History and Impact of Aal Shihab in Kerala (1921-2009 AD)
Sayyids: Definition and Terminologies
Origin and Lineage
Dispersal: From Hijaz to Basra and Basra to Hadhramout
Moving on water and overland
Migrations in Indian Ocean
Sacred lineage: Social status and legitimacy, criticism
Sayyids in India: Mission, Trade, Politics and travels
Advent of Aal Shihab in Kerala
Activism in a colonial state (Mampuram Thangal, Sayed Fazal, Husain Shihab)
1921: Rebellion and after
Aal Shihab in Twentieth Century 1921-2009
(Kodappanakkal Tharavadu: PMSA, Muhammad Ali Shihab)
1921 Rebellion and aftermath: Situation, Chaos, Devastation and reconstruction
Leadership and community building: Religion, Sufi networks, Mission
Cooperative Politics and views
Democracy and secular credentials
Education and empowerment
Spiritual interactions: Healing, Tuesdays
Haddad and Majlisunnoor
Baraka (lead roles, Nikah, Blessed beginnings)
Arbitration, Solutions, Bridging between disputed
Communal integration, Harmony, Positive attitude
Review of literature
The study of Hadrami history and community building has developed into a major point of focus in the history of Islam and its social interactions in Indian Ocean territories. There is a heavy volume of literatures, both academic and non academic authored in different contexts, methods and forms. Beginning with unorganized inscriptions and letters, it developed into hagiographies and ethnographies in different languages across the centuries.
It is clear that Arabs prove to be the most successful travelers on sea and land, traders and cultural ambassadors since the medieval period. The Hadarmouth of Yeman turned to be a micro ‘Arabian Felix’ from where the seeds and crops of culture, spirituality and social organization began to be exported to different Indian Ocean territories.
A considerable count of academic deliberations have been made to explore the complex networks of Hadrami Sufis, missionaries and travelers who carried out extensive migrations and diasporic initiatives in eastern and western Indian Ocean milieu.
The presence of academic research on Hadrami migrations is found enough in the history of Indonasia, Malasia, India, Pakistan and African provinces. Shamsu dhahira fi nasabi ahlil baith min bani alawi furui fathima al Zahra va ameeril mu’minin Ali is the first scientific record on history and genealogy of sayyid familes including Hadramis, authored by Abdu rahman bin Muhammad bin Husain al Mashoor (D. 1902), the famous Mufthi of Tarim. It was later expanded by Zainul abiding Abdullah bin Shaikhal aidarus. Al jawahiru ssunniyyah fi nasabil ithrthil Husainiyyah by Ali bin Abi bakr al Sakran bin Abdurahman al Saqaf provides a family tree of Alawi family. A number of subsequent Arab scholars followed is way and contributed later. Khidmathul ashirathi bi tharthib va thalkhis va thadyil shamsi dhahirah written by Ahmad Abdullah al Saqaf is a brief collection of information described in Shamsu dhahirah. Ahmad bin Ali bin Shihabudhin composed Thashil thalibin li ma’rifathi Usuli nisbathil alawiyin an hadramiyyin as an easily catchable work for students. All these were reflections of the earlier work Shamsu dhahirah.
Al Mu’jamu lathif li asbabil alqabi val kuna finnasabi sharif li qabailiva buthunissadathi bani Alawi (1986 CE) written by Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Umar al Shathiri explores the secrets behind the names and titles of Ba Alawi family. This book, though not a historical analysis, tries to provide reasons and backgrounds of naming of clans such as Saqaf, Mahdar and Aidaroos. He says that the book is first of its kind to discuss the particular topic at all. Kawkabu dhurriyyah fi nsabi al sadathi Ali ba Alawi (the brilliant stars concerning the pedigree of the Alwi Saadsh ) authored by Sayyid Shaikh Jifri (D. 1807) is an early book in genealogy of Sayyids.
A good number of hagiographies are also available like Al Mahrahi sharif fi manaibi ali sdathil kiram ali ba alawi of al Shilli(1989). He has also authored Iqdul jawhir val durar fi akhbaril qarnil hadi ashar (2009). Baa Kathir al kindi provides an account of Alawi famliy in his work Rihalthul ashwaq al qawiyyah ila mawathinil sadathil alawiyyah. Al Hibshi narrates spiritual ways of Alawi Sufis along with biographic descriptions in Iqdul yawaqith al jouhariyyah va simathl ain al dhahabiyyah bi dhikri thariathil sadathil alawiyyah.
Leif Manger (The hadrami diaspora: Community building on the Indian Ocean Rim) tries to answer the question ‘is there a Hadrami ethnic identity in the Diaspora?’. He narrates his findings during his journey in Singapore, Hyderabad, Sudan, Ethiopia and Hadramouth. He traces diasporic communities of Hadramis focusing on Hadrami identity formation and their dynamic presence resisting the west. He describes the Hadrami developments in Hyderabad with special reference to Sayyid Ahmad al Aidaroos, the early 20th century soldier served Brittish Adan and rose to the rank of Major General. He also mentions their presence in post-partitions bloodshed, but, does not go to the details of South Indian network of Alawis, particularly Shihab family, the focus of this work.
He argues that we cannot see a fixed identity of the Hadrami diaspora. They should also be in relation to other kind of identities with different dimensions in all places they migrate to. He explains the changing ethnic identity and their dynamic existence with universalism. The early migrants from Hadarmouth faced Hindus and Budhists, but later it has been changed to the west. He says:”we should build an understanding of Muslim communities less on the notion that Islam is static and more on the notion that there are dynamic communities engaging in world systems interrelationships”. Their encounter with Brittish colonialism has now changed to western new-imperialism.
The amazing dispersal and complex existence of Hadramis are widely studied by numerous researchers and academics. The Hadrami awakening: community and identity in the Netherlands East Indies 1900-1942, is written by Natalie Mobini Kesheh. On the edge of Empire: Hadarmouth, emigration and the Indian Ocean 1880-1930 by Linda Boxberger is a notable work in recent times.
Engseng Ho has explored a wonderful account of Hadrami life and culture through a series of research works and books. Genealogical figures in an Arabian Indian Ocean Diaspora provide a huge volume of information on family lineages and their dispersal to distant lands. Peter Ridell’s Islam and the Malay Indian Ocean World, is also a considerable attempt in the field of Hadrami studies.
Friedhelm Hartwig (Expansion, state foundation and reform) provides a detailed analysis of Hadarmouth and its turbulent political history of nineteenth century in company with Alawi Sayyids under Nizam of Hyderabad and their contemporaries in other Indian Ocean shores. In Hadrami politics 1888-1967, Linda Boxberger explains the impact of Hadrami migrants on Java, Indonesia and its people. Omer Khalidi produced information of Hadrami role in the politics and society of colonial India. Hadramis in the politics and administration of the Malay states in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries provides a clear picture of Hadrami presence and their impact on Malay society.
The Hadrami way of participation in finance and army of their migrated land made them holding high status in both home and host lands. This can be seen in Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) as described by Huub de Jonge in his work Dutch colonial policy pertaining to Hadrami immigrants.
Engseng Ho (Hadramis abroad and in the Hadarmouth: The muwalladin) explains dynamic political interactions of diasporic Sayyids in their host land. Against the tendency among early authors, Sylvaine camelin attempts to portray a different way of flexible organization and stratification through marriages and other social institutions. This is also discussed by Francoise le Guennec-Coppens in ‘Changing Patterns of Hadrami Migration’.
The Hadrami presence of south western India is studied by Stephen Dale (The Hadrami Diaspora in south western India). Any way he details the 19th century Malabar, but does not go further to Shihab family and their history.
Natural leaders of native Muslims: Arab Ethnicity and Politics in Java under Dutch Rule is an account of Hadrami presence in Indonesia by Sumit K Mandal. The Hadrami migration entailed the spiritual Islam and its installation in Mahjar lands. They promoted Alawi Tariqah and Sufism among the community around. This cannot be separated from the history of hadrami Sufis as described by Alexander Knysh in his ‘The cult of saints and religious reformism in Hadarmouth’ and Peter Ridell in his ‘Religion links between Hadarmouth and the Malay-Indonesian world’. The Islamic reformism initiated by wandering Ulema, Sufi scholars and Hadrami sayyids in their migrated land is pictured by Natalie Mobini-Kesheh in Islamic modernism in Colocial Java and Azyumardi Azra in A Hadrami Religious Scholar in Indonesia-Syed Uthman.
Christian Lokon authored the impact of Remittances on the economy of Hadarmouth. It describes the dependency of Hadramis on remittances similar to the views of Janet Ewald in The economic role of the Hadrami Diaspora and Willium G Clarence-Smith in Hadrami Entrepreneurs in the Malay world.
Sufis and scholars of the sea: Family Networks in East Africa(1860-1925) authored by Anne K Bang focuses on the ways in which Tariqah Alawiyyah, a particular Islamic Sufi order spread and become a brand of Islamic faith in East Africa. The Alawi Tariqah spread all over East Africa and other Indian Ocean territories originating from Hadramouth in Yeman. She explores the scholarly exchange of ideas between Hadarmouth and East African coast. To make the comples study easier, she chose to focus on the life of one of the most influential Hadrami-East African scholars of the time, Ahmad bin Abi Bakr bin Shumait(1861-1925). Bang makes an excellent explanation of Alawi Tariqah and its exponents, their propagation of a more literate islam, the inspirations that made them to become torchbearers of scholarly initiatives and their impact on East Africa and outside world.
The Sufis and scholars of the Sea is distinct from other works as it considered purely religious documents like Kutubul Ansab(scholarly genealogies- silsila), hagiographies(Manaqib) and Ijazas(certificates) as valuable sources of history, which will help for real understanding of religious revival. Bang describes the new religious practices such as public Dhikrs, Moulids and collective prayers as means of popularization of Sufism and spirituality among pubic and it made them more accessible to religious practices. The international scholarly networks maintained by ibn Shumaith made him remain connected with scholars in Hadarmouth, its Diasporas in Makkah, Indonesia and Istambul as well as prominent modern thinkers like Rashid Rida and Muhammad Abdah in Egypt.
The traditional and modernist thinkers had a common interest in social activism and educational works, still both were founded on two different platforms. The modernists depended upon a foundation rooted in a much more thorough intellectual transformation under the influence of colonial expansion and against the esoteric aspects of islam. On the other side the exponents of Tariqah Alawiyyah stood on the foot point of early Hadrami revivalism and firmly within the parameters of Alawi Sufism. They also expressed their tradition in the institutionalization of religious education and proceeding to Da’wa among outer clans in Yemen.
‘The Islamic Sufi networks in the western Indian Ocean (1880-1940)’ by Bang is a description of Sufism in East Africa. During this period, the Alawi Sufism spread all over western Indian Ocean and formed a net work of Sufism and spirituality. It influenced brother communities to turn towards Islam and Muslims to go for a new world of knowledge exploration, spirituality and practices. It also puts light to the spread of Sufism beyond the boundaries of Swahili cultural area to Mozambique, Madagaskar and Cape Town. It shows a precise picture of religious change in the western Indian Ocean within the wider framework of Islamic reform.
W.H Ingrams’ ‘Zanzibar: Its History and its People’ gives a comprehensive and detailed account of island of Cloves. It is a historical ethnography of Zanzibar and its premises.
Ulrike Freitag gives a considerable account of Hadrami migration in her ‘Indian Ocean Migrants and State Formation in Hadramouith: Reforming the Homeland’. It is a continuation of her earlier work Hadrami traders, scholars and statesmen in Indian Ocean (1750-1960). Dr. Freitag is one of the most important authorities on Hadrami studies who has a profound scholarship on Hadrami history and its sources. She has made extensive field work in Yeman and Indonesia. She describes the Hadrami cultural conflict and its resistance towards western culture. She begins with an attempt to provide a clear picture of the then Indian Ocean including the arrival of British forces and its reflections. The biographical notes on major Hadrami figures of the time would give an account of existing networks of scholars. She passes through the social interactive measures of Hadrami scholars, responses to the popular call for revival and reformation of Yeman. The effects of this revival and reform were far reaching and decisive in the history of later Yeman. The travel literature such as Rihla Ila Thaghain al Shahar sl Mukhalla by Sayyid Muhammad bin Hashim, Rihlat al Ashwaq al qawiyyah by Ali Ahmad Ba Kathir, Fi Janubil Jazirathil Araiyyah by Salah Abdul Qadir al Bakri, Dastan e Hadhramouth e Hadhramouth by Ahmad Abdul Khader al Aidarus and Rihla ila Da’an by Sultan Saleh al Qu’aiti were also mentioned.
The Ba Alawis of Hadarmouth is a direct narration of the growth and evolution of Thariqah Alawiyyah from beginning to the current period. The Alawi Tariqah lasted from 7th century to 11th century was consolidated in 17th century with a historic declaration which laid down arms and given up political struggle. The Alawi scholars became carriers of Sufi Tariqah consolidated and propagated in peaceful way. It added to the credibility of Alawi Tariqah that it did not have Khalwah (seclusion) for purpose of spiritual exercises and they did not denounce worldly activities.
After 17th century, the Alawi Ulema came to be known as Habib among others. The Indian and Hadrami traders shared a duo of trade and missionary activities and led the Muslim trade in a vast region beginning from Egypt to Malay world. The Ba Alawis, Saqafs and Al Aydarus families occupied the top of social hierarchy as Sharifs. They were able to establish a prestigious and powerful political base and even to take possession of power structures, where even they settled through marriages and other means of contracts with powerful ruling families. Instances can be sort out from experiences in the Comoros, Kilwa, Zanzibar, Tumbatu and Vumbaktu. Simultaneously Ba Alawis enjoyed power and influence in other centers of importance such as Italian port of Mogadishu in 1891, of which the major chief was a Hadrami sayyid from Ba Alawis, namely Sayid Ahmad Ba Alawi. It comes to the conclusion66 that ‘no aristocracy so widely disseminated over Asia and Africa playing century upon century and consistent role in the Islamic community nor can army branch of the numerous Sharif and Sayyid families founded over 14 centuries ago claim a more varies sphere of activity of achievement than the Alawi Sayids of Hadarmouth’. India has been the first point of focus of Hadrami migrants. They settled in the most important commercial and cultural centre of the time such as Bijapur, Surat, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Gujrat, Delhi, Calicut and Malabar. Later it deviated to Java, Sumatra, Aceh and Malaya in South East Asia.
Among ethnographies, ‘The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean’ holds am important place. Eng Sung Ho provides a distinctive approach to the anthropology of mobility. It portrays the movement of people to distant lands, their diasporic initiatives such as cultural exchange, religious reforms and textual contributions since 13th century which led to the formation of Yemani diaspora along the Indian Ocean littoral. He was inspired by Amitav Ghosh’s novelistic attempt on Indian immigrants and their diaspora in Burma and Egypt.
