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THE AFRICAN SOUTH ASIAN CONNECTION IN THE HADHRAMI DIASPORA by Mohamed Bakari Introduction This paper will try to address itself to the ınterconnectıons between aspects of African and South Asian societies in the Hadhrami diaspora. It starts with the assumptıon that historical experiences between the African coast and South Asia through their historical relatıons with the Hadhramaut forged common cultural, economic and intellectual outlooks between the two societies. The migrations of people of Hadhrami origin into both South Asia and the Eastern coast of Africa happened at almost the same historical periods, occasioned by circumstances in the Hadhramaut itself. These circumstances ranged from ecological challenges to deliberate and voluntary migrations of critical mass of Hadhramis to resettle themselves in both the African coasts and the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian archipaelago. These migrations were to have a profound impact on the societies that received these immigrants. The paper will also look at some aspects of Eastern African Islamic society that parallel those found in the Malay World and that gave shape to the emergence of Muslim communities before the dawn of European colonization; the changes that came in the wake of European colonialism and how these paved the way for the second wave of Hadhrami migration into East Africa from an earlier one in the Islamic medieval age. The earlier Hadhrami immigrants had been invariably drawn from among the Sada, the descendents of the Prophet Muhammad and these created the core of the ulama of Eastern Africa, whereas the more recent immigrants, who came around the tail end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century were drawn from different social strata and came to seek employment rather than spread Islam as their Sayyid predecessors had done; they were less educated than the earlier immigrants. The paper will pay more attention to the impact of the Sayyid immigrants and their indigenization. These issues will be treated under various rubrics, viz Conceptualization of space, the Hadhrami diaspora in the Western Indian Ocean, Sada clans in the Western Indian Ocean, the Educational Curriculum, and Travels to Indonesia.

Colonial and Postcolonial Conceptualizations of Space: Before we start charting the trajectories and connections it is important to rethink some of the categories of descriptions that had been in use until now, if we are to understand these influences and the momentous changes wrought by these diaspora contacts. For example, Africa is discussed in terms of the geographical separation between what is described as the Arab North and Black Africa South of the Sahara, and Asia, and the division of the latter as the Asia that abutts the Indian Ocean and that part of Asia that is within the orbit of the South China Sea. This conceptual understanding of these regions creates the impression that these geographical divides are neat and discontinuous and that the regions drawn by these boundaries have little to do with each other. This kind of division is associated with what is termed the Eurocentric view and is traceable to the colonial legacy that sought to accentuate divisions in furtherance of the colonial project of divide and rule. In an important paper on Islam in the Indian Ocean, the Canadian historian Gwyn Campbell has called on scholars to rethink the wisdom of looking at Africa and Asia from this conceptual lens ,when all indications are that these regions could meaningfully be better understood by using the categories of Western Indian Ocean, and Eastern Indian Ocean, to embrace large tracts of land that have influenced each other at all levels of human contact. A phenomenon such as globalization can only be properly understood by re-conceptualizing how we think of those parts of Africa and Asia that have historically connected through trade and the establishment of networks that cut across national and traditional geographical boundaries. He notes for example, that there have 1

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been three conceptual approaches, which he calls ‘traditions’, each with its own agenda: the Eurocentric, Asia-centric and Afro-centric. Each of these traditions or approaches is exclusive, each privileging the European impact on these areas at the expense of the primary positive role that Islam played for over a millennium, and arguing that in fact, it was because of Pax Islamicus that had been established by the various Muslim powers over the longue dureé that Europe was able eventually to penetrate and establish its technological, political and cultural hegemony over much of the Indian Ocean region. In this regard, Campbell preferred the more inclusive category of the Indian Ocean World. Let us quote him at length: “The Indian Ocean World here taken to comprise all regions directly involved in the long-distance maritime trade network of the first global economy, an economy that was regulated by the monsoon system of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. The Indian Ocean World economy comprises the entire area from the Cape to Cairo to Calcutta to Canton. The main maritime trade network complimented the older overland trans-Asian ‘silk road.’ In the western Indian Ocean World, both converged on two main trading hubs: the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. This formed the economic context for the rise of Islam. The first Muslim conquests, in the Fertile Crescent and Red Sea regions captured the two main routes from the Indian Ocean to Egypt and the Mediterranean. The next targets were the overland ‘Silk Route’ and the Persian Gulf Region: In the seventh century , Islam captured the Persian Sassanid Empire, brought Persia and Iraq under common rule, and dominated the chief overland routes to Syria (Abu-Lughod 1989:209; Pearson 2000:37; Reid 1993: 1415;Strathern1993:13). Although Medina and Mecca remained the spiritual foci of Islam, its centre of power shifted from Arabia to Damascus under the Umayyad dynasty (661-750) and to Baghdad under the Abbasids between 750 and 1258 (Eaton 1993:12-13).” (Campbell 2007: 48).

