Literary CornerYemen: The People and Culture (IV) [Archives:2006/950/Culture]

May 29 2006

Abu Al-Kalmah Al-Tayyibah
Author: Qadhi Abdullah Abdul-Wahhab Al-Shamahi

Language: Arabic

Publisher: Dar Al-Hana Printing

Year Published: 1973

No. of Pages: 370

The author gives a description of the “Social Regime” in the of the various Yemeni states in the pre-Islamic period. He states that they were all similar. The regime was semi decentralized, with various small states controlled by a central government. Most of these early states depended on commerce, except for the Himyarite, who were viewed by the author as being more military in nature. There was a feudal system, which the author views as being “reasonable”, with both the landlords and the sharecroppers reaping benefits.

The early Yemeni states were predecessors in their times in the architectural and irrigation fields, rivaled only by their cousins, the Phoenicians.

The early Yemeni states were broken down into four socio-economic groups:

1) military

2) farmers

3) manufacturers

4) traders

The author then points out six attempts to invade Yemen by the Abyssinians, the first and second being in the Eighth Century BC and Third Century BC (with the Greeks) while the next four were usually in conjunction with the Romans beginning in the Third Century AD to the Sixth Century AD. The Persians did attempt to take the country but were only allowed a small area in the Sana'a area.

In the period prior to Islam, Yemen was witnessing divisions and internal fighting and there was intense competition between the Jewish and Christian factions that prevailed in this period, each with their own external allies.

The author also points out that Yemeni migratory tendencies led to the establishment of two prominent kingdom-states in the Northern periphery of the Arabian Peninsula. The Mundhir Dynasty in Mesopotamia (a vassal state of the Persians, and the Ghassanid Dynasty in the Levant (a vassal state of the Byzantine

Yemeni migration led to the formation of the Kindah tribal dynasty in Bahrain and the Qudha'iyah that took over the Sinai Peninsula and some of the Nile Delta area of Egypt.

Yemen in the Post-Islamic Period

From the year 632, Yemen's history became quite influenced by the history of the Islamic world after the coming of the Prophet Mohammed (PBAUH). With the people of the city of Medina (the Aws and Khazraj tribes were Yemeni tribes that settled in Yathrib, later called Madina or Medina, the religion of Islam gained its first strong foothold in the world, as the two feuding tribes saw in Islam a means of ending their eternal feuds and in Medina, the first Islamic State was born under the leadership of the Prophet Mohammed (PBAUH).

Yemenis were also at the forefront of the Islamic armies that fanned out North, East and West to spread Islam and eventually overcome the then two leading powers at play in the international arena (the Byzantines and the Persians).

Of course, the Yemenis were often sought by the different factions that sought political hegemony in the new Islamic state, which the author felt helped significantly in reinstituting the divisions among the Yemenis. In addition there were many splinter seditions groups that erupted. These included the revolt of Al-Aswad Ibn Ka'ab Al-Ansy, who wreaked havoc, beginning his revolt in Al-Jauf and taking and pillaging Sana'a. The latter revolt was subdued with the poisoning of the latter by his wife in conspiracy with the former Persian princes in Sana'a.

Another revolt was that of Kindah in Bahrain and the Eastern periphery of the Peninsula, when Ash'ath Ibn Qais led a rebellion against the Zakat collectors (sort of no taxation with out representation type of revolt). All of these revolts represented early challenges to the new Islamic State that showed that the Arabs (especially the tribal chiefs) were still not ready to concede their strangleholds on their constituencies and this is a problem that somehow still prevails today in many an Arab country).

The Islamic state after the death of the prophet meant for Yemenis a great migratory movement that coincided with the fanning out of the Moslem armies throughout the civilized world and it is inconceivable to believe that the Moslem Empire could have grown so quickly and to such wide extents without the prevalent presence of Yemenis in all the fronts. Needless to say, this created competition for the allegiance of the Yemenis under the different fighting factions that fought for the Caliphate, or the succession of the Prophet (PBAUH) to the rulership of the new state.

Thus it was not unusual to see Yemenis having to take sides among the different factions of Quraish (the tribe of Mohammed) that ruled the Islamic state after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632.

We will see how this eventually played a major role in Yemen's history and that of the Islamic world in the centuries to come in the next issue.