Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Did The Arabs Who Conquered Egypt Look Like

Have you ever wondered what the Arabs who conquered Egypt in the 7th century looked like? Let's take a look.

Amru ibn Al-Aas was the Arab Commander of the army that Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RAA) sent to conquer Egypt. Amru ibn Al-Aas was black-skinned and he was from the noble Arab tribe of Quraish. Ibn Kathir says in his book Al-Bidaaya Wa Al-Nihaaya: "He (Amru ibn Al-Aas) was black-skinned, tall, and bald. May Allah be content with him."

وكان أسمر، شديد السمرة، طويلا، أصلع رضي الله عنه

During the conquest of Egypt, Umar ibn Al-Khattab sent 4000 soldiers as reinforcements for Amru ibn Al-Aas and he assigned four men to command 1000 of the soldiers each. These four men were Ubaada ibn Al-Samit, Al-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam, Miqdad ibn Amru, and Maslama ibn Mukhallid.

Ubada ibn Al-Samit was a pure, noble Arab from his mother's side of the family and his father's side of the family. His father and mother were descendants of Saba, who are descendants of Qahtan. Amru ibn Al-Aas (the Arab leader who was sent to conquer Egypt) assigned Ubada ibn Al-Samit to head a group of ten people to meet Muqawqis/Mikakaus (the Greek ruler of Egypt). Ubada ibn Al-Samit was black-skinned (black meant black then) and he was over seven feet tall. When they sailed to meet Muqawqis and entered his court, Ubada ibn Al-Samit came forward to speak and Muqawqis became afraid of him because of his blackness and he said, "Get this black man away from me and send forward someone else to speak to me!" The others said, "Verily this black-skinned man is the most superior of us in opinion and knowledge. He is our master and the best amongst us and the preferred above us. We all follow his word and his opinion. The Amir (Commander) gave him command instead of us and he commanded us to obey him." Muqawqis then said to the delegation, "How can you be content with this black-skinned person being the most superior of you?! He should be the lowest of you." The members of the delegation then said, "No way! Verily, even though he is black-skinned, as you can see, he is from amongst the most superior of us in rank and priority and in intelligence, sense and judgement. Black skin is something normal amongst us." Maqawqis then said to Ubada, "Come forward oh black one and speak softly to me. Your blackness frightens me. If you speak too loudly you will make me more afraid." Ubada then came forward and said, "I've heard what you said and I inform you that amongst my companions that I left behind me in my camp are 1000 men as black as I am and blacker than I am and more shocking in appearance! If you saw them, you would be more afraid of them than you are of me!"

وبعثه عمرو بن العاص في عشرة نفر لمقابلة المقوقس، وكان عبادة بن الصامت أسود اللون، فلما ركبوا السفن إلى المقوقس ودخلوا عليه، تقدم عبادة، فهابه المقوقس لسواده، فقال: نحُّـو عني هذا الأسود، وقدموا غيره يكلمني. فقالوا: إن هذا الأسود أفضلنا رأياً وعلماً، وهو سيدنا وخيرنا، والمقدَّم علينا، وإنا نرجع جميعنا إلى قوله ورأيه، وقد أمّره الأمير دوننا بما أمّره به، وأمرنا ألا نخالف رأيه وقوله. فقال المقوقس للوفد: وكيف رضيتم أن يكون هذا الأسود أفضلكم، وإنما ينبغي أن يكون دونكم؟. قالوا: كلا! إنه وإن كان أسود كما ترى، فإنه من أفضلنا موضعاً وأفضلنا سابقة وعقلاً ورأياً، وليس ينكر السود فينا. فقال المقوقس لعبادة: تقدم يا أسود وكلمني برفق فإني أهاب سوادك، وإن اشتد عليّ كلامك ازددت لك هيبة. فتقدم إليه عبادة فقال: قد سمعت مقالتك، وإن فيمن خلَّفت من أصحابي ألف رجل أسود كلهم مثلي، وأشد سواداً مني وأفظع منظراً، ولو رأيتهم لكنت أهيب لهم مني

When the Muslim soldiers conquered Egypt, Al-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam, the cousin of the Prophet Mohamed and the nephew of Khadija - the first wife of the Prophet Mohamed, was the first to climb over the fortress. Al-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam was described as follows: "He (Al-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam) was thin-bearded, dark-skinned, hairy, and tall."

