Al-Lawatia

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Al-Lawatia (Arabic: اللواتية‎, sing. Lawati) is an ethnocultural group primarily based in the province of Muscat, Oman.

Scholar Ahmad Majidyar claims that "in recent decades, the Lawati community has claimed Arab descent, reasoning that they temporarily lost their Arab and tribal identity by residing in India after the Islamic conquest of the subcontinent."[1]

Origins[edit]

The Lawatis are of South Asian descent and are believed to share similar origins with the Kutchi Bhatias.[2] The origin of the Lawatis traces their ancestry back to al-Hakam bin 'Awanat al-Lati, a Hijazi Arab who, per folklore, participated in the Muslim conquest of the Indian Peninsula and settled there. The Lawatis converted to Twelver Shia Islam in the 19th century from Ismaili Shia Islam following a dispute regarding the legitimacy of the Aga Khan's leadership.[3]

Demographics and role in the Persian Gulf[edit]

The size of the Al-Lawati population cannot be determined precisely, but is estimated to be approximately 80,000 people.[citation needed] Most Lawatis reside in Muscat, the capital of Oman, but some live on the coast of Al-Batina. Some Lawati families reside elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region such as U.A.E, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Traditionally, Al-Lawatia have been known as prominent merchants on the coasts of Muttrah which lies 2 kilometers of Muscat. They have worked in the incense (بخور), jewelry and clothes business as well as in general trade. The community occupies a gated quarter of Muttrah known as Sur al-Lawatia. The quarter still boasts attractive houses with a unique Islamic architectural view and a large mosque known as Al-Rasul Al-Aadam Mosque or The Greatest Prophets Mosque in reference to Prophet Mohammed. The Sur has seen a major exodus in recent decades as Lawatis have moved to more modern neighborhoods as a result of increasing development, the availability of facilities and growing wealth and business of the community. Another great historic monument built by the tribe is Al-Zahra Mosque in the UAE, which was built nearly 300 years ago [4]

History and notable families[edit]

The first historical mention of the Lawatis is said to have been by the Omani historian Ibn Ruzayq, who said that notables of the community greeted the first ruler of the currently ruling Al Said dynasty on his arrival to Muscat in the 1740.[5]

At least one Lawati family can be documented through British records as existing in Oman since the 1700s.[6]

Perhaps one of the most notable political families from the Al-Lawati tribe is Al-Abdulateef family, with names such as Al Hajj Baqer Abdulateef Fadel and Ali Abdulateef Fadel spearheading the tribe into prominence in the early 20th Century. Al Hajj Baqer, one of the pioneer merchants in Muttrah and well-respected public figure, lead the tribe as the Lawati sheikh, he enjoyed a strong relationship with the ruling Al Said house particularly Sultan Said bin Taimur. It is widely known that he privately aided the Omani government's efforts in expelling the Saudi contingents from Al Buraimi in 1952.[7]

The Al-Muscati surname of some families in Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain suggests that they were Muscati immigrants, and are believed to be of Lawati origin. Some Al-Muscati families live in Oman today. They are Lawatis who obtained their surname during the period when they immigrated and lived in Iraq, before they went back to Oman in the late seventies. The first Arab ambassador to the United States of America and a senior advisor to Sultan Said bin Sultan Al Said, Ahmed bin Nu'man Al-Ka'abi, was a member of the extended Bahrani family.[8]

Today there are many families and clans within the Lawati tribe including Al-Abdulateef, Al-Saleh, Al-Khabouri, Al-Wardy, Al-Kokar, Dara, Al-Habib and Al-Najwani in Oman. In the UAE Al-Lawati families include: Al-Sajwani, Al-Issa, Al-Shalwani, Al-Yousef, Al-Aboodi, AL-Kashwani, Al-Buqellah and Fadhlani.

Religion[edit]

Verbal history indicates that at one point they were Muslim Shia in various branches. They now follow the Twelver Shia Islam. Consequently, the new adopted doctrine of Twelvers/Jaafari grew within the Lawati tribe and the different branches were not accepted. Hence, some retracted while others detached from the community. However, most present-day Lawatis are known to be Twelver Shia Muslims. And with the process of mingling with the other groups, few Lawatis brought up through mixed marriages either following mixed Shia/Sunni or Shia/Ibadhi traditions. However, Laurence Louër, in his book Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf, mentions a different theory of the religious origins of Al-Lawati. According to this theory, the Lawatis were Khoja Ismailis who migrated to Oman from Hyderabad (in present-day Pakistan) in the 19th century, before converting to Twelver Shi'ism following a dispute with the leadership of the community.[9]

Language[edit]

See Luwati language The native mother language of Al-Lawaties (Sn.Khojo, Pl.Khoja) is Luwati language which is called in their own tongue as (Khojki). This idiom is genetically and morphologically related to the Sindhi language; a branch of the Indo-European tree. As it also shares common similarities with other spoken languages of the other ethnic groups in Oman (presumed ethnically to be of the same origin) e.g. Zadjali (Jadgali), Maimani and Al Saigh. Elderlies were fluent in both the written and the spoken Khojki.[10]

Arabic as a first language of Oman and all Arabia, is also held tightly by Al-Lawaties in parallel with their mother tongue language Khojki. However, the trend now within this community is to abandon their own native language and more people of the young generation are found not to know how to write nor speak it, most Lawatis today are not as fluent in Kojki as their ancestors as they consider Arabic their mothertongue with Kojki and English relegated to secondary languages.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Majidyar, Ahmad Khalid. Is Sectarian Balance in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar at Risk?. October 6, 2013 pg 2.
  2. ^ Oman, Culture and Diplomacy. By Jeremy Jones and Nicholas Ridout.
  3. ^ Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf. By Laurence Louër. pg 147.
  4. ^ Al-Lawati, Jawad bin Jaafar bin Ibrahim Al-Khabouri. The Omani Role in the Indian Peninsula: The Role of Bani Sama Ibn Loaey (Al-Lawatia). Muscat, Oman: Dar Al-Nubala, 2001.
  5. ^ Ibn Ruzayq, Humaid. Al-Deya’a Al-Shay’e Bil Lama’an, Muscat (Arabic: الضياء الشائع باللمعان – ابن رزيق‎)
  6. ^ Badger, George Percy. Imams and Syyids of Oman, London: Hakluyt Society, 1871.
  7. ^ قدوة الفقهاء والعارفين السيد حسين العالم بن أسد الله الموسوي: سيرة حياته الربانية وشرح سياحاته العرفانية - تقي بن السيد حسين الموسوي
  8. ^ Eilts , Hermann Frederick. Ahmad Bin Na'aman's Mission to the United States in 1840: The Voyage of Al-Sultanah to New York City. Muscat, Oman: Petroleum Development (Oman) Limited, 1971.
  9. ^ Laurence Louër (2008) Transnational Shia Politics: Religious and Political Networks in the Gulf. Columbia University Press, pp. 147
  10. ^ Salman, Amel & Kharusi, Nafla S. (2012) ‘The Sound System of Lawatiyya’, Journal of Academic and Applied Studies May Vol. 2(5), pp. 36- 44, ISSN1925-931X, available online @ www.academians.org