Maldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
The BaAlawi of Hadramaut
Statesmen, scholars and traders of the Indian Ocean
Other pages by Irena Knehtl



By Irena Knehtl in the Yemen Times
3 February 2003

Irena Knehtl is an economist and writer. She has been involved in the Indian Ocean dialogue for economic cooperation and exploring economic cooperation among the Red Sea countries.

More about Irena Knehtl

BaAlawi Mosque, Al-Huraidhah

Having laid down their arms and given up political struggle, the Alawiyun became the carriers of a Sufi tariqa. The Second stage was that of the development and consolidation of alTariqa alAlawiya, the Alawi Sufi order, which lasted from the seventh century to the eleventh century A.H. (13-17th century A.D). The tariqa was a simple one which did not have khalw (seclusion) for purposes of spiritual exercises, and did not denounce worldly activities. The third stage lasted from eleventh to the fourteen century A.H, later 17th to 20th century AD During this period the Alawi ulama and awlia (saints), came to be known by the title of habib. This was the period of emigration to India and Southeast Asia.

Hadrami Arab and Indian Muslim traders have been engaging in trade and missionary activities in the region for centuries and constituted an integral part of the Muslim trade diaspora which stretched from Egypt to the Malay world. Today the whole of the Hadrami hierarchical segment is still represented in Africa. At the top of the social hierarchy, the sharifs that are best known are AlSaqqaf, BaAlawi and AlAydarus. By playing on their prestige and by means of marriages contracted with ruling families, the sharifs were able to establish political bases or take possession of power structures wherever they settled. There are numerous and often significant examples of their influence in the political domain. For example that BaAlawi sultans were secured in the Comoros, Kilwa, Zanzibar, Tumbatu and at Vumbaktu.

Early reception of BaAlawi in Rangoon, Burma

Members of the BaAlawi lineage continue to exercise various degrees of religious, social and political influence in late 20th century Kerala. Further south in the then Italian port of Mogadishu in 1891 one of the major chiefs was Sayyid Ahmed BaAlawi whose ancestor had come from Tarim seven generations earlier.

Imam Abdalla ibn Alawi AlHadad published The Book of Assistance for Moslems, born in Tarim in the hills of Hadramaut. His ancestors, the Alawi Sadda had for centuries produced generation after generation of great scholars, and Gnostics and summoners to the straight path.

Seventh King of Siak Sri Indrapura
in what is now the Province of Riau in Indonesia
A BaAlawi King

Siak Coat of Arms

Sultan as-Sayyid el-Sharif Ali Abdul Jalil Saifuddin BaAlawi who reigned from 1784 until 1810 was the first king of Arab descent of the Malay kingdom of Siak Sri Indrapura. During his reign, the Siak Kingdom reached its golden age. His posthumous title is Marhum Kota Tinggi

Certainly no aristocracy so widely disseminated over Asia and Africa playing century upon century an important and consistent role in the Islamic community nor can any branch of the numerous Sharif and Sayyid families founded over 14 centuries ago claim a more varied sphere of activity of achievement than the Alawi Sayyids of Hadramaut.

The first focus of Sayyid emigrants eastwards from the Middle Ages was India. They settled in important commercial, cultural and political centre, like Bijapur, and Surat, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Gujerat, Delhi, Calicut, Malabar; but the greatest emigrations of all were to Java, Sumatra, Aceh and Malaya.

The Alawi Sayyids arrived there sometime before the Dutch. An Alawi from Johore settled in Maindanao, marrying the sultan's daughter.

Yemen Times Article by Irena Knehtl
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tala'al Badru 'alaynaa
Min Thaniyyaati'l Wadaa'i
Wajaba-sh-shukru 'alaynaa
Maa da'a Lillahi Daa'i

The full moon rises on us
From Thaniyyatil Wadaa'
And it is compulsory on us to express thanks
Whenever called upon by a summoner for the sake of God

The term BaAlawi refers to the descendents of Alawi son of Ubaidullah son of Ahmad son of Isa who was also known as Al-Imam Al-Muhajir. He left Basra in what is now Iraq for Hadhramaut in what is now Yemen with his family and followers. Alawi, the grandson of Ahmad son of Isa was the first to be born in Hadhramaut, and those of his descendents adopted the name of BaAlawi, which is a shortened form of "Bani Alawi" meaning the Children of Alawi.

The BaAlawi diaspora took the clan far and wide in the Indian ocean periphery and beyond. Today long-established BaAlawis can be traced in India, Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philipines, East Africa and the Maldives.

For more details refer Jaafar bin Abu Bakr Al-Aydaroos. History and Origin of BaAlawi.

Tombstone of Al-Imam Al-Muhajir in Al-Husaysah. He died there in AD 956


FastCounter by bCentral