Alavi (surname)

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The surname Alavi (often spelled as Alvi and can be also seen spelled as Alaoui or Alawi) (Arabic: علوي‎‎) signifies ancestry from Ali ibn Abi Talib (Arabic: علي بن أﺑﻲ طالب‎‎), the fourth Caliph of Sunni Islam. Ali was the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and titled Amir al-Mu'minin (Arabic: أمیر المؤمنین‎‎) (Commander of the Faithful) by his followers.

Alvi Awan of Punjab[edit]

The Alvi Awans, are a South Asian community[1] that trace their origin from Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib through his son Al-Abbas ibn Ali, who was the Commander at the Battle of Karbala.[2] It is also believed to have gone through Qutb Shah, the famous general of Mahmud Ghazni who conquered most part of Herat, Afghanistan, and Khorasan. Contrary to this a small number of scholars have [3] argued that Awans were a part of the local Hindu population of the Punjab region of Medieval India, who embraced Islam after the Islamic invasion of India.

During the British rule several settlement officers collected information about local tribes. According to Thomson, Awan may be related to the Jat people of India, who may have converted to Islam after the Islamic invasion of India. In several areas of the Punjab region they are registered as Jatts. Thomson in his Jehlum Settlement report adduces many strong reasons in support of his conclusion that the Awans are related to the Jat people who came from passes west of D.I.Khan.

Griffin also agrees to the local Muslim origin of Awans while Cunningham holds that Janjuas and Awans are descended from Anu and calls them Anwan. Another scholar Wilson is of the view that Awans are of indigenous Hindu origin.

Other historians like Kaul have pointed to the fact that in Sanskrit, the term Awan means "defender" or "protector" and asserting that this title was awarded by surrounding tribes due to the Awans successfully defending their strongholds against aggression.

However Cunningham accepts that,”In the total absence of all written records, I have almost nothing to offer in favour of this identification, except its great probability.”[4]

Making reference to W.S. Talbot’s assessment of the Awans, Rose also commented: “But in the best available account of the tribe, the Awans are indeed said to be of Arabian origin and descendants of Qutb Shah.”[5] Sir Lepel Henry Griffin states: “All branches of the tribe are unanimous in stating that they originally came from the neighbourhood of Ghazni to India, and all trace their genealogy to Hasrat Ali the son-in-law of the Prophet. Kutab Shah, who came from Ghazni with Sultan Mahmud, was the common ancestor of the Awans.”[6]

Furthermore, most of the uncertainties regarding the roots of the Awan tribe are due to the fact, that discrimination based on castes is still an issue in South Asia and thus a large number of families started calling themselves Sayyids, Hashmis, Abbasis or Awans (resp. Alvis) in order to have a higher social status. Many smaller Jat and Rajput clans, who converted at the hands of Awans also started affiliating them with the Awan tribe. Another important fact is, that there is also a tribe of Persian origin called Awan but written differently in Arabic script.

As a result, to this, many Alvi Awans call themselves Qutb-Shahi Awans, to clearify their origin and most of them maintain a family tree.

The lineage of the common ancestor of the Qutb-Shahi Awans goes as follows;

Ali ibn Abi Talib Al Abbas ibn Ali Ubaidullah Hassan Hamza Jaffar Ali Qasim At-Tyar Abu Ya'la Hamza Al Hashmi ibn Ya'la Al Alawi Al Baghdadi Abdullah Awn (ibn Ya'la) Qutb Shah[7]

The Awans prominent in the army during the British Raj, British categorized Awans as a "martial races" and as such, the formed an important part of the British Indian Army, serving during World Wars I and II.

In the genealogical tree of the Nawabs of Kalabagh, there are found several native names such as Rai, Harkaran, etc.[8]

Many famous people belong to this tribe, such as the Nawab of Kalabagh, Air Marshal Nur Khan, Dr. Arif Alvi, Ameer Faisal Alavi, and Amjad Farooq Alvi.

The Alavi of Kakori[edit]

The Alavi of Kakori are sometimes referred to as Moulvizadigan (Moulvis) or Makhdoomzadigan (Makhdooms), indicating whether they are descendants of Mullah Abu Bakr Jami Alavi, who settled in Kakori in 1461 or descendants of Qari Amir Saifuddin Alavi, who settled in Kakori in 1512. The spelling of (Arabic: علوي) varied greatly. Although, the Alavi spelling is most prevalent in Iran, but Alvi, Alawi, and Alwi spellings are frequently found in India and some Middle Eastern Countries.They form part of the Kakori Shaikh community.

Notable people with the surname Alavi[edit]


  1. ^ Awan History
  2. ^ History of Kalabagh
  3. ^ Arab origins
  4. ^ [Four reports made during the years, 1862-63-64-65, Volume 2, by Sir Alexander Cunningham, p.18]
  5. ^ [ Rose, H.A., 1997, A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province, Nirmal Publishers and Distributors, p.p. 25-29]
  6. ^ [Griffin, L.H., 1865, The Panjab Chiefs: Historical and Biographical Notices of the Principal Families in the Territories Under the Panjab Government, Chronicle Press, p.p. 570-571. ]
  7. ^ Kihalastah al-Nisab, a treatise written by Jamal ad-Din Hasan ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Ali ibn Muthahhar al-Hilli, on the descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib; this rare tome also covers the descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib, who migrated to lands outside Arabia – including the Indian subcontinent – following the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate. The treatise is the oldest work dealing with the history of the Awan tribe
  8. ^ Leading Tribes Of Punjab And Their Origins

External links[edit]