dealing here with polygamous families and the sons of al-Mutallib were probably not only of different wives of different races but the particular son, who fathered Mohammed, may also have married women of different races. This, therefore, would not automatically make Mohammed "black" or Africoid.
The way color prejudice had to be dealt with again and again with stern sermons by the Prophet, makes it clear that the majority of his followers could not have seen him as such. A stigmata was still attached to people with classically "Negroid" features, St Clair Drake tells us. His work is particularly informative on this delicate point.
Black Africans, however, figure very prominently in Mohammed's life. Apart from the reputed African ancestry of his grandfather, Chinyelu points out that he was reared by an African woman, Barakat, when his mother died.
He pleaded with his family to raise money to free the African slave, Bilal, who not only became a pillar of the faith but his closest and most honoured friend unto his death. One of his wives, May, was an African.
His adopted son Zayd bin Harith, destined to become a great general, was also an African. Mohammed held Africa in such mystical reverence that when his early followers were fleeing persecution in Arabia he advised them to seek asylum in Africa, for "yonder lieth a land of righteousness." Africans were pivotal also in the spread of Islam. The invasion of Spain in the eighth century and the survival of the Muslim dynasties in the eleventh owe a great deal to African military prowess and leadership.
Chinyelu celebrates the military exploits of Tarik(who conquered Spain in 711 A.D.) of Yusuf Ibn Tashifin, leader of the Almoravides, who routed Alphonso VI's army in 1086 (15,000 Africans facing 70,000 Europeans) assuming leadership of Muslim Spain in 1091, and of Yakub al-Mansur who conquered Spain and Portugal on two separate occasions to become the most powerful ruler in the world.
Topr right: 'Standing Caliph',Gold Dinar, Damascus AD 695. This coin depicts the Caliph 'Abd al- Malik Ibn Marwan (AD 683-705). Bottom left: 'Praying Caliph', Silver Drachm, Al-Basra, Iraq, AD 633. This coin's design has derived from Sasanian silver coinage. The traditional fire altar of the Sasanian coinage has been replaced with a figure of the Caliph praying with raised hands. Source Ashmolean Museum Oxford
Such was the respect these leaders inspired in the hearts of their enemies, that royal crests and coats-of-arms in Europe were emblazoned with Moorish heads.
To the influence of Moorish science on Europe we finally turn, for it is in this field that the impact of the Moors is least known and most felt.
Wayne Chandler points to advances in mathematics, the solving of quadratic equations and the development of new concepts of trigonometry.
He informs us that Moorish chemistry refined upon gunpowder invention in China and thus introduced the first shooting mechanisms, known as fire-sticks.
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