Two factors, the Islamic connection together with its Shafi’ manifestation, that tie Africa to the Hadhrami South Asian diaspora. The category ‘Western Indian Ocean World’ is more useful because it embraces the whole of the Horn of Africa, all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope, which with regard to Islam we are speaking of a homogeneous cultural area, including the Arabian Peninsula. This conceptualization will also include the off shore islands of the Grande Comoros and Madagascar. Although archeological evidence points to the ninenth century1 spread of Islam to these parts of Africa, a more sustained process of Islamization actually took place around the fifteenth century, and the Hadhrami diaspora was responsible for giving shape to many aspects of Islamic culture in these parts of Africa. Indeed, to date, western Indian Ocean Islam remains predominantly Shafi’ all the way from Cairo in the North to Cape Town in the South. Already by the fourteenth century, Arab travellers like Ibn Batutta had already noticed the Islamic outlines of the local African cultures, from Mogadishu down to the Eastern African Coast, along the seaboard. The Hadhrami diaspora in the Western Indian Ocean World coincided with that of the Eastern Indian Ocean World and was to have the same kind of impact on the Malay World that comprises both present day Malaysia and Indonesia. This emigration of the Hadharim to both these parts was contemporaneous with the European voyages of discovery, and the discovery of the Americas in particular, at the tail end of the fifteenth century, and was to usher in an early form of globalization in which there was a movement of peoples, goods and ideas. This was also the beginning of a new cosmopolitanism. In our view, this was just yet another instance of globalization centred around the sea. It could be argued that the Roman Empire was the earliest of those ancient civilizations to set in motion the movements of peoples, goods and ideas on a global scale, although Roman civilization was centered around the Mediterranean, the British Isles and parts of Asia.
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Horton, Mark:Shanga. The Archeology of a Muslim Trading Community on the Coast of East Africa.London:British Institute in Eastern Africa.1996.

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The Hadhrami Diaspora in the Western Indian Ocean World There has not been a systematic attempt to study the Hadhrami diaspora in the Western Indian Ocean World. What we know of the diaspora itself is inferred from the study of related phenomena like the evolution of intellectual culture and the educational institutions on which it was founded, or on ethnic compositions of communities or societies. The Hadharim were subsumed under the generic term ‘Arab’, which could mean anything from Omanis to Muslims in general. The Omanis had a much higher profile because of their imperial and slave activities on Africa’s Eastern shores, while the Hadhrami concentrated on trade. Some attempt to address the issue of Arab migration to East Africa began in earnest only in the early 1970s, by B.G. Martin, an Indiana University historian who had earlier worked on the Islamic intellectual tradition in West Africa. In reality, his work could not have been possible without the seminal writings in Swahili by Sheikh Abdallah Saleh Farsy2. Sheikh Farsy’s work was sufficiently important to be later translated into English for wider dissemination by the Australian scholar R.L. Pouwels working on his own project on the intellectual classes in medieval and late medieval East Africa. While Martin’s work was in essence a summary of Farsy’s Swahili extended essay on the Shafi’ ulama in East Africa and their impact, Pouwel was to follow leads from this essay to chart new ground on the intellectual tradition in East Africa; in Pouwel’s work he traces the interconnecting webs of educational and social networks that helped sustain a modest culture of scholarship. In both Farsy’s work and that of Pouwel it becomes clear that colonial political boundaries did little to frustrate indigenous religious scholarship and culture from thriving. B.G. Martin noticed that in what he called “the learned classes” the formation of the Islamic intellectual culture was predicated upon the existence of a classical curriculum derived from well known medieval texts to be found in Sunni Shafi’ world; that there was a peripatetic culture in which students and teachers would travel in search, or imparting, of knowledge. Martin also noticed that most emphasis was placed on jurisprudence and mysticism; that the jurists were at the same time affiliated to one tariqa or another. Much of the time and most of the places were firmly Shafite until the emergence of the new crop of Saudi trained ulama in the mid 1970s. Although this may not be the exact picture if one were to count the creeping influence of the modernist ulama like Sheikh Al- Amin Bin Ali Al- Mazrui and his students, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Kasim Mazrui, and Sheikh Abdallah Saleh Farsy whom we alluded to earlier, before he became attracted to salafism, a euphemism currently used to refer politely to those with Wahhabi tendencies. By the 1930s Sheikh Al-Amin AlMazrui was firmly entrenched within the salafist tradition through his subscription to Rashid Rida’s journal, Al Manar, founded by the Egyptian modernist Muhammad Abduh. Sheikh Al –Amin AlMazrui and his two students were all pure products of the traditional Islamic education system whose roots were in Hadhramaut cities of Tarim, Shibam and Seyun. These cities were the main scholarly centers of Hadhrami Islam and Sada strongholds. The Sada were the descendents of Prophet Muhammad; relative to their numerical strength, they have played a disproportionate role in spreading Islam on the Eastern African seaboard. Hadhrami society has been rigidly hierarchical as earlier documented by Abdallah Bujra, in his now classic anthropological study, The Politics of Stratification,3 with the Sada at the top of the packing order. To know something of the historical antecedents of the Sada, variously known as Saiyids, Sidis, Syed or Seyyed, depending upon what geographical area you have in mind, is to understand the important role these putative descendents of the Prophet played in spreading Islam and its spiritual tradition. In Eastern Africa, the earliest Hadhrami diasporic groups were the Sayyids, locally better
Farsy, Abdallah Saleh: Baadhi ya Wanavyuoni wa Kishafi wa Mashariki ya Afrika. Mtungaji Press. Mombasa. 1972.
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Bujra, Abdallah S.: The Politics of Stratification.Oxford University Press. 1971.

