Version classiqueVersion mobile

The rules of Barat. Tribal documents from Yemen

 | 
Paul Dresch

Part 1. The detailed setting

Political history

Entrées d'index

Mots clés :

imamat zaydite

Keywords :

Zaydi imam

Chronologique :

XVIIIe s., XIXe s., XXe s.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The term dawlah occurs in early Zaydi Yemeni sources. e.g. Musallam al‑Laḥjī The Sīrah of… al‑nāṣir (...)

1A detailed history of the tribes at Baraṭ itself is not possible. As usual in Arabia, the documents that might allow us to reconstruct the detail of tribal movements and redefinitions locally are not in any central archive but in the possession of families –if they exist at all. We can, however, say something about Yemen’s political history, to which Dhū Muḥammad and their neighbours, in the sense of adjacent tribes, were at once both important and in some ways marginal. Although the tribes at Baraṭ were not within “the land of state”, they provided on occasion the state’s troops or mercenaries; just as often, they appear as the state’s antithesis. As it happens, at the time our documents claim to have been drawn up the term “state” or dawlah had become common Zaydi usage1 and the apparatus of government, having grown in the century before, was under strain.

  • 2 An 18th century author lists only four Imams under whom Baraṭ had been within “state” control since (...)
  • 3 For a brief account that concentrates on tribal concerns see Dresch Tribes pp. 198 ff. For a broade (...)
  • 4 Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh p. 29, al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā p. 126. For al‑Ghurbānī, below, Tārīkh pp. 93, (...)
  • 5 For al‑Kawkabānī, Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 2 pp. 239 ff. and for Aḥmad Isḥāq ibid. vol. 1 p. 241 (...)

2Although Baraṭ features in accounts of the first Zaydi Imam in Yemen (d. AD 911), it was usually beyond the detailed control of rulers.2 The period 1177–1275 hijrī (AD 1763–1859), to which our texts and their main revisions date themselves, was no exception. The Imam al‑Qāsim (d. AD 1619), when he rose against the Turks at the end of the sixteenth century had taken refuge at Baraṭ, and he returned there for a time in 1604-5 when the Turks drove him out of al‑Ahnūm; but the centre of his political activity and his tribal support lay further west, and as his sons drove out the Turks (1620–36) and won control of Yemen the centre of the newly emerging Qāsimī state moved to near Ṣanʿā’ and further south.3 By the mid-seventeenth century, and again in the eighteenth century, Baraṭ was an obvious place to escape an Imam based in the central highlands. In 1651 Muḥammad al‑Ḥaydānī, known as “al‑Fūṭī”, thus went to Baraṭ before moving down through the Jawf, perhaps to al‑Maṣʿabayn, and apparently claiming to be the Awaited Mahdī.4 More seriously, in 1665, Sayyid Muḥammad ʿAlī al‑Ghurbānī went from Ṣanʿā’ to Baraṭ, He denounced the Qāsimī ruler of the day, in due course claimed the Imamate himself, and was a thorn in the Qāsimīs’ side thereafter. ʿAlī Ṣalāḥ al‑Dīn al‑Kawkabānī migrated to Baraṭ in 1750; Aḥmad Muḥammad Isḥāq did so five years later, before moving to Wuṣāb and briefly claiming the Imamate.5 This pattern of Imamic claimants taking refuge at Baraṭ persists through the nineteenth century, and al‑Mahdī Muḥammad al‑Ḥūthī declared himself Imam at Baraṭ in 1882. As interesting are less prominent figures, such as Sayyid al‑Qāsim b. Aḥmad of Bayt al‑Mu’ayyad who, late in the seventeenth century, spent twelve years at Baraṭ, while three Imams came and went elsewhere in Yemen, before returning “at the beginning of the state (dawlah) of al‑Nāṣir al‑Mahdī...”

  • 6 T. Klaric, Chronologie du Yémen (1045–1131/1635–1719), Chroniques Yéménites vol. 9 (2001), Zabārah (...)
  • 7 See e.g. al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā p. 270-71, Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh pp. 120-21, 128, 175. For Dahm and (...)

