Various religious sects jostle for powerAre fundamentalist views of Islam getting stronger in Yemen? [Archives:2003/682/Culture]

October 30 2003

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Muslims are broadly divided into two main sects: Sunni and Shia Of the two, Sunnis form the majority of Muslims, and this in turn has four main divisions: Hanafiya, Shafiya, Malikiya and Hanbaliya.
Sunnis also are known for their various schools of thoughts such as al-Ashaira, al-Marjana, al-Qadariya…etc. Similarly Shia also have several divisions. Of the most important ones is al-Ithna Ashariya (al-Imamiya) and al-Zaidiya, and these also are known for schools of thought such as al-Munhazila and other intellectual and logic schools of thoughts.
In Yemen, the most famous sects of all mentioned above is al-Shafiya sect, al-Zaidiya sect and al-Ismailiya sect, which have existed in Yemen for more than a thousand years. Some of al-Hanafiya are present also in Zabid, and some of al-Ithna Ashar followers in Aden. As well, recently the Hanbaliya sect has entered Yemen in the last 30 years or so.
In spite of the variety of intellectual and though schools, each interprets Islam according to its own beliefs, and, yes, that can cause a religious conflict or clashes between the different sects.
In fact, any disputes were resolved by trust worthy scholars from both sides and peace persisted in the region. This does not deny the fact that each sect in its own way tries to dominate the others and spread its principles among the public. Yet, as mentioned before, all issues would be peacefully resolved and none of the different sects would launch war on any other spill blood, except for a few extremist of the Wahabi Sahalfi school of thought.
Since the unity in 1990 and the appearance of political partism and numeral political associations, the Wahabi movement was able to enter the scene and bring attention to its beliefs through the Ikhwan-Salifian movement. This sect contrary to the other ones is not based merely on intellectual schools of thought but has political background symbolized in particular institutes in certain places or religious schools.
The circumstances that allowed a meeting point between al-Ikhwan movement and al-Salafeen movements, especially in the Gulf countries, could be considered one of the most important historical stations, especially concerning the consequences on Yemen. It has lead to the demeaning control of sects that existed for ages in the country, such as the Zaidia, which is going through its worst phases now. At the same time, al-Zaidia and al-Shee’a al-Imamiya have not maintained their strong positions, even though they might be receiving financial support from petroleum countries which supports the Shia sect in the region.
This means that the fundamentalist al-Wahabia movement, especially the Salafiya beliefs, has succeeded in spreading its thoughts, and funding its institutions all over the country. It’s in more than 100 buildings and mosques. And still, it grows stronger and gets more control.