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Labbay (Labbai, Labba, Labbabeen, Lebbay), is an Islamic community in southern India found throughout the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. They are also found in other parts of the world where they reside as Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin emigrants and their descendants.

Total population
about 1 Million
Regions with significant populations
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sri Lanka, UAE, US and Worldwide
Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu and languages in the diaspora as part of the Muslim Non-Resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin ethnicity.

Identity and originsEdit

The community's name is derived from the Arabic phrase Labbay'k (Arabic: لبیک‎), which translates to "here I am."[citation needed]


Labbays are said to have descended from traders who originated in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula through mixed unions of themselves with the local Tamil and Malayali population,[1] as well as many converts from the southern states of India. Since the late 13th century, Labbays have specialized in the trade and manufacturing of leather, tobacco, grains and spices.

In Kerala there are many Labba families settled in different locations, Alappuzha, Chunakkara is one of the oldest (approx. AD 1350) settlement of this kind and later spread to nearby. A good number of Labba families are also living in Muvattupuzha, a hub of Shafi Mappila Muslims.

Today, the Labbay community is based in towns including Bangalore, Chennai, Kadayanallur, Kilakarai, Koothanallur, Kayalpatnam, Adiramapattinam, Pazhaverkadu, Thondi, thopputhurai, Nagore, and Erwadi, and sizeable population of Urdu speaking in vellore district. Labbays constitute a substantial percentage in the coastal villages and towns from the border of Andhra to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, from Kanyakumari to the Karnataka border, and all over Sri Lanka. Tamil and Malayalam Muslims share cultural practices and a shared vocabulary of kinship terms such as vappa (father), umma (mother), and ikkaka (elder brother).

In Tamil Nadu a large Labbay community is located in Vellore district, made up of mostly traders and leather manufacturers. The community makes up a sizable population in Vellore, Melvisharam, Ambur, Vaniyambadi, Tirupaatur, Pernambut and Oomerabad. These people have a distinct culture, using Urdu as their mother tongue instead of Tamil or Malayalam. These community members might have migrated from Pondicherry, Cuddalore, Tirunelveli and from other coastal districts about 200 years ago.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Thurston, Edgar; Rangachari, K. (1909). Castes and Tribes of Southern India. 6. Madras: Government Press. p. 151.