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known as Masharifu, Swahili for the Arabic ashraf. The history of their migration is documented in both Arabic and English sources. Of interest is the fact that all the Sayyid families have their own individual genealogical charts and family trees that trace descent from the male line. The Sada in the Western Indian Ocean World are all invariably from the Al Husseini branch. Almost all of these families had been nativized for so long as to be thought of as a distinct group and rarely, paradoxically, are ever thought of as Hadhrami; they are set apart from the general Hadhrami group because the latter are relatively recent immigrants compared to the length of time that the Sada families have been around. The non-Sada Hadhrami were often drawn from among the illiterate and the poor, whereas the Masharifu were the most literate in Arabic and although they were initially in the forefront of rejecting Western education, a few were sufficiently foresighted to avail themselves or their children of the opportunities to acquire this education. The majority, however, tended to be very conservative; they were identified with the resistance against British education, which in their eyes was no more than a Trojan horse hiding potential Christian proselytization. They have always seen themselves as the defenders and disseminators of the Islamic tradition. Historical studies on Islam in the South Asian and East African Hadhrami diaspora, like those of R.B.Serjeant trace this migration to the 18th century, we can safely surmise that the masharifu have been consistently active from around that time.

Sada Clans in the Western Indian Ocean World There are only a handful of Sada clans spread along the African littoral, and mainly in the coastal urban centres. Over the years the clans have intermarried among themselves, adhering strictly to legal notion of Kafah. However, there have been extensive intermarriages with the non-Sada for practical reasons. The earliest clan to migrate to this part of the world appears to have been the Ahdal, and followed by the Abu Bakr bin Salim. The latter is a mixed group that includes the majority Jamal al- Layl and the Saggaf, and the other clans are the Basakut, Al Attas, Al Beydh, Al Baity, Al Mihdhar. The last two are actually among the most recent immigrant Sada clans, arriving in the midtwentieth century. The Al Baity are from North Yemen and not sufficiently homogenized locally. It appears the earliest Sharifite clans that immigrated to the African continent landed on the present day Somali Coast and later spread southwards. They had a strong presence on the Island of Pate, in the Lamu Archipaelago, in both Pate town itself and the neighbouring modestly sized town of Siyu. This area is believed to be the birthplace of the Swahili language and the earliest written literature is based on these northern dialects. The Sada dispersed southwards to Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa, Vanga, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, the Grande Comoros, Anjouan and Madagascar from Pate. The original dispersal point from the north appears to be Mogadishu and the city-state of Brava (Barawa). Pate was a thriving urban centre with verdant surroundings that must have made agriculture possible in order to sustain a modest population that created a microcosmic literary culture and civilization. We surmise this from the impact of equally modest places that became the nucleus of important intellectual movements. The example that comes to mind is of course Florence in Italy, where we know that the Renaissance originated from the efforts of intellectuals like the great Italian poet Patrarch who collected manuscripts of ancient Greece that came with the Byzantine refugees from Constantinople after its capture by the Ottomans in 1453. Petrarch’s collections were to be supplemented by those collected and preserved by the Medicis. He was later to inspire Renaissance men of letters like Dante and Boccaccio to create works of enduring value to counter the invariable Medieval Christian tradition. Erich Auerbach, for example, argues that Dante’s Divine Comedy is in fact a secular poem. We see a parallel in East Africa where the Swahili written literary tradition owed its existence to the efforts of these Sayyids from Hadhramaut, who played a leading role in creating and sustaining this literary culture. Lydon Harries, one of the great twentieth century scholars of classical Swahili Islamic t credits the immigrant Sayyids for the flowering of written Swahili literature in the Arabic script. We get a glimpse of the important contribution made by the Hadhrami scholarly elite in the following observations of Harries (Lyndon Harries, 1962): 4

