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Abed (Arabic: عبد‎‎, plural Abeed عبيد or El Abeed العبيد) is a derogatory term in Arabic meaning "slave". The name has been explained as an allusion to the submission that Muslims owe to Allah. Meyer dismisses this as "efforts by propagandists [to] explain the term away [that are] at the least, disingenuous".[1]

However, the derogatory abuse of the word does not negate it's original meaning or spiritual implications. Linguistically the word Abid(Abed) is from the Semitic languages. In Hebrew the name Obed means " servant, worshiper " and the Arabic word Abd, Abid, Abeed (This word is often written without a vowel in translation) means "slave" and has been applied to a Muslim as a "slave or worshiper of Allah". The implication that a Muslim should strive to be a "completely devout servant of God" is based upon Quranic verses that state that Muhammad even as God's messenger was simply a Abid (I.e. slave, servant) of Allah. This usage of the term was implied from Islam's inception in 600 A.D. and far precedes the derogatory abuse of the term in the Sudanese conflict of the 20th century.

Usage in Sudan[edit]

There have been instances of Northern Sudanese using the terms "Abid" or "Abeed" to refer to Southern Sudanese. This usage is considered derogatory and has fallen into relative disuse over the years. Southern Sudanese in turn refer to Northerners as "Mundukuru" and "Minga".[further explanation needed][2][3] According to Professor Mahmoud Mamdani however, conflicts in Sudan are not compatible with western pre-conceptions of "race".[4]

Francis Deng described the north-south division imposed by the British on Anglo-Egyptian Sudan as the British saying to the Northerners: "You Northerners are slave traders and you treat the Southerners like Abeed. Don't call them Abeed! They are slaves no longer."[5]

Jok Madut Jok argued that the Sudanese slave trade persists in the 21st century. He claimed that Southern Sudanese who work in the North[where?] at marginal and petty jobs are regarded as Abeed because of the social standing that is concomitant with such occupations. Dinka[further explanation needed] labourers earning just enough to buy food are treated as the property of landowners and merchants. "Displaced Southerners," Jok states, "are at the bottom of the racial hierarchy in Northern Sudan." He explains that they depend upon patronage and exploitative relationships with power brokers, with relations ranging from servitude through bonded work to serving as attractants for resources from foreign aid agencies. "The lines dividing slavery and cheap labor", he states, "are blurred."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gabriel Meyer (2005). War And Faith In Sudan. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 0-8028-2933-3. 
  2. ^ Bixler, Mark (2005). The Lost Boys of Sudan: An American Story of the Refugee Experience. University of Georgia Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-8203-2499-X. 
  3. ^ Peter Russell and Storrrs McCall (1973). "Can Secession Be Justified?". In Dunstan M. Wai. The Southern Sudan: The Problem of National Integration. Routledge. p. 105. ISBN 0-7146-2985-5. 
  4. ^ Analyzing Darfur's Conflict of Definitions: Interview With Professor Mahmood Mamdani
  5. ^ John Obert Voll (1991). Sudan: State and Society in Crisis. Indiana University Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-253-20683-9. 
  6. ^ Jok Madut Jok (2001). "The South-North Population Displacement". War and Slavery in Sudan. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 129. ISBN 0-8122-1762-4.