Category Archives: History

AIYS at MESA 2019

AIYS will have two main panels at the annual MESA meeting in New Orleans this November. These are a Special Session: Politics and Prospects for Peace and Reconstruction in Yemen and a panel called From al-Hadi ila al-Haqq to Husayn al-Huthi: The Zaydi Phenomenon in Yemen
There will be an open-to-all AIYS Information Meeting on Friday, Nov. 11, 4-5:30pm, in 8-Endymion/Mid-City. Please plan to attend all these AIYS events.

Special Session: Politics and Prospects for Peace and Reconstruction in Yemen. Organized by Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Friday, 11/15/19 5:00pm

Participants: Jillian Schwedler, Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Salwa Dammaj, Danny Postel, Waleed Mahdi, Adam Hanieh
Abstract: After nearly five years, the effects of the war in Yemen – driven by local, regional, and global dynamics alike – have been fragmentary and highly localized.  The erosion of governance has invited partnerships of necessity (and sometimes of choice) with foreign powers, donor agencies, and private or semi-private firms and patrons.   One effect of these partnerships has been a “privatization of peace,” where the sources of insecurity vary widely in different parts of the country. This has broad implications for the experience of national belonging, the process of reconstruction, and the prospects for post–war peace.
This roundtable brings together scholars who approach this privatization at different scales. At the local level, participants will offer first-hand accounts of  dynamics of community self-organizating in Sana’a and discussion of a recent field study of women’s activism  in areas under Houthi and Coalition control,as well as the way the war’s fragmentation is reflected in and reproduced by humanitarian initiatives originating in the Yemeni diaspora. Participants will also address the regional politics of the GCC and its development of patronage ties to members of the Yemeni private sector engaged in reconstruction, and  recent political efforts in the United States and Europe to reorient policy toward the war in Yemen and build innovative forms of political solidarity.   Together, the roundtable contributors will show how the protracted nature of crisis in Yemen has created new opportunities for specific stakeholders, while rendering the prospect of a sustainable, negotiated peace at the national level more challenging.

From al-Hadi ila al-Haqq to Husayn al-Huthi: The Zaydi Phenomenon in Yemen
Panel P5406, Saturday, November 16, 2019 8:30am

Panel Abstract: The Zaydi sect has received attention lately due to the ongoing war in Yemen in which a Saudi coalition is fighting a local alliance of northern tribes, former military and a family known as the Huthis, a group that is reviving Zaydi Islam with influence from Iran. As a branch of the Shi‘a, the Zaydis take their inspiration from Zayd ibn ‘Ali, the fifth imam, who was killed while attempting to overthrow the Ummayad caliph in 122/740. Zaydism spread to several parts of the Islamic world, but its most lasting imprint was in Yemen. In 897 a descendant of ‘Ali named Yahya b. al-Husayn, and known as al-Hadi ila al-Haqq, established a local dynasty in northern Yemen that lasted, without ever having full control of what constitutes Yemen today, until 1962. This panel brings together scholars who work on the diverse span of Zaydi history in Yemen. One paper examines the views of four Zaydi scholars writing during the time of the Hadawi dominance in Yemen on an earlier Zaydi imam who had accepted a stipend from the Abbasid caliph, thus renouncing the call for armed rebellion. Another paper examines the challenge to Zaydi dominance in the north during the 12th through the 15th centuries by the invasion of the Ayyubids and succeeding dynasty of the Rasulid sultans. The first Rasulid sultan received the blessing of the caliph in Baghdad in order to fight the Zaydis. The Rasulid chronicles and Zaydi sources describe the battles and peace agreements between the two polities, including their rivalry for influence in Mecca. A third provides a focus on the present context with an analysis of the speeches of Husayn al-Huthi, who provides the basis for legitimizing religious rule in Yemen, especially for the Ahl al-Bayt. These speeches are the discursive backbone of Huthi rhetoric, which is spread widely in the media.  The final paper addresses the loss and destruction of manuscripts, largely from private and public Zaydi libraries, in Yemen’s north and efforts by NGOs to document the losses and assist in preservation. In all, the range of papers provides an introduction to a field of study which has received relatively little attention by Western scholars.

