Chapter

The Discovery of Africa

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/9780195053265.003.0007
The Discovery of Africa

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The chapter focuses on what Muslim historians said about the various people beyond the frontiers of the Islamic ecumene. In the earliest Arabic references, black Africans were either Habash or Sudan. Habash refers to Ethiopians and their immediate neighbors in the Horn of Africa. Sudan refers to all blacks in general. Some authors distinguish carefully between the different groups of black Africans. The Zanj were the least respected and the Ethiopians were the most respected. The attitude to black Africans was negative. As Muslim power and Islamic religion advanced farther into black Africa, extravagant accounts of African manners and customs became less frequent. A unique letter vividly illustrates how black African Muslims must have felt. The letter was sent by the black king of Bornu to the sultan of Egypt.

Keywords: Muslim historians; Islamic ecumene; black Africans; Habash; Sudan

Chapter.  1971 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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