This is Yemen’s History (Part One) [Archives:2007/1054/Culture]

May 28 2007
Photo from archived article: photos/1054/culture1_1
Photo from archived article: photos/1054/culture1_1
Abdullah Al-Kumaim
Abdullah Al-Kumaim
Nisreen Shadad
“This is Yemen History” is a three-volume book written in Arabic by Yemeni history specialist Abdullah Al-Kumaim.

Volume one offers an introduction to the beginning of the universe, mankind, language and civilization. In the first chapter, Al-Kumaim discusses Yemen's position during each of the historical periods, as well as the meaning of the word Yemen.

In chapter two, he provides more details about Yemenis and Yemeni civilization, mentioning numerous Yemeni historical characters, including Dhul Qarnayn and Sheba.

Also in this chapter, Al-Kumaim presents evidence that Dhul Qarnayn was a Yemeni, as Dhul Qarnayn's identity has become a matter of great controversy in modern times. Dhul Qarnayn was said to have been a great and righteous ruler who built a long wall that kept Gog and Magog from attacking the peoples of the West.

Moreover, Al-Kumaim presents the Prophet Mohammed's praises about Yemenis, as well as things mentioned about Yemen and Yemenis in the Old Testament of the Bible.

As he writes, Yemen was the first nation to plant, to domesticate animals and build palaces and dams. He also discusses 99 palaces in Yemen and various dams built in Yemeni governorates.

As Al-Kumaim presents in his book, one Orientalist said, “Yemen is the only country that can be called the cradle of Arabism.” In the oldest Babylonian script found was carved in al-mismari (an ancient type of handwriting) about Ma'een, a state that flourished in eastern Yemen's Al-Jawf Valley during the first era of ancient Yemen and a political entity near the Sabaean mother state in southern Arabia, rotating in its orbit or secluding itself and, at times, becoming an ally of the Hadramout and Qataban against it.

Ma'eenite civilization was no less than that of Sheba in its power and influence, as it established temples in many towns of Al-Jawf and was characterized by its unique Ma'eenite architectural style. The arts of drawing and engraving developed to a great extent during this time. Like other ancient Yemeni states, the Ma'eenites wrote in al-musnad calligraphy and spoke the same language of southern Arabia.

Ma'eenite towns surrounded the Sabaeans during the first century B.C. and many historical signs were left by the Ma'eenites represented in the relics of towns, dams and temples across Al-Jawf governorate.

The following is just a sample of some of the remarkable things Al-Kumaim mentions in his book:

Yakli Palace, the Red Palm

Yakli Palace was built on the summit of Jabubah hill in the area of Al-Hada , located south of Sana'a. The palace was named for the small Yakli River, which surrounded the hill from the north to the east side.

It's called the Red Palm due to the shape and the color of Jabubah hill , which looks like a palm and has a red color. Al-Jabubah is located in the far northwest of Al-Hada, an area in the midst of Al-Hada tribe, Khawlan area, Sanhan area, Al-Rus area and Jahran.

Scientific research and drilling for the remains of the Red Palm began in 1932-1931 during the reign of Imam Ahmad; therefore, it was hard to know the exact time such palaces were established. Ancient artifacts reflect that these areas submitted to numerous kings, the most famous being Al-Sharh Yahthub and Dhammar Ali Yahbr.

A scripture of King Dhammar Ali Yahbr, a king from the Saba and Dhu Raydan periods, was found in this area, upon which both the king's and his son's name were written in al-musnad calligraphy.

Dhi Marmar Palace

Many engravings indicate that Marmar, the Arabic word for marble, was a temple or a palace. Discovered at the beginning of the third century B.C., it's still known as Marmar Palace today.

In one particular engraving was written Dhi Marmar. Jawad Abdullah thought Dhi Marmar was a palace of Sakheem because it became a symbol for them, just as the palaces and castles of other tribes became symbols for their nation and tribes.

Dhi Marmar was built on a height overlooking ancient Shibam Sakheem city. It was surrounded by a huge, strong fence to protect the palace from any attack. The palace remained until 1583, when it was destroyed to build a new city using its stones.

Dhul Qarnayn, a great king

Medieval scholars identified Dhul Qarnayn as the ancient Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great. Early Muslim historian Ibn Hisham wrote, “Dhul Qarnayn is Alexander the Greek, the king of Persia and Greece, or the king of the east and the west, for because of this, he was called Dhul Qarnayn [meaning 'the two-horned one'].”

Some modern Islamic scholars also identify Dhul Qarnayn with Alexander the Great; for example, in the appendix of his famous translation of the Qur'an, Yusuf Ali argues for such identification. Secular academic scholars of the Qur'an also agree that Dhul Qarnayn is an ancient epithet for Alexander the Great.

However, Al-Kumaim presents numerous evidences that Dhul Qarnayn was a Yemeni historical figure. In describing him, the materials he used, his main message and other reasons the book lists, the Qur'an proves that Dhu Al-Qarnayn was Yemeni because ancient Yemenis established dams, melded iron with tin and copper and were known to bear the last name of Dha.

Dhul Qarnayn is mentioned in the Qur'an's Surat Al-Kahf (18: 83-97): “And they ask about Dhul Qarnayn. Say: 'I will recite to you something of his story. Verily, We [Allah] established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means of everything. So he followed a way. Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a spring of murky water. And he found near it a people.

“We said: 'O Dhul Qarnayn! Either punish them, or treat them with kindness.' He said, 'Whoever does wrong, we shall punish him, then he will be brought back to his Lord, and He will punish him with a punishment unheard of before. But whoever believes, and works righteousness, he will have a goodly reward, and easy will be his task as we order it by our command.'

“Then he followed another way. Until, when he came to the rising place of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no shelter against the sun. So he left them as they were: We completely understood what was before him. Then he followed another way, until, when he reached a tract between two mountains, he found, beneath them, a people who scarcely understood a word.

“They said: 'O Dhul Qarnayn! The Gog and Magog people do great mischief on earth. Shall we then render you tribute in order that you might erect a barrier between us and them?' He said: 'The power in which my Lord had established me is better than tribute. Therefore, help me with strength and labor. I will erect a stronger barrier between you and them. Bring me blocks of iron.'

“At length, when he had filled up the space between the two steep mountainsides, he said, 'Blow with your bellows.' Then, when he had made it red as fire, he said: 'Bring me molten lead that I may pour it over them.' Thus, they were powerless to scale it or dig through it. He said: 'This is a mercy from my Lord, but when the promise of my Lord comes to pass, He will make it into dust; and the promise of my Lord is true.'”

Dhul Qarnayn's name and heritage

Interpreters and historians describe Dhul Qarnayn with many names that have no authentic roots. However, as Al-Kumaim writes, the most valid lineage for Dhul Qarnayn is Al-Hamisa'a bin Amr bin Areeb bin Zayd bin Kahlan bin Saba and he's called Sa'ab.

Due to the vast differences among historians regarding Dhul Qarnayn, Al-Kumaim conveys in his book their opinions and the information upon which they depend, in addition to explaining how such misconceptions occurred.