Category Archives: Migration

Solomon and Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan

sayf

Solomon Legends in Sīrat Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan

 Sīrat Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan (“The Adventures of Sayf b. Dhī Yazan”) is a late-medieval Egyptian popular epic that recounts the story of the life and adventures of King Sayf b. Dhī Yazan, son of the Yemenite king Dhū Yazan.1 Set against the background of a war with the king of Ḥabash,2 Sayf Arʿad, it tells the story of how Sayf b. Dhī Yazan (henceforth “Sayf”) leads his people into Egypt, diverts the Nile to its current course, and then goes on to conquer the realms of men and jinn in the name of Islam. Set in legendary pre-Islamic time, it rewrites history to present Egypt as born out of a “reverse exodus” led by a proto-Islamic, Yemeni king.3 As is common in Arabic popular literature, Sīrat Sayf draws much of its material from a pool of popular and folkloric story patterns, motifs, and tropes, which are pieced together in a unique way so as to tell its story. It also makes intertextual reference to stories, legends, and other narratives in ways that enrich the thematic subtext and convey meaning. From this perspective, references to the Islamic qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ (“tales of the prophets”) play a significant role in the text. Not only do they anchor the proto-Islamic world of Sīrat Sayf in Islamic legendary world history, but the associations they bring into the text also nuance the characterization of Sīrat Sayf’s main protagonists and help to create subtextual and thematic complexity.

This article investigates a number of direct references made to legends about the prophet Solomon within Sīrat Sayf in order to explore how this particular sīrah uses the “Solomon” intertext and to what end.4 It focuses primarily on two particular episodes in the sīrah, during both of which stories about Solomon and the Queen of Sheba are recounted by characters within the text. After introducing these stories in the first section of this article, the second section assesses the intertextual relevance of the Islamic Solomon legend to Sīrat Sayf. It analyses how these stories, and the episodes in which they are embedded, relate to the Solomon legends as found in premodern qiṣaṣ sources, and how Sīrat Sayf uses intertextual reference to Solomon legends to express its own thematic agenda. In a previous study, I have argued that Sayf is, at its core, a discussion of kingship, fitness to rule, and the importance to society of keeping the forces of order and chaos in balance, and that it expresses this struggle largely through the literary use of gender (according to which, broadly speaking, the female embodies the forces of chaos, and the male the forces of order).5 The use of intertextual reference to other narratives is a key element of this discussion. The final section explores the intertextual relevance of the Ethiopian story of Solomon, Bilqīs, and their son Menelik found in the Kǝbrä Nägäst to the Sayf text.

For the full article, click here.

Poets against Prejudice: Yemeni Style

poets

A Film Directed by Faiza Almontaser

Faiza Almontaser is a 17-year-old senior attending the Brooklyn International High School. In 2006 Faiza immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, NY from a small farming town in Yemen. Raised as a religious Muslim, she often struggles to reconcile her cultural background with the realities she meets as a high school student in one of New York City’s most socially dynamic neighborhoods.

At age 10, Faiza enrolled in the sixth grade as the only Muslim in her school. She had high hopes for her new education, but was soon discouraged by her minimal understanding of English and the anti-Islamic fervor she encountered among her classmates. Without the knowledge of language to defend herself, Faiza spent her first few months suffering in silence.

Determined to find her voice, she spent six months learning enough English to begin speaking out against the discrimination faced by Muslims in her community. Now in high school she works as a peer trainer with the Anti-Defamation League, teaching her classmates the dangers and repercussions of racism. Faiza also works to combat her struggle with the written word; through poems and essays she challenges common misconceptions of Islamic culture, and expresses her visions for change and equality.

Continue reading Poets against Prejudice: Yemeni Style

Yemen’s displaced women and girls

aliah
Grandmother Aliah complains about the scarcity of food, water and health care. She relies on her son-in-law’s earnings of $4 (£3) per day to support three generations of the family who have all fled from Hudaydah province. An estimated 14 million people are considered food insecure and seven million severely food insecure, with malnutrition widespread.

The BBC has posted a gallery of photos of displaced Yemeni women and girls due to the current conflict.  This can be seen at http://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-38305875.

New Book on Yemenis in Djibouti and Ethiopia

samson

Subjects of Empires/Citizens of States:
Yemenis in Djibouti and Ethiopia
By Samson A. Bezabeh
Oxford University Press, 2016

Click here for information.

This fine study of Yemeni migration in the Horn of Africa by a
brilliant Ethiopian scholar should be a wake-up call for the entire
field of Indian Ocean studies. In a powerful critique of tired and
overused concepts like ‘hybridity,’ ‘transnational flows,’ and
‘cosmopolitanism,’ which have been routinely used to convey a sense of unity of the Indian Ocean world, Samson Bezabeh brings the state back in–and politics.”–André Wink, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Samson Bezabeh builds on Aihwa Ong and others to show how migrantnetworks and ‘cosmopolitanism’ in the space of flows of the Indian Ocean, are deeply structured by territorial powers of empire and state. His case of Yemeni traders in Djibouti is fascinating in its
own right and wonderfully executed. In Bezabeh’s hands it is turned
into an eloquent and important argument of taking state formations
seriously and refuse the facile opposition of flows versus hierarchies
that has marked much of migration studies, and of Indian Ocean studies as well.”–Don Kalb, Central European University, Budapest

Continue reading New Book on Yemenis in Djibouti and Ethiopia

New Book on Yemenis in Britain

lascars

The Last of the Lascars: Yemeni Muslims in Britain, 1836-2012 charts the fascinating and little-known history of Britain’s oldest Muslim community. Originally arriving as imperial oriental sailors and later as postcolonial labour migrants, Yemeni Muslims have lived in British ports and industrial cities from the mid-nineteenth century, marrying local British wives, and established a network of ‘Arab-only’ boarding houses and cafes. They also founded Britain’s first mosques and religious communities in the early twentieth century, encountering racism, discrimination and even deportation in the process. Based on original research, this book brings together the unique story of a British Muslim community that stretches across 170 years of history from empire to modern multicultural Britain.

Continue reading New Book on Yemenis in Britain

Yemeni Muslims in Addis Adaba

Anwarmosque
Anwar Mosque, Addis Adaba

Sophia Pandya has published an article entitled “Yemenis and Muwalladīn in Addis Ababa: Blood Purity and the
Opportunities of Hybridity” in the Journal of Arabian Studies: Arabia, the Gulf, and the Red Sea.  Below is the abstract.

Abstract:
This is an analysis of the Yemeni Muslim community living in diaspora in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, through the ethnographic lens of the politics of religious and ethnic identity, with a particular focus on transnational and multiracial hybridity, and gender. Living in diaspora has created pressure both to identify as ‘Yemeni’ and to assimilate into Ethiopian society. Ethiopians and Yemenis in Ethiopia have discriminated against those considered not to be maintaining ‘pure’ ethnic or religious boundaries. The muwalladīn, in particular, experience degrees of discrimination in the Yemeni community, due to perceptions that they are not ‘pure-blooded Yemenis’ or that they are simply inferior because they are black. Does this hybridity also create a space in which exclusionary definitions of culture and religion can be rejected? This study examines the factors working for and against assimilation for the Yemeni (chiefly Ḥaḍramī) and muwallad community in Addis Ababa, and the social opportunities and implications of their migration (or that of their ancestors), considering socio-religious class distinctions, political and economic contexts, and gender. It explores the ways in which they have established themselves, reimagined community, and redefined their identities.