Against the traditional method of genealogical charts of families, he provides texts prepared out of hagiographes, unorganized significant historical documents and archives collected through extensive field works. He talks about ‘communities of diverse origins to articulate with each other in new relations of mutuality and moral engagement’ through the most significant points from their life-burial, travel and return-that connected a sprawling diaspora in India, Indonesia, Malasia and Hadarmouth. He composes a virtual world of texts, sites of burial and sites of pilgrimage and other important places to connect each other in order to present an effective account of the particular place.
Ho presents ethnography as hybrid text with thematic history based on his field work of years. By the midst of 18th century, Hadrami Sayyids were a well established part of Indian Ocean societies. They marked their presence across the territory and occupied an outstanding position among their contemporaries. The Europeans considered them as sophisticated challenges. This dual face of local influence and global distinction was dealt by Ho. He tries to articulate different societies in different settlements to cross over the variety of diverse language families, dynastic politics, regional communities and local influence. He names the process ‘a society of the absent’ and tries to make it experience through his narration of complex genealogy, graveside rituals of Tarim and geographies of different generations, he attempts to present Sufi devotional practice to show how the invocation of pedigrees during the visits to the graves of saints provides a connection to absent generations.
Ho tries to reconstruct the past travelling through the complex ways of generations to their ancestors buried before years to present a lovely story of the Hadrami society. He narrates major graves at Tarim, visitors across different time and space and ritual they keep up with. The attack of 2000 Yemani armed group to graves with pickaxes, shovels, machine guns and grenades is part of as elaborate political and religious contest which shows the active role played by the occupants of the grave. He attempts to say that the network of these ‘deadmen’ is not mere false consciousness, instead it is a real historical, spiritual and cultural force transmitted to the bodies of pilgrims. The liturgies, chants and genealogies they recite intensify the spiritual connection between saints, their followers and descendants. Graves of Tarim tells the story of settlement of Hadrami families in Hadharmouth early in 10th century, movement to Iraq, Yemani coasts, Africa, India, Malasia and its inlands.
Nile Green’s Making Space is an account of social transformation and formation in Mughal India of 16th and 17th century AD. The complicated translocal settlement, politics and Sufism are depicted in this ethnography. It is a virtual journey through the midst of historical remnants, architectures, texts, migrations and inter-community contacts. The response of Sufi Islam in a peaceful and powerful way against emerging threats and tension in community life preserving the migrant bodies of blessed men, shrines and the rituals around them. Invaluable essence of community settlement, Sufism and spirituality taken from indigenously produced textual sources, hagiographies, architectural elements and cultural impacts.
Noel Brehony (Hadhramouth and its diapora: Yemani politics, identity and migration), a British diplomat and author on society and history of Yeman made an attempt with a group of his co authors to document a scholarly account of Hadharmouth, its social and political history, stories of migrations, diaspora and dispersal in Indian Ocean territories. The traditional social stratification such as Saada(sing. Sayyid) Mashaikh(sing. Shaikh) and Qabail (sing. Qabilah) and Masakin (sing. Miskin-common people). The book focuses on two common dimensions such as the close relationship between the Hadrami diaspora and home land and attempt to formulate a theoretical platform to examine Hadrami history as a whole.
‘Haddrami Traders, Scholars and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean’ provides an account of South Arabian migration movement in the Indian Ocean by Hadrami between 1750 and 1967. It discusses local and international politics, social stratification and integration, religious and social reform and economic aspects of the period.
‘One Hundred Years in Brava: The Migration of Umar Ba Umar from Hadharmout to East Africa and Back (1890-1990)’ is a work on migration of Qabila of Umar Ba Umar, started from Hadarmouth in the 1880s and settlement on Brava, a coastal city of southern Somalia in 1890s. it tries to explore details of group migration from Arabia to East Africa and their cultural and material contributions to the Swahili coaster centers.
Patricia Risso (Merchants and Faith: Muslim commerce and culture in the Indian Ocean) undertakes the challenging task of exploring the intersection of Islamic and Indian Ocean histories focusing on the linkages between land based empires and littoral Asia, the influence of western Europeans in the land, its impact on Muslim merchants. Risso states that a commercial hegemony in the Indian Ocean was realized by Muslim merchants.
Sayed Muhammad Khairudhin al Junaid provides inroads to the details of Hadrami presence in Malay and Singapur through his work ‘The role of Hadramis in post second world war Singapore- A Reinterpretation’. Pervious scholarships have explored political, economic, social and religious prominence of diasporic communities in Malasia and Singapore, but, Al Junaid details mainly, three significant issues:- the propagation and reassertion of Islam, Malay literary movement and Malay politics.
The migrations of people from Hadramouth, especially Tarim, the ancestral abode of Sayyids families in Yeman, to southern part of Asia and East Africa developed in same historical time. It had common reasons such as climatical, ecological challenges, social and political changes which make them think of a new abode other than Yeman such as African coasts and Indonesian archipelago. The African and south Asian connection in the Hadrami diaspora by Muhammad Bakari discuss some important aspects of Eastern African Islamic society rose up parallel in the Malay world and paved way for the emergence of Muslim communities on the eve of European colonization.
He also sheds light to the reflections of European colonization and causes for the beginning of second Hadhrami group migrations to East African states. The first travelers were Sayyids and Mashaikh who started to distant lands for the sake of trade and religion, but later people from all social strata are found immigrants seeking employment rather than missionary activities followed by their ancestors. The earlier immigrants were devotional groups who indigenized at the host land. The Hadrami migrations should be analyzed under different rubrics such as conceptualization of space, the Hadrami diaspora in western Indian Ocean, Saada clans travelled across the globe, educated patterns, curriculum and travels.
Sayyids: Origin and dispersal
Sayyid (plural- Sada) means lords, leader and master had its origin from ‘Siyadah’, the root word which means to lead. The term is widely used to denote the members of the family descendants of Islamic final Prophet Muhammad. The Muslims consider the descendants of Prophet Muhammad through his cousin and son in law Ali bin Abi Thalib, the fourth Caliph and husband of Fathima, the daughter of Muhammad. The genealogy continues through Hasan and Husain, the well known grand children of Muhammad.
The term Sayyid came to be prefixed to their names in the historical context of the shared belief, either, with the sacred lineage that they to reach to their common ancestor, or a fruit of their incredible presence in the forefront of the Muslim community , their social mobility, responses and leadership across the space and time where ever they lived especially in the Indian ocean territories right from the death of Prophet Muhammad till these times. The concept of sacredness does not conflict with the concept of divinely ordained equality among human beings in the sense that they are not preferable at the final judgment beyond the consideration of their deeds.
The uncompromising stand of Islam towards the equality is stated by Quran which rejects the ethnic and tribal hierarchy of Jahiliyya Arabia ‘O Mankind! We have created you from a single male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another, the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct’ . Islam denounced any kind of stratification and discrimination between human beings. Prophet clearly say “No Arab is superior to a non Arab, no black to a white, no white to a black except by Taqwa(piety)”. He also says “All of you are from Adam and Adam from the soil”
The Sayyids occupied highest position in the society they lived, because of many reasons. They have been marked as the most developed and enterprising group of people in the Arabian Peninsula. It was easily possible for Sayyids to get to the top of community around and gain upward growth as far as social status is concerned. The first is the sacred lineage they claimed and second their possession of Arabic, the sacred language of Quran. The sacred lineage is believed to be verified by a large number of Hadith (the commands of Prophet) and Quranic verses. “Allah’s wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you. O folk of the household, and cleans you with a thorough cleansing”(33:33).
At his final moments before death, the Prophet asked his community to hold firm on two things: the Book of God(Quran) and the family of Prophet (Ahlul Baith). There are a lot of derivations for the same tradition as “two things: the Book of God and Prophetic traditions (Sunnah). Another Hadith says “I give up two significant things for you: first is the Book of God, you hold it strongly, it will provide light and true path, the second is my family, the householder, I shall remind you in my family”.
“once the Prophet appeared, with his Ali, Hasan and Hudain. He sat with them and Fathima and saith: these are my householders, this is my Alhul Baith, than he recited Allah’s wish is to clean you from all uncleanness and cleanse you”
Despite this emotional preference and respect towards members of Sayyid families, a reflection of their love and sacrificial devotion to the Prophet, Islam does not legalize exceptions prevailed for them from religious obligations, individual duties and social commitments. The purity of blood does not offer freedom from personal or collective responsibilities; instead, it makes them more accountable in terms of personal and social commitments.
“Oh ye wives of the Prophet! Whosoever of you committed manifest lewdness, the punishment for her will be doubled and that is easy Allah. Whosoever of you is submissive unto Allah and his messenger and doeth right, we shall give her reward twice over and we have prepared for her a rich provision”(Al Ahzab-30, 31)
The status of Sayyid is not purely ascribed as said by ibn Uthaimin says in Sharh Riyadh al Salihin “The descendants of Prophet if not true followers cannot be considered as Ahle baith according to the command of God to Prophet Nuh in his son”. So it is not believed that the genealogy does justify the actions. The status of Sayyids cannot be identified with Indian caste system which provides ascribed status for upper layers in the society. The caste creates social stratification by birth, along with restriction of mixing, group hierarchy, untouchability and limited choice of marriage.
The females from Sayyid families are given title Sayyida (feminine form of Sayyid), Alawiyyah or Sharifah (feminine forms of Alawi and Sharif). In India Sayyids are often called ‘Amir’ or ‘Mir’ with similar meanings as Commander, general or leader. Children of a Sayyid mother from a non Sayyid father are referred to as Mirza. In the Arab world, Sayyid is the equivalent of the English word ‘liege lord’ or ‘master’. The word ‘Sidi’ is a different pronunciation of ‘Sayyidi’ means my master, my lord! Many Arabic language experts state that ‘Sidi’ has its root in the word ‘Al Asad’ means lion probably because of the qualities of valor and leadership. Earlier the term Sayyid and Sarif was used to denote descendants of Prophet through Hasan and Husain, but now in modern times the word ‘Sayyid’ is mostly used to denote the descendants through Husain and Sharif to denote that of Hasan bin Ali.
The term Alawi is often used to denote the descendants of Ali bin Abi Talib including his children from other wife after the death of Fathima such as ‘Ummul Banin’ Fathima Bint Hazm. All Alawis are not strictly descendants of Prophet Muhammad (Not to be confused with Ba Alawis of later times, especially during and after 11th century. The descendants of Sayyid Alawi, the grandson of Ahmad bin Isa al Muhajir and 10th grandson of Prophet Muhammad. Sayyid Alawi is considered as the eponymous founder of the Al Bani Alawi).
Since Sayyids claim to be ‘Najeebal Tarafyn’ means ‘noble on both sides’ which indicates that both of their parents are Sayyids. In fact this term is applied only to those Sayyids who have both Imam Hasan and Imam Husain in their ancestry. In Arab world Sayyids use to keep a prefix of Sayyid al Sarif or Sharifyn or Shaikh al Sayyid before their names followed by their fathers and grandfathers’ names, then clan’s and tribe’s name followed by al Hasani bil Husaini or Al Husaini bil Hasani, depending on which imam is patrilineal or matrilineal.
It is also a trend to attach Al Hashimi bil Quraishi at the end. The term ‘Najib al Tarafyn’ is believed to have its origin from a Prophetic narrative on Imam Mahdi that he would be Najib al Tarafyn. However the descendants of many Sufis such as Abdul Qader Jilani, Moinudhin Chishti and Khwaja Banda Nawaz claim that they are Najib al Tarafyn. In the Arab world, Najib al Tarafyn Saada would keep two white colored daggers as opposed to those Sayyids who carry just one to demarcate their superiority among them.
Sharif (plural. Ashraaf- not to be confused with Ashraf which is an elative from Sharaf) is also used in some contexts to denote the descendants of Prophet Muhammad. During the Abbasid period, the term Sharif was used for members of other than the true descendants of Prophet, ie through Ali’s second wife, Muhammad al Hanafi in a bigger sense, but later the Fathimid period restricted the term to the descendants of Hasan and Husain. It continued even after the destruction of Fathimid regime till Ayyubid period.
The term ‘Sharif’ is also found in use in African countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia in later times. This trend seems to have been coming with Yemenite migrants who left for Somalia. In modern period the term bears a little more confusion whether it holds importance as religious figure of a simple honor of a master. However to some extent, the Sayyid is used to denote any honorable person not restricted to the descendant of Prophet Muhammad. In South Asian countries, Sharif designates a major social status group within the Muslim community.
The Pre-Islamic Arabs classified themselves into two major tribal groups: The Adnani Arabs and Qahtani Arabs. The first is believed to have its origin from Adnan, the traditional ancestors of North central and western Arabia while the later believes that they had their origin from Qahtan, the traditional ancestor of South and South eastern Arabia.
Hashim is the legendary son of Abdu Manaf, the great grandfather of Prophet Muhammad. He was a man of honor among his contemporaries born in the lineage of pre-Islamic Arab giant Qusayy bin Kilab and holding the great Abrahamic faith which neither followed idolatry nor Jewish, Christian beliefs, and called Hanifs. Hashim had a blood line of Ismailite and Israelite clans. His children and descendants were named after him as Banu Hashim. (The term Banu is an inflection of a collective noun contracted from Banoon which means sons of or children of or descendants of). The Prophet Muhammad was born for Abdullah, son of Abdul Muthalib, son of Hashim. The term Hashimites is used for the members of Banu Hashim and specifically for the descendants of Muhammad.
Banu Hashim and Banu Umayyah are two mist significant Islamic tribal elites which later formed two most powerful monarchs in the history of Islam (Ummayads 660 AD -750 AD and Abbasid 750 AD to 1258 AD). The Banu Umayyah was named after its ancestor Umayyah, son of Abdushams, son of Abdu Manaf, the great grandfather of Prophet Muhammad.
The Prophet Muhammad had four daughters and one son from his first wife Khadija bint Khuwailid. Daughters were Zainab, Ruqayyah, Fathima and Ummu Kulthum. The son was Qasim who died while he was a baby. Zainab married her cousin Abul ‘As bin Rabee’a. she had only one child who died as a baby. Ruqiyyah, the wife of third Caliph Uthman bin Affan, had one boy who died as child. Ummu Kulthum was also married to Uthman after the death of her sister Ruqiyyah and had no children. Fathima married Ali bin Abi Talib, the cousin of her father and who become later the fourth Caliph of Islam. She had two sons: Hasan and Husain and one daughter Ummu Kulthum.