Making an Imam: The Rebellion of Yahya b. ‘Abd Allah in Zaydi Historiography
Najam Haider, Barnard College
The biography of the ‘Alid rebel Yahya b. ‘Abd Allah b. Hasan b. Hasan b. Abi Salib (d. 187/803) raises a number of important theological problems for Zaydi scholars. Yahya first appears as an ardent supporter of the failed rebellion of al-Sahib Fakhkh Husayn b. ‘Ali in 169/786.  His enthusiasm is contrasted with Musa al-Kasim’s (d. 184/800) (the 7th Twelver Shi‘i Imam) refusal to support the revolt and establishes his rightful claim to the Imamate from the perspective of later Zaydis.  This claim is furthered by Yahya’s actions after the collapse of the rebellion as he first sends his brother Idris (d. 175/791) to organize an uprising in North Africa and then leads his own revolt in Daylam around 176/791-2.  It is at this point that Yahya becomes more problematic for Zaydi scholars.  The complications arise with his decision to sign an agreement of safe-conduct (aman) with the ‘Abbasid caliph al-Rashid (r. 170-03/786-809).  According to most reports, Yahya remained free under the agreement for the eleven years and received a large caliphal stipend.  This development forced Zaydi scholars to account for an Imam who (apparently) renounced armed rebellion and came to terms with a tyrant in direct opposition to the Zaydi doctrine of the Imamate.  This paper explores how Zaydi scholars (operating at a time of Hadawi dominance in Yemen) remembered and/or justified Yahya’s Imamate.  The analysis specifically focuses on four Zaydi scholars:  Ahmad b. Sahl al-Razi (d. late 3rd/9th century), al-Isbahani (d. 356/967), al-Natiq Yahya b. al-Husayn (d. 424/1033) and ‘Ali b. Bilal (fl. 5th/11th century).

Rasulid Sultans and Zaydi Imams: War (Mostly) and Peace (a Little) in Yemen during the 13th-15th centuries
Daniel Martin Varisco, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
This paper will address the relations between the two main polities in Yemen during the 13th-15th centuries: the Rasulid Sultans and the Zaydi Imams. After the last local Ayyubid sultan al-Malik al-Mas‘ud Yusuf left Yemen, an emir named Nur al-Din ‘Umar was left in charge, assuming a new dynasty known as the Rasulids in 626/1229. Calling himself al-Malik al-Mansur, the emir established his own power with the blessing of the caliph al-Mustansir, who accepted the new regime with a charge to battle the Zaydi imams entrenched in Yemen’s north. During the more than two centuries of Rasulid control in Yemen there were constant battles between the Shi‘a Zaydis and the Rasulids, who became predominantly Shafi‘i, but patronized all the Sunni schools. The bulk of Yemen’s population at the time was tribal, with shifting alliances and constant rebellions against the authority of both polities. Based in the southern highland capital of Ta‘izz and the coastal city of Zabid, the first three Rasulid sultans were largely successful in gaining a foothold in the northern highland homeland of the Zaydi imams and became rivals with the last Egyptian Ayyubids and early Bahri Mamluks for control of Mecca. The Rasulids were never able to gain complete control of Yemen’s diverse geographical zones; there are records of peace agreements with the imams and local tribal leaders. The primary Rasulid historical chronicles and biographical texts, such as the works of Ibn Hatim, al-Janadi and al-Khazraji reflect a Rasulid bias, so it is important to examine relevant Zaydi sources to have a more balanced view of the conflict between them. The Zaydi sources include biographies of the relevant imams of the period.

The Ahl al-Bayt’s Return to Power: The Legitimation of Religious Rule in the Speeches of Husayn al-Huthi in the Context of the Current Crisis in Yemen
Alexander Weissenburger, Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Since its inception in the early 2000s, the ideological outlook of the phenomenon that became known as the Huthi movement,has been shaped by the speeches of its founder Husayn al-Huthi. Until today, as the Huthis effectively control large parts of western Yemen, including the capital, these speeches constitute the discursive backbone of the movement’s rhetoric. While most of al-Huthi’s speeches revolve around his third-worldist interpretation of the impact of Western influence on Yemen and the wider Islamic world, he invested considerable effort into outlining the religious justification for the right of the descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, the ahl al-bayt, to rule. The right for an Imam from among the ahl al-bayt to rule the umma is one of the core tenets of the Zaydi denomination of Shi’ite Islam to which the movement adheres. Since the al-Huthi family belongs to the ahl al-bayt, this would give them the opportunity to claim the Zaydi Imamate legitimately. While they never actually attempted that, Husayn al-Huthi repeatedly highlights not only the right, but in fact the responsibility of the ahl al-bayt to lead the umma.
The paper will explore Husayn al-Huthi’s ideas on the role of the ahl al-bayt in society and by extension his views on the Zaydi Imamate. The statements will be analysed in the light of the loss of status experienced by the ahl al-bayt after the fall of the Yemeni Imamate in 1962, as well as in the context of the movement’s takeover of core state institutions in 2015 and the consequent appointment of ahl al-bayt to key positions. The paper will thus contribute to a better understanding of the attraction the Huthi movement holds for certain parts of the Yemeni population and show how religio-political ideas attain a concrete political relevance by being employed to advance individual as well as collective political ambitions.