كان خفيف اللحية أسمر اللون، كثير الشعر، طويلاً

Here is how it happened: "When the Muslim army, during the conquest of Egypt, surrounded the Babylon Fortress (Old Cairo) and the siege extended to seven months, Al-Zubair ibn Al-Awwam stood and said to Amru ibn Al-Aas, "Oh Amru! I volunteer myself in the name of Allah. I hope that Allah will cause this to be a victory for the Muslims." Amru agreed to that so he (Al-Zubair) came forward and placed a ladder on the wall of the fortress and climbed it. He said "Allah is Great!" and the soldiers followed him and said the same and the fortress fell to the Musims".

حينما وقف المسلمون أمام حصن بابليون فى فتح مصر، وامتد الحصار سبعة أشهر، وقف ليقول لعمرو بن العاص: يا عمرو، إنى أهب نفسى لله، أرجو أن يفتح الله بذلك على المسلمين فوافقه عمرو على ذلك، فتقدم ووضع سُلَّمًا وصعد عليه ثم كبَّر وكبَّر الجند، وفُتِح الحصن

Mohamed Ibn Maslama also climbed the fortress. Mohamed Ibn Maslama was an Arab from the tribe of Aws, who were from Saba, who were from Qahtan. Al-Dhahabi says in his book Siyar A'laam Al-Nubalaa: "Ibn Younis says that Mohamed Ibn Maslama took part in the conquest of Egypt and that he was amongst those who climbed over the fortress with Al-Zubair."

قال ابن يونس شهد محمد فتح مصر وكان فيمن طلع الحصن مع الزبير

Al-Dhahabi also says:"Ubada ibn Rufaa'a says that Mohamed ibn Maslama was black-skinned, tall, and huge."

قال عباية بن رفاعة كان محمد بن مسلمة أسود طويلا عظيما

Miqdad ibn Amru, who lead 1000 of the soldiers, was described as follows:

"Ibn Umar says that Musa ibn Ya'aqoub related from his aunt Karima the daughter of Miqdad that she described her father to them as a tall, black-skinned man with a large belly, a lot of hair on his head, and a beard that was dyed yellow."

قال ابن عمر : حدثنا موسى بن يعقوب ، عن عمته كريمة بنت المقداد أنها وصفت أباها لهم فقالت : كان رجلاً طوالاً آدم أبطن كثير شعر الرأس يصفر لحيته

This should give you an idea of what the Arabs who conquered Egypt in the 7th century looked like.


  1. Salaams Brother,

    Great post! Glad to see you posting again. Your information has been amazing...I tried to The Unknown Arabs on Amazon but its temporarily unavailable. Where can I purchase your book any other materials? I am from new york but I am working in Kuwait and there are many black kuwaitis here...some of them do not like to speak about their ancestry though.



  2. Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you will not have a leg to stand on.............................................

  3. Thanks brother Yao! Concerning my book, though it says on Amazon that it is unavailable, you CAN order it because it IS available. I'm not sure why it says unavailable. I have to contact them about that. Let me know if you have problems ordering from them.

  4. Who put both feet in his/her mouth?

  5. Salaam Yao,

    I just posted something in Arabic for the brothers and sisters in Kuwait to read. Please show it to them.

  6. Salaams Tariq,

    Cool, I will check Amazon again. Thanks for the Arabic post. I will be sharing this with my colleagues at school and everybody in Kuwait for that matter.

    I've talked with some people about Jalauddin Al-Suyuti's writings when you mentioned him describing Ali ibn Abi Talib. And all of the Arabs in Kuwait said the same thing, "he was a scholar who would use hadith that is not always sound. In fact anytime I mentioned anything about him they deny most of what he is done.

    The history of Kuwait is quite interesting. I have been learning that its originally part of Iraq but was given to them by the British. Of course that is blasphemy if you say that here though.

    Keep posting brother!!

  7. Salaam Yao,

    Imam Al-Suyouti was a reliable scholar. All Sunni scholars agree on this. I've never heard anyone say otherwise. Ask those people to show you proof from reliable Sunni scholars saying that Al-Suyouti was unreliable. I think they just don't like the fact that Al-Suyouti spoke the truth about Ali's description. :)

  8. Peace Tariq,

    Point well taken brother

  9. Salam Tarik, in the Lisan how is the complexion/colour amsr described?...i'm saying this because some people can say it simply means brown/tan

  10. Salaam Zaytoon,

    In Lisan Al-Arab, asmar is described as a light black color:

    السُّمْرَةُ لَوْنُ الأَسْمَرِ،
    وهو لون يضرب إِلى سَوَادٍ خَفِيٍّ

    The problem is, many people don't know what black means.