Most of Husain’s children were killed but two of them survived after his death. The daughter of Fathima, Ummu Kulthum married the second Caliph Umar bin Khatab and had a boy named Zaid who participated the battle of Karbala with his uncle, Husain. The descendants of Hasan, Husain and Zaid still exist today.
Yeman: History and legend
The history of Yeman is traced back to the people of ‘Ad and their Prophet Hud, clearly mentioned by Quran and and explained by medieval Islamic scholars. The people of ‘Ad is believed to reject the message of monotheism similar to their ancestors like the community at the time of Nuh, described both in Bible and Quran in Surah Nuh(71) and a number of other chapters. The people of ‘Ad is distict with their giant stature and powerful body. They rejected the message brought by Nuh, insulted him were finally destroyed. “Dost thou not consider how thy lord dealt with (the tribe of) ‘Ad. Iram, with many columned, the like of which was not created in the lands(89:6-8)
The medieval Islamic scholars have located the land of the historical narration as eastern Hadharmouth in Southern Arabia. The legend says that Hud was a descendant of Joktan discussed in Bible(Genesis) Joktan was born for Shem, son of Nuh. The Kindah tribe of the vally claims their lineage back to Joktan through another son Ya’rub.
Hadharmouth had always constant interactions with outer world through land and water. Their control over international trade route is a valid evidence for their domination and mobility to the outer world. Lewcock gives a detailed account of their presence in global markets mainly in aromatic incenses in later part of the second millennium BC. The petty kingdom of Qataban, Saba’ and Ma’in have developed own system in supplying water for agricultural needs and other irrigation methods. The security system they developed for transportation and carrying the valuable commodities is dealt with much importance by the historians (al Bakri).
‘Shabwah’ was the strategic point for handing over the goods which was accompanied by huge armed caravans to survive the ‘Quta’n Tariq’ (robbers of desert) expected across the way. The goods were carried both on land and sea through the port of Qana’, the present Bir Ali. Qana’ was also a popular port for Indian products of pepper, cinnamon, silk, tortoises shell and muslins (Lewcock: 22).
The strategic position of Yeman, particularly Hadramouth, made it one of the southern Arabian centers of critical trade routes on both land and water. The spices, luxury goods and most prominently frankincense were carried on camel between the source and markets. Shibam was an ‘entrepot’ for frankincense and myrrh, the most wanted resin gums cultivated in Yeman and consumed in the ancient Near East and adjacent world for mummification, medicines and religious rites(Boxberger: 15).
The transportation of other market products such as silk and precious stones brought by sea from eastern countries, African products imported through the port of Aden such as gold, ivory and animal products was also made through this trade routes. Yeman, called the ‘Arabian felix’ and granary of Arabia, especially Hadharmouth was a land of agriculture supported by scientific system for irrigation and water supply on those days. The vibrant market of Hadramouth turned crossroads of Indian ocean sea trade and the overland caravans of Arabia.
The commercial value of frankincense and myrrh diminished because of a number of reasons such as cultural and ritual changes by the advent of Christianity. The beginning of Roman shippers dealing direct trade with India through the red sea added to the decline of overland trade via Hadharmouth. Foreign invasions, besides internal economic decline, hastened the fall of saba’ all of a sudden. Ethiopeans who conquered Sadd Ma’rib(Ma’rib Dam) and strategic part of Qana to make control over still existing trade of frankincense and spices. The city of Shabwah and its place has been occupied by different invadersduring and after 3rd century after the birth of Christ. Al Hamadani says that along with political disorder people began to leave the city to eastern lands seeking better agricultural land, peaceful living and fertile soil.
After Ethiopeans, the Persian Sassanids took over the land, invited by local nobles to help them against the former. Towards the end of 6th century AD Sassanids realized their dream of possessing Hadharmouth and its trade.
The legendary history of Yeman would be incomplete with out Queen of Sheba, a Biblical and Quranic figure, the ruler of south Arabian kingdom of Saba, centered around the oasis of Ma’rib in Yeman. She is believed to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem bearing spices and very much of gold and precious stones (I Kings 10:2). She went back to her home after exchanging gifts with Solomon (II Chron 9:1-9) (Ullendorff,1991).
The presence of the tombs of revered ancestors makes Hadharmouth in general and Tarim in particular a hub of sacred culture and spirituality. Most of them are giants believed to have miraculous works during their life time. The tomb of Biblical prophet Saleh who is believed to create camel out of a rock, a proof to solidate his arguments, is one among them. It has turned a pilgrimage centre among locals in recent times. Salih’s son Hud is also venerated and his tomb has become a centre of annual pilgrimage, to which people from distant lands come to perform some kind of rituals and observances. It has also been a centre of annual commercial market in which people used to exchange their goods.
Abraha al Ashram, an Axumite army general and viceroy of Souther Arabia for the kingdom of Aksum is a Quranic figure who started to Mecca with an army of elephants to destroy Ka’ba after bulding a cathedral al San’a known as al Qullais, but was destroyed on the way. “Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the owners of the elephant? Did He not bring their stratagem to naught, and send against them swarms of flying creatures, which pelted them with stones of backed clay, and made them like green crops devoured (by cattle) (Quran 105:1-5).
Ever since the period of Prophet Muhammd, Hadhramis have been a vibrant part of Islamic community. He dispatched one of his prominent companions, Mu’adh bin Jabal with Abu Musal Ash’ari to Yeman carrying mission of Islam. After the treaty of Hudaibiyyah, Prophet Muhammad got free to focus on missionary activities in nearly and distant lands. In 630-631 AD, Sanatul Wufud, Year of delegations, he sent Ziyad in Labidh al ansari to Hadharmouth by whome the people converted massively to Islam(PKM: 32).
Wail bin Hajr bin Rabi’ah, a tribal elite from Hadramouth, came to Madina with a delegation, visited Prophet and announced his commitment to the new faith (Ba Muthrif. Mukhtasaru Tarikhi Hadarmouth). Prophet received him with due respect and pleasure and stood up on the pulpit “Oh! People, this is Wail bin Hajr, leader of tribes came to you from a far distant land, Hadramouth, interested in Islam”. Then he prayed for him “Oh God! Shower your blessings upon Wail, his children and grand children” after a short period, Wail went back to homeland and propagated the mission among his nears(Thabrani). Ash’ath bin Qais al Kindi has also reported to visit Madina, meet the Prophet and become carrier of mission to home land (Zarqani, ibn Ishaq, Baihaqi). Allama Burhanudhin al Halabi(Al Sirathul Halabiyyah) narrated an interesting account of a binch of people from Thajeeb, a Qabeela from Kindh, visiting Prophet in Madina to acknowledge their faith. Prophet was impressed with a young man among them, prayed for his specially. During the time of massive apostasy movement after the death of Prophet, this young man stood up among them to prevent it and safeguard the faith in Hadramouth. Some other visits by delegations from Ja’fiyyeen, Swadif, Swada’, Muhra, Raha’, Banu Audhulla, Banu Auth and Nasiyyin have been denoted by Quran in Surah Nasr(110. 1-3) “When God’s succor and the triumph cometh. And thou seest mankind entering the religion of God in troops. Then hymn the praises of thy Lord and seek forgiveness of Him. Lo! He is ready to show mercy”
During the period of first Caliph Abubakr, the apostasy movement in Hadhramouth was defeated by Ziyad bin Labid in a joint military movement at the fort of Nujair in 634 AD(PKM: 3). Tarim has a treasure of graves of great Sufis, scholars and close companions of Prophet Muhammad who participated Battle of Badr, 70 in number(Al Jufri: 1785:232) later onwards Wadi Hadarmouth and Tarim has managed to have constant cultural and spiritual contacts with Hijaz, the axis of Muslim world. The people of Tarim kept up to play a master role in new developments of the Muslim world. Qaisaba bin Kulthum al Kindi was a leader of an Arab troop during the caliphal conquest of Egypt by Umer bin Khatab.
In 746 Ad Abdullah bin Yahya, an Ibadi from Basra visited Hadramouth to propagate his Ibadi mission. This Ibadi missionary who took title ‘Talibul Haq’ made a successful missionary venture and ruled over almost all parts of the Wadi with help of his commander Abu Hamza. The Umayyad caliph Marwan bin Muhammad made a sudden attack and defeated his empire for a short period. But later the mission auld manage to return till this time(Lewton).
Te Sayyid lineage entered Hadarmouth in 951 AD with the coming of Ahmad bin Isa al Muhajir from Basra in Iraq to get rid of the political disturbances created by Qarmatians or Zingis.
Sayyids of Hadarmouth
All the Sayyids of Hadarmouth trace their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad through their grandfather Ahmad al Muhajir (Ahmad bin Isa) who came from Iraq and settled in Yeman in he middle of 10th century AD. Sayyid Muhammad al Naqib, the grandfather of Ahmad bin Isa is the first among their ancestors to settle in Basra, Iraq leaving their ancestral abode Madina. He is the sixth grandson of Prophet Muhammad come through the Alawid line which pass through Ali al Uraidhi(751-826 AD), Ja’far al Sadiq(700-765 AD), Muhammad al Baqir()677-733 AD), Ali Zainul Abidin(659-713 AD), Husain bin Ali(625-680 AD) and Fathima(609-632 AD) to reach the Prophet Muhammad.
Imam Ahmad bin Isa al Muhajir is the progenitor of Ba Alawi family who became instrumental in the spread and dispersal of Alawi Sada across the Indian Ocean shorelines, from South East Asia to Africa. Born and brought up in Basra, Iraq he carried out the historical migration to the Yeman during the Abbasid Caliphate out of political turbulence and calamities. He was accompanied by a group of 70 people including his wife, son Ubaidullah and a couple of elders (Sharif Muhammad bin Sulaiman and Sharif Ahmad al Qudaimi). He left behind his three sons Muhammad, Ali and Husain at home to take care of wealth and property. The journey resulted in transplanting the Sufism and spirituality which later known as Alawi Sufism.
Hadarmouth: Land and Legacy
Hadramouth is a dynamic space of Yeman in which the Hadhrami society and culture evolved and catered from. This historic geography can’t be separated from the cultural landscape of Southern Arabia since early period. Its unique feature of comprising mountains, vallies, agricultural land and neighboring shorelines attracted ancient societies who travelled across the desert. It constantly interacted with different cultures, people from different parts of the world because of its critical geographic position comprising crisscrossed with caravan roots through desert and water.
The greater Hadarmouth is a region lays between Aden in west, Oman in the East, Indian Ocean in South and Rimal al Ahqaf desert in the North. Roughly Yemen is divided into three states: Al Jand which includes Lahj and Aden, San’a’ and Hadramouth(Al Shatiri 11), but the popular boundaries of the land is ‘Ain ba Ma’badin the west, Saihut in the east, Rimal al Ahqaf in the north and Indian ocean in the south. Most of its shores are rocky which is 4500 kms long. In short, he land of Hadharmouth is a combination of desert, gigantic mountains which heights up to six thousand feet in south and two thousand and five hundred in north(PKM: 28, Shatiri:13), Wadis, high plateaus known as Jawl, agricultural lands and small towns. The Bedouin Hadrami Arabs mostly depended on small kind of transportation of goods from coastal centers to remote vallies away for a journey of a week approximately(al Yafi’I, 1936:161).
Hadharmout gives a splendid aerial view of chains of high mountains interconnected by beautiful vallies running towards south to the Indian Ocean. The most important among them is Wadi Hadarmout which includes heavily populated cities like Tarim, Sai’un, Shibam and Qutn(Shatiri-13). Shibam and Tarim are old centers of population described by medieval Arab travelers and historians such as Yaqut al Hamawi, al Qazwini and al Hamadani but Say’un has a later origin in 16th century(Ho-33). Seasoned rains cause for flow of water in Wadis which runs towards the Indian ocean.
Considering geographical position, Hadhramout is divided into three: Sahili, the place which lies in touch with Indian ocean which also is famous for agriculture and fertility; the second is Wadi (valley) the middle land connecting Sahili with high lands, Najd which is the third one(PKM: 29).
The dual nature of their land provided a strangely blend of two totally different life styles: the silent mountains and serene vallies pulled them to the fortunes of lonely ascetic spirituality, on the other hand, the attached port at Indian ocean pushed them to the fortunes of international trade, travel and migration which also made the distinct culture of Hadramis spread over Indian ocean. The local sufis and scholar created a starry sky of their own spirituality while on the other end the ocean made them masters of migration in the medieval period.
Only the south eastern Wadi called Masila is found to be running around the year. The western tributary of this valley called Wadi Mayfa’ keeps the Wadi a fertile land in the country. There is only periodical flow of water in adjacent Wadis like ‘Idim, Wadi al Ain, Wadi Du’an and Wadil ‘Amd(Linda: 13)
As Ho says, the directions of the Wadi is pointed with three most important concerns of the population live there: The north is called ‘Najd’ in reference to the lively highlands of Nortern Yeman(similar to Najd in Soudi Arabia), the southern direction is pointed Bahri, the sea ward and west Qibli, the orienting towards Qibla, the direction for five time prayers of Muslims.
Mukalla, the capital city of Qu’aiti Sultanate is an important centre of attraction at the coastal side. Shahr is a heritageous and historic abode along with Dais and Hami. The Ghail Ba Wazir is not far from the coast. In Myfa’ there is a small river originating from its mountains and flows to the Indian Ocean. The Wadi Hadarmouth is a combination of some smaller wadis such as Wadi ‘Amd, the place which include the age old city of Mudab against which is Huraidah where the ancient temple of moon was unearthed. The small towns of Mashhad and Raybun are placed in Wadi Hajrain while Hajra and al Sawm is in Wadi Hadarmouth. Umpteen numbers of smaller towns make the Wadi Hadarmouth a dynamic geography of active business both in culture and economy.
Playing a crucial role in the life and trade of ancient centuries, Hadramouth has a history of long centuries back. There is a huge volume of writings in different languages, significantly in Arabic explain the history of its people and their coulture. The name Hadharmouth is mentioned early in the Book of Genesis(x,26) as ‘Hazarmaveth’. In ancient time the place was called ‘Abdal’ as explained by Swaghani and the author of Qamus. The term is explained to have its origin from the Arabic word ‘Abd’ and al which means ‘the slave’ and ‘the family of’ respectively(30- Al Shamil). The term ‘al’ was prefixed to the names of royal families of the time.
The popular name ‘Hadharmouth’ is discovered as “Hadarmath’ in ancient inscriptions, a corruption of Hadharmouth in a popular method of writing without vowels (Yaqut). Ibn al Kalbi says that Hadharmouth is mentioned in Thora as Hadhin maith and it was named after Hadarmouth bin Yaqtan bin ‘Amir bin Shalikh. A number of slightly different versions of this concept are also found. Al Hamadani believes that it was named after Hadharmouth bin Himyar al asghar.
