Black Excellence and the Curse of Ham: Debating Race and Slavery in the Islamic Tradition

Abstract: The Curse of Ham narrative claims that Ham (the son of Noah) and his progeny were cursed by God with “blackness and slavery.” While the story can be located within Islamic literature, the tradition was refuted by numerous scholars for various reasons. Firstly, the story is not found within the Quranic text. Secondly, it was generally accepted that slavery was not linked to color but was a substitute for execution following defeat in warfare. Most importantly, scholars refuted the idea that blackness could be considered a curse due to a number of early Muslim heroes being described as black.

This paper explores the debates and discourses surrounding blackness and the story of Ham. Keywords: Islam, race, slavery, racism, Blackness, Black Excellence, curse of Ham, critical Muslim studies

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