Chapter

Islam in Arabia

BERNARD LEWIS

in Race and Slavery in the Middle East

Published in print June 1992 | ISBN: 9780195053265
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854561 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195053265.003.0003
Islam in Arabia

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The chapter focuses on race and racial attitudes in Islam. There are two passages in the Qur'an which have a direct bearing on these. It is clear that the Qur'an expresses no racial or color prejudice. It does not even reveal any awareness of such prejudice. On the specific color of color, ancient Arabian literature is instructive. Human beings are described by words which we can translate as black, white, red, olive, yellow, and two shades of brown. References to black people in pre-Islamic Arabia mean Ethiopians — commonly called Habash. Ethiopians were active in Arabia in the sixth century. Some Ethiopians remained in Arabia as slaves. The early poets made frequent references to Ethiopians serving the Arab tribesmen as shepherds and herdsmen. Arab poetry and legend have preserved the names of several famous figures in ancient Arabia such as 'Antara and Zabiba.

Keywords: racial attitudes; race; Islam; Qur'an; Arabian literature; Ethiopians; slaves; Zabiba

Chapter.  3238 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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