Shammar genealogy

By Edouard Aldahdah

Posted on July 25th, 2011 in General

I found this family tree of the Shammar Bedouin clans from the section of the tribe known as Zawba’ (Zoba). It can be found online on an Arabic genealogy website. Most Shammar genealogies were put together by Western travelers, often basing themselves on more or less reliable Bedouin informants.

This one was compiled by a Syrian ‘traveler’ in the years between 1963 and  1971 across three countries Iraq, Syria and Kuwait ( to where many Shammar Bedouins from Syria emigrated in the 1960s). It is special in that it references its sources, the tribal elders who were used as sources when compiling the information. The document says it will be published [was it already?] in an upcoming book about the Shammar Bedouins in three volumes.

I have been trying to compile such a list for many years, and was facing three challenges — other than the logistical challenge of locating and reaching the sources, which were getting increasingly scarce as time was passing by:

1) first, the difficulty of reconciling tribal genealogies, as they was always a point were the elders’ versions differed, like in all oral histories; one would claim his clan is related to another clan; the elder from the other clan would deny it, or say he does not know for sure; some accounts were deemed ‘certain’; others only ‘hearsay’; some accounts were conflicting, but equally detailed, so you wouldn’t know which one to believe, etc. Just like each person could have his or her own version of a certain event, each elder seemed to have his version of the tribe’s collective genealogy.

2) second, there were dominant discourses: if an elder was rich enough to commission a book about his clan or tribe, or if he was powerful enough to impose his own glorified version of the tribe’s genealogy, then it became really difficult to ascertain the actual genealogy. For instance, at some point, a genealogy emerged about the leaders of the Shammar Sinjarah, who are from the family of al-Jarba, tracing to the Prophet Muhammad through the Sharif of Mecca. This version of their genealogy soon became the dominant one, and less glorious accounts — but probably closer to the truth — were suppressed.

3) third, at some point in the genealogy, individuals, instead of being referred to as sons of others individuals, became sons of entire groups or clans: e.g., Muhammad son of Ali son of Faris son of the Ghishm (a group) who are son of the Fawwaz (another group). Whether memories were becoming blurred as oral histories were going further back in time, or whether these were legendary accounts not unlike those of the Genesis in the Bible, it was not possible to say.

At any rate, I eventually gave up on the task of aggregating these individual genealogies some time ago, and now I am really happy to have found this compilation/family tree, because someone else has taken the trouble of doing it at a time (the 1960s) when the elders who had known the old way of life — life under the tent, the raids, the oral histories around the campfires, when genealogies actually meant something and a man was considered as worthy as his pedigree — were still alive.

I don’t know how the man who put the chart together went around the three problems I faced, but the list of elders he references is comforting and reads like a who’s-who of Shammar Bedouin chieftains (and, as such, of major horse breeders or as-hab marabit): Al-Hadb (breeders of *Abeyah!); Abu Wutaid (in Oppeheim’s famous photo); Al-‘Abhul; Al-‘Amud (there is now a stallion in France whose grand-dam they bred); Al-Dari (breeders of *King John!); Al-Timyat; Al-Lami; Ibn Rakhis (See Abbas Pasha Manuscipt list of horses at the end); Al-Jarba; Al-Suhayyan (breeders of the Syrian stallion that went to France in 2009 and died soon after); Al-Ghishm; Al-Hathrabi; Al-Saadi; Al-Qaeet; Al-Dayes; Al-Sbeih; Al-Sadid, etc., etc.

[I am in Jordan now and badly jetlagged, so I am going to spend the rest of the night looking at this :)]









One Response to “Shammar genealogy”

  1. Well, I hope you get some rest sometime! It will be interesting to see how this compares with von Oppenheim…

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