It may be emphasised that the role of sufis was an important factor in the spread of Islam in Malabar as else where in the world. Their peaceful means of propagation, policy of sulh-i-kul (peace with all) and simple and pious life attracted a number of people to Islam. People were always associated with them seeking their blessings and visiting their shrines. But quoting I.H. Quereshi and others R.E. Miller tends to suggest that the Sufi missionary activities were very meager in Malabar.”1 At the same time the indigenous sources reveal the names and activities of several Muslim sufis and saints who propagated Islam in Malabar. The existence of a number of sufi devotional songs called malas 2 about the sufi saints like Shaikh Muhyaddin ‘Adhul Qadir Jilani, Shaikh Rifa’I Sayyid Alawi and Nafeesat-at Misri 3 clearly indicates the deep influence exerted by the sufis on Mappilas life. The memorization of Muhyaddin Mala was an obligation to a Mappila girl who was going to get married.
Malik b. Dinar, at whose efforts Islam accelerated its growth in Malabar
was said to be a disciple of Hasan al Basari a Sufi preacher in
It was infact the
advent of the Makhdum family and
their activities centering round the big Juma Masjid, made
Ponnani a centre of Muslim learning so
much so that it came to be called the ‘little Makkah’ (Kochu Makkah) of Malabar. The oldest mosque
at Ponnani is said to have been built in the twelth century two centuries before the advent of the Makhadums at the behest of Shaikh Fariduddin
b. ‘Abdul Qadir Khurasani, a well known disciple of Shaikh Muhyaddin Abdul
Qadir Jilani. Qazi Muhammad and his successors, the hereditary qazis of
Sayyids of Hadramauth played an important role in the social and cultural life
of Mappila Muslims of Malabar. Having laid down their arms and given up
political struggle, the Alawiyun became the carriers of a family Sufi tariqa
called Ba Alawi tariqa. The tariqa, an offshoot of Qadiriyya was a simple one which did not have khalw, or
seclusion for purposes of spiritual exercises, and did not denounce worldly
activities. From seventeenth century onwards the Alawi ulama and Sufi saints,
came to be known by the title of habib. This was the period of emigration to
Hadrami Arab and Indian Muslim traders has been engaging in trade and missionary activities in the region for centuries and constituted an integral part of the Muslim trade diasporas which stretched from
The ancestor of Ba Alawi is one Sayyid Ahamed bin Isa who migrated to Hadramauth in 952 AD6. The genealogy of Sayyid Ahamed is as follows:
Zain al Abidin,
Sayyid Ali Ariz,
Ahmed Bin Isa7 .
When the Umayyads came to power in Islamic
world in661 they persecuted the house of prophet Muhammed and most of them left
their home town at Hijaz in search of asylum and had to wait till the advent of
Abbasids in 750. Then most of them migrated to
Ubaidullah who had three sons among whom the third son Sayyid Alawi founded the
Ba Alawi branch. His grand son Alawi had two sons –Salim and Ali. Ali settled
at Tarim the headquarters of Ba Alawis. Ali died in 1233 and was buried at
Tarim10.Imam al Qutub Muhammed Shahir(d.1309),
son of Ali was known to his piety and devotion and his shrine at Tarim became a
great center of veneration. His son Muhammed Mauladdavila(D, 1363) had fourteen
sons and the most famous among them was Abdurahman Saqaf.All the thirteen sons
of al Saqaf migrated to different parts of the world to propagate the message
of Islam through BaAlawi order. About forty branches of Ba Alawis had migrated
to Malabar and most of them settled on the coastal areas of
The important families who settled in Malabar are the following:
