13 July, 2011

The Hadhrami Influence in Kerala and Beyond.......

It is reported that Arabs traded with the Indian sub-continent, Southern Asia and the Indian Ocean islands long before the emergence of Islam. Whenever we think of the State of Kerala, in south-west India, we associate it with tropical greenery and tourism; anyone who has moved around the Middle East, especially the Gulf countries, will have met the very many guest workers from Kerala, mainly Malayali. In India, Kerala is unique in many ways: it is not only very rainy, green, has many varieties of animals and fauna and with a very captivating topography and scenery; Kerala too, in India: has the highest literacy rate, has one of the highest Human Development Index, is one of the least corrupt, has one of the best health care services in the developing world, has the highest life expectancy rates in the country and has the lowest population growth rate in the country. Very few people, especially outside Kerala, know of the very close ties and history between the people of Kerala and Arabs; Arabs from Hadhramout in particular.

For the last 3,000 or so years, Arabs, including the Hadharem, and people from Kerala - have been trading with each other. In the 7th Century or so, Islam was introduced to Kerala. Today, about 25% of the people of Kerala are Muslims, many of whom are Arabs or of Arab descent; most of these Arab Keralites, descended from the Hadhramis. Dr. Hussain K Randathani writes: Among the Arabs it was the Hadramis who made major step in the Indian Ocean migration which became intensive during colonial period. They as missionaries and traders were very particular in upholding Islam in all walks of life and that was the main reason for the spread of the religion as well as trade in the region. He writes further: the migrant hadramis engaged in trade, commerce, shipping, shipbuilding, scholarship, missionary activities, diplomacy and even local politics. This was achieved through indigenization of the migrant Arabs through marriage of native woman and adopting native culture. It is therefore not at all surprising that many of the national heroes of the region as well as local ruling houses were actually Arab in origin.

Another researcher - Zubair Hudawi, has this very absorbing article 'Hadrami diaspora in Indian Ocean territories, with special reference to Malabar' in which he writes: The history of Islam, especially in the whole Indian Ocean littoral, and the entire Islamization process of the eastern frontiers for at least last one Millennium, is inseparably mixed with the Arabs from Hadhramawt of Yemen. Today, not only in Kerala and India, but wherever there are Muslims in South-East and Southern Asia, the influence of the Hadharem can be seen. And descendants of people from Hadhramaut can be found; most of these Hadhrami descendants do not speak Arabic and have never been to Hadhramaut.

For more, read: 

Hadhrami traders, scholars, and statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s-1960s
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