By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare


Bilal Ibn Rabah was born in the holy city of Mecca (In Saudi Arabia), in the year of 580. According to the Islamic scholars he was the son of an Arab man and an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) woman.His father Rabah was a man in servitude to the Banu Jumah clan, while is mother Hamamah is believed to of been a former princess of Abyssinia, who was captured and put into slavery after The Year Of The Elephant (570-71 CE). Because Bilal was the son of two slaves, he was also a slave, His master was a man named Umayyah Ibn Khalaf, who was a local Arab leader in Mecca at the time. Bilal hard work ethic would gain him a reputation as a good slave, but due to the social and political racism and discrimination towards Black people in Arabian culture during his time, his potential for growth was limited in that society.


Soon after Muhammad announced that he was God’s (Allah’s) new prophet,and began preaching the word of Islam, his gospel began to resonate with Bilal, who became one of the earliest people to convert to the Muslim religion. When Bilal’s slave master, Umayyah Ibn Khalaf discovered his conversion, he was incensed and had Bilal tortured and several brutalized, with the goal of Bilal renouncing his new faith; which he never did, no matter how bad he was beaten.


Stories of how Bilal was beaten and whipped because of his devotion to the Islamic religion reached the ears of the prophet Muhammad. After hearing the news of the torture of his new disciple, prophet Muhammad sent his close companion Abu Bakr to negotiate the emancipation of Bilal, which was granted.


While in the newly formed Islamic state of Madina, Bilal continued to contribute to the Muslim society. Bilal would be chosen by the prophet Muhammad to be the first Mu’azzin, the man who recites the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer). As Bilal continued his growth in society, he would be appointed by the prophet to be the minister of Bayal-Mal (which roughly translates to the treasury). In this role he would be responsible for distributing funds to help orphans, widows, journeyers and other people who could not properly take care of themselves.


Bilal took part in the Battle of Badr, which is also known as the Day of Criterion in the Qur’an. The name derives from the Muslims who went to battle on Tuesday, March 13th of 624 CE, near the present-day city of Badr, Al Madinah province in Saudia Arabia. The battle marked the beginning of a six-year war between the prophet Muhammad and his tribe for control of their territory.


After the death of the Islamic prophet, Bilal traveled with several Muslim battlions under the command of Said Ibn Aamir al-Jumah, to Syria.


There is some dispute on rather Bilal died in 17 or even 21 AH of the Muslim calendar. Some believe he died in Damascus at the age of 60, others actually believe he died in Medina. After his death, it is believed that his descendants migrated to his ancestral homeland of Ethiopia, East Africa. The Royal Family of Mali in West Africa also claimed to be his descendants.

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