The Literary CornerThe history of Yemen (3/3) [Archives:2005/874/Culture]

September 5 2005

By Abu Alkalmah Al-Tayyibah
Author: Scholar and Sheikh Abdul-Wasi'a Bin Yahya Al-Wasi'y Al-Yamani

Language: Arabic

Publisher: Yemen's Grand Library, Sana'a

Year Published: First Printing 1947, Second Printing 1991

Number of Pages: 140

From Chapter 10 to Chapter 15 Al-Wasi'y goes into some of the details of the British occupation of the Southern part of the country. He starts off by some background information on Hadhramaut, which at the time the first edition was published was a sultanate under British protection. He notes that the British interfered in clashes between the local leaders and eventually sided with one of them to gain influence and eventually win administrative and defense authority.

But in Chapter 11 the author returns to the early days of British interest in Yemen and the occupation of Aden in October 19, 1839 which started with Al-Tawwahi area, which then did not have more than “600 fishermen living in huts”, according to the author. But due to the “inevitable clashes that were bound to result between the Sultan of Lahj and the British” the British begin to encroach further into Aden until they fully took over the city. Aden, says Al-Wasi'y is a “beautiful harbor which overlooks the Gulf with the same name. The English have “fortified the port that make it impossible to take the port from them except by a force majeure or extraordinary force” because of the natural fortifications surrounding the and interlacing the city “unless it is done from the sea, but their “boats, armor and large artillery make it almost impossible”. So the English continued to encroach upon more territory in the South, but basically mainlined full administrative control to the Crown Colony of Aden. Sometimes this was done by trying to convince the reigning sultans to sell to them or else get any of his relatives to sell them the area, as they did when they took over the Sheikh Uthman Area, which they bought from the brother of the Sultan who had heretofore refused to sell to them. Al-Wasi'y included in this section of the book a report by a Commandant Crawford, a former British Admiral who retired and went on a private visit to Yemen. The Commandant said the Imam Yahya requested him to give a report on some of the regions that were under dispute between the Imam and the British. In the report, the Admiral tried to discourage the British from further encroachment in Yemen, because they will always encounter hostility.

Further in the book, the author goes into a description of the mountain ranges in Yemen, noting the major high elevations and the area covered by the mountain ranges. He also notes the several streams, rivers and wadis that interlaced these ranges with details of some of the streams that came to Sana'a. In this section he recounts an interesting story of a former King of Yemen, whose name was Taghtakin (died 543 AH). He was determined to buy and possess all the land in Yemen, so he would “fully own the country”. The people of Yemen found this to be unacceptable, “so a few good people got together and agreed to enter a mosque and not to leave the mosque until this king dies. They entered the mosque and resided inside it for three days fasting at daytime and staying up in prayers throughout the nights. On the third day the king died.

On chapter 13, the author gives a detail account of where the minerals of Yemen can be found. Gold for example can be found in Rada'a, Khoulan – Sirwah and Utumah and even Mount Nuqum East of Sana'a.

In Chapter 14, Al-Wasi'y discusses the region of Asir, starting with an explanation of how it got its name. It was named after Asir Bin Issa, because his mother took three days to give birth to him (the word asir in Arabic means hard). He then describes in detail how the Turks occupied the region in the 1865 by first agreeing with the local leaders to give them wealth and allow them some authority, etc. and then eventually end up killing them, as was the case with the region of Haraz in, where they also killed many of the Ismaelite sect followers. Al-Wasi'y notes that Asir was always a part of Yemen and even the Turks administered the region from Sana'a. after “the Great War”, the Turks left Asir and King Abdul-Aziz occupied the region and “it is still in his hand up to now (1947).

In Chapter 19 of the book, we go back again in history, with the Prophetic History and the eventual rise of Islam in Mecca with the coming of the Prophet Mohammed. In Chapter 20 Al-Wasi'y talks of the history of Yemen after the rise of Islam: the different governors that were assigned by the different Caliphs, or successors, who ruled the Islamic State after the Prophet Mohammed died, to administer Yemeni which originally was divided into three regions, the Northern region with the administrative center in Sana'a, the Al-Janad area and surrounding regions and Hadhramaut. Yemen was not spared the political battles between the disputing contestants for the Caliphate and many massacres occurred as the Caliphate changed hands from the Orthodox Caliphs (the 4 subsequent successors to the prophet Mohammed (PAUH) to the Umayyads to the Abbasids. The author then describes the different indigenous states that arose; the Sulayhis, the Zeidi Imams, the final Turkish occupation of Sana'a in the late 19th Century and the triumph of Imam Yahya against the Turks in 1904. The rest of the book is a public relations effort for the Imam Yahya Hamid-Al-Din and his reign and the accomplishments of Imam, giving articles written by foreign Arab scholars and visitors to Yemen. He then gives an accounting of the international bilateral agreements signed with Yemen, as discussed in Part 1 of this critique.