The name Hadharmouth is believed to be derived from the Arabic word ‘Hadharal Mouth’ means ‘the presence of death’ and it is believed to have named after Prophet Swalih who breathed his last while he reached the valley (PKM: 33, Jufri: 1794:230). Ronald Lewcock holds the view that the name came after the death of Amr, son of Joktan, whose nickname was Hadharmouth, named because he lived in such a terrible period.
Most of the people in Hadharmouth are Qahtanis, but some Adnanis are also found. Arabs are divided into three: Al Arabul Baida, Al Arabul ‘Aribah/AL Qahtaniyyah and Al Arabul Mustha’riba/ Al Adnaniyyah. Baidah are the earliest ethnic race of Arabia which has a history of 4000 years at least(Adwar). History reveal that they are maily now three Qabilas(Umam, Jurhum and Hadharmouth). The Aribah or Qahtanis or Yemenites who later split into Mu’inin, Sabaians and Hiyarites. Qahtan also includes Lakhmids of Hira and Ghassans of Basra. Major Qabilas in Yeman are Hamdan, Azd, Himyar, Midhaj, Kindah, Qua’ah, Thai’ and Hadharmouth. The Mustha’riba Arabs are the descendant of Ismail bin Ibrahim, the Biblical Prophets. They are also called Adnanis. Major Qabilas among them are Thamim, Ghatfan, Kinanah and Quraish.
Sacred lineage in Hadramout: Social status and stratification
The people of Hadramouth, called Hadramis, shared umpteen number of social elements such as language, clothing, food, weapons and culture. Still it was not a homogenous society at all, instead, a combination of different layers of people occupying different social positions and status. The occupational status, religious scholarship, economic differences and lifestyles formulated the society into different steps of social hierarchy on course of time. We cannot understand the position of a particular social group without analyzing the whole community around. The variety of occupations, use of honorific titles and pace of social mobility created segmental division of society in a long duration. Hadrami society has been featured as a highly stratified society in terms of social influence, spiritual platforms and genealogical purity.
‘The politics of stratification’ written by Abdullah Bujra gives an account of social stratification formed as a result of their prestige. The genesis of social stratification in Hadrami society was genealogy, ie blood relation/ genealogical descent. It turns to be an ascribed quality accompanied by some achieved qualities by the particular family, similar to the tribal system prevalent among Arab society. These segmental groups have been denoted by different terminologies by historians. Abdullah Bujra tried to classify the society in terms of social status and prestige, while the local historian Abdul Qader Muhammad al Sabban who authored ‘Adath va Taqalid bil Ahqaf’ approached it as ‘Tabaqa’ which means segment, stratum or layer.
A number of factors have played role in segmental division of Hadrami society, among which the most important ones are spirituality, genealogy and wealth. The top of the social hierarchy is occupied by Sada(Sing. Sayyid) who trace their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad through Ahmad bin Isa al Muhajir, who came to Hadarmouth during the middle of 10th century AD from Basra in Iraq. The name of their clan –Ba Alawi- came after Alawi bin Ubaidullah bin Ahmad who occupied high stats during his life as a spiritual leader and scholar in Hadramouth. In course of time, his family and later generations rose to unparallel prestige based on their scholarship, spirituality and social interaction and became influential among the community around. Later, newly emerging off-springs of the family were named of its founders prefixed by Banu, Al or Ba according to the Arab custom.
None among Sayyid families of Hadramouth used to carry ams except a small minority, descendants of Al Shaikh Abubakr bin Salim who received the title Al Shaikh, not Sayyid. This particular family has held the position of army generals and political advisors of Qu’aiti Sultans for a long period. A great majority of Sayyid families abstained from the use of arms inspired by the historical declaration by their ancestor Sayyid Muhammad bin Ali bin Muhammad Sahib Mirbat, popularly called Al Faqihul Muqaddam.
According to Arab custom, they used to preserve their genealogical records to claim their purity of blood and ascribed status in the society. The Sada families of Hadarmouth were regular in maintaining their distinction from others that they would not give their daughters marriage to other groups which was normally lower than them in social status. The Arabic term Kafa’a was widely used to denote the similarity of status maintained at the time of marriage, which was the most significant time that social status matters.
The Sada families were respected and honored by others with a formal title used to address along with names, in most cases, the members of Sayyid families were addressed with the title of Sayyid(master) or Habib(Beloved) and women were prefixed with Sayyida, Sharifa or Habibah. The token of respect varied from time to time such as standing up at the arrival, kissing of hands and using of respectful calling names. The act of kissing on hands of Sayyids has been a topic of debate in Islamic religious texts across the medieval and modern period. This revering act(Thaqbil) is justified their high moral and spiritual commitments and adherence to the values(Al Mashur: Bughyatul Mustharshidin:296-97). It is also argued that the Taqbil is not performed to any particular individual, instead, to the whole bloodline of the Prophet Muhammad or as a demonstration of love and commitment of a believer to his Prophet.
Being a distinct group of honor among the society, the Sadah abstained from minor occupations, small manufacturing and other labors kept them away for a comfortable distance from the public. Some of their families like Al Kaf carried out big scale trade. Children from Sayyid families were educated including women religious and moral education. Almost all members of the family led pious way of life standing with their tradition and ancestral routines.
The status of an individual was also recognized and demonstrated by their leading role in religious rituals. The priority among their contemporaries was formulated also through their inherited position of Imam for congregational prayers, collective Jama’ats and celebrations. Sayyids were preferred on others for leading rituals and recitations of Moulids. the burial places of dead Sada turned popular visiting centers and places of significance.
Scholars among Sadah carried out leadership in collective religious celebrations, Qadis who judged religious affairs, saints to whom the public came to bless them at special occasions, reciting Holy Quran on auspicious events and dead(This position was also called Munsib- Boxberger 20). The Munsib also played the role of arbitrator in disputes, witness of Nikah ceremony and performing Jumu’a Khuthba on Fridays.
Male and female members of the family had specific code of dressing along with a stiff round cylindrical head Qalansuwas(cap). Some of them used to have turbans on head along with a woolen shawl(Al Mashhur-107). Special respect and veneration are sanctified across the Muslim world. Sufi Islam which follows four schools of Islamic jurisprudence- Hanafi school founded by Imam Abu Hanifa al Nu’man, Maliki school founded by Imam Malik bin Anas, Shafi’I school founded by Imam Muhammad bin Idris al Shafi’I and Hanbali school founded by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. The Wahabi Islam emerged in Soudi Arabia do not agree with the notion of special prestige and honor to the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad and veneration of dead souls.
The second group to enjoy religious status after Sadah was Mashaikh. In fact they were holders of supreme authority in religion among the people of Hadramouth before the advent of Sada. The later could easily push the former down because of their bloodline connecting to the Prophet Muhammad. Mashaikhs were dealt with great respect even after the coming of Sada because of their adherence to the religion. The male members among them were called Shaikh or habib while female members are greeted Shaikha. The term had its origin from Hahiliyya name of tribal chief. They have rendered great services to the society with their scholarship and leadership across the centuries. (Al Sabban :22). Their tombs were venerated and were made a place of spiritual practices as well as Sada. Both were not having competing the other for pubic popularity instead used to respect each other and seeking Baraka. Despite the unchallenged spiritual authority of Sayyids, Mashaikh managed to be scholars and Qadis and educated their members both male and female in religious institutions and at home respectively. They continued to be servents of religious knowledge such as jurisprudence, traditional sciences and other theological subjects. Because of sufficient scholarship, they were entrusted with the authority of Qaza’ (judgment in religious matters) and Waqf endowments. Alongside the Sada they took their role in spiritual ceremonies, rituals and devotional practices and continued in the forefront of the community. They were approached by tribal community for Fatwas(religious verdict), spiritual advices and legal assistance in religious matters.
The powerful settled tribes of Hadarmouth occupied a high position in society after the highest couple- Sada and Mashaikh. Yemenite society followed the typical Arab tribal system in which social status depended upon power, arms and influence. Tribes maintained alliance with others mostly with those which claim common descent from an ancestor. The South Arabian tribes traced their lineage to Qahtan while the northern tribes claimed it to Adnan. So, both were called Qahtanis and Adnanis respectively. Bedouins who were normally away from civilization of the time were considered as the bottom of tribal life in Arabia. He common people called Masakin live as occupational groups. Farmers, fishermen and other weaker section of the society formed the lower middle class of the Hadrami social structure. Slaves who served the military of different Sultans and Subiyans, the socially excluded layers were placed at the bottom of Yemenite social life.
Hadramis in Indian Ocean
Moving on water and overland
Emigration is a unique feature of Hadhrami Arabs which gave them a universal identity throughout the middle ages. ‘Safar’ or ‘Hijrah’ dispersed them positively to sprinkle out as a vibrant community playing a decisive role in the trade, economic, social, religious and spiritual fields of Muslim community across the Indian Ocean world. The age old tradition of Arabs to emigrate from place to place according to the climate, social condition, geographic position and political condition was followed by Hadhramis in medieval and later centuries.
Almost all emigrants intended a temporary change of settlement, purposefully seeking better living environment, trade opportunities wanted to return to homeland at the end. The possibility of earning attracted them to leave their mother land for a distant world. The concept of ‘Rihla fi Talabil Ilm'(journey for seeking knowledge) was followed by medieval Muslim scholars inspired by Prophet Muhammad’s words “The knowledge will not come to you, instead be gone to” and “who amongst you enter a way in search of knowledge, God will make his way easy to the heaven”. The process of emigration was hard to them as said commonly ‘al gharb a’ma’ (a stranger in a strange land is a blind person)(Boxberger: 42). But they opted to leave their own land for a harder life uncertainty instead of comfort because they believed in the proverb ‘Al Sair thairun val jalisu Hajarun'(the traveler is like a bird and who stays behind is like a stone) meant to denote the valuable experience and exposure that the traveler may have during his journey. It was men that always preferred to set out for emigration instead women except some rare occasion either with family or in a situation of poverty among ‘Masakin’ to livelihood for a short period. Some Hadhramis travelled with their wife and children but there was also individuals travelled intending to return after a short period.
Mostly young men used to emigrate while they were fit to survive any king of adverse situations and expected to earn livelihood for the dependants. The emigrants who settled in their new land married a local or a travelled relative available. The children born in this woman was considered as Hadhrami and in some cases, they were sent to the original land to train Hadhrami language and culture in early ages, possibly before 10. The emigrant also gave their daughters married to other Hadhrami emigrant to keep up with cultural purity. This spirit of identity and uncompromising commitment to the Hadhrami tradition made their identity existing across the land they travelled. The Hadhrami migrants of distant lands such as East Indies and premises had to settle in their ‘Mahjar’ permanently as it was hardly possible to return to their homelands. But those who migrated to India and East Africa could be back at home.
However, the Hadhramis in new land managed to stay together, maintaining family relations through marriages and business linkages co operating each other for establishing collaborative business ventures. A Hadhrami would always tent to keep up linked with another Hadhrami helping each other for survival in a mostly strange circumstance away from home. The Hadhramis of all time existed in two parts, one at the home and one away at Mahjar, the emigrating land, but it is a distinct feature that they kept up linked with each other both at home and away. The tradition of travel, emigration and staying together helped them to succeed both socially and economically in their new land.
Arabs have a history of centuries for their trade on water with distant lands such as China, India and Africa. The well known Prophetic saying ‘seek knowledge and travel for it even to China’ shows how much they were familiar with it at that time. The poplar Arab poet Ka’b bin Zuhair presented an extem poem to the Prophet himself named Baanat Su’ad in which he says ‘The messenger of Allah is a perfect sword made in India and one among the swords of Allah” Imrul Qais, the icon poet among seven authors of Mu’allaqa composed ‘Thara ba’ral aarami fi arasathiha- Va Qee’aniha ka annahu habbu fulfuli’ which mentions pepper which was available in India at that time. The Arab Muslims of medieval period used to have trade with India and ports of northern China. Kitabul Masalik val Mamalik written by Ibn Khurdadbih (855 AD) explains some trade routes followed by Arabs to East Asian ports. Merchants from Arabs and Persians had exposure to complex trade routes on water reaching to distant eastern lands such as India and China (PKM: 53)
The Arabs of Hijaz were privileged with opportunity to meet with people from distant lands travelling to Mecca and Madina for pilgrimage and have empirical knowledge of travel through different geographies, changes in climates. The obligatory five time prayers and its orientation towards Mecca inspired them to study geographical position of places. Traditional knowledge of Astronomy and Mathematics was decisive in paving way of Arabs to be the first successful travelers of medieval period. The excessive flow of pilgrims to Hijaz turned Jeddah an important centre of people who made it a significant point of food and cloth trade with Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian and Indian ports. Al Maqdisi narrated the story of three thousand camels carrying rice every week from the city of Al Mashtul to the port of Al Qulzum(al Muqaddasi, 1980: 184), (PKM: 55).
The people of Yemen, especially agricultural community of coastal region were connected to distant lands via overland and water ways. They used ports of Arabian Sea coast to get connected with international trading communities and ports of Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Red sea. They had a long history of trade and cultural contacts with Red sea, East African coasts, African islands, Malaibar, Cape of Comoro, Ceylon, East Indies, Malasia and Singapure(Boxberger: 13)
The expansion of Arab Muslim Empire, Umayyads, provided Arabs a golden opportunity to develop their trade endeavors, explore better water ways and get connected with outer world. The possession of significant trade routes and ports across the Arab and Persian coasts caused for unprecedented financial gains. The installation of progressive regulations and trade laws resulted in a systematically legalized culture of trade and transportation which was widely appreciated by international community. Baghdad came to be an all-round centre of politics and social mobility along with commercial activities as it opened its doors to international trade in a peaceful manner. Its presence in the crossroad of Tigris and Euphrates redoubled the growth of trade, travel and transportation goods.
The emergence of Islam in Arabia, surrounded by water from three sides made maritime missionary movements early during the period of Prophet Muhammad. Later, when it developed into a powerful empire holding a large part of Asian geography, it moved to maritime military movements around the empire. The expansion of Arab Islamic culture between two great neighboring cultural giants-Persian worlds flourished at the banks of Euphrates and Tigris. Secondly, the African Egyptian culture spreading over the banks of Nile pushed the seaborne cultural, trade and military movements altogather during and after seventh century(Abu Lughud 197-8).
Arabs were also having he fortune of access to Silk Road to China from Persia and Central Asia. From Persia it was possible to go to China via Samarkand or Balk by high passes over the Pamirs crossing desert of East Turkistan; this was ancient Silk Road between West Asia and China(G.F Hudson, the medieval Trade of China, 1970, pg:150).
