Faces & TracesAl-Fodhool (Abdullah Noman)The witty talented poet and defiant sarcastic journalist) [Archives:2008/1144/Culture]

April 7 2008

Prepared by Eyad N. Al-Samman
Abdullah Abdul-Wahab Noman, also widely known as Al-Fodhool, was a Yemeni poet, journalist, and official. Al-Fodhool was born in 1917, in Dhubhan, a district in Taiz governorate. Al-Fodhool got his primary education with the help of his father and then his cousin, the professor Al-Noman. Al-Fodhool then moved to Zabid, a city in southwest Yemen, to continue his studies in Arabic and religious sciences. After he graduated in the early 1940s, Al-Fodhool worked as a teacher in Al-Ahmadiah School in Taiz for 3 years and returned to his village in 1944. In the same year, many free Yemenis were arrested and imprisoned by guards of Imam Yahya and Crown Prince Imam Ahmed, among them Al-Fodhool's father. Being affected by this incident, Al-Fodhool wrote a poem about the imam's injustice and tyranny and mailed it to Fatat Al-Jazeera, a newspaper in Aden. After the crown prince read his published poem, he ordered his guards to arrest Al-Fodhool. Fortunately, Al-Fodhool escaped to Aden and joined free Yemenis there who had preceded him, such as Muhammad Al-Zubairi and others.

Al-Fodhool worked as an Arabic language teacher during his stay in Aden. In late 1944, Al-Fodhool quit his job as a teacher and started writing political speeches and long essays in Fatat Al-Jazeera which were addressed to imams under the pen name “A Yemeni without Shelter.” In 1947, Al-Fodhool worked in operating and administering Sawt Al-Yaman newspaper's main printing office in Aden. He also contributed sarcastic and satiric articles to the same newspaper in response to articles issued by Al-Iman newspaper, the mouthpiece of the imams' regime. After the outbreak of the 1948 revolution ended with the death of Imam Yahya, Crown Prince Imam Ahmed fled to Hajjah and shortly seized power in Sana'a. In December 1948, Al-Fodhool founded Al-Fodhool, a weekly political newspaper in Aden which overtly opposed the imamate's policy in Yemen. The comical sarcasm and satiric political critique was prevalent in the newspaper's different issues. The nickname “Al-Fodhool” was dubbed on the newspaper's founder for the rest of his life in appreciation of his witty and outstanding press work. In late 1953, Al-Fodhool newspaper was closed by British authorities due to Imam Ahmed's political pressure. Accordingly, Al-Fodhool had to work as a businessman in early 1954, at the same time pursuing his press activities by editing and writing a whole page entitled Al-Bisbas in Al-Kifah weekly political newspaper, the mouthpiece of the National Unionist Party in Aden.

Al-Fodhool spent the period of his life in Aden in contact with free Yemenis until the outbreak of the 1962 revolution which toppled the thousand-year-old dynasty in Yemen. Afterwards, Al-Fodhool lived the next four years moving between Sana'a and Aden. In 1966, Al-Fodhool was arrested along with other Yemeni politicians by the Egyptian authorities existing in Yemen at that time and was imprisoned in Al-Radi'a, a famous prison in Sana'a. Al-Fodhool spent nearly a year in the prison and was released only after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. Later on, he settled in Sana'a and was appointed general manager of the Customs and Economy Office in Ta'izz in 1968. In September 1969, Al-Fodhool was appointed Minister of Information and Unity Affairs in the 16th republican Yemeni government. In the early 1970s, he was appointed Counselor of Unity affairs in the Cabinet.

Al-Fodhool's literary and intellectual works are not plentiful but his literary work is full of national and humanitarian themes. Al-Fodhool is considered a Yemeni poet of those who compose in both classical and colloquial Arabic. He also excelled in lyrical poetry with his magnificent poems sung by several Yemeni singers like Ayoob Tarish and Ahmed Qasim. Among his well-known lyrical poems are “Doq Al-Qa'a Doqoh” (Hit the Floor, Hit it) and “Aden Aden”. His poem entitled “Lak Ayyami” (My Days are for you) was dispatched to Umm Kulthum, the most renowned Arab singer, but she died before singing it. Among his other famous anthems: “Ya Samawat Biladi Barikina” (O My Country's Skies; Blessed Us) and “Fill the World with Smiles”. Al-Fodhool's song entitled “Raddidi Ayatuha Addunia Nashidi” (Iterate O World My Anthem, also “United Republic”) was selected as the Yemeni national anthem after Yemen was united on May 22, 1990.

Among his other few literary works is his unique poetic divan entitled “Al-Fayrozah” (The Turquoise) which was published posthumously in 1986. The divan included some of his classical Arabic poetry. Al-Fodhool also wrote a booklet entitled “Knowledge is the Battle's Weapon” during his campaign for establishing the Faculty of Bilquis in Aden in the early 1960s. In early 1982, Al-Fodhool tried to collect his scattered poems and publish them. He also planned to publish a book entitled “Al-Fodhool's Analects” containing selected writings of his work as a journalist, but he could not achieve that. Al-Fodhool also was twice awarded the decoration of Literature and Arts in Aden 1980 and later in 1982 in Sana'a. Al-Fodhool died of a heart attack on July 5, 1982, at the age of 65 and was buried in Al-Turba district in Taiz. Al-Fodhool, the witty and innovative poet, had a special way of sarcasm of the imams' weak regime and its arbitrary actions against Yemeni people. This way was the only one available for changing and struggling against all aspects of injustice and tyranny that Yemen suffered for a long time.