Zanj (Arabic: زنج, meaning "Land of the Blacks") was a
name used by medieval Muslim geographers to refer to both a certain
Southeast Africa (primarily the Swahili Coast), and to the
area's Bantu inhabitants. This word is also the origin of the
Zanzibar ("coast of the black people") and the Sea of
Zengī (زنگی) is of unknown derivation. However, the appellation
in Persian is roughly equivalent with "negro". It is recorded in
Arabic as zanjī (زنجي), and in Turkish as zencî.
Zingium is an archaic name for the band of East
Africa coast in modern-day
Kenya and Tanzania. In the modern day, the
architecture of these commercial urban settlements are a subject of
study for urban planning. For centuries the coastal settlements
were a source of ivory, gold, and slaves, from sections of the
conquered hinterland, to the
Indian Ocean world.
1 Division of Africa's coast
2.2 Contemporary descriptions
4 See also
6 External links
Division of Africa's coast
Geographers historically divided the eastern coast of Africa at large
into several regions based on each region's respective inhabitants. In
Somalia was Barbara, which was the land of the Eastern Baribah or
Barbaroi (Berbers), as the ancestors of the Somalis were referred to
by medieval Arab and ancient Greek geographers,
respectively. In modern-day
al-Habash or Abyssinia, which was inhabited by the Habash or
Abyssinians, who were the forebears of the Habesha.
Arab and Chinese sources referred to the general area south of the
Abyssinian highlands and Barbara as Zanj, or the "country of the
blacks". Also transliterated as Zenj or Zinj, this Southeast
Africa area was inhabited by Bantu-speaking peoples called the
Zanj. The core area of
Zanj occupation stretched from the
territory south of present-day Ras Kamboni to Pemba Island in
Tanzania. South of Pemba lay
Sofala in modern Mozambique, the northern
boundary of which may have been Pangani. Beyond
Sofala was the obscure
realm of Waq-Waq, also in Mozambique. The tenth-century Arab
historian and geographer
Abu al-Hasan 'Alī al-Mas'ūdī
Abu al-Hasan 'Alī al-Mas'ūdī describes
Sofala as the furthest limit of
Zanj settlement, and mentions its
king's title as Mfalme, a Bantu word.
Zanj traded with Arabs, Persians and Indians, but according to
some sources, only locally, since they possessed no ocean-going
ships. According to other sources, the heavily Bantu Swahili
peoples already had seafaring vessels with sailors and merchants
trading with Arabia and Persia, and as far east as India and
China. Through this fusion, some Arabs intermarried with
local Bantu women, which eventually gave rise to the Swahili culture
and language—both of which are Bantu in origin, but significantly
influenced by foreign elements (e.g. clothing, loan words, etc.).
Prominent settlements of the
Zanj coast included Malindi, Gedi, and
Mombasa. By the late medieval period, the area included at least 37
substantial Swahili trading towns, many of them quite wealthy.
However, these communities never consolidated into a single political
entity (the "
Zanj Empire" being a late nineteenth-century fiction).
The urban ruling and commercial classes of these Swahili settlements
were made up of Arab and Persian immigrants. The Bantu peoples
inhabited the coastal regions, and were organized only as family
groups. The term shenzi, used on the East African coast and derived
from the Swahili word zanji, referred in a derogatory way to anything
associated with rural blacks. An example of this would be the colonial
term shenzi dog, referring to a native dog.
Zanj were for centuries shipped as slaves by Arab traders to all
the countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The
Umayyad and Abbasid
caliphs recruited many
Zanj slaves as soldiers and, as early as 696
AD, we learn of slave revolts of the
Zanj against their Arab masters
Iraq (see below). Ancient Chinese texts also mention ambassadors
Java presenting the Chinese emperor with two Seng Chi (Zanji)
slaves as gifts, and Seng Chi slaves reaching China from the Hindu
kingdom of Sri Vijaya in Java.
Zanj apparently fell out of use in the tenth century.
However, after 1861, when the area controlled by the Arab Sultan of
Zanzibar was forced by the British to split with the parent country of
Oman, it was often referred to as Zanj. The sea off
the south-eastern coast of Africa was known as the Sea of Zanj, and
Mascarene islands and Madagascar. During the
anti-apartheid struggle it was proposed that
South Africa should
assume the name Azania, to reflect ancient Zanj.
This section contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an
encyclopedic entry. Please help improve the article by presenting
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Consider transferring direct quotations to Wikiquote. (June 2015)
Arab descriptions of the
Zanj peoples have been inconsistent.
A negative view is exemplified in the following passage from Kitab
al-Bad' wah-tarikh, by the medieval Arab writer al-Muqaddasī:
As for the Zanj, they are people of black color, flat noses, kinky
hair, and little understanding or intelligence.
In 1331, the Arabic-speaking Berber explorer
Ibn Battuta visited the
Kilwa Sultanate in the Zanj, which was ruled by Sultan Hasan bin
Sulayman's Yemeni dynasty. Battuta described the kingdom's Arab
ruler as often making slave and booty raids on the local Zanj
inhabitants, the latter of whom Battuta characterized as "jet-black in
color, and with tattoo marks on their faces."
