The Islamic and Cultural Ethos of Hadhrami Businessmen

The Islamic and Cultural Ethos of Hadhrami Businessmen

Nabil Sultan, Haifa Reda Jamal Al-Lail
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1802-1.ch005
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This chapter is intended to shed some light on a group of businessmen (known as the Hadhramis) who achieved commercial success outside and inside Yemen (their country of origin) and to gain insights into the factors behind this success. Very little has been written about these people. Moreover, most of what has been said about them was written by Western academics, historians, or politicians. As such, very important Hadhrami characteristics were missing from those writings. This chapter focuses on some of those characteristics. Most interestingly, it draws, in the authors' view, important conclusions of their implications for the success that many Hadhramis were able to achieve in business in some of the countries to which they migrated. The chapter takes a historical perspective by relying on secondary literature to record stories of Hadhrami commercial achievements as well as a small case study involving three highly successful Saudi businessmen of Hadhrami origin.
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Methodology And Plan

To substantiate this claim, we rely on historical accounts and adopt a qualitative research methodology based on a small scale case study that is presented in this chapter which represents its empirical component. The use of case studies in research is a widely accepted methodology due to the fact that they offer insights that might not be achieved with other approaches. Much of what we know today about the empirical world, according some authors, has been produced by case study research (Starman, 2013). Moreover, case studies are often viewed as a useful tool for the preliminary, exploratory stage of a research project which can be the basis for the development of the ‘more structured’ tools that are necessary in surveys and experiments (Rowley, 2002). Most importantly, as argued by Rowley, they are useful in providing answers to the ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ questions (ibid). This indeed is the purpose of the case study which is presented in this chapter. We hope it will be a preliminary or exploratory stage for a future research project that will have a much wider scope.

Our case study involves three Hadhrami individuals who belong to different generations of the migrant history of their families in Saudi Arabia. The interviews were conducted by telephone and recorded. Emails were also used to solicit further information and verify facts from the three interviewees following the telephone conversations. The interviews are based on four main questions. These are listed as follows:

  • 1.

    Hadhramis are renowned for being successful business people. Do you share this view? If so, explain why.

  • 2.

    Hadhramis are often described as thrifty (sometimes even miserly) people. Yet many successful Hadhrami businessmen are also altruistic and charitable. How can both (seemingly opposing) qualities exist in the Hadhrami character?

  • 3.

    Hadhramis are renowned for their ability to integrate in the communities they migrate to and settle in (as happened in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia). Does this integration have an impact on the Hadhrami’s character and way of life?

  • 4.

    Do young Hadhramis differ from old Hadhramis? If so, why?

There are five steps that represent the research plan of this chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Diaspora: The dislocation of people from their original homeland and migration to other foreign lands due to compelling circumstances.

Ethos: A set of ideas, attitudes and values that are associated with a particular group of people.

Hadhramis: They are the inhabitants of Hadhramaut which is a massive region to the south of Yemen and is historically famous for its architecture and Islamic teaching schools.

Umar: His full name is Umar ibn al-Kha??ab . He is probably one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history. He succeeded Abu Bakr (the closest companion of Prophet Mohammad) after his death.

Hadith: The documented sayings of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Quakers: The Quakers are members of a religious Christian community who emerged in Britain during the 17th century and lived through the early 20th century. Because of the way they perceive Christianity, they were persecuted for their faith. Some Quakers migrated to America during the 17 th century to escape persecution and their reception by the local communities was a mixture of tolerance and rejection.

Aden: Yemen’s most important city due to its close proximity to the Red Sea and the Arab Sea. It was occupied by the British from 1839 to1967. After the Second World War, the city underwent rapid economic development and transformation to become a vibrant commercial centre and an important international port.

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