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“Although Swahili poetry derives from Arabic poetry, in many respects there are fundamental differences. It cannot properly be compared with Arabic poetry, for it is sui generis. The Arabist may recognize the obvious connexion between Swahili poetry and Arabic poetry, especially in its subject- matter, but Swahili poetry cannot be considered as an extension of Arabic poetry or even as a modification of it. Swahili poetry exists in its own right and therefore must be estimated, as to its merit, for what it is in itself. At the same time, those Arabists who have had some experience of Swahili poetry do not fail to show the deepest interest and recognize that without a knowledge of its Arabian background even Swahili-speaking Africans may fail to understand that in their poetry the Swahili have a possession of which they may well be proud.” (Harries, Lyndon, 1962:3) He goes on to add that: “Along the Swahili coast there was from very early times contact with Arab seamen and traders. The more spontaneous religious verse was brought to the Swahili coast by these Arabs of the Yemen and Hadhramawt, especially the latter. An important influence in establishing the tradition of Swahili versification was also that of the educated religious leaders, nearly all Saiyids, in whose hands most of the secular and religious education lay. It sometimes happened that the advent of a Saiyid family was a direct result of a plea for aid against the Portuguese invaders by individual Muslim rulers of the Swahili coastal citadels. Perhaps the best example of this is the request made, according to the Swahili chronicler, Bwana Kitini, by the Sultan of Pate (probably Muhammad V) to Sheikh Abubakr Bin Salim(died AD 1584) that he should ‘pray to Allah on our behalf that he may deliver us from our enemies’. The Sheikh sent his two sons, Ali and Husein, to Pate with a contigent. They settled in Pate where the names of the districts , like Sarambi and Inati, derive from the names given by members of the family to to their homes there. Some measure of confirmation regarding this tradition is given in Shamsu Dhahira al-Dhahiya, by Saiyid Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. Husein al- Mashhur(Deccan, Haidarabad, A.D. 1911) ,though according to this account it was the descendents of Ali and Husein who settled in East Africa, not Ali and Husein themselves. In any case, there is no doubt whatsoever that members of this distinguished Hadhrami family came to live on the Swahili coast and among them were some of the most outstanding poets. We may mention now Saiyid Abdallah b. Ali b. Nasir(A.D. 17201820) author of the poem al-Inkishafi, and Saiyid Abu Bakr b. Abd alRahman(known to the Swahili as Saiyid Mansab), author of many Swahili religious poems. The Saiyids were Arabs, but because they wrote in Swahili it is customary to include them in the category of Swahili poets. The later descendents of the Saiyids were, of course, born of African mothers. The Saiyids brought with them didactic and homiletic verse in Arabic, and these were paraphrased in Swahili, the poems often including the interlinear Arabic version which did not necessarily correspond in meaning with the Swahili version. This type of verse was supplemented by even freer renderings of popular tales of Islam, some of with reference to actual events in the life of the Prophet Muhammad or to historical happenings in early Islam, but usually with an indistinguishable border-line between fact and fiction. These we may refer to as romantic epics; they do not appear to be later than the homiletic shorter poems, but rather contemporaneous with them.”

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Here we note that Lyndon Harries was struggling to place these creative Saiyids in some ethnic category consonant with the prevailing colonial ideology of racial classification. We of course now assume that people have multiple identities, which they carry around wherever they go. The Saiyids were of course both Arab and African, they were biracial, to use the current American idiom popularized in the media since the rise of President Barack Obama. These Sayyids saw themselves essentially as dai’ or Muslim missionaries and used literature as a didactic tool and a vehicle of conversion. They re-wrote the great Islamic epics in Kiswahili and at the same time created new ones. They brought in the Shafi’ madhhab from the Hadhramaut, and its mystical tradition to the West Indian Ocean African World. One of the great Sufi poems in pretwentieth century Swahili Islamic literature, Al Inkishafi, was created, as Harries noted, by the descendent of these immigrant Sayyids, Sayyid Abdallah Bin Nasir, of the Abu Bakr Bin Salim clan, in the nineteenth century. The Abu Bakr Bin Salim also brought with them the Alawi tariqa to the Western Indian Ocean World. This tariqa is really a family affair and although it has non-Sada members, it is firmly associated with the Sada families, who are its automatic members. However, this has not also stopped some Sada here to be associated with other more recent tariqa. Both the mystical tradition and the Swahili literary tradition are incomprehensive without the role of the Sada ulama on Pate Island. The Abu Bakr Bin Salim were the ruling family in Pate and were related to the non-Sada ruling aristocratic families there, like the Nabhany and family of the Siyu ruler Bwana Mataka. Interestingly, the Abu Bakr Bin Salim did not leave behind the legacy of the cult of veneration of saints on the Pate Island. This was to be established farther north in Lamu and the Grande Comoros by the later Abu Bakr Bin Salim clan members, and the Jamali Leyl there. There is no full- length historical study of the Hadhrami migration to Western Indian Ocean World. Most of what is available is in the form of journal articles that look at specific aspects of these migrations. As noted earlier, the pioneering work was done by Sheikh Abdallah Saleh Farsy and his work provided pointers to the Hadhrami migration. These pointers concentrated on the lives of the influential ulama, who mostly happened to have been of Sada background. Farsy reconstructed intellectual life in Eastern African through oral sources and a few scattered sources in Swahili and Arabic. It is from these sources that B.G Martin himself based his earlier articles. It is important to note that Martin had earlier worked in West Africa where local Arabic sources had played an important role in reconstructing many aspects of Islamic society and its institutions, together with its vibrant intellectual culture. It is through his work that the English reading public with an interest on East Africa’s intellectual culture came to know something of the role that Hadhrami intellectuals, both Sada and non-Sada, came to sustain something of the life of the mind in East Africa. B.G. Martin makes the vital connection between the Hadhrami migration to Asia and that to the African littoral. Migartion to Western Indian Ocean was as important as that to the Eastern Indian Ocean. Yet it is Gywn Campbell who emphasizes that the European discovery of sea routes to Asia and the subsequent European imperialism would not have been possible were the routes not opened and maintained by the equally imperial ambitions of Muslim rulers within the larger Indian Ocean World. It was because of these routes that travel enabled the seafaring groups to establish networks connecting Arabia, India, Africa and Asia. On the Arab migration to East Africa Martin depends on Arab and Portuguese sources. Martin discusses the role of Hadhrami expansionists and adventurers who went to seek their fortunes and spread Islam in the Ethiopian highlands in the medieval times and how, in the case of the Sada, a number ended up moving southwards whereas others moved farther East as far as Aceh, in Indonesia. As it turns out, this was the reason why Sada clans with identical names were scattered both in Asia and in Africa. These ties and connections were to be maintained well into the twentieth century. In the case of East Africa, it is interesting that Sada clans that were in Somalia moved both esatwards and southwards, and this is what accountant for the existence of the Jamal al-Layl in both East Africa and Indonesia. In the words of Martin (B.G. Martin 1971):

