In memory of a great Yemeni scholar: Ismail Al-Akwa’a [Archives:2008/1202/Culture]

October 27 2008

Review by Ali Saeed
Yemeni scholar and historian Ismail Ibn Ali Al-Akwa'a died last week at the age of eighty eight. Al-Akwa'a comes from a family of scholars and judges such as Alshawkani who was a great Yemeni scholar in the thirteenth century Hijriah.

Al-Akwa'a was born and brought up in Dhamar city where he also married and had four children two sons and two daughters. All of his children are highly educated and his daughter Fatima became the first female doctor in Yemen in 1972.

At that time there were no schools like today children used to study in mosques and some religious schools, so he studied in these mosques in Dhamar city. His father was a judge, so he used to teach him. Al-Akwa'a used to attend his father lessons and meetings with scholars. Also there was a religious school in Dhamar; it was called Alshamsia school. He studied at that school holy qura'an and other religious science.

His patriotism and political involvement

He was interested in politics since he joined the free Yemenis movement (Yemeni movement against Imamates 'ruling in the north of Yemen before revolution). He was arrested by the Imam's order and sent to prison because of his activity with this movement; the first time was in 1944 by the ImamYahya Hameed Al-Deen for two years and the second time was in 1948 after the revolution failure in 1948 by the Imam Ahmed bin Yahya. He stayed in jail for three years because he was with those who planed the revolution. After that he went to Aden for medical treatment. In Aden one of Imam Ahmed's men arranged the way for him to go to Eritrea to have a medical operation to remove kidney stones.

After he came back from Eritrea he preferred to stay in Aden a way from the Imam's influence. Then he resumed his political activities in Aden. The Yemeni Free Movement was based in Aden and it established the Yemeni Union for them to work against the Imamate rule from there. Al-Akwa'a joined them and he was teaching the free Yemenis children at the Union center. He also used to write some articles in the Island Girl newspaper under a fake name.

Some time later he travelled to Egypt to join his friend Mohammed Alzubiary who was also a freedom fighter and a revolutionist. He stayed in Egypt for three years and then traveled to Syria to supervise the Yemeni students whose education was funded by Syrian government.

Then he came back to Cairo and went to Mecca to do pilgrimage. In Mecca, he met his brother Mohammed who came to do hajj and brought Al-Akwa'a's wife and daughters with him. After hajj, he returned to Cairo with his family and lived there until 1969.

Before returning to Yemen, Imam Ahmed passed Boor Saeed on his way from Italy and he met him there and the Imam asked him: Why did you run away? He replied: because I'm afraid of you. So the Imam appointed him as a secretary for the Yemeni delegation in Moscow.

His political activity in the republican period

After the revolution in 1962, Al-Akwa'a came to Sana'a to congratulate the revolutionists and hence was promoted from secretary to a delegated minister in Moscow. Then he left Moscow to work as a cultural advisor in Yemeni embassy in Cairo.

In 1964, he worked in the ministry of foreign affairs and was appointed as a 2nd deputy to the minister. After that he was appointed as a roaming ambassador.

In 1968 he was appointed as the minister of information in the cabinet of lieutenant general Hassan Al-Omari till the government resigned in 1969.

General Authority for antiquities and books houses

After a long life outside Yemen, Al-Akwa'a preferred to stay in Yemen and create something to preserve Yemeni knowledge and antiquities. So he founded the general authority for antiquities and book houses. He remained the president of this authority until 1990.

His works

Al-Akwa'a wrote many books especially in the field of Yemeni history and culture. In Yemeni culture, he wrote (Alamthal Alyemenia) Yemeni proverbs encyclopedia.

In the field of Yemeni history, he wrote (higr alelm and ma'agla Fi alyemen) the places of science in Yemen, collection of Yemeni towns and tribes, Yemeni dams, the ziadia (religious group of shaites) it's growing and ideologies, Nashwan Al-himiari (SoofiYemeni poet) and the ideological conflict in his age. The customs and traditions of Yemeni rulers in the Islamic age, the great scholars in Yemen, Al-rasulia government (government that ruled Taiz and part of Tehama between 1229and1454) Islamic schools in Yemen and (Makhaleef Al-Yemen) plains between two mountains (geographical book) Also he did a research about the following:

1- Turkish words in the Yemeni dialect.

2- Ancient Yemeni languages and how they are related to Arabic language.

Al-Akwa'a had many awards. In 2003, Islamic conference organization awarded him the prize of research center for history and Islamic culture in Istanbul.

In 2006, French Institute for antiquities and social science awarded him and publishing a book in the occasion of reaching the age of eighty five.