Origin of the word Sudan

The other day, my friend told me an interesting tidbit, and that was the region of Sudan was referred to as Sudan when the Arabs were conquering North Africa. I know Arab referred North Africa as "Ifriqiya" and Egypt as "Misser" and Ethiopia as "Abyssinia", but I have never heard that the region of present day Sudan was known as Sudan. Can someone shed more light on this?
Mar 2012
"Sudan" stretched from the West ie Mauritania/Mali/Senegal or Sahel region as you call it to the East. In the Kitab "Glory of the Su-dan" Al Jahiz labels many "Easterners" as part of the Sudan such as the Zanj(Swahili) and Ethiopians, even some other regions..


-Zanj, Ethiopians, the people of Fazzan, the Berbers, the
Copts, and Nubians,
the people of Zaghawa, Marw, Sind and India, Qamar and Dabila, China,
and Masin... the islands in the seas between China and Africa are full of blacks, such as
Ceylon, Kalah, Amal, Zabij, and their islands, as far as India, China, Kabul, and those
-Al Jahiz


Interesting info and insight into colorism in Early Islam. I think enlightenment Europeans unfairly get a bad rap as the folks who created "Racism", clearly the Islamic society was obsessed with colorism in some ways...

From Al-Jahiz

The Zanj say: The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: I was send to the red and the black. And
everybody knows that the Zanj, Abyssinians and Nubians or surely not white or red but
definitely black.
We know that Allah, the Most Powerful and Exalted, sent His Prophet (to the people), all of them: Arabs and non-Arabs (ajam) alike. And if he (Muhammad) said: I was sent to the ruddy (Al-ahmar) and the dark-skinned (al-aswad), then in his view we are neither ruddy
nor light-skinned (bid); so he was sent to us. Indeed, his use of the dark-skinned refers
to us, as the people (of our community) are in one of these categories (i.e. either ruddy
or dark-skinned). Therefore, if the Arabs are ruddy, then they belong to the Byzantines
(Rum), Slaves (Saqaliba), Persians and Khurasanis. But if they belong to the dark-skinned
peoples, then they are a sub-category of our stock.
So they are called
medium-complexioned and brownish-black (sumr sud) when they are classified with us, as
the Arabs use the masculine gender to refer to a group consisting of females and males
and if the Prophet – may Allah be pleased with him – knew that the Zanj, Ethiopians and
Nubians were not ruddy or light-skinned, rather dark-skinned, and that Allah Most High
sent him to the dark-skinned and the ruddy, then surely he made us and the Arabs equals.
Hence, we are the only dark-skinned people. If the appellation dark-skinned applies to
us, then we are the pure Sudan, and the Arabs only resemble us. Therefore we are the
first people to whom he was missioned. Thus the appellation of the Arabs is predicated on
ours, since we alone are designated dark-skinned, and they are not so designated unless
they are part of us.

The Sudan region was the Sahel. French Sudan is Mali today, and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan is North and South Sudan today.


Ad Honoris
Jan 2010
♪♬ ♫♪♩
Wait so the plural version of Aswad is Sudan?? I thought Sudan simply means Land of the Blacks??
Land of the Blacks is Bilad as Sudan. BTW, the Greek word Aethiopia means roughly the same "Land of [those With] Black Faces".


Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
New Amsterdam
Land of the Blacks is Bilad as Sudan. BTW, the Greek word Aethiopia means roughly the same "Land of [those With] Black Faces".
I thought Ethiopia was of burnt face.

I'm pretty sure the ancient Egyptians looked something along the lines of today's Copts.
Nov 2009
What a coincidence, today I was just thinking about it and now I saw this thread, I guess eyes do catch what we want.
I thought about Sudan taken from "sud" which means black people.
But then, Sudan was called at not only the current Sudan but also Mali and Ghana. And Arabs used to call these places as "the south", and in Italian and I guess in Spanish too, "sud" means south, right?

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