28 April, 2011

Out of the Hadhramaut are most Hadharem

For the last few weeks I have been posting here on the many mosques that are in Eastern Africa; I had no idea at all that it would arouse interest and find readers. Well, so far, many have been reading these posts; most of whom, I believe have never visited this blog before. For years now, especially when traveling, I have realized that very few people know of the extent of the Hadhrami influence in Eastern Africa; from the Sudan through Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia through to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique and the many Indian Ocean islands and archipelagos. Very few people know that the Hadharem and people of Hadrami descent, are in all all of the Eastern African, Indian Ocean the South Asian and the South-East Asian countries. In some of these countries they are prominent and influential.

Most Hadharem who left the Hadhramaut late in the 19th Century and early in the 20th Century, never returned to their homeland. Most settled in wherever they had migrated to; most intermarried with the indigenous local women of these places. Their progeny intermarried with each other or with locals; and this cycle went on, until today, most of the Hadharem descendants in these places do not speak Arabic anymore and have no idea at all about Hadhramout. Most, now, look like the people where they live in; and have taken in, some of the customs and traditions of the indigenous people. At the same time, through the years, the influence of the Hadharem in many of these places and its people have been enormous. 

No where else is the Hadhrami influence so extensive as in Indonesia and Malaysia; more so on the island of Java. The Hadharem are the ones who introduced Islam to South-East Asia;  and it's mainly through them, that Islam extensively spread here and became the dominant religion. The Hadhramis - who very rarely brought in their wives from Hadhramout or went back home to marry - have, through the years, extensively intermarried with the locals in wherever they settled. It is by and through these intermarriages and having children and descendants, who are now many more in number than the people back in Hadhramout, that the Hadharem have played such influential roles in these places. In Indonesia and Malaysia too, the Hadharem have played very influential roles in governance and politics. Many of the sultans and other leaders here, have Hadrami connections.

For centuries, the Hadharem have been traveling and wandering; from place to place. As sailors, as traders of all sorts, as preachers and as teachers. Most settled, intermarried and assimilated in the places they had decided to anchor in. Today, in Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Eastern Africa, you will find many of the Hadharem descendants, still with the their Hadharem surnames: the Brasawads or Basawads; the Bawazeers, the Al Amoudis, the Al Kaafs, the Attases, the Saqqafs and so on. Many have dropped these surnames and many have completely assimilated with the locals. Most too, have lost the Hadharami look anddemeanor. For instance: the Barsawads of East Africa, are African in many ways; those in Somalia, have taken in Somali ways; those in India, look Indian and act as Indians in many ways; and those in Indonesia and Malaysia, where there are many Barsawads, look in many ways like Malays and their behavior is very much like them.