3What, then, was the state or dawlah? The centre, in so far as it had a centre in the sense of a formal court, was often Ṣanʿā’ (around AD 1700 it lay further south than that), and the Imams’ own rhetoric of Islamic justice suggests a uniform claim to authority across all Yemen, thwarted only by practicalities. In fact it was not so simple. Al‑Mutawakkil Ismāʿīl (r. 1644–76) had appointed his sons as provincial governors, several relatives of al‑Mahdī Aḥmad (r. 1676–81) declared themselves Imam at al‑Mahdī’s death, others of the family lodged claims to this area or that, and patterns of localized Qāsimī influence seem to last over long periods while particular Imams rise and fall.6 Al‑Mu’ayyad Muḥammad’s family recur in events around Shahārah, for instance; the descendants of al‑Mahdī Aḥmad recur around Ṣaʿdah. Besides this, one can see other patterns that link families or particular tribes. Sufyān, for example, with whom we often find Dhū Muḥammad dealing, are associated with Āl ʿAmmār (Sufyān’s immediate neighbours to the north) but also with transactions based specifically on Ṣaʿdah. A link between Sufyān and Dhū Muḥammad recurs, not least because the learned family of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī bridged the gap between ʿIyān (in Sufyān) and Baraṭ, and it was natural for Imams concerned with Baraṭ, perhaps particularly with Dhū Muḥammad, to convene negotiations at ʿIyān.7 Dhū Ḥusayn, who are Dhū Muḥammad’s immediate neighbours at Jabal Baraṭ itself, are associated more with the Jawf. When the Imam al‑Mutawakkil Ismāʿīl in 1660 recruited Dahm to raid the badu east and south of there, one imagines Dhū Ḥusayn would have been the principal tribe involved. But next to them, as we have seen already, are such tribes as Āl Sulaymān, Banī Nawf, Āl Sālim, and al‑ʿAmālisah.

Document 5: Baraṭ and Sharīfs of Mecca (c. 1850)

Document 5: Baraṭ and Sharīfs of Mecca (c. 1850)
  • 8 B. Haykel Revival and Reform in Islam: the legacy of Muḥammad ʿAlī al‑Shawkānī (2003) p. 63.

4Often, unless family names are mentioned, one cannot tell who exactly is meant in chronicles by “the tribes of Baraṭ”, but they appear in events almost everywhere from ʿAsīr, in the far north, to areas south of Taʿizz, and from Ḥaramawt, in the distant east, to the Red Sea coast, hundreds of kilometres from their homeland. It would be hard to write political history without noticing their presence. Though the subject remains unstudied, they corresponded in the nineteenth century with the Sharīf of Mecca (Document 5), and indeed with the British in Aden post-1839; they were central to Qāsimī concerns before that. From the viewpoint of Ṣanʿā’, however, or from that of most Yemenis in the eighteenth century, Baraṭ itself was, as Bernard Haykel says, a “peripheral region”.8 It remained so until the 1930s, when Crown Prince Aḥmad conquered the area, and remains so in some part now.

  • 9 ʿAbdullāh al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt yamānīyah (1980) p. 227. The theme of learned migrants to Baraṭ (...)
  • 10 For hijrahs see e.g. Serjeant ʽTribal affinitiesʼ. The earlier sayyid presence at Baraṭ is very har (...)
  • 11 Ḥabshūsh Yémen p. 165. For Aḥmad al‑Kibsī’s removal to Baraṭ, Serjeant ʽHistoryʼ p. 90, al‑Ḥibshī ( (...)