Since the Arabs stood in the past as they stand today in a most strategic geographical position, no people were in a more favorable position for exploring the ancient world than the Arabs (S.N Fisher: P3). The Muslim geographers were the only one group of their times to get into the knowledge of all civilizations of the world because they were fortunate enough to have the world around them: Eastern and Western Europe, India, Indonasia, Africa, China and Central Asia(Bertold Spuler, Trade in the Eastern Islamic countries, in Islam and Trade of Asia,20). Born and brought up in harsh climate and rough geography filled with hilly tracts and hard mountains, Arabs got the unbeatable competency and confidence to face any challenge before them. It ahs tremendously helped them to jump into dangerous sea moving towards distant lands not clearly known to them. The dry lad of desert around, possession of camel which was the only one vehicle dependable on desert for moving on desert, availability of no other options for food and livelihood, the courage and optimism to move for adventures made Arabs the most successful adventurous voyagers of the time.
The threat of Quta’u Tari, the bandits of desert was curbed by Umayyad and Abbasid military that possessed the major part of desert paths, more over the developments of single travelers in to large, self protected caravans comprising of tens of camels and security measures prospered a vibrant trade culture throughout and beyond the borders of Middle East. Arab merchants crossed Sahara, the largest desert on Earth, to reach out to African markets, particularly western African gold market- Ghana. The presence of Arab coins explored in European countries used in 7th century sheds light to the active trade which would may have existing in early medieval period.
The well known Arab traveler Ibn Bathootha provides an account of Arab trade to very distant centers of Bulgaria and northern Siberia crossing deadly deserts of ice with the help of dogs(Ibn Bathootha: 151). Arabs had established a systematic culture of travel and trade before fifteen centuries of Columbus sailing to United States. CGF Simkin(The traditional trade of Asia, 1968 P:81) says that Arab voyagers achieved direct travel from Persian gulf to Southern China during tenth century AD. Vasco da Gama who landed at Kapad, Calicut could not do that without the help of an Arab African traveler Ahmad bin Majid(Thomas Arnold: The Legacy of Islam: 96).
The Monsoon based trade in the Indian Ocean has a story of long centuries since third millennium before Christ. The trade links of Hadhramouth with Mediterranean world, India and Indonasia can be traced back to the pre Islamic period. The existence of this old wide network of trade links could help the Muslim traders to be dispersed across the Indian Ocean. Hadhramis were on of those trading communities who began to travel since the beginning of distant trade culture. Since the early period they began to have trade trips to East Africa and Ted Sea. The Hadhrami Sayyids moved towards East and West intending for both trade and missionary activities excessively after sixteenth century. Form seventeenth century onwards, they made extensive migrations to India, East Africa, Malasia and Netherlands.
The emigration increased in later centuries, 18th and 19th, in which missionary and mercantile voyaging to Eastern world became a common practice among Hadhramis. It was caused by both internal and external factors as described by Hartwig (Hadramout: 270). The internal factors pushed them to move out from mother land are internal strives, conflicts and problems with ecological system. The drought, poverty and absence of resources made them think of a new land. This was similar to the historic migration of Sayyids from Iraq to Yeman led by their legendary ancestors Ahmad bin Isa al Muhajir in order to escape from the threats of Qarmatians who took over their land on 10th century AD.
The external factors were thirst for better life, seeking of better financial opportunities, missionary objectives and need for peaceful life. The spread of Islam in Arabia, Persian world and African coasts caused for a drastic change in the nature of maritime business and relations in the Indian Ocean. The concept of universal brotherhood, trust and integrity influenced the traders, travelers and Sufis and it caused for the birth of a new era in the history of maritime relations across the Indian Ocean. The spread of Islam to larger population reinforced the sense of togetherness to create better access to more people and vaster geography. The conquest of a new land allowed them to link it with existing trade network at that time. After new conquests and voyages, the network of trade and travel was developed larger than ever. The installation of trade ethics and transactional laws of Islam caused for the formation of a new culture of commerce and business promoting values and morals. The Islamic laws provided a genuine comprehensive and vivid code of ethical trading, financial transaction and truthful commercial exchange (PKM:59).
The traders who travelled to distant lands also have been great supporters of missionary movements in respective lands. They promoted propagation by funding for the establishment of mosques and educational institutions while some of them were themselves carriers of faith and mission. The Mishkal Mosque located at Calicut in Kerala is an important historical heritage built by an Arab merchant, Nakhuda Mithkal who travelled to Calicut in 14th century. The Muchundi mosque of Calicut, situated near Kuttichira near Mishkal Mosque was built by Shihabudhin Raihan, an Arab traveler reached Calicut in 13th century. The famous Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, Singapur was established by Sayed Omar al Junaid, an Arab traveler and merchant in 1820.
The trade network of Indian Ocean came to be dominated by Muslim traders and Islamic ethics. It caused for the exchange of ethics and moral values which attracted merchants to the new faith. Traders who settled temporarily in the new land/Mahjar made it a temporary home building up a miniature of their home town. The rich merchants established mosques and set up a family by holding hands of a local converted woman. They stayed at bridal home and caused for the introduction of a new social institution-Marumakataya, a matrilineal family system still existing in coastal areas of Malabar.
As new mosques sprang up across the Arab settlements in coastal regions of Indian Ocean, it paved way for the establishment of a new culture based on Sufism, spirituality and harmony. The commitments to the Sufi saints and spiritual leaders eventually resulted in the formation of a wide network which made distant traveler closer and staying connected.
The bond of belief also helped them to manage to find out trusted hands to buy the commodities for lower and exact coast. Distant people could get true information through their links and purchase for reasonable price (PKM:61, Risso: 71).
The change of political power at the shore had an influence on the water too. As Ottomans ruled over large portion of European and Asian ports, Muslims became able to manage the politics on the water. A sense of group consciousness emerged slowly among Muslim maritime community and it formed a network of traders on the water. The coincidence of three major Muslim empires, Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals of India could create a domination of Muslim mercantile groups over the Indian Ocean.
The advent of Portuguese troops in Calicut at the end of 15th century started a new epoch of western domination on Asian markets. Instead of peaceful trading tradition Europeans had a subduing crusading spirit against the oriental world. The western new comers treated Arabs with hostility and placed them at the opposite end. The European maritime militancy attacked and captured the Arabs mercantile ships which have been trading in Indian Ocean for countries. K.M Panikkar says that the Portuguese enmity and hostility towards Arabs and Muslims was not only for the sake of commercial purpose, but also as a revenge for the past Muslim conquests of medieval Christian empires like Spain and Africa. The rivalry of Portuguese militant Albuqerque expressed his pleasure at the massacre of 6000 Muslims on the occasion of political conquest of Goa through his comment “It was indeed a great deed and well carried out”. The Europeans tried to create distrust and enmity between Arab merchants and local Hind kings. Shaikh Zainudhin Makhdoom says in Thuhfathul Mujahidin that Portuguese commander tried to convince Zamorin that the trade of Malabar with them instead of Arabs would create better advantages and Arab traders must be prevented. The Portuguese hostility and rivalry toward Arabs and Muslims of Kerala resulted in more than a century long furious attacks between the two.
The Portuguese played a game of hide and seek with local kings to fight with Mappilas and replace the Arab Merchants. They have struggled against the Muslims for trade domination (Fariya Y Souza, Portuguese Asia, London,1965:314). However, the Portuguese intrusion was successfully resisted by local Hindu kings, Zamorins and his trusted Muslim admirals Kunhali Marakkars who had an origin from Arab trading family according to an opinion, though not authentic. The joint military fought furious battle against European invaders. The historic war council, held at Mishkal mosque, called upon by mother of Zamorin at an imminent failure in battle for Chaliyam fort is an interesting chapter on the anti-Portuguese movement jointly taken by Hindu-Muslim communities.
The participants were Qadi Abdul Aziz, an Arab descent whose lineage reaches up to Malik bin Muhammad, member of an Ansari family in Madina, Kunhali Marakkar, Kamakantakath Seethi Ahmad, Shaikh Mamukoya and a Sufi saint at Calicut, Shaikh Abdul Aziz Makhdoom of Ponnani and a noble merchant, Shah Bandar Umar Atabi. All these above mentioned Arab descended notables were invited by Hindu Royal family to the critical sitting at the face of war in which the Muslims declared that they would fight against invaders till their final breath and Hindus that they would not throw their Muslim brothers to death at the Portudese hands (Husain, Kerala Muslimkal: Adhinivesavirudha porattathinte prathyaya shastram: 52). This meeting held at Muslim mosque turned decisive in the war in which the fort of Chaliyam was recaptured by Qadi Muhammad of Calicut in his work, Fathhul Mubin lil Samiri alladi Yuhibul Muslimin.
The beginning of 17th century witnessed for a competition between two major powers for the domination over Indian Ocean trade. The early modern Indian Ocean was a much coveted area of interest for powers as it assured all fortunes at the East. Both fought each other for more than 15 decades for the overseas trade monopoly of spices, silk and wool. They joined hands with Eastern empires against the other.
The Portuguese, French, British, Spanish and other merchants joined the direct trade for the first time, but only English could manage to meet the increased cost of maritime trade by possessing a huge share of Indian Ocean trade capturing significant Indian ports and establishing new ones. China opened its doors to English merchants after the opium war in the mid of 19th century.
Al Shatiri makes a description of Alawid migrations and dispersal. Al Atas states that the Alawid historical development can be divided into four stages “During the first stage, which lasted from the 9th to 13th century”. The second stage was that of the development and consolidation of Tariqah Alawiyyah which lasted till 17th century. The third stage lasted from 17th to 20th century AD. During this period, the Alawi Ulema and Alawiya came to be known by the title ‘Habib’. This stage was the period of extensive migrations from Hadarmouth to different parts of the world(Al Atas: 30-31)
Indo Arab trade relations
Arab Settlements in India
Arab society has a history of centuries with their contact to distant eastern countries and societies. They had trade with and travel to India through Indian Ocean and overland. The coastal cities of Gujarat and Kerala were the favorite destinations for Arabs as well as other trading communities. The spices, wood and non wood forest products which attracted Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and British traders were earlier carried away by Arabs even before five hundred centuries. The Arabs proved to be one of the most successful trading diasporic communities on the water. Most of them traders of timber, spices and natural resources while some other were sellers of silk, diamonds and other precious goods which made them wealthy businessmen.
India has been one of the favorite destinations of Arab traders and it continued in the middle ages. Imrul Qais, the legendary Jahiliyya Arab poet composed ‘Thar Bairal Arami fi Arasathiha- Va Qi’aniha ka annahu habbu fulfuli’ in which pepper, exclusive Indian spice was mentioned. It shows the familiarity of Arabs with peper available in India at that time. Ka’b bin Zuhair bring an example of Indian made sword to praise the Prophet Muhammad (Inna rasoola lasaifun yusthada’u bihi- Muhannadun min suyufillahi maslulu).
In northern part of India, Gujarat proved to be the most favorite city for Arab traders. The city of Surat and villages around became rich with Arab settlements. Chaush are Arab community with Hadhrami descent came and settled in Hyderabad. They were later recruited to the royal army of Nizam. Tipu Sultan has received some Iraqis arriving to Karnataka during his time.
Chavuse in Sourastra are descendants of Arab immigrants from Hijaz and Hadarmouth in Yemen came and settled in Gujarat and premises. Some Hindu kings (Rajas) recruited their contemporary Arabs to their army when Gujarat divided into different states in 18th century. The armies of Bhavnagar and Jamnagar were comprised of large number of Arab soldiers. The descendants of Arabs settled in Gujarat accepted Urdu language rather than Arabic. The impact of Arab settlement n Gujarat still exists in the districts of Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Panchmahal and Surat.
A big part of Arab immigrants to India is Hadhramis, particularly Sayyid families came from Hadhramouth in Yemen who travelled to India since 16th century for trade and missionary purpose as well. They settled mostly in cities of western coast. It was due to the access to the Arabian Sea which was familiar to them as a way to the outer world as well as motherland. The Hadhrami Sayyids kept themselves distinct from the society with genealogy n their hands and culture they abide with. They enjoyed spiritual leadership, social status and arbitration among disputes. They were widely accepted in the society as leaders for material and spiritual world. Their familiarity with Arabic language, scholarship in religion, experience in rituals and expertise in dealing with social issues added to their popularity in the community around. Their ascribed status of blood relation with Islamic Prophet Mhammad along with the above said achieved qualities fastened their upward social mobility and growth towards the top of society. In India their status was identified with Brahmins who held highest position in Indian caste system.
The Sayyids of Arab ke Serai n Delhi came to India as royal guest of Mughal queen Hamida Banoo Beegum, the widow of Emperor Humayun. She went for a pilgrimage in 1560 AD(Dehlawi:1974:6) and invited 300 Hadhrami Sayyids and servants to India with the purpose of reciting Holy Quran at the grave of her late Husband, Humayun. She founded Arab Ki Sarai accommodated them in royal safeguard. The lineage of this group of Sayyids included Saqqaf, Ba Faqeeh, Ba Taha, Ba Hasan and Jamal Layl. They kept up proudly with own tradition of Hadhrami spirituality and Sufi rituals and also maintained contacts with mother land.
The new immigrants became active participants in socio-political developments in new home. Sayyid Abdullah Ba Faquh(1912:D)held the title of Mir Munshi (Superintend) of a judicial court located in Shimla in Himachal Pradesh in the end of 19th century. He had with him the genealogical tree reaching up to the Prophet Muhammad through Ahmad bin Isa al Muhajir, the founder of the clan in Hadarmouth early in 11th century. Sayyid Abdullah was a renowned scholar, Sufi and author in Persian language who contributed some important works on Sufism, spirituality and rituals.
Sayyid Ahmad Dahlawi Hadhrami(1846-1920) was another great son of Sayyid lineage who was a linguist in Urdu. He authored a dictionary in Urdu language in 1903 AD. Arab Ki Saray, the Hadhrami abode of Delhi disappeared in course of time, but the family sprang up in North India by intermarriages with Indian women. Later some of their successors migrated to Pakistan and Gujarat in India were they still live.
The Hadhrami presence of 16th century in India is clear not only from foreign and indigenous literatures, but also from the literatures of the diasporic community itself(Al Aydarus 1986:488). The Hadhrami writings of 16th century like Tarikunnur al Safir and hagiographies like Mashra’u rawiyy describe the social, economic and religious contributions of Hadhrami Diaspora in western coast of India. Cambay was one of the favorite ports of Hadhrami immigrants and where they could make successful influence on the life of the Muslim community. The socio-political work of 16th century Al Barq al Yamani written by Muhammad al Nahrawali(al Makki: 1967) provides a sketch of mutual relations between Hadhrami and East African coasts.
