Anthropological Synopsis of Skin Color Regarding Moses, Prophet Muhammad, and Some Companions


The Holy Prophet Musa (Moses) عليه صلاة سلام as black-skinned and kinky-haired.

Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal related in his musnad (3365) the following description that the Messenger ﷺ gave of Musa’s color:

وَرَأَيْتُ مُوسَى أَسْحَمَ آدَمَ

“Musa was jet-black skinned.”

Muslim relates in his Sahih (239 and 243) that Ibn Abbas said that the Messenger ﷺ described Musa’s appearance as follows:

َأَمَّا مُوسَى فَرَجُلٌ آدَمُ جَعْدٌ

As for Musa, he was black-skinned and kinky-haired. (hadith 243)


قَالَ ذَكَرَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حِينَ أُسْرِيَ بِهِ فَقَالَ مُوسَى آدَمُ طُوَالٌ كَأَنَّهُ مِنْ رِجَالِ شَنُوءَةَ

He (Ibn Abbas) said that the prophet (ﷺ) mentioned the time he was ascended to the Heavens and he said that Musa (Moses) was black-skinned and tall as if he was from the tribe of Shanua. (hadith 239)

If anyone has the anthropological history of the Shauna tribe, they are a historic yemeni tribe of the original stock arabs, and they are undoubtedly black arabs.

Regarding the ayah of Allah who said in suratul-‘Araf:

وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُ فَإِذَا هِيَ بَيْضَاء لِلنَّاظِرِينَ

And he drew forth his hand (from his bosom): and lo! it was white for the beholders. [al-‘Araf- verse 108]

al-Qurtubi says in his tafsir of the verse:

وكان موسى أسمر شديد السمرة

Musa (Moses) was black-skinned.

at-Tabari says about this ayah

وكان موسى، فيما ذكر لنا، آدم، فجعل الله تحول يده بيضاء من غير برص، له آية

According to what we were told, Musa (Moses) was black-skinned and Allah made Musa’s hand turning white, without being affected by leprosy, a sign for him.

al-Baydawi says in his tafsir of the verse:

روي : أنه عليه السلام كان آدم شديد الأدمة ، فأدخل يده في جيبه أو تحت إبطه ثم نزعها فإذا هي بيضاء نورانية غلب شعاعها شعاع الشمس

It is related that Musa (alayhi salam) was jet-black-skinned. He put his hand in his pocket or under his armpit and took it out and it was white.

al-Baghawi says in his tafsir of the verse:

وكان موسى آدم ، ثم أدخلها جيبه فصارت كما كانت

Musa was black-skinned. Then (after withdrawing his hand from his pocket white) he put his hand back in his pocket and it turned back to the color that it was.

The following research was conducted by Ustadh Abdus Shakur with slight editing for easier reading and to a general audience

I think people need to learn to distinguish between “black” as a complexion and “African” as a race. There were many black skin/very brown dark skin (and still are) Arabs. In fact if anyone has done any studying regarding the classical books about the biography of Sahabah, you would’ve found that many great and famous Sahabah were described as “shadīd udmah” which translate as “very dark brown skin”. And interestingly, even Bilal رحمه الله is described with the SAME complexion. Now the interesting part is, while Muslims tend to know about the “dark skin” (shadid udmah) of Bilal, they are ignorant of “shadid udmah” or “adlam” (another term for dark skin) of much greater Sahabah, in SPITE OF THE FACT that these descriptions are found in the relied up CLASSICAL WORKS. Had I mentioned the name of a few, the readers would probably be like “no way!” And the reason is because Muslims seem to be conveniently ignorant about every skin complexion except that of Bilal رضي الله عنه and hilariously, people assume he must be “dark skin”, “black”, or “negroid” because he is from Ethiopia (in spite of the fact that many of them are actually light skin), yet they have not concluded such from any actual reference themselves.

Black skin isn’t only found in Africa. In fact Imam Qurtubi stated in his commentary on Sahih Muslim that the Hadith that states that the Prophet ﷺ was sent to every ahmar (reddish/ fair skin) and aswad (darkskin/black), that aswad is in reference to the Arabs because their overwhelming skin tone is dark skin.

Let me just show something here for a taste based on classical references.


In a hadith in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, Umar ibnul-Khattab رضي الله عنه is described as “Adlam”. Now instead of me telling you want that means, lets look at the Arabic reference (added as a pic here) from the erudite classical Hadith scholar Ibn Al-Atheer (606 AH), from his famous lexicon on hadith words called “al-Nihayah”: he states that the word “adlam” means tall and ASWAD (black/dark drown skin).

al-Nihayah is one of the most relied upon lexicons for hadith words in classical studies.

So never mind the assumption that Arabs in Mecca could not be black/dark brown skinned, we have a number of Sahabah described as such, Umar ibnul-Khattab isn’t the only one.

Ali رضي الله عنه is also described in Imam Suyuti’s famous work al-Khulafah Al-Rashideen as “shadid udmah” in complexion. Reference in pic:


As for Bilal رضي الله عنه here is a description of his complexion as “shadid udmah” taken from al-Baghawi’s famous work Ma’rifah as-Sahabah.


Lastly here is the quote from Imam Qurtubi in his al-Mufhim (2/116) that the word Aswad in the Hadith refers to the Arabs and the rest of darkskin people. But the important part here is the reasoning he states: “… because the overwhelming complexion of Arabs is udmah” so see how he ties the meaning of “aswad” to “udmah”.