Literary CornerYemeni Annals (Hawliat Yamaniyah): 1224 – 1316 AH (Part II) [Archives:2006/982/Culture]

September 18 2006

Abu Al-Kalmah Al-Tayyibah

Author: Muhsin Bin Ahmed Al-Harazi et al

Checked and Edited by: Abdullah Mohammed Al-Hibshi

Language: Arabic

Publisher: Ministry of Information and Culture

Year Published: 1400 AH/1980 AD

No. of Pages: 661 (II)

At this juncture, it is worth delving somewhat into the social order that prevailed in Yemen at the time frame chronicled in this book, by briefly looking into some of the socio-historical factors that helped shape that order. Perhaps a little historical background is also imperative. The Islamic Caliphate fell to the Abbasids (for more information on the Abbasids see this link: in the middle of the Eighth Century AD, on the pretext of avenging the death of so many of the Alawis [descendants of Ali, the Prophet Mohammed's cousin (PBAUH) and son in law], who for ninety years hence were relentlessly pursued by the caliphs of the Umayyad Dynasty.

However, the Abbassids, in turn, also turned against their cousins, the Alawis, because the latter ceaselessly continued to advocate for a more equitable Islamic government, which should uphold the human rights ordained by their grandfather, the Prophet Mohammed (PBAUH), as the essence of the Message delivered to the latter entails the removal of all forms of oppression and injustice, which the Abbasids, like their predecessors, the Umayyads, ruthlessly relied upon to maintain their hold on authority and power.

The Islamic State under the Abbasids began a slow process of disintegration until Baghdad became a mere symbolic capital of the Moslem world, and most of the territories under the empire either evolved as separate mini-states or entered into periods of continued struggles for regional power. Yemen, for a while, became enmeshed in such petty struggles for power and tribal conflicts.

The situation got unbearable even to most of the leading tribal and religious dignitaries that enjoyed powerful social influence in the country and around the middle of the Ninth Century AD, sought some expatriate assistance to help Yemen come out of this unstable state. They approached a leading scholar from the Alawi line (Yahya bin Hussein) known for his high virtues, piety, and disregard for the mundane desires of power and wealth.

They pledged allegiance to abide by his stern application of the justice of Shari'ah jurisprudence and accepted him as the Imam1 of Yemen twice.

The first time that the Imam came to Yemen, there was great difficulty in imposing the rule of law. A few years later, the Yemeni leaders again pleaded with the Imam to leave his ancestral home in Medina (in the Hijaz area of Eastern Saudi Arabia), where he was teaching and guiding people on proper adherence to Islam, and to come and bring law, order and peace to the country.

They promised this time that they would ensure that his rule and judgment shall be enforced. Thus Yahya Bin Al-Hussein (nicknamed “Al-Hadi”, or the Enlightener because of his scholastic wisdom) established the Zeidi Imamate in Yemen, which on and off ruled all or parts of Yemen until September 26, 1962. Even with such pledges, Imam Yahya's rule was not a carefree one, although he was highly respected and approved of as a just and pious ruler.

Although the Zeidi Imamate is not by ordnance a hereditary one, there were a number of hereditary lines of Imam that intermittently ruled for different periods spanning the nearly nine hundred years that the Imamate prevailed as the dominant sovereign authority, especially in the North.

One of the most important principles of Zeidi philosophy is that rebellion against an unjust regime (even if an Imamic regime) is sanctified and even encouraged to ensure that Imams do not forget that their spiritual and temporal commitments to the subjects and to God are not compromised.

However, because of the absence of a formalized permanent process for selecting Imams and controlling any tendencies of abuse of power by the accepted Imam, there were many times that the state was beset with weak and stable authority, as many aspirants to the Imamate called for a political uprising, on the pretext that the existing Imam had abused his mandate or was unable to establish the justice and equity that are cardinal rules of an Islamic secular state.


1 Imam has a double connotation of “Spiritual Guide” and Sovereign Authority when used in the political context, as it is used here. However high scholastic attainment in religious theology and jurisprudence has been granted this honorific title to many a leading scholar of distinction, such as Zeid bin Ali, Abu Hanifah, Ja'afar Al-Sadiq, Mohammed Idriss Al-Shafi'ee, Ahmed Bin Hanbal, etc. (all of the latter had Islamic sects named after them, but the first was the only one, who was asked to lead an insurrection against the unjust Caliphate. The others were also outspoken critics of political oppression and many of them were imprisoned and tortured by the rulers they were critical of in their times. Although it was expected that a Caliph should be of a high scholastic caliber as well, this was very seldom the case, as most of the caliphates that prevailed were hereditary dynasties up to the Ottoman Turks, who were forced out after World War I and the Western powers insisted that the Turks relinquish the title of Caliph altogether, and this ended the symbolic head of the Islamic Nation as a potential united political entity.