A great majority of Hadhrami migrants in India came and settled in coastal cities of Gujarat such as Surat and Ahmadabad. They are famous and popular among Indians because of their contributions in literature. Shaikh Abdullah bin Shaikh al Aydarus was born and brought up in Tarim, the ancestral home of Hadhrami Sayyids and migrated to India. His grave is preserved in Ahmadabad in Gujarat. He has authored six books and was buried in a well prepared mausoleum with a dome known as Bade Aydarus Ka Rauza(Desai:1989, 9-94). His son Muhyddin Abdul Qadir al Aydarus(1570-1628) has authored a number of scholarly works on Sufism including Al Nur al Safir an Akhbaril Qarnil Ashir(Aydarusi:1934:373). He is popularly known as Chote Aydarus and his grave preserved near Rouza of his father. Both tombs are well decorated with Indo- Arab architecture. Another great Hadhrami Sufi scholar Jafar al Sadiq bin Ali Zainul Abidin who was born in Tarim in Hadarmouth later traveled to India. He died 1634 in Surat and was buried there. Shaikh Jafar bin Musthafa bin Ali Zainul Abidin came from Deccan and held high position under Malik Anbar. During his stay in Deccan, he studied Persian language and translated Al Iqdunabawi authored by a Hadhrami Shaikh Abdullh of Ahmadabad.
He has also translated a work of mughal prince Dara Shikuh into Arabic on the title Thuhfathul Asfiya’ bi Tarjamati Safinatil Awliya. He has authored Kashful Wahm Amma Ghamada Minal Fahm(Exploration of obscured, Mirajul Haqiqah(Journey into the truth)and Al Fathul Quddusi Finnazmil Aydarusi (Opening the Devine facts with the Aydarusi system). The anniversary of his death is a ceremonial event among his followers. Sayyid Ahmad Aydarus Bawa who breathed his last in 1615 AD is a famous sufi scholar buried in Bharuch, the bank of river Narmada (Siddiqi 1963:20).
Abbas bin Ali bin Nurudhin al Maliki al Husaini al Musawi (1766) is a Sayyid traveler and author came from Makkah to Gujarat in 18the century. After the Mughal conquest, the Hadhramis became close with new rulers and were protected by them. Mughal emperor Auramgazeb maintained Aydarusi Dargah in Gujarat and appointed officials for the same. The Mughal decline left Hadhrami Sayyids and Sufis roofless, still they kept themselves up in the social status and supreme position. In later period, they stood up with the community who payed back with honor, spiritual pursuit and great respect.
The central India has also hosted umpteen numbers of Hadhrami Sufis and Sayyids especially during the 17th and 18th century. Shaikh Abdullah Habib al Aydarus, the nephew of Shaikh Abdul Qader al Aydarus who has already became a prominent Sufi figure of Ahmadabad, who born in Tarim in Hadramouth came to India in the second decade of 17th century was one among them. He came to India to join his uncle Shaikh Abdul Qader in Ahmadnagar for higher education under the patronage of Sultan Burhan Nizam Shah and minister Malik Anbar who provided him all the favor and facilities. Later he served at Bijapur and became close with its Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II. His company made Adil Shah a keen supporter of Sunni Islam which made him close with Muslim scholarly networks faraway in the country such as Qadis of Calicut, the Southern coast of India.
As per requested by Shaikh Abdullh, Sultan started to wear Arab cloths and associated with Muslim movements of the time. Sheikh became torch bearer of Islamic activities and spiritual propagation in central India (Al Mashoor: 114). He is a fine example for the open access of Hadhrami Sayyids to the Muslim courts of medieval India. He was buried close to the grave of Malik Anbar and it shows his close relation with the ruler. Sayyid Alawi Barum, Sayyid Musthafa Barum, sayyid Hanif al Saqqaf and Sayyid Ahmad Barum are some of notable Sayyids who lived in Bijapur and was buried in Nua Bagh. Sayyid Ja’far la Saqqaf is reported to protect Sultanate of Bijapur from external attacks. As a token of respect, the ruler offered him valuable gifts such as sacks of gold and some villages but he refused the later and distributed gold among poor people around him. This act made him popular and credited him honor among the society. He died in 1647 AD and was buried in Nua Bagh.
Mahmud Shah Bahmani, the ruler of Bijapur, has patronized many Sayyids among which Shaikh Abu Bakr bin husain Bin Abdurahman Ba Faqih is a prominent figure. He stayed close with Mahmud Shah till his death in 1663. The Alawi Sayyids who occupied very close relation with Sultans of Bijapur are described in Al Noor al Safir(—–). Sheikh Muhammad Arab who was distinct among other Sayyids with his astonishing way of Quranic recitation was a favorite of Sultan Ali Adil Shah II. His Quranic recitation influenced a number of local people who later memorized it.
There are some notable Hadhrami Sayyids who traveled extensively in India and settled temporarily in different places. One among them is Sayyid Abdurahman bin Mustafa who was born in Tarim in 1723 and died in Cairo in Egypt in 1778. Sheikh Abdullah, born in Tarim in 1608, educated in Mecca and Madina came to Surat in India. Later he moved southeard to meet his own cousin Ja’far al Sadiq and acquainted with Sultan Mahmud bin Ibrahim shah of Bijapur. After a glorious Sufi life in India, he started back to his motherland, Hadramouth where he died and was buried in a mosque which later became one of the popular pilgrimage centre (Shilli).
Sayyid umar Aydarus Ba Shibam came to Belgaum in Modern Karnataka, 200 kilometer away southward from Bijapur. He was born in Tarimand educated within the family. He started for Islamic propagation in South India and prepared a good number of preachers, Hafiz(memorizers of Quran), Hakim(Physician) and scholars for the same. He was himself a good physician and author of a work on medicine entitled Nawadiru tibbiyyah(Al Mashoor). His son Abdurahman Ba Shibam went to Mumbai and settled in Khata Bazar. Their descendants are still active in the spiritual field of their places.
Hyderabad was another place of attraction for Hadhrami Sayyids during the middle of 18th century. It received a lesser number of Hadhrami Sayyids than coastal cities like Surat, Ahmadabad and Bijapur. Ahmad bin Abdullah bin Abdullah came to and lived in Hyderabad during this time. His grave is found in Quwwathul Islam mosque in Qazipra(—-). Some of them gave excellent service for Indian Muslim rulers with their ability and skills. Sayyid Mujahid Abdurahman bin Muhammad al Zahir was awarded with the title of ‘Jamadar’ by Nizam, the ruler of Hyderabad. Later, Sayyid Ahmad al Aydarus (1899-1962) held the office of commander in chief of Nizam’s army and he surrendered the royal army to the Indian forces in 1948.
Sayyid Abu Bakr Shib Ba Alawi is a great Hadhrami Arab linguist and theoogean who became famous in a global level(Al Mashoor). Sayyid habib Aydarus has made several visits to India and stayed for a short period at Hyderabad in Nizam’s city. He was a great scholar in Islamic theology and a well known Mufti in Islamic Shariah. He founded a centre for studies in Islamic theology in Nanded and his children who kept up with similar adherence to Islamic Shariah.
Malabar: A host for trading Arab diaspora
The on water trade routes between India and Arabia mostly were linked with Gujarat in North and Malabar in South. Gujarat attracted marine voyagers and businessmen as the port for north Indian cities whole Malabar played two significant roles because of its crucial geography. The first one was as port in the south western coast of Arabian sea whole the second was even more decisive, as it played role of an axis of linkages between four great civilizations: The Perso-Arabic, the South East Asian, Indian and Chinese (Ilias,2008: 438).
It played an important role in the map of ancient and medieval Indian Ocean trade. It became the main point in which exchange of goods between east and the west. It had deals with trade networks of Persian Abbasid Empire, Roman Byzantine, Spanish Moors and East African civilizations. Malabar had a twin relevance of crucial position of its geography and possession of rich natural resources and tradable materials. It attracted people who lived thousands of miles away because it owned invaluable natural resources, wood and non wood forest products, spices and pepper which was called the ‘black gold’.
The Chinese and Arab traders found it as an intermediary station on their long ways to distant lands. The timber logs and teak wood found excessively in Kerala made it a favorite destination for traders around the world. Greeks, Arabs, Persians and people of south Asian territories made a trade network connecting Malabar with outer world.
Surrounded by international ports in different countries, Malabar was fortunate enough to rise up to the vibrant middle with a peaceful ocean of traders and attractive treasure of rich natural resources. People from distant lands, different cultural backgrounds, varieties of languages but having a common aim of trade and business met each other on ways between their homes and destinations. It created the cosmopolitan urban cultural space which prepared favorable land for different cultures to live together and interact with each other. The long ways of trade journeys made them think of a settlement temporarily. It opened ways for diasporic communities living away from their homes in regular or irregular inter wells.
Malabar has made its close business networks with Arab traders in the beginning of Christian era. The reference of pepper in the Jahiliyya poem composed by Imrul Qais in praise of his loved Laila shows that it was familiar for Arabs at that time. Arabs became masters of complex marine trade routes in Indian Ocean stretched from African ports to Chinese shorelines through Indian coasts and Persian water lines.
The ports of Malabar were familiar to Arab trading community before the birth of Islam. During the period of Solomon (the Biblical Prophet) they made trade contacts with Malabar. The Mediterranean world and Persian trade centers also established linkages with ports in Malabar in Pre-Islamic period. Gold and silver was imported for Solomon from ‘Ofeer'(Bible:—-). Ofeer is believed to be an old name of Beypur in Calicut. The author of ‘Perplus’ says that the old name of Beypure wa ‘Thindis’. Romans called it ‘Fohar’. Panthalayani, the ancient part of Calicut was called ‘Fantalaina’ by Chinese merchants. Al Idrisi and Ibn Battutta called it ‘Fantharai’ and Arabs as ‘Banthar Hoyin’ while Portugese merchants named it ‘Pansarini’.
Kannur was a port familiar to Arabs and European merchants in ancient centuries. Arabs, Persians, Romans and Chinese merchants’ established trade links with Kannur. A huge collection of ancient Roman coins were unearthed from Kannur. Ptolomy, Marco Polo, Ibn Battutta and many others have mentioned Kannur is their travelogues. The emergence of Islam accelerated Arab travels and boosted linkages between India and Arabia. There were dynamic networks for Malabar with Basra, Hormuz, Aden, Melaka and China. Several ships were found present at the coast of Malabar.
Arabs were the most fortunate people to make consecutive trade interactions with Malabar because of their geography. Western Arab coasts were closer to Malabar and they exploited this advantages and climatic conditions. Yemen could become the most familiar and frequent trader with Malabar which opened way for missionaries of Islam on later period. There were merchants of Arabia who carried small size of goods along with those who traded huge volumes of goods in multi number of carrier ships. The less dangerous monsoon carried Arab trade vessels safely to the ports of Malabar. The emergence and expansion of Islam empowered trade activities of Arabs with foreign ports including Malabar. The trade vessels carried faith and missionary troops along with merchants and trading goods. The commercial ethics prescribed by Islam made Arabs trustable allies of trade and commerce for their clients.
The straightforwardness, fulfillment of promises, steadiness in financial transactions and accuracy in measurements began to become trademarks of Arab Muslim traders across the world. The confidence provided by Islam on their ways for a faith accompanied trade activities rejuvenated their trade culture. It opened doors of successful trade voyages and fruitful missionary activities where ever they started to. The regular success of Umayyad naval conquests in distant lands and spread of their influence in Indian Ocean world provided Arabs a sense of confidence for bigger trade activities. The Arab experience in distant oceanic world fostered their overland and marine dreams. During the Abbasid age Arabs became masters of Indian Ocean trade both in East and west. They established their supremacy in Mediterranean as well as Indian Ocean worlds.
In middle age, there were frequent Arab and Chinese mercantile visits to the ports of central and northern Malabar since the beginning of Abbasid period. The western parts and coastal cities of Malabar bear a number of historical remnants and evidences for Arab presence. The social system, food habit, architecture and family structure of Malabar were influenced by Arab presence and interactions. However, Tharisappalli copper plate is considered as earliest evidence for trade and cultural contact with Arab societies of the early medieval ages. It is an inscription of contract between foreign traders visited and carried out business in Kerala and Christian Church n Cranganore(844 AD). The document is signed by prominent Arab merchants is a witness of Arab trade in Malabar.
Ibn Battutta visited Malabar and has given a description of Arab Muslim presence in Calicut. “There were Arab houses and belonging of Arab Muslims and they were respected by local people”. Malabar attracted foreign traders, especially Arabs because of its peaceful nature both in markets and marine routes. The on water trade routes to Malabar was safe and secure compared to its counter parts in Africa and Mediterranean coasts. It was European especially Portuguese trade militants who it a warfare spoiling the cordial relations and tolerance it has been keeping up for centuries (Abu Lughod 1989: 276). Arab travel accounts describe the ports of Calicut as peaceful as their homes in pre-colonial period. It was Portuguese traders who pushed the coast onto turbulent warfare when they tried to dominate the market at the cost of its people and their peaceful trade culture.
The Portuguese intrusion transformed the year old culture of peaceful trade with mutual trust and respect to a war field colored by both religious and political interests. The advent of Gama raised apprehensions among Arab sailors, but it was Cabral who violated existing laws of peaceful trade. He attacked the Arab Muslim ships at the port of Calicut and it is considered as the first instance of physical attract between new comers and existing masters of trade. Historians debate on the perspective of Portuguese atrocities whether it could be accountable with religion or not. Gupta holds the view that it is purely backed by economic interests and not by religion because there are instances of Portuguese invaders who allowed local merchants to carry on trade links with Muslim merchants such as Muhammad Ali of Kannur. They also points that the declaration of war on Portuguese by Muslim scholars was not only for the cause of Muslim, rather Portuguese militants raised threat over local Hindus, Christians and Jews who settled for long time in the region.
Shaikh Zainudhin Makhdoom argues that Portuguese atrocities were aimed at religious objectives. He substantiates hi view with examples of Portuguese atrocities towards innocent Muslim pilgrims, destroying religious symbols such as mosques and religious texts. The unjustifiable cruelty towards pilgrims had nothing to do with trade and economy instead it was purely intended to instigate religious sentiments and unleash fear among local Muslims. The Portuguese presence and disturbances in Calicut port slightly changed trade focus toward Cochin port on the other side Calicut and its trade began to diminish in later period. At the Portuguese arrival Arabs started to move away from Malabar slowly towards Persian and northern parts of India (Barbosa: 147). On the other hand, indigenous Mappila Muslim community began to fight against the Portuguese invaders who destroyed their fortunes. Zamorin, the Hindu king of Calicut supported Muslim naval admirals such as Kunhali Marakkars who protected his state. The new horrible situation came up with the Portuguese intrusion caused for the dispersal of Hadrami Arabs from coast they owned for more than hundreds of years.