The Loss and Destruction of Yemeni Manuscripts
David B. Hollenberg, University of Oregon

Discussant: Brinkley Messick, Columbia University

R. B. Serjeant’s Work on Yemen

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Last year a memorial issue on the 25th anniversary of the passing of the major scholar of Yemen, R. B. Serjeant, was published. Serjeant, who held the Adams Chair of Arabic at Cambridge, had personal experience in Yemen and made a variety of contributions to Yemeni Studies.

A copy of this issue is available here:

Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen

Numéro spécial 2, 2018

Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1933).
Écosse-Yémen

Edité par Anne Regourd

Table des matières

Le volume complet (format pdf)

Anne Regourd (CNRS, UMR 7192). Vingt-cinq ans après : Hommage à Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915-1993). L’homme et ses archives

Aline Brodin (Cataloguing archivist, Special Collections, University of Edinburgh). An overview of the Robert Bertram Serjeant Collections at the University of Edinburgh Main Library

Ronald Lewcock (UNESCO consultant on architecture in the Yemen). Three Medieval Mosques in the Yemen: architecture, art, and sources
Plates and photographs

Philippe Provençal (Natural History Museum of Denmark). La question des noms d’espèces de poissons en arabe : la liste de Robert Bertram Serjeant

Mikhail Rodionov (Peter-the-Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St. Petersburg State University, Russia). Ibāḍīs in the written-oral tradition of modern Ḥaḍramawt

G. Rex Smith (University of Leeds). Two literary mixed Arabic texts from the Yemen

Al-Gabali Book Signing at YCSR

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Dr Salwa Dammaj, Dr Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh, Ahmed al-Gabali, Abdulbari Taher, left to right.

A cultural event was organized and held at the Yemen Center for Studies and Researches (YCSR) in Sanaa on Wednesday 17 July 2019 to celebrate the publication of Qāmūs al-‘urf al-qabīlī fī al-Yaman [The Lexicon of Tribal Norms in Yemen]. The author is Ahmed al-Gabali, the Head of the Sociology Department at the Center. The book was published by AIYS as part of a recent series to publish annually a book on Yemen’s cultural heritage in Yemen by a Yemeni author. It was really a wonderful moment to celebrate a publication of an important cultural work at this extremely gloomy time.

An elite group of senior Yemeni researchers and authors attended and contributed to the event including Yemen’s great poet Dr Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh, President of the YCSR. The event commenced with brief speech by the author and researcher Mohammed al-Shaybani in which he welcomed the audience. Then, the sponsor of the function Dr Abdulaziz delivered his opening remarks in which he voiced thanks and appreciation for the author, Ahmed al-Gabali, for his great efforts and hard work to get the lexicon accomplished. Dr al-Maqaleh also expressed thanks for AIYS for contributing toward printing the lexicon and getting it published.

Hear Dr. Maqaleh’s remarks

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After that the Resident Director of AIYS, Dr Salwa Dammaj, delivered a speech, expressing thanks for the audience and  deeply appreciating the attendance of Dr Al-Maqaleh and his extraordinary role and contribution to the Yemeni culture and literature. She said:

“It is very difficult for me, who grew up on al-Maqaleh’s poetry and his prominent humanitarian and cultural active role in the Yemeni national arena, to talk about him. I’m like my generation and several Yemeni generations who have been influenced by Dr al-Maqaleh’s literature. We are grateful for this great man who devoted his life to develop Yemeni culture, establish cultural institutions and encourage young authors and support them. His extraordinary poetical works and pioneering role will remain an outstanding landmark in the modern history of Yemeni culture and literature.

The rich Yemeni culture with its unique diversity expressively denotes the deep and great civilized heritage of our people and country. Today we are here to celebrate a noteworthy and valuable book aimed to shed light on a significant side of our cultural heritage and illustrate some of its components. I am referring to the issue of tribal norms in Yemen. Perhaps, it should be quite difficult today to talk about the Yemeni culture and its uniqueness, while Yemen has been enduring the current dilemma, suffering from misery and a humanitarian crisis. But, the opposite is true; culture is the key factor that can help over some of the country’s misery and it is a prerequisite to cope with political challenges and short-sighted visions, as we move forward to a better future.”

