Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Empires and Ends of History: The Life and Times of Sayyid Fadl b. 'Alawi" by Wilson Jacob

By Alaa Adel Elsayed and Noha Mohamed El Tawil

Cairo, Egypt – On Monday, April 7, Wilson Jacob, associate professor of history at Concordia University, delivered a lecture entitled "Empires and Ends of History: The Life and Times of Sayyid Fadl b. 'Alawi" that was held by the Department of History and Middle East Studies Center at The American University in Cairo.

The lecture presented the life of Bin Alawi and his significance that was evident in his Sufi tradition, his relations with prominent political figures in the 19thcentury and the unstable relation between him and the British colonizers in the area of the Indian Ocean.

Jacob started by giving a brief description of the political situation in the area of the Indian Ocean, where the Mongol Empire was the significant power in the 16th century before Bin Alawi, whereas the European powers were not "making much significance."

The popular narrative of the origins of Bin Alawi is that he is a descendent of Prophet Mohamed’s bloodline, so that gives him a "distinct identity," and remarkable legacy as a Sufi teacher.

A mosque was built upon Bin Alawi’s grave in Malabar, turning it into a shrine that people visit for blessings, and embodies his impact in that area's history.

Throughout his life, Bin Alawi composed a threat on the rulers' power in the areas he lived in. That had started when the British colonization had perceived Bin Alawi as a "disturbing force" to its power in Malabar because of the large trade deals he had with the neighboring islands, and cities, in addition to his popularity and influence on people.

Therefore, The British colonizers reached a compromise with Bin Alawi to go to Mekka for Haj. "He went but was never back," as he headed to "Istanbul," after he had remained in Yemen for a while, Jacob added.

"The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire acknowledged his nobility," and hosted him in the "special guests" building. Thereafter, the Sultan appointed him as the "governor" of Dhafar in Yemen, however, he felt later the "challenge" he presented on his sovereignty.

"Global history is shaped by many different agents," Jacob said. Bin Alawi is a "great lens to global history, to the 19th century history."

Jacob could successfully describe the biography of Bin Alawi, accurately explaining his life as a Sufi, his achievements and conflicts, and displaying his Arabic writings, and places he lived in. "Alawi’s Sufi tradition is not disappearing but under attack," Jacob concluded.

Jacob's work is "absolutely fascinating," commented Nefertiti Tigra, student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Tigra has already been familiar with Jacob's work, as they both work for the American Research Center in Egypt, so that she attended the lecture to "hear and support."

No comments:

Post a Comment