Mahri Poetry Archive

Bā Dujāna and His Mother: 1433CE-


Following accounts of their military exploits in Egypt and North Africa in the seventh century CE, a subsequent gap in historical documentation with regards to al-Mahra and Mahri speakers means that little of their social or political significance can be reconstructed for the first six centuries of the Islamic era.  Outside of their core territories in Southern Arabia, we must assume that the distinctive linguistic characteristics of individual Mahra were overshadowed by their social and cultural ties with the Arabic-monolingual, majority population of the Arabian Peninsula.  However, commencing with the 13th century CE, historical documentation of the Mahra resumes thanks to detailed annals composed by Aḥmad bin Shanbal (d. 1514 CE), Muḥammad Bā Faqīh al-Shiḥrī (d. 1562), ʿAbdallāh Bā Makhrima (d. 1540 CE) and others (see Serjeant, The Portuguese off the South Arabian Coast and Muqaddam, Ṣafaḥat min tārīkh al-Mahra, p. 241-263).  While these chronicles are primarily interested in events taking place in Ḥaḍrawmawt, Aden and the more westerly portions of Southern Arabia, the fact that al-Mahra and Mahri speakers appear in them attests to their not inconsiderable significance in the geopolitics of the region.

The high water mark of Mahri political influence in Southern Arabia occurred during the 15th century CE when Muḥammad bin Saʿīd bin Fāris al-Kindī, known as Bā Dujāna, seized the port of al-Shiḥr (39 mi. east of al-Mukallā) from the authority of the waning Rasūlid state and thus ensconced, established a short-lived, yet independent, principality.  There is some debate over the identity of Bā Dujāna; the gentilic “al-Kindī” would indicate that his forbearers were not Mahri speaking.  However, his family’s territorial holdings within the Mahri majority speaking region of Ḥayrīj (east of al-Shiḥr) and his primary associates and allies from the Mahri Zwēdī tribe, suggest that Bā Dujāna was the product of a Mahri-speaking milieu.  Moreover, his legacy is ardently claimed by the Mahri themselves, and despite the gap of over 500 years,  , declared his indep  occurred during the investiture of al-Shiḥr , from whence he launched an abortive naval campaign against Aden, then capitol of the sovereign Ṭāhirid state.

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