Malabar was also a resting place traveler to distant coasts. “On those days Calicut enjoyed direct trade relation between the two”(Arasarathnam: 40). The ships from Mediterranean and red sea passed through Aden and Hadarmouth proceeded to ports of Malabar in which they engaged in trade and exchange of commercial goods. People of Malabar became acquainted with Arabic speaking people and their culture because of consecutive interaction and frequent visits. The diasporic trading community maintained good relationsip with local people of Malabar and kings. Zamorin was a caring host for foreign traders of Persian and Middle Eastern provinces. Marco Polo paid a visit to Malabar and described that the marine trade of Calicut was managed by Chinese and Arabs who exported and imported goods from and to their ports. Arab travelers describe that Calicut was one of the significant ports of Malabar in which traders from Yemen, Persia, Ceylone, Indonasia and China met each other and made transactions.
The comfortable situation and positive atmosphere of Calicut made it a poplar market and trading point for Arabs, African and other merchants of the period. Calicut was the most popular of Malabars ports among Arabs because of its cooperative trading culture, peaceful people and richness with natural resources.
The destruction and disintegration of Baghdad city made a shift in the focus of international market. It caused for the fortunes of Calicut which turned a suitable substitute in the access and its critical position ( Choudhury: 1985). The ships at Persian gulf changed its halting to Calicut which emerged as mediating market between west and East. The fall of Baghdad made its traders and its international business networks to think of a new shelter on its way in Indian Ocean. The port of Calicut became prominent in the beginning of 14th century which traced unrest across the Persian gulf and Mediterranean worlds. Moreover, Zamorin shifted his capital and official centre from rural intern to coast of Calicut in this period. His presence provided foreign traders a safer space under the royal surveillance. Zamorin put a keen interest in preparing cordial background amicable for international trading community who later described Calicut ‘feeling as their home away from home’.
Some of Arab traders settled in Calicut where they married local women and lived as a local citizen. The newly came Arab traders settled in new home could raise up to high position and recognition among locals because of their skills in seafaring and commercial contacts. Arabs who came from Hadhramouth, called Hadramis held a distinct status among others. They occupied high position among local people who respected them and followed with great honor. The attractive personality, spiritual life and scholarship in Islam earned them great honor and recognition among local Muslim community. The Hadrami Arabs married women from local Muslim families of high status in the society Sayyid Ali Shihabudhin, a Hadrami immigrant married Khadija, a princess form Arakkal palace of Kannur, the only one Muslim royal family of Kerala.
Ibn Battutta makes a surprise mentioning of his meeting with an Omani Qadi and religious propagator at Panthalayani Kollam(Ibn Battutta :139). He has shown interest to trace out imprints of Hadrami religious scholars on the cultural space of Malabar. He also makes a mention of a Hadrami minister Abdullah bin Muhammad al Hadrami who married the queen of the country. The abundant existence of Shafi’I school of Islamic jurisprudence in Malabar can be interpreted as an historic imprint of Hadrami presence throughout the middle and early modern period.
The treatise Qissa narrates thename of Yemani port al Shihr amongst its narration of Cheraman Perumal, the Hindu king of Kodungallur believed to travel from home to meet the Prophet and embrace new faith. On his way back, he passed away near to this port.
The historical views on the establishment of Dars (religious education centre in the mosque) by a Hadrami Arab scholar named Muhammad bin Abdullah al Hadrami in 16th century, puts light to the active presence of Hadrami scholars in the coast. Tanur has a long history of Muslim population early since 16th century s mentioned by Zainudhin Makhdoom in Thuhfathul Mujahidin. It grew up as a centre of potential excellence in Islamic education in later centuries with people like Umar Qadi and famous Sufi Shaikh Aukoya Musliar(d.1876), Tanur sheikh Abdurahman and Pangil Ahmad Kutti Musliyar as mentors and professors.
Hadrami immigrants proved to be successful religious preachers and carriers of faith in the community around them. The spiritual values and Sufi rituals prevalent in Hadhramouth is vividly seen among locals of Malabar. The Shafi school of Islamic law followed by Hadramis is surprisingly followed by Mappilas of Malabar. They could become propagators of traditional Sunni Islam, Ba Alawi Sufism and Hadrami moderate Islam in their new home. The Ba Alawi Sufi tradition of active social participation and moderate peaceful Islam has positively put the destiny of Mapila Musilms. The economic decline and political unrest of Hadramouth made its people in a crisis by which the adventurous people fought with the situation confidently and positively. The crisis at home made them think of a new abode. A large number of people left their homes eastern countries like India and Malasia, Indonasia and other South East Asian regions. In north India, they mainly landed in Gujarat, Hyderabad and Utterpradesh. The new immigrants were active social workers, Sufi missionaries and carriers of faith. Jufri, Shihabudhin, Jamalullail, Saqaf, Aydid, Ba Alawi and Mouladdavila are some of important Qabilas landed in Kerala. They could maintain cordial relation with people. Zamorin favored them with all comfortable atmosphere while they paid back with their invaluable services in military, society and coastal securityb(Arasaratnam: 40).
The marine trade landscape of Calicut was almost empty without Muslims mariners as Brahmenic Hindu religious laws prevented them from entering to the sea(PKM: 101). This vacant space left by Hindus was utilized by Arab traders and local Muslims. The internal trade carried out by local people was widened by connecting it with international trading networks. The Arab trading community who had centuries of experience in international trade, took advantage of this vacuum for bigger fortunes. Shaikh Zainudhin Makhdoom describes Zamorin as “treated Muslims, especially Arab Muslims with great affection and honor”. The imprints of Arab merchants in the establishment and development of the city show that they have been a part and parcel of the trade for a long time. Zamorin also granted Arabs with tax reduction, patronage and security for goods. The royal security for the transportation of commercial goods is a major reason for Arab attraction towards the city. Ibn Battutta mentions it as a single instance on the planet. Vigilant gate keepers and alert security officials would not allow other to pass on to the warehouses containing the merchandise (PKM: 102)
Hadramis in Malabar
It is believed that Islam has put its light on Malabar early in the age of Prophet Muhammad. Historians say that, though all of them do not approve, the first ten mosques were built n Kerala during the period when Prophet Muhammad lived in Madina in the third decade of 7th century. It was Malik bin Dinar and his companions who ignited the first lamp of Islam n Kerala and appointed Qadis as well as port leaders of coasts (Qissa Shakrawati farmad 15-19, PKM: 113). There are differences of opinions among historians that Malik bin Dinar was a contemporary of Prophet or came after three centuries (MGS———).
Local sources of oral history tends to argue that the advent of Malik happened in 7th century but later historians hold the view that it cannot be verified with empirical research. The travel accounts by Arabs provide a picture of Muslim community in early Malabar, especially the western ports and adjacent places like Dharmadam, Kannur, Madai, Valapatanam, Panthalayani, Kollam and Calicut. Arab Muslim scholars served the community as Mufthis, Shaikhs and Qadis. Some of them were Arabs while some others came from Persia.
The Muslim community of Malabar had developed their network with international community early in the middle ages. There are instances of financial support for religious scholars of Malabar provided by rulers of Yemen in the end of 13th century(RAsulid Chronicle Nurul Ma’arif). The constant relationship of Malabar with Persian Gulf and red sea in terms of maritime trade and cultural contacts has also expanded to the correspondence of religious scholarly exchanges. The fall of Baghdad created a dispersal of scholars and professionals for safer zones where they could find b better living space under a more comfortable patronage. The presence of scholars from the Persian Gulf shows the vibrancy of communication and close cultural contacts existed between Malabar and Arab world.
The northern part of Malabar such as Dharmadam and Madai has established its cultural is religious glory earlier than Calicut. The series of the Qadis of early Calicut entitled al Shaliyati claim the descent from ibn Malik family which came to Kerala from Arabia in the first delegation of Islamic missionary. The presence of this prominent series of Qadis at Chaliyam choosing it as their centre of activities show the significance of Chaliyam over Calicut during the age. The rise of Calicut into the prominent centre of Muslim life in Malabar is viewed as a later event. Chaliyam also hosted scholars who received stipands from royal hands of Yeman during the end of 13th century.
Shaikh Fakhruddin Shaliyati was one of the early Qadis of Calicut as described by Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Zainuddin al Ma’bari(d.1586) in his network Maslak al Atqiya'(6). He was a tutor and close companion of Shaikh Zainuddin Makhdoom al Kabir(1467-1522). The absence of profound documents on the history of Muslim community in the pre-Makhdoom period has created a crisis of resources to explore detailed information of the period, still we could tell that there existed a scholarly presence connected with international networks beyond the geographical limits. Students and scholars used to travel for distant lands as part of ‘Rihla fi Talabil Ilm’ (early trend among Muslim scholars to travel for knowledge). Ibn Battutta narrates the exposure of scholar in Madai mosque in Kannur with international learning communities.
More or less, there was a group of Muslims who sought spiritual knowledge in the mosques of coastal cities receiving financial support from the mosque itself. A simple structure of Islamic learning could be seen in early years of Malabar Muslim history with a few mosques, Qadis or scholars appointed to lead religious affairs, a small circle of students around them and minority Muslim community revolves around the structure. Qadi Ramadan al Shaliati (d.1446) is the first known prominent Muslim scholar of Malabar who worked as Qadi of Calicut and Chaliyam mosque mosques. He has maintained international contacts and studied in Makkah and authored the work Umda al Ashab wa Nuzhathul Ahbab(PKM:117). He was succeeded by Abu Bakr Fakhrddin (1421- 89) who authored a commentary work for Burda of Imam Bussiri. He is also credited to be the teacher of magnificent Muslim jurist Shaikh Zainudhin Makhdood bin Ali Ahmad(d.1522), the Mudaris and Qadi of Ponnani, the axis of Muslim life of Malabar during the later centuries. He had contacts with mainstream Muslim jurist and commentator of Quran Shaikh Jalaludhin al Mahalli lived in Hijaz during 15th century.
The Makhdooms of Ponnani were axix of Muslim life and culture around which Malabar revolved since the second halfof 15th century. ‘Makhdoom’ is a honorary title name given to Shaikh Zaindddin bin Ali (1467-1522) and his grandson Shaikh Ahmad Zainuddin (1532-1619) and inherited by their successors in later centuries. The duo has created a golden epoch in the religious and educational history of the Muslim community in Kerala which can be classified into Pre-Makhdoom and Post Makhdoom periods. Their home town Ponnani and its mosque was transmitted into a ‘Makkah of Malabar’ from which the torch of culture and learning was held across the countries. The two hard core jurists firmly established a systematic network of Muslim scholarship based on ‘Fakhri curriculum’ which became popular among the community across the state.
The mosque of Ponnani became an excellent centre of learning to which people from distant lands traveled for intensive learning and get accredited with ‘vilakkathirikkal ceremony’, a tradition in which the students who completed their regular learning will sit around an oil lam and observe learning for seeking Barakah from the Mudarris. This was considered as a completion and convocation for new graduates.
Makhdooms of Ponnani is a Yemenite original Arab family came to Kerala through Al Ma’bar, the south eastern port of India, known as Coromandal in modern Tamilnadu. The port is popular among Arab travelers of the period and was mentioned by European traveler Marco Polo(1926:285).
It is believed that the first Makhdoom in India was Ahmad al Ma’bari, the grand father of Shaikh Zainudhin Makhdoom Ali al Kabir, who came to Ma’bar for the first time and later came to Cochin where they served for a long period. Shaikh Zainudhin Makhdoom al Kabir was born in Cochin, accompanied Zainudhin bin Ahmad, his paternal uncle to Ponnani in the western coast of Southern Malabar region. He completed his primary learning from Zainudhin and joined his uncle and Qadi of Calicut, Shaikh Abubakar Fakhrdhin bin Rramadan al Shaliyati. He traveled to Makkah and later to Jamiathul Azhar in Egypt for higher studies where he could have an international exposure with legendary Muslim scholar Imam Jalaludhin al Suyuti. In his foreign years he could also join with Abubakar al Aydarus al Hadrami(d. 1512), Shaikh Muhammad al Sakhavi(1497), Sayyid Muhammad al Zumhudi (1506) and Shaikh Ahmad bin Shamsudhin al Tantavi(1541)(Nellikkuthu Musliyar: 1997: 15).
Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Zainudhin bin Ali narrates a list of scholars from which Al Kabir learned. They are Shaikh Ahmad Shihabudhin Uthman al Yamani, Abdurahman al Adami, Shamsudhin al Jawjari(1418-1484), Shaikh Kamaludhin Muhammad bin Abu Sharif(1500) and legendary Muslim jurist Shaikh Zakariya al Answari(1420-1520).
Al Kabir is credited with founding a centre of learning in his mosque at Ponnani which later produced a large number of Muslim scholars in different theological sciences such as jurisprudence, Quran, Hadith, Ilmul Kalam and etc. he also contributed to the anti-colonial literatre with his monumental work- Thahrid Ahlil Iman Ala Jihadi Abadathi Sulban. He has authored more than twenty books including Murshidu Tullab, Qasidathu Hidayathil Adhkiya’, Minhajul Abidin and Irshadul Qasidin fi Ikhtisari Minhajil Abidin.
His elder son Muhammad al Ghazali went to and settled in Kunhippalli Chombal near Mahe in North Malabar, where he served as Qadi. He gave birth to the legendary scholar Shaikh Zaindhin al Saghir (Junior). Shaikh Abdul Aziz bin Zainudhin, another son of Al Kabir succeeded him in Ponnani mosque where he continued role of his father in learning and leadership.
The second great Makhdoom, Shaikh Zainudhin, who was also called ‘al Sani’ and ‘al Saghir’ was born and brought up in Chombal, the new seat of his father al Gazali. After the completion of primary education with his father, he joined his uncle Zainudhim at Ponnani and later with Ismail al Shakri of Bhatkal. In order to seek higher learning, Shaikh Zainudhin traveled to Makkah following the way of his grand father to join Shihabudhin bin Hajar al Haithami(1503-1566), Shaikh Izzudhin bin Abdul Aziz al zamzami, Shaikh Abdurahman bin Ziyad, Sayyid Abdurahman al Safwi. He gained spiritual knowledge from Sufi scholar Quthbuzzaman Zainul Arifin Muhammad bin Shaikh al Arif Abu Hasan al Bakr and was honored with eleven Khirkath(a symbol of grade in Sufi orders). He later became a master(Shaikh) of Qadiriyyah Tariqah.