5In 1852 ʿAlī b. al‑Mahdī, after one of his many proclamations that he was the true Imam, went to Baraṭ, where he married a woman from the shaykhly house of Bayt al‑Baḥr (of Dhū Zayd in Dhū Muḥammad). “And they welcomed him and hosted him, and marvelled at his coming to them, for they had not known anyone come to their parts from Ṣanʿā’ the protected of God since the Imam al‑Mahdī Aḥmad b. Ḥasan b. al‑Qāsim [d. AD 1681]”.9 They exaggerate, as we have seen, but one takes their point. Baraṭ and Ṣanʿā’ were indeed quite separate in many ways. More than this, the network of sayyid families, descendants of the Prophet whose status as hijrah or protected by the tribes informs so much of Upper Yemen’s history (that is, of the area around Ṣanʿā’ northwards), seems to have been sparse in the far north-east.10 What sayyids there were appear to have come and gone, often fleeing specific problems elsewhere. In about 1858, for instance, a mob in Ṣanʿā’ pillaged the house of Sayyid Aḥmad al‑Kibsī, who, hurt by the loss of his library, moved to Baraṭ, and Ḥabshūsh mentions Kibsīs at Baraṭ in 1870.11 Later still, with the Imam al‑Mahdī Muḥammad, Bayt al‑Ḥūthī established a presence in al‑ʿInān.

  • 12 The status of such quāh (literally, “judgesˮ) is hereditary. They were not all individually schola (...)
  • 13 al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā pp. 172_3
  • 14 Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh p. 134. For the al‑ʿAnsīs at Baraṭ, see particularly al‑Akwaʿ MadkhaI pp. 27‑4 (...)

6Before the late nineteenth century, however, and quite unlike most areas of Ḥāshid and Bakīl, there seems to have been little permanent or integral sayyid presence at Jabal Baraṭ. Learning was instead represented by the ī12 family of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī, and a member of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī is mentioned in many of our copies as writing out the document, the kind of person who knew about scripts and papers: many are still scribes at Baraṭ nowadays. Their position in the eighteenth century, however, was grander. Aḥmad ʿAlī Qāsim al‑ʿAnsī (d. AD 1661), who had moved as a child to Jabal Baraṭ from ʿIyān in Sufyān with his learned father, was referred to by chroniclers as the Ruler (ḥākim) of Baraṭ.13 The tribes there paid their canonical taxes to him (if to anyone) and not to an Imam, and his successors maintained that status. In 1673–4 the Imam of the day “expressed his sorrow” at the state of affairs, for half the tax from Baraṭ was supposed by treaty to go to one of the Imam’s own Qāsimī relations and half “to ʿAlī Muḥammad al‑ʿAnsī and his relatives” but in practice the al‑ʿAnsīs retained control.14 ʿAbd al‑Raḥmān al‑ʿAnsī led the tribes of Baraṭ against Luḥayyah, in the northern Tihāmah, in 1732; Ḥasan al‑ʿAnsī opposed the Imam in 1770, arriving near Ṣanʿā’ with a large force of Baraṭ tribesmen, and forty years later his son ʿAbdullāh had Ṣanʿā’ all but under siege. The al‑ʿAnsīs and their relatives the Āl al‑ʿUkām recur in accounts of Dhū Muḥammad and Dhū Ḥusayn at odds with various Imams, not least over land in Lower Yemen (to the south of Ṣanʿā’), well into the nineteenth century.

  • 15 The repetition of names within families means there is ample room for confusion here, and more work (...)
  • 16 The al‑ʿAnsīs themselves assume they predate Dhū Muḥammad and Dhū Ḥusayn. They are surprisingly wil (...)

7At Baraṭ itself the qāḍīs of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī were muhajjarīn, protected by the tribes. Ismāʿīl al‑Akwaʿ suggests the first of them to come from ʿIyān in Sufyān was ʿAlī Qāsim (d. AD 1637), who perhaps founded the hijrah, or protected place, at al‑Ramah; an alternative version has al‑Raḍmah founded by his grandson ʿAlī b. Muḥammad b. ʿAlī Qāsim.15 (The latter’s uncle, Aḥmad ʿAlī, was mentioned earlier.) Al‑Akwaʿ presents a document, dated 1112 hijrī (AD 1700) but apparently a renewal of some earlier pact, placing all the descendants of ʿAlī b. Qāsim al‑ʿAnsī at al‑Raḍmah and al‑Sawādah (just north-west of al‑ʿInān) under the protection of Dhū ʿAmr; an even earlier text, dating initially to AD 1660, however, places the descendants of Ḥusayn b. Qāsim, not least at al‑Saraʿah (four or five km. north of the market), under the protection specifically of Āl Ṣalāḥ and al‑Maʿāṭirah, There were plainly several branches of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī,16 and the complexity of the different protection pacts we can only guess at, but these pacts were renewed repeatedly through the period of our own documents. (Some of the detail will be touched on in part three).

