Mahri Poetry Archive

History

 

Due to the fact that the Mahri language is essentially an unwritten language, historical documentation for the Mahri tribes is less than it is for their Arabic-speaking neighbors in Ḥaḍrawmawt and Dhofar.  Moreover, the relative isolation of the Mahra from the broader currents of Arabian history means that the Mahra only appear in the historical record when circumstances draw them outside their borders or when geopolitical forces intrude on them.

Despite a paucity of historical documentation and the fact of their relatively small population, the Mahra have played unexpectedly significant roles at a few important moments in the the regional politics of South Arabia and in the broader arena of the Arab-Islamic world.  What follows reflects those points in time when the Mahra have played a role in shaping broader historical processes in Southern Arabia and the Arab world.  While individual Mahri speakers or those bearing the patronymic “Mahrī” have risen to pre-eminence in the Arab and Islamic world (cf. Sulaymān al-Mahrī [d. 1550 CE], navigator and author of ʿUmda al-mahriyya fī ḍabṭ al-ʿulūm al-baḥriyya), I have only selected those occasions in which the Mahra as a community or specific tribal lineages within that community have entered into the historical record.  Outside of the Southern Arabia, I have only catalogued instances where the Mahra are mentioned in sufficient numbers such that their primary distinguishing feature – their language – might have been maintained in the face of a general tendency to adopt Arabic.

Pre-Islamic Period and the Ridda Wars (632-633 CE)

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