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ColorQ's AfroAsian Gallery

Famous Afro-Asian couples and individuals in antiquity

Famous people of African and Asian descent

Antara ibn-Shaddad al Absi - Antara (c.525-615) , was one of the seven great pre-Islamic Arab poets, author of the Divan. His father was King Shaddad of the Banu Abs, a Bedouin chief. His mother was Zabiba, an Ethiopian slave. The Bedouin did not acknowledge the paternity of the children they had with slaves. According to legend, Antara bargained with his father for Antara's freedom and Shaddad's recognition in return for the defeat of his tribe's enemies. Antar returned victorious from battle and was acknowledged as a noble, as befitted his paternity. He then married his free cousin Abla, to whom he had dedicated much of his poetry.

Antara (also romanized as 'Antar or Antarah) captured the Arab imagination and became the subject of much literature, including the famed Romance of Antar. The folk hero is still the subject of Arab storytellers today.

Khufaf ibn Nadba - Khufaf was a famous Arab poet from the pre-Islamic era. He was born to an Arab father of the Banu Sulaym and a black African slave mother named Nadba. During the Prophet's triumphal entry into Mecca, Khufaf bore the standard of his tribe.1

Sulayk ibn al-Sulaka - Also known as Ta'abbata Sharran, he is another famous Arab poet from the pre-Islamic era. He was born to an Arab father of the tribe of Fahm and a black African mother. Antar, Khufaf, Sulayk are known collectively as the Crows of the Arabs ('Aghribat al-'Arab) because of the dark complexion they inherited from their mothers.2

Prince Ibrahim ibn al-Mahdi - His father was the 3rd Abbassid Caliph al-Mahdi, who reigned in the 8th century. His mother was a black African.3

Caliph Al-Muktafi - He was a 12th century Abbassid Caliph. His mother was Nubian.4

Afro-Asian couples in history

Sultana Raziyya and Jamal al-Din Yakut - Raziyya (also romanized as Radiyya, Raziya or Razia) was the Mamluk queen who ascended the throne of Delhi in 1236. She was exceptional in that she was single at the time she became head of state, inheriting the throne from a father, not from a husband. Her father was Iltutmish, a Turkish slave who became Sultan of Delhi.5

The Sultana appeared to be very fond of one of the officers in charge of her horses. He was an Ethiopian slave by the name of Jamal al-Din Yakut. She promoted him too rapidly from amir of horses to amir of amirs. The jealous amirs began spying on the queen and her officer. After seeing Jamal al-Din slide his arms under Raziyya's armpits when helping her mount her horse, her enemies spread the news through the city. Scandalized, the religious authorities and princes mobilized the army to depose Raziyya.6 This set in motion a series of events that led to her tragic death. Accounts differ on whether she died in battle or was murdered by a robber. has one account of Raziyya's story.

Al-Farazdak and Umm Makkiya - Al-Farazdak was a celebrated Arab bard of 8th century. Umm (mother) Makkiya, his wife, was a black African. The two were described as 'inseparable'.7

Abraha and Raihäna - Abraha (also romanized as 'Abraha or Abreha ) was one of the Ethiopian generals who led the Ethiopian invasion of Yemen in 525 A.D. He soon established himself as ruler of Yemen, and being an able administrator, became one of the most luminous personalities in Southern Arabian history. Raihäna was a Yemenite noblewoman whom Abraha had abducted from her husband. She bore Abraha the two sons who would later inherit his throne - Yaksum and Masruq. 8

Afro-Asian families in legend

Bayajidda, founder of the 7 Hausa States - According to Hausa legend, Bayajidda, an Iraqi prince, immigrated to Nigeria, where he first married Magaram, a Kanem-Bornu princess. He later married Daurama, Queen of Daura. His male descendants from these two marriages became the rulers of the seven Hausa states. 9

  1. ibn Kutayba, 1850, p.126
    al-Isfahani, 1868-9, vol 20, pp. 2-9
  2. Talib Y and F. Samir, "The African Diaspora in Asia", UNESCO General History of Africa Vol 3, ed. M. El Fasi, p.707
  3. ibn Khallikan, 1843-71, Vol I, pp. 16-20
  4. ibid
  5. Fatima Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam, p.94
  6. Mernissi, p.97
  7. Talib Y. and F. Samir, p.723