Category Archives: Islam

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. 15, 3:30-4:30pm, 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.

Discussant: Brinkley Messick, Columbia University

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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naples

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

AIYS at MESA 2019

MESA has just announced its 2019 program. One of the panels organized by AIYS is “From al-Hadi ila al-Haqq to Husayn al-Huthi: The Zaydi Phenomenon in Yemen.” The panel will be held Saturday, 11/16/19 at 8:30am.

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Mosque of al-Hādī ilā al-Ḥaqq in Ṣa‘da

This will include the following papers:

•  Making an Imam: The Rebellion of Yahya b. ‘Abd Allah in Zaydi Historiography (Najam Haider, Barnard College)
•   Rasulid Sultans and Zaydi Imams: War (Mostly) and Peace (a Little) in Yemen during the 13th-15th centuries (Daniel Martin Varisco, President, AIYS)
•    “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)
• David Hallenberg (University of Oregon) will discuss the preservation of Zaydi manuscripts
• The Discussant will be Brinkley Messick (Columbia University)

Here is the abstract of the panel:

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.

 

All about Aden

abhath

One of the most impressive Yemeni sites for the culture and history of Aden and southern Yemen is alamree.net. You can literally spend hours exploring this rich site. As you can see in the above image from the main page, there is information on Aden itself, coffee and mountains in Yāfi‘ the Aden zoo and the mosque of al-‘Aydarūs. There is also a treasure trove of images and photographs on Aden, some of which are very old. More photographs and videos are also available on the Facebook site of Hussain Alamree.

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Tawāhī in the 1960s

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Ma‘alā sūq, 1920

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Local dance in Shaykh ‘Uthmān, 1947

Rasulid Seminar in Bonn

mahoneyrasulidDan Mahoney opening the Rasulid Seminar in Bonn

On Friday, May 29, a seminar on Rasulid studies was held in Bonn, Germany at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg. Funding for the seminar was provided by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung and the Kolleg. Papers were presented by Ingrid Hehmeyer, Ellen Kenney, Dan Mahoney, Magdalena Moorthy-Kloss and Dan Varisco. Preparations are underway to publish the papers.

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AIYS President Dan Varisco presented at the seminar

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Seminar dinner at Em Höttche in Bonn
(left: Ellen Kenney, Roxani Margariti, Ingrid Hehmeyer, Dan Varisco, Zacharie de Pierrepont; right: Dan Mahoney, Petra Schmidl (partially hidden), Magdalena Moorthy-Kloss, Adam Sabra)

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Dan Mahoney, Petra Schmidl, Magdalena Moorthy-Kloss,
Adam Sabra

An Iraqi Heart in Yemen

qalb

Qalb al-Yaman (The Heart of Yemen) is a book published in 1947 in Baghdad by the Iraqi military advisor Muḥammad Ḥasan. This is a fascinating account of Yemen about an Iraqi Military Mission to Yemen in 1940-1943 with details on Yemen at that time under the rule of Imām Yaḥyā.  It is now available for reading online and downloadable.

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first page of the author’s text

The text consists of 256 pages with a detailed table of contents, illustrations and a large map. The major chapters deal with Yemen’s geography and resources, history, the author’s travel experience to Yemen, the capital Ṣan‘ā’, Imām Yaḥyā, social life, major routes, local medicine, the government and soldiers, social and regional groups, women, marriage customs, festivals and greeting behavior, Yemenite Jews, the Iraqi advisors in Yemen, diplomatic relations and correspondence, Islamic sects, and his return to Iraq. There are numerous photographs, which unfortunately did not reproduce well in the publication.

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photograph of Imām Yaḥyā (who did not want his image copied as noted in the bottom left)

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beheading of soldier overseen by Sayf al-Islām Ibrāhīm

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one of the earliest photographs of Yemeni bara‘

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respective genealogies of Iraqī King Faysal and Yemeni Imām Yaḥyā