Kilwa is one of the most beautiful and well-constructed towns in the
world. The whole of it is elegantly built. The roofs are built with
mangrove pole. There is very much rain. The people are engaged in a
holy war, for their country lies beside the pagan Zanj. Their chief
qualities are devotion and piety: they follow the Shafi'i sect. When I
arrived, the Sultan was Abu al-Muzaffar Hasan surnamed Abu al-Mawahib
[loosely translated, "The Giver of Gifts"] ... on account of his
numerous charitable gifts. He frequently makes raids into the Zanj
country [neighboring mainland], attacks them and carries off booty, of
which he reserves a fifth, using it in the manner prescribed by the
Zanj Rebellion was a series of uprisings that took place between
869 and 883 AD near the city of
Basra (also known as Basara), situated
in present-day Iraq.
Zanj who were taken as slaves to the
Middle East were often used
in strenuous agricultural work. In particular,
Zanj slaves were
used in labor-intensive plantations, harvesting crops such as
sugarcane in the lower
Mesopotamia basin of what is now southern Iraq.
Harsh circumstances apparently provoked three rebellions between the
seventh and ninth centuries. What is now called the
Zanj Rebellion was
the largest of these.
Others believe that the
Zanj Rebellion was not a slave rebellion, but
rather that the participants were mostly Arabs, supported by East
African immigrants in Iraq. M. A. Shaban argued:
It was not a slave revolt. It was a zanj, i.e. a Negro, revolt. To
Negro with slave is a reflection of nineteenth-century racial
theories; it could only apply to the American South before the Civil
War. ... All the talk about slaves rising against the wretched
conditions of work in the salt marshes of Baṣra is a figment of the
imagination and has no support in the sources. On the contrary, some
of the people who were working in the salt marshes were among the
first to fight against the revolt. Of course there were a few runaway
slaves who joined the rebels, but this still does not make it a slave
revolt. The vast majority of the rebels were Arabs of the Persian Gulf
supported by free East Africans who had made their homes in the
Zanj dictionary definition zanj defined".
Zanj - WordSense.eu". www.wordsense.eu.
^ Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, Zeitschrift der Deutschen
Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Volume 131 (Kommissionsverlag F.
Steiner, 1981), p. 130.
^ a b c d e f F. R. C. Bagley et al., The Last Great Muslim Empires
(Brill: 1997), p. 174.
^ El-Azhari, Taef (2016). Zengi and the Muslim Response to the
Crusades: The Politics of Jihad. Routledge. p. 20.
ISBN 1317589394. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
^ Nezar AlSayyad,Hybrid Urbanism: On the Identity Discourse and the
Built Environment, (Greenwood Publishing Group:2001), p.39
^ Pollard, E., Fleisher, J., & Wynne-Jones, S., Beyond the Stone
Town: Maritime Architecture at Fourteenth–Fifteenth Century Songo
Mnara, Tanzania., (Journal of Maritime Archaeology:2012), p.1-20.
^ Roland Oliver, Africa in the Iron Age: c.500 BC-1400 AD, (Cambridge
University Press: 1975), p.192
^ Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, Culture and Customs of Somalia, (Greenwood
Press: 2001), p. 13.
^ James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 12: V. 12
(Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2003), p. 490.
^ Sven Rubenson, The Survival of Ethiopian Independence (Tsehai,
2003), p. 30.
^ Jonah Blank, Mullahs on the mainframe: Islam and modernity among the
Daudi Bohras (University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 163.
^ a b Raunig, Walter (2005). Afrikas Horn: Akten der Ersten
Internationalen Littmann-Konferenz 2. bis 5. Mai 2002 in München.
Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 130. ISBN 3-447-05175-2.
ancient Arabic geography had quite a fixed pattern in listing the
countries from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean: These are al-Misr
(Egypt) -- al-Muqurra (or other designations for Nubian kingdoms) --
al-Habasha (Abyssinia) -- Barbara (Berber, i.e. the Somali coast) --
Zanj (Azania, i.e. the country of the "blacks"). Correspondingly
almost all these terms (or as I believe: all of them!) also appear in
ancient and medieval Chinese geography .
^ Bethwell A. Ogot, Zamani: A Survey of East African History (East
African Publishing House: 1974), p. 104.
^ Timothy Insoll, The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa
(Cambridge University Press: 2003), p. 61.
^ Chittick, Neville (1968). The Coast Before the Arrival of the
Portuguese, Chapter 5 in Ogot, B. A. and J. A. Kieran, eds., "Zamani:
A Survey of East African History". pp. 100–118.
^ Stefan Goodwin, Africa's Legacies of Urbanization: Unfolding Saga of
a Continent (Lexington Books: 2006), p. 301.
^ Hybrid urbanism: on the identity discourse and the built environment
By Nezar AlSayyad
^ Kilwa Kisiwani. Medieval Trade Center of Eastern Africa, By K. Kris
^ Vijay Prashad, Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian
Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity (Beacon Press: 2002), p.
^ David Westerlund, Ingvar Svanberg, Islam Outside the Arab World
(Palgrave Macmillan: 1999), p. 11.
^ a b Roland Oliver, Africa in the Iron Age: c.500 BC-1400 AD
(Cambridge University Press: 1975), p. 192.
^ David Brion Davis, Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery (Harvard
University Press: 2006), p. 12.
^ from Vol. 4
^ a b Randall Lee Pouwels, African and Middle Eastern world, 600-1500,
(Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 156.
^ Philip J. Adler, Randall L. Pouwels, World Civilizations: To 1700,
(Cengage Learning, 2007), p. 176.
^ Islam, From Arab To Islamic Empire: The Early
^ "Hidden Iraq". "William Cobb".
^ "Islamic History" By M. A. Shaban
Map of Tanganyika and
Zanzibar in 1886