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Afterwards the much-respected researcher and political activist, Abdulbari Taher, made a significant comment on the importance of the ‘Lexicon’, describing the book as a pioneering work which will fill an important gap in the Yemeni literature and library. The chief researcher at the (CYSR). Qadiri Ahmed Haider, delivered a speech on behalf of the author’s friends; he highly praised the tireless efforts and hard work made by Mr al-Gabali over the years to see the Lexicon accomplished. “It is a remarkable and pioneering work, self-driven and plausible adventure that al-Jabili deserves to be congratulated for”, noted Haider.

Finally, the author expressed his pleasure for having his Lexicon published, voicing deep thanks and appreciation for AIYS for printing his book and getting it published. Mr al-Gabali talked about his work on the book over the years, describing his research methodology that involved him in field survey in different Yemeni regions to collect and verify the tribal norms and vocabularies of the Lexicon. He reiterated his thanks for Dr Al-Maqaleh’s support and encouragement. By the end of the session, Mr al-Gabali signed copies of the book, launching the distribution of copies of the Lexicon in three volumes.

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AIYS is please to announce that the annual book award will be named the “Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh Book Award for Yemen’s Cultural Heritage” in honor of Dr. Maqaleh’s contributions to Yemen’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.

Dr.Salwa A. Dammaj

Yemeni manuscript resource

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A website called The International Treasury of Islamic Manuscripts contains basic information on almost 250 Yemeni manuscripts, most in the Glaser collection in Vienna and Berlin. You can search these by clicking here. Several of the manuscripts listed are digitized and available to view online. An example is: النفحة الندية فى توالى ايام الاشهر العربية والرومية والفارسية .  This is described as follows:

“The author Muḥammad b. Aḥmad Ibn al-Imām gives instructions on how the following tables (ff.40v-94r) for the years 1215/1800 to 1241/1825 are to be used. Every year is dealt with on four pages, and on each page the Arabic, Greek, and Persian months and their days are juxtaposed. Then the four seasons, beginning with autumn, are listed in ff.94v–96r with their appropriate lunar mansions; ff.97r-100 provide tables on the length of day and night; 101v-131r, with every page divided into three columns, indicate the first day of each month for the years 1242/1826 to 1300/1883. Corrections of احمد بن يحيى المفتى الحبيشى, as necessitated by the leap years in calculating the beginning of the new year, from the year 1266/1849 to 1300/1883.”

New Book on Non-State Actors

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I. B. Tauris has just published Violent Radical Movements in the Arab World: The Ideology and Politics of Non-State Actors, edited by the late Peter Sluglett and Victor Kattan. This includes an article by Dan Varisco on “When the State becomes a Non-State: Yemen in the Huthi/Ali Abdullah Salih Alliance.” It also contains an introduction to the lifetime work of the historian Peter Sluglett.

Abstract of Book:

Violent non-state actors have become almost endemic to political movements in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. This book examines why they play such a key role and the different ways in which they have developed. Placing them in the context of the region, separate chapters cover the organizations that are currently active, including: The Muslim Brotherhood, The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, Hamas, Hizbullah, the PKK, al-Shabab and the Huthis.

The book shows that while these groups are a new phenomenon, they also relate to other key factors including the ‘unfinished business’ of the colonial and postcolonial eras and tacit encouragement of the Wahhabi/Salafi/jihadi da’wa by some regional powers. Their diversity means violent non-state actors elude simple classification, ranging from ‘national’ and ‘transnational’ to religious and political movements. However, by examining their origins, their supporters and their motivations, this book helps explain their ubiquity in the region.

Contents of Book:

Preface, Victor Kattan
Foreword: Peter Sluglett and the Study of the Modern Middle East, Toby Dodge

1. Introduction: Violent Non-State Actors in the Arab World: some General Considerations, Peter Sluglett

2. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Violence: Porous Boundaries and Context, Khalid Hroub

3. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: Ideology vs. Context , Hassan A. Barari

4. Between Religion, Warfare and Politics: the Case of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria , Mohamed-Ali Adraoui

5. The 2007 Hamas-Fatah Conflict in Gaza and the Israeli-American Demands , Victor Kattan

6. Hizbullah and the Lebanese State: Indispensable, Unpredictable – Destabilizing? , Peter Sluglett

7. When the State becomes a Non-State: Yemen in the Huthi/Ali Abdullah Salih Alliance, Daniel Martin Varisco

8. Violent Non-State Actors in Somalia: al-Shabab and the Pirates, Afyare A. Elmi and Ruqaya Mohamed

9. “Being in Time”: Kurdish Movement and Quests of Universal, Hamit Borzolan

Afterword, Abdullah Baabood

Zaydi Manuscript Tradition

The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition project, based at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton,  has issued a recent report on the ZMT’s ongoing efforts to capture the Yemeni manuscripts in Italian libraries and provide open access to them.

