King Najashi (Rahimahullah)
When Arabia showed its malice, hatred and unwillingness to accept the message of Islam, it was the King of Abyssinia, Najashi (Negus) who opened his doors to the Muslims, treating them with justice and hospitality, unswayed by the temptation of the gifts which the non-Muslim envoys offered for the return and ultimately torture of those Muslims who sought refuge in this African country. It was this same king who later embraced the faith of Islam and upon whose demise the Nabi of Allah ﷺ performed Salaatul Janaazah in abstentia.
Bilal bin Rabah RA
From the continent of Africa hails one of the greatest men of Islam, a man whose legacy resonates around the Muslim world daily - five times a day. This personality is none other than Bilal ibn Rabaah رضي الله عنه. Brought into Arabia as a slave, Bilal رضي الله عنه was tortured mercilessly, whipped and dragged on the burning Arabian sands for simply choosing to believe in Ahad, the One Allah. The faith and persistence of Bilal رضي الله عنه were rewarded for from the entire galaxy of Companions, The Holy Prophet ﷺ chose this man to be his personal Muazzin and caller to prayer. History will bear testimony that on the occasion of the Conquest of Makkah, it was Bilal رضي الله عنه who ascended the Ka’ba to call out the Azan.
Umme Ayman Barakah RA
From the continent of Africa hails a woman who dedicated her life to the service of the Holy Prophet ﷺ from the time of his birth to his death. Her name is Barakah, but she is famously known as Ummu Ayman. She came into the house of Abdullah, the father of the Holy Prophet ﷺ as a slave. She was the first woman to hold the Holy Prophet upon his birth. It was she who took up the mantle of being the motherly figure in the life of Muhammad ﷺ upon the death of Amina. Such was the Holy Prophet ﷺ‘s love for her that he would affectionately call her Ummi or Ummaah (my Mother). As the Prophet ﷺfaced tragedy upon tragedy, Umm Ayman was there for him. From the time when his mother died when he was six, to when his grandfather Abdul Muttalib died when he was eight, Umm Ayman stayed with the Prophet. It was only after the Prophet married Khadija رضي الله عنهاthat she married, and that too, on their insistence. When the Prophet ﷺ received prophethood, Ummu Ayman was among the first Muslims, and like the others, bravely faced the punishments of the Quraish for those who dared to believe in La Ilaha illa Allah Muhammad Ur Rasoolullah. During the Battle of Uhud she gave out water to the thirsty soldiers and took care of the wounded. She accompanied the Prophet on some expeditions.
During a visit from the Prophet ﷺ , he asked: "Ya Ummi! Are you well?" and she would reply: "I am well, O Messenger of Allah so long as Islam is."
One example of Umm Ayman's dedication to Islam and the Prophet was when she journeyed across the burning desert through sandstorms on foot from Makkah to Madinah to join the Prophet. Despite the harsh nature of the journey, she persisted, and was given good news when she reached her destination. When she got to Madinah, swollen feet, dust-covered face and all, the Prophet said to her,
"Ya Umm Ayman! Ya Ummi! (O Umm Ayman! O my mother!) Indeed for you is a place in Paradise!”
Above we have simply given a taste of those great legends of Islam who hail from our very own continent. Islam is not a religion which judges people based on race or creed. Rather the rank, status, and honour of any person will be assessed based upon action, striving, and sacrificing for the sake of Allah and His Holy Prophet ﷺ. We should never forget that this great continent of Africa has delivered to us it’s shining stars, whose legacy and memory will forever shine out to us as a beacon of hope and inspiration.
Darul Ihsan Centre