Article

Islam in Yemen

Daniel Martin Varisco

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0093
Islam in Yemen

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Yemen plays a prominent role in the early history of Islam. The Christian Yemeni king Abraha is said to have attacked Mecca during the lifetime of Muhammad’s grandfather. The Sassanian governor of Yemen, Bathan, was an early convert to Islam. It is also said that ʿAli, Muhammad’s nephew, brought the message of Islam to Yemen. During the reign of the Ummayid caliph al-Muʿawiyya, Yemen was divided into two regions: the north, centered around the city of Sanʿa’, and the south, around the town of al-Janad. Yemen proved difficult to control under the Abbasid caliphate because of its remoteness and tribal character. In the mid-9th century the local dynasty of the Yuʿfirids too control of the highlands. At the beginning of the 10th century the Shiʿa leader Yahya ibn al-Husayn established the Zaydi imamate in the northern highlands of Yemen; this lasted until the Republican revolution of 1962. In the southern highlands, along the Red Sea coast and along the Gulf of Aden, local dynasties evolved, which were often subjected to foreign invasions. The Ayyubids invaded Yemen from Egypt at the end of the 12th century, followed by the Rasulid dynasty until the middle of the 15th century and the first Ottoman Turkish occupation in the mid-16th century. From 1839 to 1967 Britain controlled the major southern seaport of Aden. Most of Yemen remained divided, with the Shiʿa Zaydi school dominant in the north and the Sunni Shafiʿi school most common in the south and along the coast. The Hadramawt region maintained its independence for most of Yemen’s history and established strong links with India and Indonesia through out-migration. Following the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990 there has been an increasingly Islamist perspective, promoted in part through Saudi Arabian Wahhabi influence. The current state constitution defines Yemen as following Islamic law, with only a small number of Yemenite Jews and no indigenous Christian population.

Article.  6824 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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