Color of Prophet Muhammad and the Arabs at the spread of Islam

Color of Prophet Muhammad and the Arabs at the emergence of Islam
Some people claim that Prophet Muhammad was black, but it's contrary to the following writings:

Muhammad described as a white man (Sahih Bukhari)
Muhammad described as white (Sahih Bukhari)
Muhammad described as white (Sahih Muslim)
White cheek of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Muslim)
White complexion of Muhammad (Sahih Muslim)
Muhammad was not brown (Sahih Muslim)
White thigh of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari)
White abdomen of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari)
White arms of Prophet Muhammad (Sunan Abu Dawud)
White armpits of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari)
White legs of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Muslim)
Rosy complexion of Muhammad
Why some people claim that Prophet Muhammad was black skinned?
Ibn Manzur about the word "abyad" in Lisan al-arab
Other hadiths (not all necessarily sahih)
White face of Prophet Muhammad (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)
(Extra) Muhammad sold 2 black slaves for 1 slave (Sahih Muslim)
(Extra) Author Habeeb Akande, Al-Azhar University student, on abyad


Muhammad described as a "white man" (Sahih Bukhari : hadith 63)
Anas bin Malik (RA) reported that when a person inquired the companions about the Holy Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- they pointed towards him saying;

"This white man (rajul al-abyad) reclining on his arm."


Muhammad described as "white" (Sahih Bukhari : hadith 3544)
Narrated Isma`il bin Abi Khalid:
I heard Abii Juhaifa saying, "I saw the Prophet, and Al-Hasan bin `Ali resembled him." I said to Abu- Juhaifa, "Describe him for me." He said, "He was white and his beard was black with some white hair. He promised to give us 13 young she-camels, but he expired before we could get them."

kana abyada

Muhammad described as "white" (Sahih Muslim : hadith 2340 [6072])
Abû At-Tufail reported:
"I saw the Messenger of Allah and there is no one else (left) on the face of the earth who saw him apart from me." He (the narrator) said to him: 'How did you see him?' He said: 'He was white and elegant, of average height and build.'"

kana abyada

White cheek of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Muslim : hadith [1315] 119 - 582)
It was narrated from 'Amir bin Sa'd that his father said: "I used to see the Messenger of Allah saying the Salâm to his right and his left, until I could see the whiteness of his cheek."


White complexion of Muhammad (Sahih Muslim : hadith 2343 [6081/107])
It was narrated that Abü Juhaifah said: "I saw the Messenger of Allah with a white complexion and
some white hairs. Al-Hasan bin 'Ali resembled him."


Muhammad was not brown (Sahih Muslim : hadith 2347)
It was narrated that Anas bin Mâlik said:
"The Messenger of Allah was neither very tall nor short, and he was neither glaringly white nor brown, and his hair was neither very curly nor straight. Allah appointed him (as His Messenger) when he reached the age of forty, and he stayed in Makkah for ten years, and in Al-Madinah for ten years. Allah caused him to die when he was sixty years old, and there were no more than twenty white hairs in his hair and beard."

layssa bilabyadi alamhaqi wa la biladami

White thigh of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari : 371)
Narrated 'Abdul 'Aziz: Anas said, "When Allah's Messenger invaded Khaibar, we offered the Fajr prayer
there (early in the morning) when it was still dark. Allah's Prophet rode and Abu Talha rode, too, and I was riding behind Abu Talha. AlIah's Prophet passed through the lane of Khaibar quickly and my knee was touching the thigh of Allah's Prophet. Then his thigh was uncovered by the shift of his Izar (waist-sheet), and I saw the whiteness of the thigh of Allah's Prophet.

bayadi fakhidhi nabiyi allahi

White abdomen of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari : hadith 7236)
Narrated Al-Bara' bin 'Azib: The Prophet was carrying earth with us on the Day (of the battle)
of Al-Ahzab (the Confederates) and I saw that the dust was covering the whiteness of his abdomen,



White arms of Prophet Muhammad (Sunan Abu Dawud : hadith 3206)
It was reported from Kathir bin Zaid Al-Madani, from Al-Muttalib who said: "When 'Uthman bin Ma'zun died, his Janazah was brought out and he was buried. Then the Messenger of Allah told a man to bring him a rock but he could not carry it, so the Messenger of Allah stood up and rolled up his sleeves" - Kathir said: "Al-Muttalib said: 'The one who informed me of that from the Messenger of Allah said: It is as if I can see the whiteness of the forearms of the Messenger of Allah when he rolled up (his sleeves)

bayadi dhiraayi

White armpits of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari : hadith 1031)
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet never raised his hands for any invocation except for that of Istisqa'; and he used to raise them so much that the whiteness of his armpits became visible.

