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Ja'alin tribe

Warrior from the tribe of the Ja'alin
EthnicitySudanese Arabs
LocationNile river basin between Khartoum and Abu Hamad
LanguageSudanese Arabic[1]
ReligionSunni Islam

The Ja'alin, Ja'aliya, Ja'aliyin or Ja'al (Arabic: جعليون) are a tribal confederation and an Arab[a] or Arabised Nubian[b] tribe in Sudan. The Ja'alin constitute a large portion of the Sudanese Arabs and are one of the three prominent Sudanese Arab tribes in northern Sudan - the others being the Shaigiya and Danagla. They trace their origin to Ibrahim Ja'al, an Abbasid noble, whose clan originally hailed from the Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula and married into the local Nubian population. Ja'al was a descendant of al-Abbas, an uncle of Muhammad. The Ja'alin formerly occupied the country on both banks of the Nile from Khartoum to Abu Hamad.[13] According to a source, the tribe allegedly once spoke a now extinct dialect of Nubian as late as the nineteenth century.[14] Many Sudanese politicians have come from the Ja'alin tribal coalition.[15]


The Ja'alin are of Arab origin and trace their origins to Ibrahim Ja'al, an Abbasid noble, whose clan originally hailed from the Hejaz in the Arabian Peninsula and married into the local Nubian population. Ja'al was a descendant of al-Abbas, an uncle of Muhammad. The Ja'alin trace their lineage to Abbas, uncle of Muhammad.[13] According to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in 1888, the name Ja'alin does not seem to be derived from any founder of a tribe, but rather from the root Ja'al, an Arabic word meaning "to put" or "to stay", and in this sense it is those who settle.[16] Various sources have suggested that the Ja'alin are Arabized Nubians.[c]


According to their own tradition, the Ja'alin emigrated to Sudan in the 12th century with the Nile valley, but have settled in the Sudan before the Shaigiya. Since the 16th century, they were formerly tributaries to the Sultanate of Sennar.[16]

At the Egyptian invasion in 1820 they were the most powerful of Arab tribes in the Nile valley. They submitted at first, but in 1822 rebelled and massacred the Egyptian garrison at Shendi with the Mek Nimr, a Ja'ali King (mek) burning Ismail, Muhammad Ali Pasha's son and his cortege at a banquet. The revolt was mercilessly suppressed, and the Ja'alin were thence forward looked on with suspicion. They were almost the first of the northern tribes to join the Mahdi in 1884, and it was their position to the north of Khartoum which made communication with General Gordon so difficult. The Ja'alin then became a semi-nomad agricultural people.[13]

The Anglo-Egyptian re-conquest of the Sudan began in 1896. In July 1897 Ja'alin tribal leaders refused to allow the Mahdist forces to occupy the Ja’alin town of Metemmeh, a strategic point on the Nile, 180 kilometres downstream of Omdurman. They feared the occupation would be oppressive, threatening both lives and property. After the Khalifa refused an offer from their leaders for the Ja’alin themselves to protect this stretch of the Nile from advancing Anglo-Egyptian forces, the Ja'alin leaders requested protection from General Kitchener, commander of the Anglo-Egyptian army. In response, the Mahdist forces attacked Metemmeh, killing several thousand Ja’alin, including women and children,[17] with the killings continuing in the following year.[18] As a consequence, Ja’alin tribesmen supported the Anglo-Egyptian forces on their advance on Omdurman in 1898, including supplying an irregular force of 2,500 cavalry,[19] which helped clear the east bank of the Nile of Mahdist fighters in the days before the Battle of Omdurman.[20]


This group of over four million people live in cities and large towns along the banks of the Nile River, especially in the ancient town of Shendi which has historically served as their tribal capital. The area is very hot and dry, with an average yearly rainfall of about three inches. In the summer, which lasts from April through November, daytime temperatures can reach as high as 120 to 130 °F (49 to 54 °C).[citation needed]


Some Ja'alin still farm and raise livestock along the banks of the Nile River, but in the 21st century, they more commonly make up a large part of the Sudanese urban population, forming a large part of the merchant class. Although many have moved to cities, such as the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, they still maintain their tribal identity and solidarity. Famous for maintaining ties with their origins, they keep in contact with their original home and return for frequent visits, especially for marriages, funerals and Muslim festivals.[1]


The Ja'alin entirely speak Sudanese Arabic. In 1889, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain claimed that the Arabic spoken in Sudan was "a pure but archaic Arabic". The pronunciation of certain letters was like Hijazi, and not Egyptian, such as g being the pronunciation for the Arabic letter Qāf and J being the pronunciation for Jeem.[16] According to a source, the tribe allegedly once spoke a now extinct dialect of Nubian as late as the nineteenth century.[14]


