13 August, 2009

Out of Hadhramaut: two different stories

For thousands of years, the people of Hadhramout have traveled far and wide; descendants of Hadhramys can be found in almost every part of the globe. Recently I read two interesting and very absorbing stories about two of these Hadhramy descendants. One is about the Bin Ladens, Osama in particular; and the other about Mohammadali Shihab Thangal, the politician and spiritual leader from Kerala, India. As with tales of most Hadhramy migrants, their stories start from Wady Hadhramout:

"Sometime after the turn of the last century, an ox that Awadh bin Laden had borrowed died during a drought.

Death threats by the owner forced him to leave the family’s ancestral home of Gharn Bashirieh.

The exiled Awadh died young, leaving two adolescent sons to their own devices........."

Steve Coll’s account traces the subsequent events leading to the rise of Awadh’s son, Mohammed bin Laden. It is a remarkable story only trumped by the fame and notoriety of his son, Osama.

It is a remarkable story only trumped by the fame and notoriety of his son, Osama. More from The East African. Gharn Bashirieh is not far from Al Khurayba, in Wady Do'an

Steve Coll’s The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century is the groundbreaking history of a family and its fortune. It chronicles a young illiterate Yemeni bricklayer, Mohamed Bin Laden, who went to the new, oil-rich country of Saudi Arabia and quickly became a vital figure in its development, building great mosques and highways and making himself and many of his children millionaires. It is also a story of the Saudi royal family, whom the Bin Ladens served loyally and without whose capricious favor they would have been nothing. And it is a story of tensions and contradictions in a country founded on extreme religious purity, which then became awash in oil money and dazzled by the temptations of the West. In only two generations the Bin Ladens moved from a famine-stricken desert canyon to luxury jets, yachts, and private compounds around the world, even going into business with Hollywood celebrities. These religious and cultural gyrations resulted in everything from enthusiasm for America—exemplified by Osama’s free-living pilot brother Salem—to an overwhelming determination to destroy it. Steve Coll’s account traces the subsequent events leading to the rise of Awadh’s son, Mohammed bin Laden. Penguin

Read more about the Bin Ladens from the book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the national bestseller Ghost Wars, Steve Coll. A very well written, absorbing - in some ways, biased - book.

From India, is the story of the recently deceased scholar and leader, Mohammadali Shihab Thangal; another interesting and very absorbing story:

Story of Mohammadali Shihab Thangal starts many generations ago. His family is descendent of the Prophet. Mohammadali Shihab is 37th generation away from the Prophet in his lineage. About 300 years ago his family arrived on the coast of Kerala from Tarim in the Hadhramaut region of Yemen. They landed in Kannur and made it their home. They came here to spread the message of Islam in Kerala. Three hundred years later they continue to serve the cause of Islam. TwoCircles

Tarim was once the cultural, academic and theological center not only for Hadhramout, but the whole of the Arabian Peninsular. It's from Tarim that many, if not most, Hadhramy scholars and thinkers come from.