bayadu ibtayhi


White legs of Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Muslim : hadith 1119 - 249 [503])
'Awn bin Abi Juhaifah narrated that his father said:
I came to the Prophet in Makkah while he was in Al-Abtah, in a tent of red leather.
Bilâl came out with his (left over) Wudu water, and those who got some wiped themselves with it.
Then the Prophet came out, wearing a red Hullah (dress). It is as if I can see the whiteness of his shins.


Rosy complexion of Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari : hadith 3547)
Narrated Rabi'a bin Abi 'Abdur-Rahman: I heard Anas bin Malik describing the Prophet saying, "He was of medium height amongst the people, neither tall nor short; he had a rosy complexion, neither absolutely white nor deep brown; his hair was neither completely curly nor quite lank.

azhar al-lawn

Note that the english word "rosy" is a translation of the word "azhar" (in red, it spells "azhara") and we are given the following definition for "azhar al-lawn" by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his work entitled "Fath al-Bari" :

“azhar al-lawn, that is: white imbued with redness” (abyad musharrab bi-humrah)

Why some people claim that Prophet Muhammad was black skinned?
Mainly for two reasons:
1) They are practicing “Linguistic Acrobatics” with the word “abyad”, which is the main word in Arabic for “white”, by claiming that it actually means “black” and “noble”. For that matter, they are using a quote from Ibn Manzur’s Arabic Lexicon called Lisan al-Arab.
2) They are using a hadith from Sunan al-Tirmidhi, where Anas bin Malik described Muhammad with the word “asmar” (which means “brown”).

Here is why they claim that “abyad” means “black” and “noble”:
In the Book “God’s Black Prophet” p.74, Dr. Wesley Muhammad wrote:

Syrian scholar Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi (d. 1348) affirms:
When Arabs say, ‘so-and-so is white (abyad),’ they mean a golden brown complexion with a black
embellishment (al-hinti al-lawn bi-hilya suda). Like the complexion of the people of India, brown and black (asmar wa adam), i.e. a clear, refined blackness (sawad al-takrur).”

Ibn Manzur affirmed the same:
The Arabs don’t say a man is white [or: “white man,” rajul abyad] due to a white complexion.
Rather, whiteness [al-abyad] with them means an external appearance that is free from blemish [al-zahir al-naqi min al-uqub]; when they mean a white complexion they say ‘red’ (ahmar)… when the Arabs say, ‘so-and-so is white (abyad - bayda), they [only] mean a noble character (al-karam fi l-akhlaq), not skin color. It is when they say 'so-and-so is red' (ahmar - hamra) that they mean white skin. And the Arabs attribute white skin to the slaves.


But "abyad" clearly means "white", and a brief demonstration will bear witness to that fact.
In the Book “God’s Black Prophet” p.71, Dr. Wesley Muhammad wrote:

Al-Tirmidhi ralso eports (sic) from Anas b. Malik:
The Messenger of Allah (s) was neither tall, such that he would stand out, nor was he short.
He was not albino white (al-abyad al-amhaq),

Here, the word for "albino" is "al-amhaq". Since it says that Prophet Muhammad is not "albino white",
it obviously shows, without a doubt, that "abyad" means "white". It is not possible that "al-abyad al-amhaq" mean "albino black", not even "albino brown", let alone "albino noble". Everybody knows that "albino" is something very white. And unfortunately for the adepts of "Linguistic Gymnastics", the description of Prophet Muhammad not being "albino white" is found in many hadiths. For instance in Sahih Muslim hadith 2347 :

It is also found in Sahih Bukhari, hadiths 3547 and 3548.

Here are other examples demonstrating that "abyad" clearly means "white":
God’s Black Prophet p.71 :

"Ibn Manzur reports that “al-sumra [is] a degree between white (al-bayad) and black (al-aswad) and it is that in the human complexions, camels, etc."

"According to Ibn Athir, al-sumra's 'blackness' predominates over its 'whiteness' (al-sumra alladhi yaghlibu sawaduhu 'ala bayadihi).

