20 December, 2011

The Hadhrami Influence in Indonesia

Indian Ocean Hadhrami Migration
For a Hadhrami to be in Indonesia, is to be at home. In fact, for most Hadharem, Indonesia is more home than the ancestral Hadhramaut. There are more Hadhramis in the fourth most populous country in the world and the country with the world's largest Muslim population than there are back in Hadhramout. Of the about 240 or so million Indonesians, Arabs, after the Chinese, are the second largest minority. Of these Arabs - about four or five million of them, almost all are Hadhramis or their descendants. While the Chinese have dominated Indonesia's businesses and finances for decades, the Hadramis have been the most influential culturally and spiritually. It's they, the Hadharem, who have been most instrumental and influential in introducing Islam to the thousands of islands in this South-East Asian country; and strengthening it there.

Indonesia: very fertile and abundantly rich in vegetables, fruits and food. It has more wildlife species than most countries on this Planet - ranking third after Colombia and Brazil; it is a country, that, after Brazil, has the second largest biodiversity in the world; and its seas and coral reefs are the world's richest and most extensive. It is a country that is so breathtakingly beautiful and with some of the friendliest, most welcoming people you can ever meet - which must have stopped the Hadhrem from sailing further. With time, the Hadharem visiting the Archipelago must have loved it so much that many decided to settle on it. And, with time, many more people from Hadhramaut decided to follow them to this wonderful land.

The Hadharem, through trade, may have known of the Indonesian Archipelago as far back as before the birth of Islam. But, it is most likely in the 8th Century that Islam was first introduced to Indonesia. Not until about six or so centuries later, that Islam started spreading fast in these chain of islands. The driving force for this many people converting to Islam was the Hadharem; mainly the sayyids. The Hadharem, due to economic or political hardships back at home in their ancestral land: Hadhramout, have, since time immemorial, emigrated to many parts of the world - around the Indian Ocean in particular. They emigrated and settled in these many parts: and not only intermarrying with the locals, but very much influencing these places where they settled in, with their culture. A culture that is very much based on Islam. No where else out of Hadhramout, has the Hadhrami influence been so much, so extensive and has had the most impact, as in Indonesia.

Harold Ingrams estimated that in the mid-1930s some 90,000 Hadhramis, out of a total population of 260,000, migrated at some time in their lives. Most of these migrants, especially in the middle of the 19th Century, went to Indonesia; and most settled there. After settling, with time - the Hadharem not only were the most influential in Islamic affairs (Islam, after being introduced by the Hadharem - was fast spreading in the Archipelago and becoming the dominant religion); they also became increasingly involved and influential in political and administrative affairs. Particularly, the sayyids. Apart from their main role in religious administration, the Hadhrami sayyids became increasingly involved and influential with the ruling class and in the political development of the region; a significance which is visible to the present day.

They became appointed to some of the most powerful posts. To this day, Hadhramis still have influential posts; and are still being appointed to some of the most important posts, not only in Indonesia but also in the break-away nation of East Timor. From their earliest arrival to the Archipelago and their introducing Islam there - to this day, the Hadharem, chiefly the sayyids - have always been highly respected by indigenous Indonesians. The main factor for the Hadharem being continuously, having authority and being highly regarded - is mainly due to the Hadharem being the main driving force of Islam in the region. And also due to the Hadharem's reputation for hard work, sincerity and commitment to bringing positive change in the Malay community. By intermarrying with the locals - the Hadahrem have, too, adapted and assimilated very well with the locals.

Despite their having migrated very far, to this distant land; despite their having faced many difficulties and challenges; and despite having faced off with two of the most powerful colonial forces - the Dutch and, in particular, the British; the Hadharem have been and still are very powerful in the whole of South-East Asia; particularly in Indonesia. And especially in cultural and religious affairs, where they remain supreme. Today, most of the descendants of the Hadharem in Indonesia have never been back home to Hadhramawt; and most speak very little Arabic or do not know it at all. But, there is still a strong bond between them and the people of Hadhramawt. A strong bond which is shared with many other Malay Indonesians. Today, too, almost every Hadhrami in Hadhramaut - has a blood relative of some kind in Indonesia. For instance: I a Basawad, after in Hadhramout, I have more cousins and relatives in Indonesia than I have any where else.

References: here, here and here