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.

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.