God’s Black Prophet p.75-76 :

"Further, as David Goldenberg notes, white in pre-modern Arabic was about “luminosity, not chromaticity.”Arab usage distinguished between whiteness related to redness or white-skinnedness (al-bayad al-mushrab bi-humra) and whiteness related to yellowness or luminance (al-bayad al-mushrab bi-sufra).

God’s Black Prophet p.77 :

“The Messenger of Allah was luminous of complexion (azhar al-lawn).” His face shone with resplendence like that of a full moon and his azhar and abyad complexion had a luster (nur) resembling that of a statue made of clear silver.

Here is the use of Sunan al-Tirmidhi, by those who claim that Muhammad was black skinned:
In the Book “God’s Black Prophet” p.68, Dr. Wesley Muhammad wrote:

When we examine the Classical Arabic literature, our expectations of a black-skinned
Muhammad are not disappointed. Imam Abu Isa Muhammad b. Isa al-Tirmidhi (d. 892) was a black Arab from the famously 'black and beautiful' Banu Sulaym. He is the author of the Jami al- Tirmidhi (also called Sunan al- Tirmidhi), one of the six orthodox collections of Sunni hadith. He is also the author of the famous al-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyah (“The Noble Qualities of Muhammad”), a collection of hadith describing the Prophet. Al-Tirmidhi reports in both collections a report on the authority of the famous Companion of the prophet, Anas b. Malik:

The Messenger of Allah was of medium stature, neither tall nor short, [with] a beautiful, dark brown-complexioned body (hasan al-jism asmar al-lawn). His hair was neither curly nor completely straight and when he walked he leant forward.

Note: the word "dark" is nowhere to be seen, "hasan" means beautiful, "al-jism" means body, "asmar" means brown and "al-lawn" means complexion.
Dr. Wesley Muhammad himself, in his Book “God’s Black Prophet” p.70, wrote: "asmar means brown".

First, this hadith, is qualified as "Gharib" by Imam al-Tirmidhi himself, right undearneath it says :
He said: There are narrations on this topic from 'Aishah, Al-Bara', Abu Hurairah, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Sa'eed, Jabir, Wa'il bin Hujr, and Umm Hani'.
[Abu 'Eisa said:] The Hadith of Anas is a Hasan Sahih Gharib Hadith from this route, as a narration of Humaid.

"Gharib" means "odd", it is mentioned on page 25 (Introduction to Jami' At-Tirmidhi) where Abu Khaliyl (the translator) wrote, in the section "About This Book", the following :
In Jami'Al-Usül, Ibn Al-Athir said: "(It) is the best of the books, having the most benefit, the best organization, with the least repetition. It contains what others do not contain; like mention of the different Madhhabs (views), angles of argument, and clarifying the circumstances of the Hadith being authentic, weak, Gharib (odd), as well as disparaging and endorsing remarks (regarding narrators)."

Here is the edition that I am quoting from:

English Translation of Jami' At-Tirmidhi, Volume 1, Compiled by:
Imam Hafiz Abu 'Eisa Mohammad Ibn 'Eisa At-Tirmidhi
Translated by: Abu Khaliyl (USA)
Ahadith edited and referenced by: Haifiz Abu Tahir Zubair 'Ali Za'i
Final review by: Islamic Research Section Darussalam
© Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2007


Secondly, other hadiths from Jami' At-Tirmidhi describe Prophet Muhammad with whiteness (not brown):
274, 2826, 3623, 3638.

Thirdly, it is reported that Anas gave descriptions of Prophet Muhammad as being white on several occasions in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim :
Sahih Bukhari : 63, 371, 1031.

Sahih Muslim : 3325, 4437.

Ibn Manzur about the word "abyad" in Lisan al-arab
On the 17th of February 2012, Wesley Muhammad published an article entitled "Muhammad: The Black-skinned Prophet of Black Arabia" on his own blog called "Black Arabia" : (this link was still valid as of 2021, February 12). Here, Wesley Muhammad wrote :

Ibn Manzur reports in his Lisān al-arab (s.v. سمر IV:376) that

“al-sumra [is] a degree between white (al-bayad) and black (al-aswad), and it is that in the context of human complexions, camels, etc.”

Therefore, we have once again a proof that the word "abyad/bayad" means "white", that is how Wesley Muhammad himself has translated it, and "sumra" cannot be "a degree between black and black", if we were to consider that "abyad" means "black".