Al Saghir, reaching back to home at Ponnani, authored his great work in jurisprudence, Fathul Mu’in which has been followed till this time as an authentic source of Shafi’I in different Muslim countries. His exposure with the social and political history is widely appreciated through his popular book ‘Thuhfathul Mujahidin fi Akhbaril Burthuqalyyin’ (Gift to holly warriers in details of Portuguese) which is considered as the earliest source of reference in the history of Kerala society of early centuries. He was a dynamic leader of his contemporary society who inspired the people for anti –colonial struggles. His profound scholarship is seen through his works Qurratul Aain, Irshadul Ibad, Ihkamu Ahkaminnikah, Sharahu sudur, Al ajwibathul ajeebah, al jawahirm al manhaj(The obvious pattern) and al fathawal hindiyyah(Indian decrees). He has reached out to the society beyond a typical cleric and made decisive intervention in the political spheres of the region. He had strong relations with Muslim statesmen within and beyond the state. He could maintain a good relation with Bijapur Sultans such as Sultan Ali Adil Shah I and Zamorin, the Hindu King of Calicut. He has made correspondence with major political figures of his age for the sake of the community as well as the state.
Sayyid Families in Kerala
The light of Islam has reached Kerala early in the life time of Prophet Muhamad (though there are some scholars who reject the argument). More over,the land has been attracted by Arabs since the pre- Islamic period who were traders, travelers and businessmen.
The age old trade relations as well as cultural contacts were tailed with migrations for the cause of Islam, its propagation and revival in later centuries. It was Yemen, the land of adventurous travelers, Sufi missionaries and sailors which contributed the highest nmber of Arab immigrants to Malabar and other parts of Kerala. Sayyids of Hadarmouth holds a major share among these migrants during the late middle age and later period. Kerala has hosted a number of Sayyid families came and settled in different parts both coastal and hinterlands. Hadharmouth is the ancestral home of all these Sada families except Bukhari family who came from Bukhara, Transoxiana. Richard Burton says that it is generally said that the sunrises not upon a land that does not contain a man from Hadhramouth(1956: 58). There are some Sada families coming from Africa, Makkah and Indonasia but their ancestors are Hadramis who migrated to these lands.
Sayyid families disopersed across the world were later called with title names composed of any relevant grandfather normally an extra ordinary scholar, reformer, migrant, influential political, religious or social figure of their age. There are more than five humdred such family names called Qabilas in present world.(Konnar 2004: 34). There are 40 Qabilas came and settled in Kerala and call of them are Husainis (coming through the bloodline of Husain bin Ali).
Aal Shihab is the most influential Qabila among Sada families in Kerala. The name had its origin from Shihabudhin, an influential Hadrami born in Tarim in Hadarmouth in 887 AH(887-946 AD). His real name is Ahmad but people used the title ‘Shihabudhin’ as a honor of his scholarship and personal charisma. (He was also called Shihabudhin Asghar and his grandfather was called Shihabudhin Akbar but former became more popular than his grandfather).
The Shihab bloodline came to Kerala through Sayyid Shihabudhin Ali al Hadrami (1159- 1212 AH) who landed in Calicut and settled in Kannur. His descendants moved to Calicut and settled in Panakkad, Malappuram district by which they were later known as ‘Panakkad Thangal’. The history and influence of the family will be discussed in the third chapter.
Bukharis of Kerala came from Bukhara, the paradise of medieval Islamic learning. The name came form their illustrious forefather Sayyid Muhammadul Bukhari (d. 405 AH). (Muhammad al Bukhari is grandson of Sayyid Ali al Ashgar Jalaludhin of Baghdad. During his period, the family was called Jalaliyyah. Their ancestors were also called Kalimi denoting to their grandfather Musa al Kadim.(Konnar 57)). The first Bukhari came to Valapatanam, the then coastal commercial city in North Malabar in 1521 AD. He was a merchant and missionary in one. After the death of his Bukhari wife who accompanied him to Kerala, he married a local woman (daughter of Seethi Ibrahimm the Qadi of Valapatanam) and stayed at ‘Sayyidintakathu’ house in the city. His grave is preserved near Kakkkulangara mosque. In later centuries their descendants dispersed in Valapatanam, Konnaru, Bukhara beach of Chavakkad, Matool, Talasseri, Ezhimala, Kunhi mangalam, Uddharam, Kochin, Karvanthiruthi, Chaliyam, Payyoli and Tanur. The family produced scholars like Sayyid Muhammad al Bukhari Paravanna(d. 1077) , Sayyid Ismail al Bukhari Karuvanthiruthi (d. 1133 AH) who married from Makhdoom family of Ponnani, Sayyid Muhammad Bukhari Konnar (born in Karuvanthiruthi as son of Sayyid Abdurahman Bukhari and settled in Konnar near Vazhakkad. He later became spiritual leader of Konnaru and premises) and Sayyid Muhammad Moulal Bukhari who was an influential Islamic missionary scholar who proved to be one of the most successful scholar in Kerala, Tamilnadu and Lakdives. He had a cordial relationship with Tippu Sultan, the anti-colonial figure of Mysore. Sayyid Ahmadul Bukhari born in Konnar and traveled to Kavarathi island and later came back to home town.
Kunhikkoya Thangal of Malappuram is a notable figure among Bukharis. Being a leader of anti-colonial struggles in the mid of 19th century, he was a fighter in the forefront of freedom struggle along with Athan Kurikkal. He was arrested by British police for instigating Mappilas against British government and put in trial. H.V Conoli, the them collector of Malabar district sent a report of Mappila out breaks and role of Kunhikkoya Thangal inspiring Mappila to the warfield against British government.(Konnar: 58). He has participated in the outbreaks of Manjeri and premised and at least breathed his last along with Athan Kurikkal in the mutiny at Angadippuram temple. His body was thrown into the large deserted well in the neighbourhood of Angadippuram Cutcheri (CMO: P 29).
Kumaramputhur Seethikoya Thangal, Malappuram Kunhikkoya Thangal, Sayyid Konyanhikkoya of Vadakara, Cherunni Thangal of Konnar are some of Bukhari notables. Sayyid Muhammad Koya Thangal of Konnar was a man of valour and legacy both as a spiritual leader and freedom fighter. A man, not so much tall and stout, in white cloths with a sword, Sayyid Muhammad Koya Thangal was a brave and powerful leader(K Madhavan Nair, Malabar Kalapam). Being a master of Qadiriyya Sufi order, he had a network of students across the region. He was a member of Indian National Congress (1914-19) and president of Khilafath committee of the region and a close associate of Variyamkunnath Kunhahammad Haji, the legendary leader of Malabar Khilafat Committee.
Variyamkunnath Kunhahammad Haji and fellow leaders met him at Areakode to propagate Khilafat mission among locals(GRF Totten Ham, Mappila rebellion). They organized the first Khilafat conference at his residence at Konnar in which 2000 locals attended. Founding a Khilafath court at Konnar, he established a parallel rule in the region.(R H. Hitch Cock, A history of Malabar rebellion, P: 126). A draft petition purporting to be from Konnara Thangal and addressed to the officer commanding troops of Malabar was found n Konnara Thangal’s box. It enumerated their greivences at the hands of troops and the insults done to mosques and women and their unbeatable condition and then went on to say that those who started Khilafat office office and collected arms(Hitch Cock: 134). In his Khilafat Raj court, numbers of those who worked for British government against freedom fighters were trialed.
Mappilas under him attacked British military camp at Poolakkodu near Calicut in octobar 1921. The two armiesa met at dark midnight and many mappilas sacrificed their lives(K.P Kesavamenon,: Kazhinha Kalam). As a response, the British troops charged at the Jamia mosque of Konnar in which a number of local Muslims were murdered.(K. Koyatti Moulavi, 1921 Malabar Lahala). The principal gang at large were those under the Konnara Thangal and Karath Moideen Kutty Haji in the hills of Areakode(Totten Ham, Mappila rebellion, P: 53). After the fall of his home village, he moved to Calicut and started fighting when he found it impossible to remain in his area south of the river, he crossed this dividing line well into Calicut Taluk (Hitch Cock: Malabar rebellion P: 126). Finally he was arrested, trialed and was arrested in central prison of Coimbatore, where he was sentenced to death.
Mouladdavila had its advent in Kerala in 1183 AH by the coming of Spayed Alavi Mouladdavila, popular as Mamburam Thangal. (The name Mouladdavila came from Spayed Muhammad bin Sayed Ali bin Spayed Alawi bin Muhammad al Faqihul Muqaddam who born in Babjar, east of Hadarmouth. The place was also known as ‘Yabharhood’). It is seen there were two places called ‘Yabhar’ among which the bigger was called ‘Yabharu Davila’, means greater Davila. Later Muhammad bin Ali was called ‘Mouladdavila’ which means ‘Master of Davila.
Spayed Ali came to Kerala leaving his homeland Tarim in his 17th age. He came to Mampuram in Malappuram district where he became a spiritual leader, political and social figure. He stood firm in the forefront of anti colonial struggles during the British rule. Sayyid Alawi married Fathima, daughter of his uncle Hasan Jirfi. His son Sayed Fazal was a scholar, author, orator and vibrant political leader who was arrested by British army and was sent in exile to Hijaz where he raised into the leadership of community and became closely connected with Ottoman Caliph Murad Affendi who appointed his as governor of Saffarah.
Sayyid Fazal’s exile was based on a report of T.L. Strange commission appointed by British government to inquire about his role in instigating the local people against British colonialism. He authored Uddathul Umara’ wal ukkam li Ihanathil Kafarah Va Abadathil Asnam, Asasul Islam, Kouikabuddurri and etc. He breathed his last in Istanbul in 1901 AD and was buried there.
The Jufris Qabila reached Kerala by the coming of Sayyid Shaikh Jufri, a Sufi in Qadiriyya order who was born and brought up n Al Hawi of Tarim in Hadarmouth. Shaikh Jifri was welcomed by Zamorin of Calicut who granted him Maliyekkal residency of Kuttichira (It was later known as Jufri House). He became close with Manavikraman, the Zamorin of Calicut and Tippu Sultan of Mysore. He authored Al koukabu Durriyah, Kanzul Barahin, Al Isharathul Jufriyyah Fi Raddidalalathil Najdiyyah and etc. Sheikh Jufri was also credited as a tutor of Sayyid Shihabuddin al Hadrami, Sayyid Alawi Mampuram and Qazi Muhyuddin. Sayed Husain Jufri was another Jufri immigrant reached Kerala from Hadarmouth in 1239 AH. Landing at Calicut he visited Sayed Alawi of Mampuram who deputed him to Juma Masjid of Kondinhi where he served as a Qadi.
Sayyidul Qutub Abdurahman al Aydarus was the first to reach Kerala among Sadas of Aydarus Qabila. In 1115 AH he came to Calicut and moved to Quilandi and later went to Pennant where he married a woman from Makhdoom family and spent rest of his life. His tomb is preserved is in Pennant Valiya Jaram(Big tomb).
Sayed Abdurahman al Aydarusi (1930———–), better known as Azhari Thangal, is a notable figure among Aydarus Sada. After his primary studies in local mosque he joined Baqiyatu Salihat, the traditional Muslim centre of learning n South India and secured a degree in Baqawi. He studied in Darul Uloom Diuband and received the title of Al Qasimi. He travelled to Egypt and joined Jamiathul Azhar University for higher studies. He served as professor in Sanusi University, Libiya, Riyadh University of Soudi Arabia and Qulaisa University of Makkah. He authored Min Navabi’ Ulama Malaibar and Tarikhul Arab val Arabiyyah.
Ba faqih is one of the prominent Sayed families in Kerala, reached in 1770 AD by the coming of Sayed Ahmad Bafaqih, a Hadrami trader and scholar who settled later in Quilandi in Calicut. He was an influential Islamic scholar who established a number of mosques in north Malabar.
Sayed Abdurahman Bafaqih Thangal (1905-1973) was a charismatic leader of Kerala Muslims who was a shining star as a political leadr, social figure, scholar and philanthropist. Being an international trader, he had an exposure with great people beyond the country. He had cordial relation with Sultan of Maldives who exempted him from import tax. Heestablised ‘Bafaqih and Company’ which became prominent of its kind in Burma. In 1938 AD he had his political debut which culminated in holding the seat of president of Indian Union Muslim League in 1956. He has made invaluable contributions in the educational, social, political and religious upliftment of Kerala Muslims and it gained him the title Qaidul Qoum(Leader of the community).
The Ba Alawi family came to Kerala during the beginning of 17th century. Spayed Ali Hamid Ba Alawi came from Makkah and stayed at Calicut where his descendants got dispersed in later period. His granddaughter was married to an Arab Sayyid in Madina. Varakkal Mullakkoya Thangal, the founding president of Samastha Kerala Jam’iyathul Ulama, the biggest religious educational organization followed by traditional Muslims is a notable figure among Ba Alawis of Kerala. The organization has made tremendous contribution for the educational development which paved way for the renaissance of Mappila Muslims. His efforts were decisive in founding of the largest scholar network which carried out a mass movement establishing nearly ten thousand primary educational centres along with hundreds of higher institutes in and out the state carrying more than a million students. Varakkal Mullakkoya Thangal Ba Alawi, popularly known as Varakkal Thangal was religious scholar and multiliguist who held high positions in Arakkal palace, the only one Muslim monarch in Kerala. He had a good relation with Willium Logan, the British Collector of Malabar district.
Sayed Qutub Muhammad Jamalullayl (1165-1232) is the first immigrant among Jamalullayl family in Kerala. He came from Aah in Indonasia where his father was a governor and settled in Kadalundi, the coastal city of South Malabar.
The Ahdal Qabila reached Kerala by the coming of Sayed Abdurahman al Ahdal in the beginning of 19th century. He returned to Hadarmouth, his homeland but left his bloodline in Malabar through Sayed Abdul Qadi who was born for a local woman he married form Makhdoom family. SAyed Ali Barami brought the Alu Barami family to Malabar from Baroom in Hadramouth in 1797 AD. The Baramis carried on their traditional way of life as traders and business men in Calicut.
Aal Bil Faqih and Aal Faqih families are found in Kerala. Sayed Abdullah Aydid brought Aydid family to Kerala in the mid of 19th century. His son Sayed Muhammd Aydid was a member of Khilafat committee in 1921. Waht, Al Shatiri, Ba Hasan, Qarid, Al Haddad, Aal Hamdun. Aal Musava, Jilani, Aal Muqaibil, Aal Mashoor, Aal Duhum, Aal Shilli, Aal Sahir, Aal Junaid, Aal Mushayyaq, Maqdi, Saqaf, Aal Hade, Aal Mumawar, Aal Mamfar, Thurab, Aal Hasani and Ba Abud are Spayed families found in Kerala.