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“Another prominent lineage of sayyid found in East Africa is the Jamal al-Layl (“Night Camel”) clan and its sublineage, the Al Qadri. The Jamal al-Layl sayyids are named for Muhammad Jamal al-Layl, who died in Tarim in 845/1441. According to an oral tradition collected by el-Zein at Lamu, the first Jamal al-Layl to arrive in East Africa was Ahmad ibn Harun, a fifth generation descendent of the lineage founder. Oddly enough, he is said to have reached Pate in 950/1543-1544, the year in which Ahmad Gran met defeat and death in Ethiopia. His descendents at Pate and Lamu are called the Ba Harun from his father’s name, and one of them, Mwinyi Ba Hasani Jamal al-Layl , is said to have made the famous horn (siwa) of Pate. Perhaps because some of them had abilities as artisans and craftsmen, some traditions say that they were at first subordinate to to Al (sic) Abubakar Bin Salim, who “invited” them to East Africa. The precise date of their arrival and their precedence at Lamu is unclear. However, they seem to have left Pate for Lamu at the same time as the Abu Bakr Bin Salim (around 1777-1809)...” Martin Adds that: “The Jamal al- Layl also had branches in Somalia and Indonesia. In Somalia they were known at Mogadishu and its vicinity. According to Shihab al –Din al-Hadrami, a line of these sayyids migrated to Atjeh or Acin at the tip of Sumatra. From this line branched several lineages, which included important men of religion in Malacca and elsewhere in Malaysia. Further migration of this clan within East Africa took them to the Grand Comoro, Anjouan, and Moheli. On Grand Comoro, the Jamal al Layl center is Tsujini, a town on the west coast of the island. The first migrant who came to there from Pate, according to some traditions, was one ‘Abdallah Tuyur, who may have reached Grand Comoro about 1650. Some sources suggest that the Jamal al Layl only reached Tsujini at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This seems more likely.”

It is interesting to note that the Comoro Jamal al Layl Sayyids have played and continue to play, a prominent role in the political life of the islands. A number of them have held presidential positions and must have been central in lobbying for the admission of the Comoro Islands to the League of Arab States. Conscious of their Hadhrami heritage, they were also tied to the Comorian tradition of matriarchy, and recognize their African affiliations and are therefore members of the continent-wide African Union. It is also because of this that the Comorian ulama have retained strong linguistic loyalty to both Arabic and Shingazija, their mother tongue. Here we can see parallels with the Hadhrami Malay, both in Indonesia and Malaysia. The Saiyid clans collectively, throughout the Western Indian Ocean World, played a key role in keeping Islamic traditions alive. They set up a network of mosques, madrassahs and tariqas which were sustained by succeeding generations. Scholars moved from one area to another and through these networks of mosques and madrassahs were able to be assimilated if they chose to, as many had done, to stay in some of the towns.Many of the Sada conbined a religious vocation with a means of earning a livelihood. A number of distinguished Saiyids were also traders and often ploughed back profits from their earnings into the local Islamic institutions. They were central in maintaining ties with Sada centres in the Hadhramawt and encouraged their students and their own male progeny to go and study under the learned of the ulama in the ribat ofTarim and Seyun.

The Educational Curriculum The Sada replicated the religious curriculum that was current in the Hadhramaut, since East African Islam was largely Sunni and Shafi’ite; because of the historical ties that had been alluded to 7