8In 1768, in a well-known episode, the al‑ʿAnsīs at Baraṭ wrote to the learned persons of Ḥūth, Kawkabān and Dhamār, inviting a general revolt against the Qāsimīs. They objected particularly to one Sayyid Muḥammad Ismāʿīl (the famous “Ibn al‑Amīr”), who seemed to them to be promoting Shāfiʿī (Sunnī) practice in Ṣanʿā’ at the expense of proper Zaydism; but he had also, fifteen years before, omitted the name of Qāsim the Great from Friday prayers, which one might have thought would meet with approval from those opposed to dynastic rule by al‑Qāsim’s descendants.

Map 3: Upper and Lower Yemen

Map 3: Upper and Lower Yemen
  • 17 Haykel, Revival and Reform pp. 63-66. The al‑ʿAnsīs were not only at Baraṭ. In fact one of Ibn al‑A (...)

9The doctrinal differences between the al‑ʿAnsīs at Baraṭ and Ṣanʿā’-based supporters of the Qāsimī state remain unclear.17 The issues underlying the tribes’ ferocity in support of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī, and indeed towards government more generally when times were hard, are easier to grasp (see Map 3).

  • 18 For the dates and events below see al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā p. 241, al‑ʿAmrī Yemen p. 45, Zabārah Na (...)
  • 19 I am indebted to Nājī ʿAbdullāh Dāris for the lines following. They sound, one has to say, very muc (...)

10Lower Yemen was conquered at the start of the Qāsimī period, and the tribes of Baraṭ are mentioned there long after the Qāsimī state had disappeared. For those not steeped in Yemen’s history the point deserves spelling out that Lower Yemen (around Ibb and Jiblah) was the country’s main agricultural region; Upper Yemen (the land of the tribes) was and is much drier, and Baraṭ, in the far north-east, was especially vulnerable to drought.18 In the late seventeenth century, when the badu of Āl Sulaymān moved south from their usual territory, famine was so bad there were rumours of cannibalism. A serious famine and drought struck the whole country in 1723-4; the passage of Baraṭ tribes southward through Ṣanʿā’ in 1795 was driven, again, by crop-failure; in 1823 a drought turned the tribes of Baraṭ to raiding Lower Yemen, and in 1835, again a famine year, their women and children moved west on their own while their men raided the far north-west. In the longer term, however, Lower Yemen was more important: “if you’re fleeing death there is no escape; if you’re fleeing hunger, settle in Sahūl Ibn Nājī”. A traditional verse at Baraṭ itself gives these raids and displacements an heroic cast:19

hajarnā wa-taraknā al‑baqā ḥawāris, rijālan uʿf qalīl juhūd-ah
We emigrated and left the rest as guards, the weaker men who made small effort.

11In the city-centred chronicles, from early in the eighteenth century through the nineteenth, one hears repeatedly of tribesmen from Dhū Muḥammad and Dhū Ḥusayn appearing around Ṣanʿā’ and demanding payment from Imams, who often had to buy them off. Baraṭ was never self-sufficient.

  • 20 al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt pp. 34-5, 46, 92, 99, 102, 105-6, 134-5. For Thawābah, below, ibid. pp. 16 (...)

12Year after year the tribes of Baraṭ are reported as supporting or opposing one Imam or another, threatening Ṣanʿā’, and fighting in Lower Yemen. In the drought of 1823 they spread out, once south of the Sumārah pass, “as if their fathers had left them the land as inheritance”, which probably by then they had done in many cases: “they settled there, married there, and forgot the east”. They owned the whole area, says a Ṣanʿānī chronicler, until the Faqīh Saʿīd drove them out circa 1840.20 Yet after that date they are just as conspicuous. Indeed their personal status was uncontentious. When in 1848, the Imam of the day executed Aḥmad Ṣāliḥ Thawābah (from Dhū Zayd of Dhū Muḥammad), who controlled part of al‑Makhādir, just north of Ibb, Thawābah’s sons retained their father’s land at Baʿah.

