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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Through Shaikh Bahrani's eyes. Sorry for the trouble.

Through Shaikh Bahrani's eyes

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I was searching for something entirely different when I stumbled upon this short autobiography of the eminent 18th century Shia' scholar from Bahrain, Yusuf al-Bahrani. It's fascinating to read about historical Bahrain through the eyes of a Bahraini at the time. He tells us:

I was born in the year 1107 [1695–96 C.E.] [in Shakhura]. My brother, Shaykh Muḥammad—may God prolong his presence [in this world]—was born in 1112 [1700–1] in the village of Māḥūz, for our father was residing there in order to attend the lessons of his teacher Shaykh Sulaymān, who has been mentioned above. I was about five years old then and in that year the battle between the Huwala and ‘Utūb tribes took place. The ‘Utūb had been causing great havoc in Bahrain and the [Safavid] ruler [Shah Sulṭān Ḥusayn] could do nothing to stop them. So the Shaykh al-Islām, Shaykh Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mājid, wrote to the Huwala entreating them to oppose the ‘Utūb. A large force from the Huwala tribe came and there was a great battle. The land was ravaged right up to the fortress, affecting everyone, notables and commoners, until God finally caused the ‘Utūb to be defeated. My father—may God have mercy on him—wrote some verses describing and dating this battle, but I only remember the last line, which includes the date and reads as follows:

The year of the battle of the tormented tribe

is “they scattered it” [shattatūhā], so reckon the sum.

I was raised in the lap of my grandfather, the late Shaykh Ibrāhīm—may God bless his soul. He was involved in pearling and the pearl trade. He was noble, pious, generous, and merciful, and would spend all of his income on his guests, relatives, and petitioners. He neither hoarded nor jealously guarded anything from others. Since my father had not had any sons before me, my grandfather took me in and raised me. He had a teacher come to the house to teach me the Qur’ān, and he himself taught me how to write. His script and that of my father were extremely fine and beautiful. After this, I attended the lessons of my father—may God bless his soul—but at the time I had no great desire to study for I was still overcome by the ignorance of youth.

Under my father's supervision I read Drops of Dew [a work on basic Arabic syntax], most of The Son of the Versifier[an intermediate commentary on Arabic syntax], most of al-Niִzām on morphology, and the beginning of al-Quṭbī [on logic] until the Khārijites [the Omani Ya‘riba dynasty] came to seize the land of Bahrain. The earth shook and everything came to a standstill while preparations were made to do battle with these vile men. The first year they came to seize it they returned disappointed, for they were unable to do so. Nor were they able to succeed the second time a year later, despite the help they received from all of the Bedouin and outlaws. The third time, however, they were able to surround Bahrain by controlling the sea, for Bahrain is an island. In this way they eventually weakened its inhabitants and then took it by force. It was a horrific battle and a terrible catastrophe, for all the killing, plunder, pillage, and bloodshed that took place. (Continued)

It's quite hard to imagine that our quiet little island was so visciously fought over. One should note that the ancestors of the Al-Khalifa family that currently rules Bahrain were part of the greater Utub tribe that Shaikh Bahrani refers to above. It's interesting to read about the Utub being described in the way that they are here, because usually in Bahrain we are fed the pro-Utub history, for obvious reasons. The "official" history describes how Ahmed Al-Fateh came over from Qatar and conquered (sometimes liberated) Bahrain, and he now has mosques and highways named after him. But we rarely get a chance to hear how the people getting conquered viewed this all.

Anyhow, do read the rest of Shaikh Bahrani's autobiography. It's absolutely fascinating. Does anyone know of any other historical first-person account of Bahrain?

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2 Responses to 'Through Shaikh Bahrani's eyes'

Blogger Bahrania says:

History and civilisation did start in Bahrain before Alkhalifa rewrote the history books believe it or not!!

Sh. Maitham alBahrain in the 10th or 11th century was one of the greatest arab philosophers of the time.    

Anonymous Anonymous says:

I don't mean to speak but my name is David al-bahrani from Wisconsin from my understanding i could be from bahrani and would love to learn more about were i came from. If anyone reads this please help me learn more about Yusuf al-bahrani. For most of my life i've lived in Wisconsin all my life and it's a shock that nobody in my family would of told me this 

Posted by David Al-Bahrani    

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