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earlier, It was orientated mostly towards Islamic jurisprudence and Sufi practices. This was as true in Somalia in the north as it was is South Africa in the south. The uniformity of the curriculum tended to make it easier for scholars to move from one location to another. The main intellectual centre had shifted south and for many years Zanzibar became the focal point of Western Indian Ocean Islam because of an almost homogeneous cultural zone that embraced the Banadir coast in Somalia from Barawa, to the Comoro Islands and Madagascar in the south. The dominance of Zanzibar as the premeir scholarly centre was to change after the violent 1964 revolution that overthrew the Busaidy dynasty in the Sultanate of Zanzibar. Prior to this shift Zanzibar was the confluence of the three Islamic traditions of Sunni, Shia and Khariji Islam. The ruling family in the Sultanate of Zanzibar belonged to the minority Ibadhi rite while the overwhelming majority of the subjects were Sunni of the Shafi’ rite, to be joined in the nineteenth century with an influx of Indian immigrants from the pre-partition India that included Shia Imamis of the Ismaili and Bohra persuations and Ja’fari Shias. These relatively recent groups found their way to Western Indian Ocean due to the British acquisition of India in the nineteenth century as part of British imperialist expansion. The nineteenth century also saw the decline of the Zanzibar Sultanate that had earlier annexed the East African coast. Zanzibar itself came under British regency and the coastal possessions of the Sultan became part of the British protectorate when Kenya was incorporated as a British colony in 1895. This process paved the way for encouraging Indian immigration, not only to Zanzibar but also to what is now Kenya and Tanzania and Uganda, farther inland. During this period Aden had also come under British control and through a series of agreements with the local Kathiri rulers and other potentates, Hadhramaut itself had implicitly come under British sovereignty. This opened the way for the British to encourage another wave of Hadhrami migration to various parts in the Western Indian Ocean World along the Banadir coast and the African littoral. As was often the case with earlier migrations of the Hadhramis it was the difficult ecological conditions that lured many of them to seek their fortunes elsewhere through migration. The migrants were largely the unskilled poor with no means of support, save for the possibility of being connected to some network outside the Hadhramaut that will find them jobs. The emigrant Sayyids became handy here since they already had established networks that could absorb their compatriots. As noted earlier, many of the Sayyids had a developed sense of work ethic and already engaged in trade through their networks throughout the Indian Ocean World. The texts studied in religious institutions like mosques and madrassahs consisted of the Qur’an, the several volumes of the Hadith, Qur’anic commentaries, Arabic language and literature; Arabic grammar, studied in its own right as the key to understanding the multiple meanings of some verses or clarification of obscure interpretations of the Qur’an. Since the printing press took very long to arrive in the Western Indian Ocean World, a thriving cottage industry of copyists developed mostly in the Lamu archipelago where classical texts and the Qur’an were hand copied and sold as manuscripts. Many of these manuscripts are in private possession or in libraries and museums of East Africa. Later, Egypt became the main source for printed texts, bought directly through orders or brought back from Mecca by returning pilgrims. It is these texts that sustained the local intellectual culture, whose foundation was laid by the Sayyid immigrants. The texts also ensured that local scholars were in synch with intellectual trends in the heartlands of Islam. There was also a whole body of texts dedicated to the promotion of mystical education, for Islam in the Western Indian Ocean was historically incomprehensible without understanding its mystical dimension. It was Sufism that sometimes drew the intellectual and spiritual fault-lines in African Islam; it was also Sufism that shaped much of the perception and understanding of Islam among the locals here. Although Sufism never developed to the same degree and influence in Western Indian Ocean as it did in West and North Africa, it nevertheless did shape how Islam was practiced. The ulama who ran these institutions themselves provided the backbone to the Al-Busaidy administration and were very well educated for their time. Again, B.G. Martin, basing his views on the writings of Sheikh Abdallah Saleh Farsy describes the learned classes in Zanzibar and the East African Coast as progressive and outward looking, many of whom were drawn from among the Sayyids: 8

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“In many ways, the religious, the learned, the legal and the clerical classes were the flywheel of the Bu Sa’idi state. They hoped to extend the application of the Shari’a at the expense of customary law, to make it more wide-spread among Muslim Africans. It was they who manipulated, maintained, and operated the legal system at all levels. In general, they controlled institutionalized Islam. In such Muslim schools as there were, they held a near monopoly of the educational structure, in which they inculcated the norms and values of their own style of Islam. Literate and trained in the law and the Islamic sciences, they read widely and created a literature of their own. Like the sailors and traders of Arabia, Zanzibar and the East African coasts, they were familiar with the foreign lands on the periphery of the Indian Ocean – Gujarat, Sind, and Cutch, the Malabar coast, and Java and Ceylon. Many of them spent long periods abroad, frequently in the Hijaz to study or make the pilgrimage, or in the Haddramawt for educational purposes. While the ulama were open to foreign Muslim ideas and influence, they were very proud of their own tradition of learning. In this they were not unlike the learned classes of the nineteenth century in other parts of the Middle East and South Arabia, Hadramawt in particular. Among the ‘ulama , there was still a visible current of “Hadramization” in the middle and later nineteenth century. This was so because people from this part of South Arabia were still a majority among the local Arabs of East Africa. They were the “old Arabs” who had come in waves to the coast (al-sawahil) in pre-Islamic times and in the Muslim middle ages, in contrast to the “new Arabs” such as the ‘Umanis, who had begun to emigrate in large numbers after 1698 when the Portuguese had been expelled from Mombasa. As A.I. Salim puts it in recent article, the ‘Umani ruling group of Ibadis was in East Africa “a perpetual minority…many of whom in time converted to the Shafi’ sect of the majority.” (Martin, B.G. 1971:527)

On the preponderance of the Sayyids in the intellectual life in Western Indian Ocean, Martin avers that : “In any case, Hadrami holy families professionally concerned with religion and law and the arbitration of quarrels had a great impact on East Africa, particularly on the Islamization of its coasts and islands. As yet, it is difficult to say to say just how many and what roles that they played at home lwere still exercised by them in their new places of settlement—except for matters of law and religion. Although they were being politically submerged by the ‘Umani or “new Arabs” at the end of the eighteenth, sharifs, sayyids, and masha’ikh still retained a predominant place among the’ulama class. Here, the clan and family names of the Al-Abu Bakr b. Salim, the Jamal al-Layl, the Saqqaf, the Aydarus, the Ba Kathir al-Kindi, the Sumayt of Tarim and many others keep appearing and reappearing in the ranks of the ‘learned.” This fact suggests that Zanzibar and its dependencies in the nineteenth century were still annex of the Hadramawt culturally and intellectually. Nor was communication between East Africa and South Arabia ever a problem, since fares were cheap and the sea voyage from East Africa was only a matter of a few weeks.”