  • 21 Ḥabshūsh Ru’yah pp. 114, 116, Yémen pp. 173, 175.
  • 22 Muḥammad al‑Dumaynī was an important merchant in the 1950s. He became associated with Muṭīʿ al‑Damm (...)
  • 23 Many of the names can be found associated with Lower Yemen in al‑Ḥajrī’s Buldān. The history remain (...)

13Ḥabshūsh in the late nineteenth century says what must have been true in the century before, at the time our documents were written: when the people of Baraṭ controlled Lower Yemen they were well off (or some were, at least), and when they lacked such income they lived in poverty.21 But the impression the chronicles give of waves of northern invaders lapping across Lower Yemen and then receding to Upper Yemen is illusory. Families stayed and settled, and a common estimate is that three quarters of Dhū Muḥammad now live south of Ṣanʿā’ towards Ibb and Taʿizz: the first thing one sees at the road junction in al‑Qāʿidah for Dhī Sifāl, for instance, is a pharmacy with the sign “Makhzan al‑Dumaynī”, very much a Baraṭ name.22 Most of the households in the area, though local reasons for doing this may not reduce to shared history, claim origins at Baraṭ. Indeed the list of guarantors for text B contains several names familiar from Lower Yemen, where relatives may well have lived when the texts were written.23 The list for Āl Aḥmad b. Kawl, for instance, contains Ahl al‑ʿInān of Āl Abū ʿUrūq, who are not around al‑ʿInān at Baraṭ but nearly all now in Lower Yemen. Al‑ʿUtalāt of Āl Ṣalāḥ have long had people around Dhī Sifāl; Bayt Abū Asbaʿ hold land near Jiblah. To date their arrival is as yet guess-work.

  • 24 Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh pp. 323-5, 334, 354, 478-9, 487. The connections among the different branches (...)

14It seems well established now that many great families of tribal shaykhs come to prominence early in the eighteenth century. Around 1710, Ibn Juzaylān of Dhū Mūsā in Dhū Muḥammad is among the most conspicuous, being played off by the Imam of the day against Ibn Ḥubaysh of Sufyān; around 1740 Nājī Nāṣir Juzaylān is involved with a fresh generation of Bayt Ḥubaysh and with Ḥasan Aḥmad al‑ʿAnsī “the leader of Dhū Ḥusayn”, not least in Lower Yemen, which “filled up with tribes”.24 The connection between Baraṭ and Lower Yemen involves more than just a few great families. Even families of shaykhs are numerous. But at Baraṭ it must surely have been wealth from elsewhere that allowed, for instance, the possession of slaves and the employment of share-croppers, for Baraṭ itself is not a wealthy place. Nor, it seems, did tribesmen or shaykhs routinely employ other tribesmen on their land there or even acquire large holdings of land at Baraṭ: there is little sign of chiefly dominance in the patterns of property-rights and territory that we looked at earlier. What the pattern may have been around al‑Makhādir, al‑Qāʿidah, or Baʿdān is unclear.

  • 25 Zabārah Ā’immat al‑yaman vol. 1/2 p. 82, vol. 2 p. 352. For the following reference, to the wealth (...)

15Although these northerners would first have appeared south of Ṣanʿā’ as raiders, they form an integral part of Lower Yemen’s society: at Dimnat Khadīr, indeed, some 30-40 km. south-west of Taʿizz along the main Aden road, is the tomb of a shaykh from Āl Abū Ra’s, which apparently is “visited” by local people as one visits the tombs of saints. Chronicles repeatedly cite Baraṭ tribesmen being driven out of this region or that. But in fact they continued to prosper throughout the area after Qāsimī times (i.e. post-1850). The families of Juzaylān and Abū Ra’s are thus mentioned as great property-owners in Lower Yemen in the late nineteenth century; and when Ḥasan b. Qāyid Abū Ra’s was killed there by the Ottoman Turks in 1917 a large body of tribesmen came from Baraṭ to seek amends or vengeance.25 A modern author attributes to the family not only charitable aid to the poor in the nineteenth century but huge subventions to reformist nationalists in the twentieth century, presumably derived from land around Ibb and Dhī Sifāl.

