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5. Sayyid Abubakar bin Abdulrahman (Mwenye Mansab) | Blog


The following is an extract from an upcoming book by Dr. Abdulkadir Hashim, Senior Lecturer in Sharia & Islamic Studies and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, which will cover Muslim intellectual contributions along the East African coast.

View extracts chronologically by clicking below:

1. Sayyid Umar bin Amin
2. Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Muslim (Mselem) al-Amiri
3. Shaykh Abubakar ibn Muhammad ibn Abubakar Al-Maawi (Bwenye Kai)
4. Shaykh Ali bin Abdalla bin Nafi’i bin Abdalla al-Mazrui


5. Sayyid Abubakar bin Abdulrahman bin Abubakar (Mwenye Mansab)


Mwenye Mansab was born in Lamu in either 1243 AH /1828 AD or 1244 AH/1829 AD. He died in Lamu on the 20th of Sha’ban, 1340 AH/18th of April, 1922.


Sayyid Abdulrahman, Sayyid Abubakar’s father, died in 1296 AH/1879 AD.  Mwenye Mansab came from the Ahli Bate Shariff clan that had migrated from Arabia and had settled in Pate (an island east of Lamu). His paternal grandfather, Abdulrahman bin Abubakar bin Ahmad bin Shaykh Abubakar bin Salim, came from Hadramawt — a region in Yemen.  Mwenye Mansab’s wife, Mwanachema wa Bwandiawni, was from the Nabahani family who were earlier rulers of Pate Island.


Mwenye Mansab was from a wealthy family. He was famous for building mosques in the places where he settled.  He built the Chwaka mosque in Chwaka village in Zanzibar where he was the Imam. He pioneered the recitation of the whole Qur’an during tarawih prayers in Chwaka village.


When he was in Lamu, Mwenye Mansab helped build the famous Rawdha mosque. He was close to his contemporary, Habib Saleh, to whom he gave a piece of land to construct the mosque.


Mwenye Mansab returned to Lamu from Zanzibar and stayed there until his death.  In his later years, he used to confine himself to the mosque to the extent that he put his bed in there.


One popular tale associated with Sayyid Mansab was that a camel, who was overworked by his owner, went to Sayyid Mansab to complain. The matter was reported to the Kadhi who called the owner and reprimanded him.


Mwenye Mansab served as Kadhi in various places.  He was first appointed as Kadhi in Dar es Salaam during the reign of Sultans Majid (c.1856-1870) and Barghash (c.1870-1888). He then became the Kadhi of Chwaka during the reign of Sultan Hamud (c.1896-1902) and then Kadhi of Zanzibar and Lamu during the reign of Sultan Ali bin Hamud (c.1902-1911).


Mwenye Mansab’s main teacher was Shaykh Muhammad bin Fadhil Al-Bakri. His other teachers were Sayyid Abdulrahman bin Sayyid Ahmad Abdulrahman Al-Husaini and Sayyid Ahmad bin Zayn Dahlani in Mecca (Dahlani was the Shaykhal-Islam — Chief Kadhi — of Mecca at the time). On his second visit to Mecca, Mwenye Mansab studied under Sayyid Abubakar Shatta.  In 1306 AH /1889 AD, Mwenye Mansab visited Hadramawt and studied under Sayyid Aidarus bin Umar Al-Habshi and Sayyid Abdurahman bin Muhammad Al-Mash-hur.


Some of his students in Lamu included: Habib Saleh Alwi Jamal Al-Layl, Shaykh Abdalla Muhammad Bakathir, Shaykh Abdalla Muhammad Umar Al-Khatib Al-Maawi, Sayyid Ahmad Badawi Sayyid Saleh Alwi Jamal Al-Layl (Mwenye Badawi), Sayyid Muhammad Adnan Al-Ahdali and Sayyid Abdalla bin Ahmad Al-Ahdali (Mwenye Abdalla Kadhi).

Intellectual works

Mwenye Mansab came from a scholarly family that traces its roots to Shaykh Abubakar bin Salim from Yemen.  The descendants of Shaykh Abubakar bin Salim have contributed to various intellectual works along the East African coast. A few of these intellectual works are Qasida Hamziyyah by Al-Busiri which was translated into Swahili using the Arabic script by Sayyid Aydarus bin Athuman bin Shaykh Abubakar bin Salim and Al-Inkishafi (The Soul’s Awakening), which was written by Sayyid Abdallah bin Ali bin Nasir (1720-1820), Shaykh Abubakar bin Salim’s grandson. The poem mourns the fate of kings while contemplating the ruins of the Sultans’ palace in Pate.


Mwenye Mansab’s uncle wrote Al-Inkishafi. Mwenye Mansab himself wrote a number of works on Islamic theology and law in Swahili using the Arabic script. He also translated a number of treatises into the Swahili language using the Arabic script. The women of Lamu used to sing Mwenye Mansab’s poems while doing household chores.


It was reported that Mwenye Mansab had given his manuscripts to an Indian merchant by the name of Jaffer Dewji to publish in India. Unfortunately, all the manuscripts were lost at sea.




Abdalla Saleh Farsy (1972) A. S. Baaadhi ya Wanavyuoni wa Kishafi wa Mashirki ya Afrika.


Harith Swaleh (2004). Chaguo la Wanavyuoni, Mombasa: Bajaber Printing Press, (Ramadhan 1425)


Kineene wa Mutiso (1996).  Archetypal Motifs in Swahili Islamic Poetry: Kasida ya Burudai, PhD Dissertation, Department of Linguistics and African Languages, University of Nairobi.


Lyndon Harries. (1962). Swahili Poetry, Oxford: Clarendon Press.


p.17صالح محمد علي بدوي (شيخ باحسن), الرياض بين ماضيه وحاضره, الطبعة الأولى ه1410 -1989م




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