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V. Sagaria Rossi & S. Schmidtke, “The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT) Project. Digitizing the Collections of Yemeni Manuscripts in Italian Libraries,” Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies (COMSt) Bulletin 5/1 (2019), pp. 43-60.

An online version of the paper is available at https://www.aai.uni-hamburg.de/en/comst/pdf/bulletin5-1/43-60.pdf as well as
https://albert.ias.edu/handle/20.500.12111/7824.

2019 AIYS Yemeni Fellowship Meeting

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2019 AIYS Fellows
(top row, left to right) Mansure Jubbara (Ṣa‘da University), Shadad Al-Ali,  Director of GOAM in Dhamar, Ahmad al-Shawafi, Walid Al-Murisi, Dr Efterkar Almekhlafi, Dr Halah Jabbori, Dr. Salwa Dammaj;
(bottom row), Mohammed Jazem, Salah al-Kowmani (Dhamār University), (far right) Khalid al-Dhafari (Ibb University).

A seminar was held on Thursday, June 2019 in the AIYS premises for the 2019 AIYS Fellowships. Eleven Yemeni researchers out of 72 applicants received the 2019 Fellowship award. AIYS is the only international institute currently providing fellowships to Yemeni scholars in Yemen. If you would like to contribute to a special fund only used for fellowships to Yemeni scholars, click here.

The 2019 Yemeni scholars’ research included a variety of specializations including the sciences, agriculture, social domain, history, Arabic inscriptions, antiquities, and law. Four awarded researches aimed to study topics in Yemen’s history and antiquities. One research topic is concerned with the war’s devastating impacts upon education and pupils in the northern region of Sa‘da. Another research  intended to verify some old Yemeni Kufic inscriptions. Scientific researches are focusing on water shortages in Yemen and exploring possible solutions, endemics disease outbreaks and how to contain risks.

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Mohammed Jazem

The following awarded researchers provided brief presentations about their researches.
1. Dr. Eftekar Almekhlafi, her research titled: Selling Children: a Study of Law and Fiqh.
2. Dr. Maher al-Maqtari, his research titled:  The Possibility of Planting Barley and Grain Plants with Saline Water Irrigation in Yemen.

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Dr Maher Maktari

3. Khalid al-Dhafari, his research titled : Edited Edition of the Herbal al-Mu’tamid  fi al-adwiya al-mufrida by the Rasulid Sultan al-Malik al-Muẓaffar Yūsuf.

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Khalad al-Dhafari (Ibb University)

4. Salah al-Kawmani, his research titled: Kufic inscriptions in Dhamar, Yemen.
5. Dr. Mansur Jubbara, his research titled: The Effect of the War on the Psychological Needs of Students at  Ṣa‘da University.
6. Dr. Hala Jabbori, her research titled: The Overall Legacy Left by Cemeteries and Their Impact on Groundwater Quality.
7. Walid al-Murisi, his research titled: Prevalence and Risk Factors of Soil-Transmitted Helminth and Schistosoma mansoni among School Children in Al-Nādira District, Ibb Governorate, Yemen.

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Walid al-Murisi

8. Ahmed al-Shawafi, his research titled: Assessment of Heavy Metals Contamination in Groundwater and Using Natural Zeolite to Remove Them in Banī al-Ḥarith District, Ṣan‘ā’.

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Ahmad al-Shawafi

9. Muhammad Jazem: Study and Analysis of a Manuscript about Irrigation Rights in Wadi Dhahr.
10. Saeed Baniwas, a researcher from Hadramout, provided a presentation about his research through Skype. His research is entitled: Ecological and Biological Study of the Varroa destructor Mite on Honey bees in Doan Valley, Hadhramout Governorate.

At the end of the seminar the researchers were paid 80% of the total amount of the fellowship grant, while the remain 20% was held back until the researchers get their studies finished.

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Dr Efterkar Almekhlafi, Dr Salwa Dammaj

Dr. Salwa Dammaj, Resident Director