Here is a screen capture of Wesley Muhammad's article :


Here is the definition of "asmar" in Ibn Manzur's Lisan al-`Arab
as quoted in the website "The Arabic Lexicon" Hawramani

smr : al sumratu (1) : munzila (2) bayn (3) al bayad (4) wa (5) al sawad (6)

(1) gives the following definition :
A brown skin colour resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light - brownness; tan
(2) gives the following definition :
class; degree; echelon; grade; level; order
(3) gives the following definition :
(4) white
(5) and
(6) blackness

Lastly, according to Ibn Manzur in his Lisan al-Arab as quoted in
Hawramani, here is how the definition of bayad (white) start's :

al-abyad : dida al-sawad = whiteness : opposite of blackness
This proves that the colour white and black were considered opposite back then just like it is in modern times.


White face of Prophet Muhammad (Jami` at-Tirmidhi : hadith 3638) which is labelled as "daif" (weak)
Narrated Ibrahim bin Muhammad, one of the offspring of 'Ali bin Abi Talib:
said: "When 'Ali [may Allah be pleased with him] described the Prophet (?) he would say: 'He was not extremely tall (Mummaghit), nor was he extremely short (Mutaraddid), and he was of medium height in relation to the people. The wave of his hair was not completely curly (Qatat), nor straight, but it was in between. He did not have a large head, nor a small head (Mukaltham), his face was round and a blended-white color (Mushrab), his eyes were dark black (Ad'aj), his eye-lashes were long (Ahdab).

alwajhi tadwiyirun abyadu mushrabun

Muhammad sold 2 black slaves for 1 slave (Sahih Muslim : hadith 1602)
It was narrated that Jâbir said: "A slave came and swore allegiance to the Prophet, pledging to emigrate, and he did not realize that he was a slave. Then his master came looking for him.
The Prophet said: 'Sell him to me,' and he bought him for two black slaves. Then after that he did not accept the oath of allegiance of anyone until he had asked: 'Is he a slave?"


Habeeb Akande "Illuminating The Darkness"
The Arabs’ use of the word ‘white’ was relative and was mainly used for fair-skinned peoples. The Romans (Europeans) and Persians were considered ‘white’ in comparison to the Arabs, whilst the Arabs were ‘white’ in contrast to the black Africans. ‘White’ could also be used metaphorically for dark-skinned peoples. Tariq Berry points out in his book The Unknown Arabs, “The term white can be very confusing to those reading about the description of people of the past because, in the past, when Arabs described someone as white, they meant something entirely different from what is meant today. In the past, when the Arabs described someone as white, they meant either that he had a pure, noble essence or that he had a nice, smooth complexion without any blemishes. They meant he had a black complexion with a light-brownish undertone.”5 Ibn Manzūr, the acclaimed Arab linguist of the thirteenth century says in his Arabic lexicography, Lisān al‘Arab, “When the Arabs say a person is abyad (white), they mean that he has a pure, clean, faultless character, they do not necessarily mean that he has white skin. So when the Arabs say, ‘So-and-so has a white face’, they mean that he is free from blemishes and defects.” The ninth century linguist Ath-Tha‘labī informs us, “The Arabs do not say that a man is white because of a white complexion; ‘white’ to the Arabs means that a person is pure, without any faults.”6 Thus a person described as ‘white’ by the early Arabs may have been pale-skinned or had a brownish complexion. Unfortunately some pseudo-Islamic cults of recent times have put forward the theory that when the Arabs used the word ‘white’ they were actually referring to blacks, thus when the Prophet Muhammad was described as white in authentic prophetic traditions, it means he was actually black! This type of reasoning is absurd and unheard of from traditional scholars of Islam.7 Traditional scholars of Islam are in agreement that the Prophet was most certainly not black or African as pseudo-Islamic groups propagate in modern times.8
8 Pseudo-Islamic black sects of recent times include: the Nation of Islam, the Five Percenters and the Moorish Science Temple of America.

(Habeeb graduated from Kingston University in the UK with a First Class BA with Honours degree in Business and Film Studies. After his graduation, he travelled to Cairo, Egypt to study Arabic, Islamic Law and Islamic History at al-Azhar High School and University.
By profession, Habeeb works as a corporate tax advisor after qualifying as a chartered accountant. He is also the founder of Rabaah Publishers.)

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