Ba Faqih (Koilandy), Al Faqih(Koilandy), Bil Faqih (Koilandy), Al haddad(Malabar), Shahabuddin (Panakkad), Mashhur(Eranad), Idid(Tirurangadi), Jilani(Eranad), Jamalullaili(Chaliyam), Mushayyaq(Tanur), Ahdal(Calicut), Jifri (Calicut) Musava(Ponnani), Aydarus(Ponnani) , Saqaf(Chavakkad), Alu Junaid( Tanur),Al Manfur(Calicut), Ba Shaiban(Chavakkad), Hamdun (North Malabar) Mauladdavila (Mamburam)11, Maula Khaila(Eranad),Habshi(Kuttippuram), Alu Dahab(North Malabar), Juhum(Mahi), Shatiri(Koilandy), Turabi(Tirurangadi) Ba Hasan (Koilandy), Al Aqil(Malabar), Fadhaq (malabar), Ba Hashim(Malabar), Ba Hasan(Chaliyam).Banu Sahl (North Malabar),Ba Salim (North Malabar)12
Ahmad Bin Isa
and his son spread the legal
Shaikh Jifri of Hadhramaut at
The saintly life and service of the Ba Alawis brught them adherents wherever they went. The desciples used to the kiss the hands (taqbil) of the Sayyids and thi was an exclusive privilege of the Ba Alawis. This practice was called shamma in Hadramauth. The surname Habib (friend) was added along with their name and their presence was a great relief to the common people particularly the peasants who sought their blessings inorder to increase the crops or to get the rains. The people approached this sayyids to cure the diseases, to fulfill the desires and to relieve frm the miseries. These saints were not just ascetics living away from the people”They engaged in their professions and took service to man as one injunction of Sufism”14 The ba Alawis maintained strict morality in their life. They followed the footsteps of the prophet in every walks of life.15In the early
1 . R.E.Miller, Mappila
Muslims of Kerala,
2 “Malas are devotional songs which piously praises the admirable events from the glorious life of holymen” O. Abul, Arabi Malayala Sahitya Chritram, National Book Stall, Kottayam, 1970, p. 62.
3 For the malas see, Munnutti Mupati Munnu Vaka Mawlid Kitab, C.H. Muhammad and Sons Tirurangadi, 1992.
4 Shaikh Zainuddin, Tuhfat al Mujahidin,Eng, Trans., Muhammed Nynar, p.38-39.
5 Statesmen of
6 RB Sergeant,The Sayyids of Hadramauth,School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,1967,p.8
7 . Qazi AbduRahman bin
Muhammed bin Husayn, Shans al Zahir,
A peasant Muslim sect which many years shook the Abbbasid Caliphate to its
Foundation. For details see Philip,K Hitti, History of Arabs,
9 RB Sergeant, op.cit.,pp.8-10
11 The place name Mamburam might be originated from the Ba Alawi family name of Manfur with which Sayyid Alawi Tangal was closely connected
12 Qazi AbduRahman bin Muhammed bin Husayn, op.cit.
13 R.B Sergeant,op.cit.,p. 15
14 For details see, Kunhali.V, Sufism in Kerala, Publication Division , University of Calicut,2004,p.92
15 Alawi Muhammed Al Saqaf, Majma al Kutub al Mufida,(n.d),Tarim,p.17
period the Ba Alawis preferred a secluded life without much connection with the external world. They shut their doors against the non –Muslims and never went to the markets where ,they believed lived the devils. Many of them in ecstatic mood and were known as Majdub or Mastur.
The Sayyids protected the purity of their blood The never gave their daughter in marriage except to the sayyid families though they took wives from out side. They maintained their respect to the forefathers by creating mausoleums for the dead and
venerating them . They encouraged visit to the Dargas and organized annual festivals on the occasion of the death and birth anniversary
The same tariqah had deeply influenced among the coastal Muslim and it was through the activities of the Ba Alawis. The Bahjat al Asrar written by Ali Bin Yusuf Shatanaufi(d.1413) written hundred years after the death of The Haddad Ratib
In Malabar, as mentioned above the Qadiriyya,founded by Abdul Qadir Jilani became deep rooted through the activities of the Ba Alawi sayyids. the shaikh is the main biographical work of Jilani and the devotional songs of the qadiris are composed depending up on the Bahjat.