Albanians in Syria
Shqiptarët në Siri
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Albanians in Syria (Albanian: Shqiptarët në Siri) constitute a community of about 5,000 to 10,000 inhabitants, primarily in the cities of Damascus and Hama, Aleppo and Latakia. Albanians in Syria are known as الأرناؤوط/Arnā’ūṭ.
Damascus has specific Albanian (Arnaut) neighborhoods, which date back to the early 20th century. Among the best known is the Al Diwaniyah neighborhood, colloquially known as Arnaut Mahala (Albanian neighbourhood) where the Masjid Arnaut (Albanian Mosque) is located, built by Vehbi Sulejman Gavoçi an Albanian originating from Shkodër. Another neighbourhood of Damascus where many Albanian families live is the Al Kadam neighborhood.
The incorporation of Syria into the Ottoman Empire brought Janissary soldiers to urban centres of Syria such as Damascus, of which Albanians recruited from the Balkans in the seventeenth century were a noticeable presence alongside other Ottoman troops from different ethnicities. During that era Albanians also served in other capacities such Sinan Pasha from Topojan who was for a time governor in the area. Albanians though in larger numbers migrated to Syria during the late 19th and early 20th century. The largest wave of migrants in Syria was during 1912-1913, when Albanians fled the Balkan Wars. From the Ottoman era until contemporary times a tradition of migration has continued whereby Albanian Muslim scholars and students migrated to Damascus, some to perfect their Arabic. Some of these individuals stayed and settled in neighbourhoods such as Suq Saruja and Suq al-Muhajirin. Some individuals within the Albanian community were Sufis and also served as a bridgehead for the spread of Sufism back in the homeland.
Overall though, Albanian Muslim clergy in Damascus are conservative due to the dominance of Sunni Islam and that is reflected in many of their religious works in Arabic. Albanian Muslim scholars have left their mark on Islamic scholarship and prominent Albanian Muslim religious figures from Syria include Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani and Abdul Qader Arnaout. In contemporary times other Albanians in Syria have as artists, novelists, poets, short story writers, literary critics and dramatists contributed to Syrian society through their endeavours and works.
In Syria there exists a small community of Albanian speaking Romani who self-identify as Albanians and are employed in trades such as blacksmithing, metalwork and ironwork. The collapse of Ottoman rule in southern Europe due to the Balkan wars (1912-1913) caused their ancestors to migrate and settle in Syria.
- Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani - 20th century Islamic scholar of hadith and fiqh, author of over 100 works, mostly on hadith
- Abdul Qader Arnaout - Hadith scholar
- Shuaib Al Arna'ut - Scholar of Hadith in the Islamic World
- Shuayb Muharrem Arnauti - Muslim scholar
- Muhammad Mufaku Al Arnaut (born 1952, Damascus) - professor of Middle East studies at the Jordanian Al al-Bayt University
- Shqiptarët në Siri: Asad po na vret, na shkatërroi shtëpitë – shqiptarja.com
- Bega: Dhjetë mijë arnautë që ruajnë gjakun shqiptar – shqiptarja.com
- A ka shtet amë për “arnautët” e Sirisë? – koha.net
- Norris 1993, pp. 244–245. "Though not as famous as Egypt as a home for Albania's exiled community in the Eastern Arab world, Syria (and to a degree Lebanon) was to become a significant centre for Muslim Albanians, so that today the tiny Arnā’ūṭ community in Damascus, as elsewhere, is not only respected but has already made a significant contribution to modern Arabic literature and cultural life in Syria. Damascus has for centuries acted as a magnet for Albanian Muslim scholars and students, and it is not uncommon to meet imāms of mosques in Yugoslavia, a few of them Yugoslav Albanians, who have perfected their Arabic in Damascus. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a number of Ottoman governors and administrators were of Albanian origin. Among the most famous of these was Sinān Pasha, whose achievements as a builder were distinguished in many parts of the Ottoman empire. He was born about 1500 in the region of Topoyani, in Central Albania, and rose to importance through the devshirme system… Students who came to Damascus stayed longer, some of them for good. They would settle in such quarters as Sūq Sārūja and Sūq al-Muhājirīn. If they returned, they would teach in Qur'ān schools in Kosovo and elsewhere. Others, of a Ṣūfī spirit, acted as human bridges between Albania and the centres of the Ṣūfī orders in the Middle East, Syria included. One specific order, the Sa’diyya, founded by Sa’d al-Dīn al Jibāwī and his successors in about 1335, was especially associated with Damascus, although it later spread to Turkey and Egypt, and in the eighteenth century gained a foothold in Kosovo and Yugoslav Macedonia… Damascus and its Albanian circles were centres of Muslim orthodoxy. The Syrian influence on Muslim Albanians is characterised by its support for traditional orthodox Islam, freed from any taint of heterodoxy or excess, and it is therefore not surprising that studies in Arabic by Albanians published in Damascus, should reflect this preference. Examples of such books are a study of the thought of Imām Abū Ḥanīfa by Wahbī Sulaymān Ghāwijī al-Albānī, published in Damascus and Beirut in 1973, an edition of ‘al-Tadhkira fī faḍl al-adhkār, by Abū Abdallāh Muhammad al-Ourṭubī al-Andalusī (d. 671/1273), edited by ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Arnā’ūṭ and Ibrāhīm al- Arnā’ūṭ, published in Damascus in 1972, and Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn, by the Imām al-Nawawī, edited by Muhammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī, and published by the Islamic Office in 1398/1978. These typify the serious scholarly work that has recently characterised the Arnā’ūṭs in Syria. Potentially Syria has offered a scope and ambiance for their efforts that is rarely to be found, elsewhere, in the Arab world in recent years. Syria is the home of a very active family of Arnā’ūṭ novelists, short story writers, poets, dramatists, literary critics and artists, still active, names such as Abdylkader Arna’ūṭi, the sisters Ajshe and Hatixhe...."
- Shqiptarët e Sirisë – radioislame.com
- Masters 2013, p. 68.
- Dr.Ramiz Zekaj: “Arnautët e Sirisë, një Shqipëri e vogël larg atdheut të tyre – radiokosovaelire.com
- Berland, Joseph C.; Rao, Aparna (2004). Customary Strangers: New Perspectives on Peripatetic Peoples in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-0-89789-771-6.
- Herin, Bruno (2012). "The Domari Language of Aleppo (Syria)". Linguistic Discovery. 10 (2): 2.
- Tarlan, Kemal Vural, ed. (2017), The Dom, The "Other" Asylum Seekers From Syria: Discrimination, Isolation and Social Exclusion: Syrian Dom Asylum Seekers in the Crossfire (PDF), Kırkayak Kültür Sanat ve Doğa Derneği, p. 21
- Masters, Bruce (2013). The Arabs of the Ottoman Empire, 1516-1918: A social and cultural history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107033634.
- Norris, Harry Thirlwall (1993). Islam in the Balkans: religion and society between Europe and the Arab world. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 9780872499775.