Bilal the son of an Abysinian ( Ethiopian ) man or Bilal the son of an Arab man?

It has been widely promoted by many that Bilal Ibn Rabaah ,which translates to Bilal the son of Rabaah was Ethiopian in origin. Although he has been regarded as an Abysinian (Ethiopian), his father had an Arab name. At first glance, the idea that Bilal had an Abysinian (Ethiopian) father who had an Arab seems logical. However, an Abysinian (Ethiopian ) having an Arab name would have been almost unheard of in the times when the Abysinians (Ethiopians) and Arabs were at war. This Arab – Ethiopian war was way before the Arabs became Muslims and of course before the Prophet Muhammad was given prophethood, which makes it even clearer as to why this would most likely not have been possible.

What does ‘Ibn’ mean ?

The term ‘ibn’ means “son” of someone or descendant of someone . Therefore, there is no confusion in regards to whether he was the actual son of Rabaah or not and no excuse to believe in the possibility of him being given a name by way of adoption. If he had actually been adopted he would have most likely been called Bilal Ibn Umayyah- Bilal son of Umayyah as Umayyah son of Khalaf was his owner.

Why could he not be called by other than his father’s name ?

Allah says in the Quran , Call them after their fathers. That is most just in the sight of Allah. If you know not their fathers, then call them your brothers in faith and your patrons. There is no blame on you if you make a mistake but you are accountable for what is done intentionally. Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 33:5)

ادْعُوهُمْ لآبَائِهِمْ هُوَ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ‏

For this reason, we know if Rabah was not his father’s name , it would have been changed to his real father’s name after Allah had revealed this verse.

Why do I say that he would have reverted back to his original name if Rabah was not his name ?

Bukhari Book 65 Hadith 4782

Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar:

We didn’t use to call the freed slave of the messenger of Allah may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, Zaid bin Haarithah, anything but Zaid bin Muhammad until the Qur’anic Verse was revealed: “Call them (adopted sons) by their fathers names. That is more than just in the Sight of Allah.” (33.5)

حَدَّثَنَا مُعَلَّى بْنُ أَسَدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْعَزِيزِ بْنُ الْمُخْتَارِ، حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ عُقْبَةَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي سَالِمٌ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ أَنَّ زَيْدَ بْنَ حَارِثَةَ، مَوْلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَا كُنَّا نَدْعُوهُ إِلاَّ زَيْدَ ابْنَ مُحَمَّدٍ حَتَّى نَزَلَ الْقُرْآنُ ‏{‏ادْعُوهُمْ لآبَائِهِمْ هُوَ أَقْسَطُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ‏}‏‏.‏

The concept of Bilal Ibn Rabah not being from Ethiopia) is not a new concept

In book 8 of Seera Alaam Al Nubalaa, Imaam Al Dhahabi may Allah have mercy upon him mentioned a famous narration,

” On the authority of Ziyaad , on the authority of Umaamah, that the Prophet may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him said, ”There are four forerunners. I am the forerunner of the Arabs, Bilal is the forerunner of the Abysinians and Shuaib is the forerunner of the Romans and Salmaan is the forerunner of the Persians.”

Then he made it very clear that this narration is rejected!

”And this narration is rejected From what is apparent , Bilal is not Habashy and as for Suhaib , he was an Arab from Al Nemir son of  Qaasit.”

قال الذهبي في سير الأعلام النبلاء ج ص ٥٣٠

عن محمد بن زياد، عن أبي أمامة، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: ” السباق أربعة: أنا سابق العرب، وبلال سابق الحبشة، وصهيب سابق الروم، وسلمان سابق الفرس ” . وهذا حديث منكر فرد والأظهر أن بلالا ليس بحبشي، وأما صهيب، فعربي من النمر بن قاسط..


It is very interesting how this narration and others have been widely spread by many and even when they are told about it and referred to the scholars, they prefer to not correct their errors.