  • 26 For example, in the dispute over Wādī Silbah that we mentioned earlier people came from near Ta’izz (...)
  • 27 Dhū Muḥammad is not, however, central to governmental interests. Indeed one of the shaykhs said to (...)

16Dhū Muḥammad remains unusual among the northern tribes in that many people in Lower Yemen come home when needed. They did so in the civil war of the 1960s; they have done so in more parochial disputes since then.26 The ecological dependence of Baraṭ on greater Yemen is these days apparent in the number of men having jobs in the army and civil service, and educated young men from shaykhly and ī families are conspicuous in for instance the oil ministry.27 Earlier the pattern was in some ways simpler. From the time, in 1660, that al‑Mutawakkil Ismāʿīl sent money and robes of honour to recruit Baraṭ tribes for a war against the eastern badu, to the last days of Imam Aḥmad circa 1960 the shaykhs of Baraṭ enjoyed intermittent gifts from rulers; many lesser families must have had income from rulers, too, if only as part-time soldiers, or from land they themselves owned near Ibb and Jiblah. Yet from the documents at hand one would scarcely guess that such connections existed in the eighteenth century. The Ṣanʿānī view of Baraṭ as a separate world is reciprocated.

17In texts A and B we find mention of “the land of the state” as a region distinct from Baraṭ. In text A section 15 collective responses to wrongs against all Dhū Muḥammad (for instance, those involving women or the market) are said to mean suspending internal hostilities, and someone who usually would be liable to vengeance is thus to be escorted to and from state territory: text A section 22 suggests that if he leaves state territory he has eight days’ law to reach the safety of home. In text B section 21 we are told that a tribesman who owes amends to his fellow but whose rights to refuge at Baraṭ have expired (najaḥat al‑malāzim) still has the right to an escort, who will see him either to his house or out of tribal territory to “the land of the state (bilād al‑dawlah).

  • 28 Yayqar Muḥammad Abū Ra’s remembers as a boy doing the journey in twelve days. The traditional Yemen (...)
  • 29 If these areas are taken as equivalent to the land of the state, then by default they specify the l (...)

18The reference recurs, less directly and less clearly, in text A section 6 (text B section 5). Provision is made, if I read this correctly, for news to reach parties to the Code who are living elsewhere in the event that relations in which they are implicated are severed or formed at Baraṭ. The distance from Baraṭ to Ṣanʿā’ was reckoned eight days, and to Lower Yemen (in practice, to the mountains around Ibb) fifteen days.28 For the link to be reckoned sound needed twice that time, presumably for the message to arrive and an answer to be returned. The areas mentioned –Ṣanʿā’ and Abū ʿArīsh, the rest of the Tihāmah and Lower Yemen– suggest that men from Dhū Muḥammad were routinely living almost everywhere.29 The distinction between state-land and Baraṭ is therefore all the more striking. There may well be more at issue here than mere distance or isolation.

  • 30 Such common sense runs deep. It informed much rhetoric by urban intellectuals in the period of Arab (...)
  • 31 For Ibn al‑Amīr’s biography see Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 2 pp. 505 ff., and for his poem on the o (...)

19The texts we are dealing with seem to date from the time of al‑Mahdī Al‑ʿAbbās (r. 1748–75) and his son al‑Manṣūr ʿAlī (r. 1775–1809). Both were very much Ṣanʿānī Imams. The usual rhetoric of Zaydi Imams against the tribes –that they were ignorant, evil ones, followers of the ṭāghūt (part one, above)– was aligned with a certain urban parochialism to produce an image, that we still live with, of civilized state-ruled towns against a savage and disordered countryside.30 Ibn al‑Amīr (d. AD 1769) preached all but a generalized jihād against the northern tribes, not least those of Baraṭ, and condemned al‑ Manṣūr al‑Ḥusayn (r. 1727–48) for not suppressing them.31 Muḥammad ʿAlī al‑Shawkānī (d. 1834), in his later years the judge of judges, continued the theme in a now well-known quotation, condemning “these brutish Arabs” who do not even pray or fast. His view of the Imamate was in its way as simple.

