When the Sultan of Zanzibar Sayid Bargash attempted to arrest Barawa scholar Sheikh Nurein Al Sabiri

Sheikh Nurein ibn Ahmad Sabir Al Hatimi was a famous scholar hailing from Barawa. During his time he was appointed as Chief Qadhi of Barawa by the Sultan of Zanzibar Sayid Barghash (1870-1888). A famous story or incident that occurred during his time as described in oral tradition is when the Sultan called out for his arrest. The story goes as follows below:

As Chief Qadhi, Sheikh Nurein ruled against a practise that had developed on someone’s death. It was a common practise at that time to mourn the deceased for seven or more days. Mourners were fed with meat, rice, and other food. The expense was paid by the city as courtesy to the deceased, Sheikh Nurein saw this practise as something that went against the Shariah, and as Chief of the city, he ruled that it should not be carried out. He urged that only the burial should be paid for in such a manner and all other expenses should be the responsibility of the deceased relatives and friends not the city or common folks.

This angered many people including notable people in high positions, they escalated the matter and reported the new ruling to the Sultan of Zanzibar Sayid Bargash, who was governing Barawa at that time. Upon hearing the news, Sultan Bargash gave orders for Sheikh Nurein to be arrested and step down from his position. Sheikh Nurein heard this news so he decided to travel to Zanzibar himself and meet the Sultan directly where he can put his case forth. Before embarking on a dhow from Barawa to Zanzibar, the town governor of Barawa heard about what Sheikh Nurein was planning, he sent his guards to arrest the Sheikh before he leaves the city. After a commotion, the captain of the ship firmly refused to let anyone on his ship to arrest the Sheikh, eventually the ship left for Zanzibar.

In Zanzibar, Sultan Bargash heard the news that Sheikh Nurein was on his way to meet him, he ordered the commission of Qadhis to meet him together with the Sheikh in order to see his argument. The two met, Sheikh Nurein was able to put forth his argument and justification, after discussions and debate, the commission came to an agreement that Sheikh Nurein was in the right. They concluded the meeting with apologising to the Sheikh and praising him.

Sultan Bargash proceeded to gift Sheikh Nurein valuable and sentimental books for him to share with his students back in Barawa


Bana M. S. Banafunzi ‘Brava – An Educational Resource Pack’ 2nd Edition, 1999

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