He is, generally, known as “Bilal Habashi” (raa), and it is believed that he was not a pure Abyssinian as his features were not identical with those of the Habashi or Zangi. His complexion was not black but dark brown. His hair was not curly, it was thick and he had a sparse beard. His body was tall and slender with a prominent chest. His cheeks were thin and his nose was not snub. His father Rabah, was an Arab and his mother Hamama, was an Abyssinian slave girl believed to be from Mecca but the majority opinion is that she was from a town between Yemen and Abyssinia called Sarat where a mixed race was known to be. Sarat is believed to be the birth place of Bilal (raa) although some historians claim that he was born in Mecca.
In Mecca, Bilal (raa) along with other Muazzins (the one who announces the adhan, pronounced athan, or the call to prayer) of the Prophet (saws), Abu Mahzura (raa) and Amr bin Umm Kulsum (raa) were raised in a well known Quraishi clan called Abu Jamah. That they all were chosen as Muazzins by mere chance or if it was due to melody and harmony of voice is difficult to say.
It is not known with authenticity as to who amongst the tribe of Banu Jamah was the master of Bilal and his mother. Some have written that he was the slave of a noble woman of that tribe, while others claim that it was a widow related to and mistress of Amr ibn Hisham (Abu Jahl, the Father of Ignorance). The most common view that some others have written is that he was the slave of Umaiya bin Khalaf.
During al-jahiliyyah (Days of Ignorance), the members of Abu Jamah were thought to be experts in palmistry (fortune telling through the study of the palm) as well as drawing out lots with the help of arrows. Bilal (raa) had a natural hatred against these customs and practices. He saw that the people in those days were devoid of good morals, kindness and had little values for human life. Deceit had become their second nature and it was shown through their constant dispute with the Quraishi clan of Banu Abd Manaf.
Unable to do anything but live out his bleak days as a possesion with no hope for tomorrow, Bilal (raa) showed the greatest valour and courage as he tended the sheep. camels and other livestock of his masters.