In Africa, the Sayyid families were the focal point of the Hadhrami immigrants and were seen as the natural leaders because of their personal initiative. The immigrant Hadhrami relied on these Sayyids for contacts and as intermediaries between them and the colonial government. Some Sayyids held important positions in the colonial bureaucracy as Kadhis or as representatives of the Arab communities. The British were fully aware of the stratified nature of Hadhrami society and the key traditional role of the Sayyids in Hadhramaut as arbitrators in local conflicts and a group that was held in very high esteem there. British society was itself hierarchical and the lower social classes were 9

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expected to be derential towards those they considered their social betters. They imagined that the Hadhramis, whether in Arabia or Africa would carry this culture of deference along with other cultural baggage. The big difference was that the Hadhrami non-Sayyid groups saw them as religious luminaries who provided leadership to the community whenever this was deemed necessary. The show of deference was voluntary and the Sayyids worked ver closely with the non-Sayyids in order to promote collective Hadhrami interests. This mutual, rather than antagonistic relationship was in evidence during the colonial era when the Hadhramis invariably elected parliamentarians to the colonial legislature. The Sayyids were the choice candidates to represent the Arab communities during the colonial era. For example, Arabs in Kenya were represented by Sayyid Muhammad Abdallah Shatry in the racially representative Kenyan Legislative Council (Legco). By the standards of his time in the 1950s he was an urbane individual, well educated, well read and extremely articulate in English. He had established a successful carpet business, over the years, and dealt with Arab and Iranian traders and had established extensive network of contacts in East Africa and the Arabian Gulf. He was very well connected socially because he was locally born and had relatives among the nonSayyid Arab families, including the Mazrui of Mombasa. A man of Sufi inclinations and unassailable moral rectitude, he was universally trusted by the Sada and the non-Sada and often acted as unofficial banker and trustee of local businesses and business people. He was also part of the local Sufi Alawi order and attended mosque darsas on a regular basis. Like all the muwallad, he felt compelled to make the de rigueur pilgimage to the shrines of his ancestors in the Hadramaut. He wrote an account of his rihlah in Arabic, which is currently in the possession of his children. Shariff Muhammad Abdallah Shatry was a progressive Sayyid and a role model. He ensured that his children were availed the necessary facilities to acquire an education, both secular and religious. He gave equal opportunities to both sons and daughters. One of his sons works as an architectural draughtsman, another works in the oil industry and another holds a doctorate and is a specialist in tropical medicine and immunology, currently resident in Florida State in the United States of America. Sayyid Muhmamad Abdallah Shatry used his political and financial clout to fix Hadhramis in jobs and businesses and advance the communal interests of the community in Kenya. The Hadhrami immigrants who came in the wake of British colonialism were easy to place in jobs because they were ready to do any kind of work. During the early urbanization process in East Africa Indian immigrants ran the little corner shops that have become almost synonymous with their identity in both East Africa and Britain. As the Asian community increased in number and set up their own social, economic and educational institutions, they moved up the social ladder to become clerks in government departments, accountants and store keepers, teachers and other available jobs within the constraining colonial packing order. As the Asians moved upwards the Hadhramis came in to fill in slots as petty shopkeepers, street vendors, hawkers, night watchmen, road sweepers, coolies, among the essential services needed to run an emerging urban centre. Because of the lowly nature of their jobs, these new immigrants, unlike the Sayyid elites, were often looked down upon were commonly collectively referred to as “Washihiri” , the Swahili word for those who came from Shihr, a town in the Hadhramaut, regardless whether they came from there or not. It was a pejorative term meant to institutionalize stereotype of the recent immigrant as a hick, uncouth and devoid of any culture or sophistication. Matters did not help when the British colonial authorities demanded that they be quarantined and fumigated to stop them from bring into the countries the pestilences of the Hadhramaut. The immigrants did take in their stride this sanitary measure, but it did leave an impression on the locals about where the Hadhramis came from. These measures were sometimes necessary because of the overcrowded conditions in which the immigrants travelled in search of far off fortunes. They usually came in Arab dhows manned by Omani sailors, the main Arab maritime group in the Arab world, and in which food was barely enough to keep body and soul together and where it was difficult to maintain standard hygienic conditions. The result was that when the immigrants landed, they were infested with lice and other pestilences; they were fumigated for their own sake and that of the new place they were landing. It did not take very long for the new immigrants to settle down and get assimilated. While a number went to bring back Hadhrami wives, an even larger number decided to take local women as 10

