Here’s my take on some individual Muslims of African-Descent whom are near & dear to my heart, as people whom have made powerful & relevant contributions to Islam & the world.
One of the best-known companions of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), Bilal (May Allah be pleased with him) was the first person designated to sound the Adhan (the traditional Islamic vocal prayer-call), informing the Muslims of the times of the prayers. He was originally a slave of one of the fiercest enemies of Islam at that time, Umayyah ibn-Khalaf-Although his Father, Rabah, being an `Arab by birth from Bani-Jumah (one of the Families of the Tribe of Quraysh, making Bilal a Tribal-Relative of the Messenger of Allah) his status as a Slave is what the Pagan-Arabs used to deny Bilal of his right to claim his Arab Lineage/Heritage. Once Bilal had heard of Muhammad, and his message of Islam, which provides justice for all, through the true worship of Allah, he didn’t hesitate to accept Islam. He believed strongly in the oneness of Allah, as well as the sense of justice that Muhammad was well-known for, everywhere, by everyone who knew him or knew anything about him. He was however, unfortunately, severely tortured by his slave master, for accepting Islam, and was repeatedly abused by Umayyah, before finally being ransomed by Abi-Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him), and thus freed upon Umayyah accepting payment for Bilal’s freedom. He fought in all of the major battles that the Muslims face military opposition, and was actually quite crucial on the battlefield. He eventually moved from al-Madinah to Syria, after the death of Muhammad, and settled in Syria, as a soldier on the Syrian frontier until his death.
Also known as Umm-Ayman, Barakah (May Allah be pleased with her) was a slave, who became a Muslim, after being freed. She was chosen to care for the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), while he was young. She was one of the strongest influences in his entire life, being almost like a mother-figure to him. She is arguably, with the exception of `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him), one of only two uncles of Muhammad, who became Muslims, to be the only person to ever know and or be in the company of Muhammad, from the day that he was born, until the day that he died. She became the wife of Zayd ibn-Harithah (May Allah be pleased with him), the adopted-son of Muhammad & the only companion of Muhammad to be mentioned, by name, in the Qur’an itself. She was the mother of Usamah ibn-Zayd (May Allah be pleased with him), the adopted-grandson of Muhammad, and according to historical record, one of the youngest generals in Human history.
Also known as An-Najashi & Negus, the official title of the Kings of the Christian kingdom of Aksum (also referred to as ancient Ethiopia), Ashama (May Allah be pleased with him) gave immense help & support to the early Muslim-Community, during the life time of Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Even though he was a one point a Christian, as the then King of Axsum, he still offered the contingency of Muslims, who arrived in Aksum , led by Ja`far ibn-Abi-Talib (May Allah be pleased with him), a cousin of Muhammad, solace & protection, against their pursuers, the pagan Quraysh. This act of providing protection for the Muslims helped to establish a much-needed alliance with people outside of the Arabian Peninsula, which proved to be invaluable, from an Islamic propagation perspective, as well as from simply a geo-political perspective. Muhammad & Ashama would correspond with one another through letters and emissaries. When the news of the death of Ashama reached al-Madinah, the then capitol of the Muslim-World, during the lifetime of Muhammad, Muhammad ordered the Muslims, immediately, to prayer the Funeral-Prayer for him, thus indicating that he had in fact died as a Muslim.
Often known as Mansa Musa, Mansa being the actual title of the rulers of his native Mali, Musa I is arguably considered the wealthiest individual Muslim of all time & the wealthiest ruler in recorded history. He is most famous for making pilgrimage to Makkah, in a way that hadn’t been done before him or after him: He traveled from Mali to the Arabian Peninsula, via the Saharah Desert, with an estimated 60,000 soldiers, 12,000 slaves, 80 camels (each camel carrying between 50-300lbs. of gold dust), innumerable amounts of horses, and enough food & water to nourish all who accompanied him. It was said about him, that on his journey from Mali to Arabia, that everywhere that he went, every city or town that he passed through, he would just indiscriminately give gold away in charity, or as gifts & would supply money to build Mosques anywhere that he had went every Friday. When he went to Egypt, he given away so much gold, he had single-handed crippled the gold-market for a decade, the price of gold had plummeted, because everyone had it. His empire of Mali was the most geo-politically stable, military secure & most prosperous state during his lifetime.
`Uthman dan Fodio-
As the recognized founder of the Sokoto Sultanate, `Uthman dan Fodio was a very powerful figure in African geo-politics. Aside from this, he was also very influential religiously, among his empire and beyond. He is most noted as being a scholar & author, as opposed to being a ruler or politician, although he was very dominant in both scholarly academics & politics. He is most famous for his religious works, about religious purification & ethical governmental practices of rulers. The Fulani War, which initially began as simply commoners protesting about being overtaxed by their rulers, ended up being the most geo-politically significant event in `Uthman’s life. With him at the helm of this war, he emerged not only as the victor, but the sole ruler of the largest Muslim-led empire in West & Sub-Saharan Africa.