Historically, a small group called the Meyrifab was sometimes classed with the Ja'alin, but the Ja'alin themselves rejected this inclusion.[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Gaalin in Sudan". Joshua Project. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  2. ^ Ibbotson, Sophie; Lovell-Hoare, Max (2012-11-26). Sudan. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-84162-413-6. Arab tribes arrived in Sudan in three main waves, beginning in the 12th century with the Ja'alin.
  3. ^ The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 1888. p. 16. The Ja'alin claim descent from Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad, of the Koreish tribe, and they are undoubtedly of Arab origin
  4. ^ Abdalla, Salma Mohamed Abdalmunim (2017). Charity Drops: Water Provision and the Politics of the Zakat Chamber in Khartoum, Sudan. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 101. ISBN 978-3-643-90928-2. the tribal story of the Gamuia [is] a tribe of Arab descent who claim to be one of the Jaalin confederations of Arabs.
  5. ^ Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine by Blackwell Scientific Publications. 1914. p. 130. The boy was an Arab belonging to the Jaalin tribe
  6. ^ Nachtigal, Gustav (1971). Sahara and Sudan: Kawar, Bornu, Kanem, Borku, Enned. University of California Press. p. 354. ISBN 978-0-520-01789-4. but we also find among them people of Arab origin, e.g. the Ja'alin or Jaliya, and the Tshrata.
  7. ^ Keown-Boyd, Henry (1986-11-24). A Good Dusting: The Sudan Campaigns 1883-1899. Pen and Sword. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-436-23288-6. Abdurahman Wad-el-Nejumi, Commander-in-Chief of the Dervish Force which recently invaded Egypt, was by birth an Arab of the JAALIN tribe, a powerful and warlike race of arabs
  8. ^ Gleichen, Lord Edward (1905). The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan: A Compendium Prepared by Officers of the Sudan Government. H. M. Stationery Office. p. 360. Jaalin Tribe, Arab
  9. ^ Newbold, Sir Douglas (1974). The Making of the Modern Sudan: The Life and Letters of Sir Douglas Newbold ... Greenwood Press. p. 481. ISBN 978-0-8371-7233-0. The main Arab tribes are Shaigia and Jaalin, light-coloured.
  10. ^ a b Adams 1977, pp. 557-558: "Although claiming a purely Arab pedigree, they [the Ja'alin] are in fact made up overwhelmingly of Arabized Nubians, with only a small admixture of genuinely Arab blood".
  11. ^ a b Holt 1970, p. 329: "(...) most of the settled clans of the main Nile are regarded as descendants of a certain Ja'al, who is, furthermore, stated to have been an 'Abbasid. Disregarding this assertion (a typical genealogical sophistication), we may reasonably see in these Ja'aliyyun the descendants of the arabized Nubians of the late Middle Ages".
  12. ^ a b Kramer, Lobban & Fluehr-Lobban 2013, p. 223: "Despite their claim of an Arab pedigree, the Ja'aliyin may also be considered a southern group of Arabized Nubians".
  13. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jā'alin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 103. Citation: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, edited by Count Gleichen (London, 1905)
  14. ^ a b O'Fahey, R. S., Spaulding, Jay (1974): Kingdoms of the Sudan. Methuen Young Books. ISBN 0416774504. pp.28-29
  15. ^ Moorcraft, Paul (April 30, 2015). Omar Al-Bashir and Africa's Longest War. United Kingdom: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 9781473854963.
  16. ^ a b c Wilson, Sir Charles W. (1888), "On the Tribes of the Nile Valley, North of Khartum", Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 17: 3–25, doi:10.2307/2841664, JSTOR 2841664 (see pages 16 and 17)
  17. ^ ‘An Officer’ (1899). Sudan Campaign 1896-1899. Chapman & Hall London, Chapter VII.
  18. ^ Philip Ziegler (1973). Omdurman. Collins. p. 55.
  19. ^ Winston Churchill (1899). The River War volume 2. Longmans. pp. 57, 91–93.
  20. ^ Philip Ziegler (1973). Omdurman. Collins. pp. 47 & 90.
  21. ^ The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 1888.


  • Adams, William Y. (1977). Nubia. Corridor to Africa. Princeton University. ISBN 0691093709.
  • Holt, P. M. (1970). "The Nilotic Sudan". In P. M. Holt; Ann K. S. Lambton; Bernard Lewis (eds.). The Cambridge History of Islam. Vol. 2A. Cambridge University.
  • Ibrahim, Abdullahi Ali (1988). "Breaking the Pen of Harold Macmichael: The Ja'aliyyin Identity Revisited". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 21 (2). African Studies Center: 217–231. doi:10.2307/219934. JSTOR 219934.
  • Kramer, Robert S.; Lobban, Richard A. Jr.; Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Sudan. The Scarecrow. ISBN 978-0810861800.
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Ja'alin tribe
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