20This is a period when the state, or dawlah, was conceived of in terms very much of secular authority and of temporal order. The Zaydis’ mediaeval heritage, such as Ibn al‑Murtaā’s fifteenth century Azhār, was accepted only in part:

  • 32 H. al‑ʿAmrī The Yemen in the 18th and 19th Centuries (1985) p. 163, cf. Haykel Revival and Reform p (...)

The tyrant (baghī) in the Azhār is defined as the one who acts as if he is right... and the Imam is wrong... Further, he is one who fights against the Imam. Al‑Shawkānī concurs and, moreover, is against any open opposition to the Imam, even if he is unjust... 32

  • 33 Luṭf Allāh Jaḥḥāf quoted Haykel Revival and Reform p. 179. Unfortunately Jaḥḥāf’s chronicle of al‑M (...)

21In a manner familiar from other polities, the fear and fact of civil disorder were countered by the principle of obedience to strong rulers, regardless of their moral value personally, and the population ideally were “subjects” (raʿāyā) cowed by the ruler’s capacity to inspire in them dread, or haybah. The Imam al‑Manṣūr ʿAlī b. al‑Mahdī in AD 1802 thus flogged and exiled rioters in Ṣanʿā’: “This led people to avoid the roads he took. He could leave his palace with a small retinue and no-one would dare look him in the eye”.33 But if enthusiasts for dynastic rule were defining the “state” increasingly as the monopolist of legitimate power –and indeed of truth– then tribes in the countryside had their own concerns. To speak of an alternative morality to that of state power is not extravagant. Indeed, that is much of the interest of tribal law and of judgement by supposed “custom”. To use the cant term of present times, this was civil society.

Notes

1 The term dawlah occurs in early Zaydi Yemeni sources. e.g. Musallam al‑Laḥjī The Sīrah of… al‑nāṣir li-dīn allāh (W. Madelung ed. 1999) p. 66. But from the 17th century it becomes very common in chronicles, along with the odd verb tadaywala.

2 An 18th century author lists only four Imams under whom Baraṭ had been within “state” control since the start of Zaydism in Yemen, and his count is generous: ʿAbdullāh ʿAlī al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā wa-ṣiḥāf al‑mann wa-l-salwā (Muḥammad Jāzim ed. 1985) pp. 273-4.

3 For a brief account that concentrates on tribal concerns see Dresch Tribes pp. 198 ff. For a broader account, R.B. Serjeant, The post-medieval and modern history of Ṣanʿāʼ in Serjeant and Lewcock (eds.) Ṣanʿāʼ: an Arabian Islamic city (1983). For further detail al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā and Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Muḥammad Tārīkh al‑yaman ʿaṣr al‑istiqlāl ʿan al‑ḥukm al‑ʿuthmānī (ʿAbdullāh al‑Ḥibshī ed. 1990).

4 Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh p. 29, al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā p. 126. For al‑Ghurbānī, below, Tārīkh pp. 93, 128, 175 and passim, Muḥammad Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf li-nubalā’ al‑yaman baʿd al‑alf ilā 1375 hijrī vol. 2 (1957) pp. 688 ff.

5 For al‑Kawkabānī, Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 2 pp. 239 ff. and for Aḥmad Isḥāq ibid. vol. 1 p. 241 Al‑Qāsim b. Aḥmad, below, is listed in vol. 2 p. 343. The Imam al‑Nāṣir (al‑Hādī) al‑Mahdī is “He of al‑Mawāhib”, whose capital was near Dhamār: ibid. vol. 2 pp. 451 ff.

6 T. Klaric, Chronologie du Yémen (1045–1131/1635–1719), Chroniques Yéménites vol. 9 (2001), Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 1 pp. 93-4, 549. A great deal remains to do on this basic political geography, which runs at odds with the usual depiction of successive Imamates.

