Sunday, April 15, 2007

UAE: Tales Told of Houses Made of Palms

It is said that long ago, during the days of the Jahiliyya before Islam, Sama b. Lu'ayy lived in the Hejaz, near Mecca, and he was Sama b. Lu'ayy b. Ghalib of the Banu Kinana. It is said that one day he killed Uday b. 'Amir b. Lu'ayy, the son of his brother, but others say that no, he gouged out one of the eyes of his brother, Ka'b b. Lu'ayy. Sama then feared that he would be punished, and so left Mecca, and with him was his son, al-Harith b. Sama, and his daughter, Hind bt. Sama. With them, Sama fled until he reached a valley by the side of the sea. There, he married Najiya bt. Hazm b. Riyan of the Banu Quda'a.

Najiya bt. Hazm was the same as Hind bt. Hazm; she is called Najiya bt. Hazm because of what happened she travelled further with Sama bt. Lu'ayy, who wished to reach the country of Oman. They made their journey across the great sand desert that is called the Rub' al-Khali, the Empty Quarter. At one point, she became thirsty, and asked for a drink, but Sama insisted water was right in front of her, because he was seeing a mirage. Servants, however, carried her until they came to the oasis of Tuwwam, which is today the cities of Buraymi and al-Ain, on the border of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. They came with her to water, and there she drank, and so was saved (najiyat). Someone then said to her, "Go, for you are saved!" This was how she came to be called Najiya, and her descendants are the B. Najiya.

To the south of this oasis of Tuwwam, there is a mountain, called Mt. Hafeet. In those days, there were more animals in the region than there are now, and falcons and hawks would have made their nests on its slopes. Even with their keen sight, however, when they looked down upon the country they would now have seen Najiya and her servants, nor Sama and the rest of the party coming behind her. Indeed except for the green of the oasis in the distance, nothing but endless shades of brown greet the eye, from the limestone crags of the mountain to the ever shifting sands and hard earth of the desert floor. Yes, Sama and Najiya, coming from the south would have been lost, less than specks on the burning land which extended to the farthest horizons.

Sama b. Lu'ayy, too, however came to the oasis of Tuwwam. Now when he was in the region of Mecca and preparing to set out, several of the leading men from his people had come to him and expressed their displeasure with his departure. And he had said to them, "What are you afraid of for me?" And they had replied, "We are afraid that you will enter into a servile condition or make a lowly marriage alliance." And he had said, "Trust me." Now when he arrived in Tuwwam, it was the home of Himmam b. Abd b. Rafid of the Banu Malik b. Malik b. Fahm, and the leading men of the Banu Azd took refuge with him, or with those of the Nizar such as the Abd al-Qays who were in Tuwwam also. With all these Sama b. Lu'ayy made peace, but when they sought the hand of his daughter Hind bt. Sama, he refused until the coming of 'Imran b. 'Amr b. 'Amir. The Azd leaders knew him through his kinsmen in the Hijaz, and so Sama agreed that Hind should be married to his son al-Asd, and she bore to him a son, whose name was al-'Atik b. al-Asd b. 'Imran.

This al-'Atik was the ancestor of al-Muhallab b. Abi Sufra, for whom was named that district of Dibba which is within the territory of the emirate of Fujairah. Of his deeds and the deeds of the Al Muhallab who came after him, it would take many volumes to tell all. Of Dibba, however, it is said that when Islam was made manifest, it was the greatest market of the markets of the Arabs in that country, and the chief of its people was Laqit b. Malik al-Atiki. Now when the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, passed away, Laqit renounced Islam, and began preaching after the manner of a Prophet. He invaded Oman, and forced Abd and Jayfar, the sons of Julanda of Azd, to the mountains and the sea. And against Laqit b. Malik, Abu Bakr the Caliph sent armies led by Hudhayfah b. Mihsan al-Ghalfani and Arfaja al-Bariqi of al-Azd, who joined the Julandas in Suhar, the chief city of Oman. From there, they began preaching to the tribes that had gathered at Dibba, until enough had left that they felt Laqit was weak. Then they attacked the apostate, but he withstood them until the coming of the B. Najiya under al-Khirrit b. Rashid and a group of Abd al-Qays. Then there was great slaughter, and the people of Dibba returned to Islam.

Now it came to pass in later times that Oman became the land of the Ibadhis, who were led by their imams. In the days when the Imamate had passed to al-Muhanna b. Jayfar al-Fajhi al-Yahmadi, al-Mughira b. Rusan al-Julanda'i and his followers from the Banu Julanda rebelled, and went to Tuwwam, and killed its governor, Abu Waddah. When word of this reached Abu Marwan, the governor of Suhar, he set forth to Tuwwam with many of his people, and with the general al-Matar al-Hindi and many of his followers from the people of India. And they came to Tuwwam and destroyed the Banu Julanda, with some being killed and others fleeing. Then al-Matar al-Hindi and a group of his soldiers went to the dwellings of the Banu Julanda, and set them ablaze. It is said that one man from the party wet his body and clothes from the stone irrigation channels, and then went through the flames to where the cows were tied and cut the ropes which bound them and allowed them to save themselves. Altogether 70 rooms were burned that day, though others say only 50.

Centuries later, when the ships of the British appeared in the Gulf, the peoples of the coast pursued their ships, and captured many, and took what they found therein, and became wealthy, until one day when the British went and destroyed all the towers of the coast. The shaykhs of the coast then signed an agreement with the British, and agreed that they would build no fortresses in that region. This was in the days when Sultan b. Saqr b. Rashid al-Qasimi ruled in Sharjah, which he near to Dubai. Now Sultan b. Saqr feared the Bedouin, who were in the desert, and would often raid Sharjah, so he built a new fort all of white stone, and although near to the shores of the Khor Khalid, its defenses faced toward the land, and so did not threaten those who controlled the sea.

Some time later, during the rule of Sultan's grandson Saqr b. Khalid b. Sultan, there lived along the coast near the city a blind old man from the people of India named Basidoh. Now each day this Basidoh would catch and grill a fish. One evening, there came a strong wind, and the wind carried the flames to the palm fronds which made up his house, and set them ablaze. And the flames spread, and went down into the city, and even into the harbor, where were docked the fishing boats and the ships of the traders and a great ship called Bin Madkur Jalbout. And when Saqr b. Khalid heard of this, he entered the city on his white horse, and beheld all the destruction that had been done to the houses and the ships, but that part of the mast of the Bin Madkur Jalbout remained intact. This he commanded be cut down, and placed in front of the fort. And whenever a pearl diver would be unable to dive deep enough to find the pearls or a thief be caught, he would be tied to this post and whipped, and so it was called the Wood of Repentence.

Years later, Saqr's grandson, Sultan b. Muhammad b. Saqr, was in Cairo, when word reached him that this fort was being destroyed, and that new buildings were to be put in its place. At this he became distraught, for he loved it, and so that very night took a plane back to Sharjah, where he found all had been demolished save its towers. And when the workers came that morning, he commanded them to stop, and caused the pieces of the fort to be collected and put into storage. Then when Sultan hismelf became the new emir, he set about the task of rebuilding it, and of setting near to it a place like a village along the shores of the Khor Khalid. And he caused that the village and the fort would be open to all, that they might remember the stories and ways of what had gone before.

I have looked at these things, and what I have said herein is what I have seen written on their plaques, and what I have read in the books of the learned. God knows what is true.



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