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History of Ansaris

(Arabic: انصاری) is a Nesbat in Middle East and South Asia. It originates from Ansar (Arabic: انصار) the Medinan people that helped Islamic prophet Muhammad when he migrated from Mecca to Medina. The literal meaning of Ansar is supporters.

Arabic Usage

The name itself is not used as a surname among Arabs, patronymics is used instead. The word is added as a title to the end of the name, if one has an ancestor who was an Ansar. This kind of use of a name is called "Nesbat" in Arabic, meaning "relation". In modern times, however, the surname Al-Ansari is widely used in many Persian Gulf and Arab nations.

Iranian Usage

In contrast, Iranians use surnames instead of Patronymics. In Iran, it has become a a Surname, since Iranian use surnames. This has also happened with the "Tabatabai", also originally a Nesbat.

Pakistani and Indian Usage

The Ansari surname goes as far as being used in Pakistan, northern India and Bangladesh, to show a lineage or ancestral link to the Ansar of Medina. Through the various waves of migration from the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan, descendants of the Ansar tribes arrived in the Indian Subcontinent. These families, mainly came either as scholars, government administrators and functionaries, soldiers or officers. Ansaris in the Indian Subcontinent hail both from the Shi'a and Sunni Muslim schools of thought.

The main original settlements and concentrations of Ansaris on the Indian Subcontinent, were in Multan, Pakistan; the Sindh province, Pakistan; Lilla, in western Punjab, Pakistan; Panipat, India; Saharanpur, India; Gorakhpur, India; and Lucknow, India - see,Firangi Mahal.

It seems that over a period of time, others, and many of the new Muslim converts, in India also identified themselves as Ansari, to show reverence to their Islamic faith. Many of these in northern India and Pakistan were involved in fabric manufacturing i.e. weavers (Urdu: julahay). Often, but not necessarily, Ansari is used to identify a caste, as well. In the Indian Hindu Caste System and in the (Urdu: baradari) system traditionally, different cast were involved or associated with different trades or professions. See also, Islam in India.

Ali Asgher Razwy, a 20th century Shi'a Twelver Islamic scholar states:

Umar's attitude toward the Ansar is in sharp contrast to the attitude toward them of Muhammad, the Messenger of God. The latter loved the Ansar. He appointed many of them as governors of Medina, and he made many of them commanders of various expeditions. On one occasion he said that he would rather be with them (the Ansar) than with any other people. He also considered them capable of and qualified to rule the Muhajireen.

Montgomery Watt
The remark of Muhammad about Sa'd bin Mu'adh when he was about to judge the case of Banu Qurayza, "Stand for your chief (Sayyid)," could be taken to justify the view that the Ansar were capable of ruling over Quraysh, and the story was therefore twisted in various ways to remove this implication. (Muhammad at Medina, Oxford, 1966)

The Apostle of God called Sa'd the Chief of the Quraysh. Sa'd was obviously capable of ruling the Quraysh, and why not? After all what was there in the "credentials" of the Quraysh that the Ansar didn't have? Nothing. But the Ansar lost their capability of ruling the Quraysh as soon as Muhammad, their master, died. During the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar, it was a "disqualification" to be an Ansari to hold any important position in the government.

Far from having a share in the election of the head of the state, not to speak of themselves becoming the head of the state, the inhabitants of Medina, did not have a share in anything. They might have given some "advice" to Abu Bakr and Umar. In Saqifa, Abu Bakr and Umar had told them that they would consult them (the Ansar) in all matters.

Few, if any, would challenge the general interpretation of this poignant fact that the most important and most indispensable single factor in the year 1 of Hijri, namely, the support of the Ansar, had become the most striking non-factor in the year 11 Hijri.

The Ansar fought in all the campaigns of Abu Bakr and Umar but only as other ranks and never as generals. The new wealth which came flooding into Medina after the conquest of Persia and the Fertile Crescent, also appears to have bypassed them with the exception of a few, who collaborated with the Saqifa government. Among the latter were the two spies from the tribe of Aus who had squealed on the Khazraj to Umar and Abu Bakr. Others were Muhammad bin Maslama, Bashir bin Saad, and Zayd bin Thabit. They had shown great zeal in taking the oath of loyalty to Abu Bakr in Saqifa.

Zayd bin Thabit was one of the few Ansaris who shared the bonanza in the times of Umar and Uthman. He was also one of the few Ansaris who did not take part in the campaigns of Ali in Basra, Siffin and Nehrwan. Most of the Ansaris fought on Ali's side against his enemies in these battles.

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