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wives. This process led to the rise of a distinct hybrid type, different from the surrounding Africans in complexion and hair texture. These biracial people settled mostly along the Western Indian Ocean World litterol cities like Barawa, Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa and Vanga in the north, to Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Kilwa and Bagamoyo in the South, and farther south in the Comoro Islands. Farther in the South, in present day South Africa, the Dutch had colonized the southern tip of the African continent in the seventeenth century and vanquished indigenous African groups settled there for centuries. It did not take long for them to bring in the Malay people they had enslaved in their colony in Indonesia and brought them to South Africa, which for all purposes had now become a penal colony. The British had penal colonies in Australia and New Zealand, too. The Malay immigrants were a tenacious group that had remained loyal to their religion and traditions, despite all efforts to convert them to the Christianity of the Dutch Reformed Church variety. The Malay diaspora in South Africa suffered the same legal disabilities as the Africans; they brought with them the Shafi’ rite and whenever they had internal disputes to resolve they enlisted the services of the ulama in Zanzibar, their co-religionists. Meanwhile, the Dutch consolidated their position and inched toward the creation of a racially segregated society that eventually led to a full blown apartheid system in 1949.

Travels to Indonesia The Hadhrami in East Africa have always maintained contacts with the Hadhrami homeland, in the Hadhramaut. As noted earlier, a number of the ulama made the effort to travel there in search of venerable ulama with a reputation, in order to obtain ijaza from them. Their constant travels made them aware of the extensive networks that the Sada had established throughout the Indian Ocean World; they were aware, too, of the other Hadhrami diaspora in Asia, in Indonesia and Malaysia where the Sada had come to occupy important positions, as ulama and as successful traders; these ulama and other Hadhrami groups had identical histories as theirs; they had become indigenized, born of local Malay mothers and some had managed to achieve the highest office those societies could offer by virtue of their Sharifian ancestry. As intellectuals themselves, they were aware that some of those Sada in Indonesia and Malaysia were descendents, just like themselves, of those who had started of in places like Somalia and that they had common near relatives with them. These blood relations were of course easily attested through their genealogies they kept with meticulous care and that they carried around. One of the most prominent of these Sada ulama from East Africa made a number of visits and spent times with his relatives in Java where he taught and carried on trade. This was the famed Comorian Sufi Sayyid Ahmad Bin Sumeit Jamal al Layl, whose life was the subject of a full length study by the Norwegian scholar of Islam, Anne Bang4. Bang traced the extensive arteries of Sayyid networks that criss-crossed almost the entire Indian Ocean that were used by scholar traders to carry on commerce as they pursued their religious education or engaged in missionary activities to spread Islam. Over the years many of the Hadhrami who were born locally have integrated in their societies in Western Indian Ocean, and hold important positions in academia, politics, public service and other areas of national life. A number have opted to migrate elsewhere, like Abdulrazak Gurnah, who went into exile to Britain from Zanzibar and has since attained prominence there are one of the most important postcolonial writers writing in English. He currently heads the Department of English at the University of Kent, England, where he continues to write fiction. His work draws from both his African background and his Hadhrami heritage. Among his best known works are Paradise, historical
4

Bang, Anne, K 2003:Sufis and Scholars of the Sea.The Sufi and Family Networks of Ahmad Ibn Sumayt and the Tariqa ‘Alawiyya in East Africa c. 1860-1925. London.

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fiction, By the Sea, which deals with the issues of cultural dislocation and Desertion which deals with many of the issues of postcolonial concern.

Conclusion This paper has tried to show how Hadhrami migration to Western Indian Ocean has direct connections to the other Hadhrami migration to the Eastern Indian Ocean. These connections were related to the way in which the early migrants formed the early communities as way back as the fifteenth century, although the Arab World had been in contact with Western Indian Ocean going back to pre-Islamic period. The first wave of migration involved the dispersion of the Saiyids to the Western Indian Ocean and some of the same Saiyid clans headed eastwards to the Malay peninsula and the Indonesian archipelago. Both diasporas integrated well within their host communities by forging intermarriages with the locals. Their long domicile enabled them to impact those societies culturally, socially and intellectually. They have become an integral part of those societies and communities. In particular, the Saiyid clans were in the forefront of intellectual activities, helping create national literatures in indigenous languages in Arabic script. They also played a prominent role in the spread of Islamic religious sciences; they played a key role to institutionalize Islam as a major religion in their new homes. The result looks very much like the Anglo-Saxon impact in the United States of America, where English social, political, legal and educational institutions transplanted there through the earliest English diaspora in the seventeenth century. In manners of dress, cuisine, the lexicon of both Malay and Swahili, sectarian orientation, in the adopted Hadhrami names, and many other aspects, the similarities are legion.

References: Harries, Lyndon: Swahili Poetry. Clarendon Press, Oxford. 1962. Martin, B.G. : Arab Migrations to East Africa in Medieval Times. In International Journal of African Historical Studies. Vol. 7. No. 3 (1974)pp.367-390. Martin, B.G.: Notes on some Members of the Learned Classes of Zanzibar and the East African Coast in the 19th century .In International Journal of African Historical Studies. Vol 4. No. 3. 1971. Serjeant, R.B.: The Saiyids of Hadramawt. Inaugural Lecture, University of London, 1957.

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