7 See e.g. al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā p. 270-71, Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh pp. 120-21, 128, 175. For Dahm and Dhū Ḥusayn, below, Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā pp. 161-2, Tārīkh pp. 45, 407. Also Serjeant ʽHistoryʼ p. 81.

8 B. Haykel Revival and Reform in Islam: the legacy of Muḥammad ʿAlī al‑Shawkānī (2003) p. 63.

9 ʿAbdullāh al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt yamānīyah (1980) p. 227. The theme of learned migrants to Baraṭ taking wives from the shaykhs recurs: see e.g. Nubdhah mushīrah p. 237, al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt p. 280, Serjeant ʽTribal affinitiesʼ p. 29.

10 For hijrahs see e.g. Serjeant ʽTribal affinitiesʼ. The earlier sayyid presence at Baraṭ is very hard to assess. At al‑Namāsah, in the west of Baraṭ, is said to be the tomb of ʿAlī b. Ismāʿīl b. ʿAbdullāh b. Muḥammad b. al‑Qasīm al‑Rassī (d. 570 hijrī), which until fairly recently used to be “visitedˮ by badu and given minor presents. But I do not know of any long-resident sayyid families there.

11 Ḥabshūsh Yémen p. 165. For Aḥmad al‑Kibsī’s removal to Baraṭ, Serjeant ʽHistoryʼ p. 90, al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt pp. 279, 340-1, and Zabārah Nuzhat al‑naẓar rijāl al‑qarn al‑rābiʿʿashar (1979) pp. 143-5. The Imam al‑Mahdī Muḥammad al‑Ḥūthī gets little notice in the standard sources. For brief accounts see Zabārah Ā’immah vol. 1/2 pp. 353-9, Majd al‑Dīn b. Muḥammad al‑Muʼayyadī al‑Tuḥaf sharḥ al‑zulaf (n.d.) pp. 179 ff.

12 The status of such quāh (literally, “judgesˮ) is hereditary. They were not all individually scholars of the law. Nor were they generically rivals of the sayyids, who provided the Imams: indeed often they were referred to as “the shīʿahˮ with the sense of the Imamate’s supporters (see e.g. al‑Akwaʿ MadkhaI p. 34). The al‑ʿAnsīs were heavily involved with e.g. Muḥammad al‑Ghurbānī’s claims at Baraṭ (Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh p. 175).

13 al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā pp. 172_3

14 Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh p. 134. For the al‑ʿAnsīs at Baraṭ, see particularly al‑Akwaʿ MadkhaI pp. 27‑48 and his Hijar al‑ʿilm wa-maʿāqil-hu fī l-yaman (5 vols. 1995) pp. 888, 943, 985 and passim.

15 The repetition of names within families means there is ample room for confusion here, and more work is needed to pin down the names and death-dates, such as that of a second ʿAlī b. Qāsim. Compare al‑Akwaʿ Hijar al‑ʿilm pp. 888, 1520-21 with e.g. Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh p. 175. The grave of the original ʿAlī b. Qāsim at al‑Raḍmah is said to be dated 1045 hijrī, a year or so earlier than suggested by written sources.

16 The al‑ʿAnsīs themselves assume they predate Dhū Muḥammad and Dhū Ḥusayn. They are surprisingly willing to derive themselves from al‑Aswad al‑ʿAnsī, whose homeland is supposed to have been Wādī Khabb. See e.g. Zabārah Ā’immah vol. 1/1 pp. 24-6. Certainly the name is very old, cf. al‑Laḥjī Sīrat... al‑nāṣir pp. 94, 116. By most accounts (e.g. al‑Ḥajrī Buldān p. 114) the al‑ʿAnsīs at Baraṭ form part of a larger family grouping in the area named Āl al‑Sharʿī.

17 Haykel, Revival and Reform pp. 63-66. The al‑ʿAnsīs were not only at Baraṭ. In fact one of Ibn al‑Amīr’s teachers was the famous scholar and poet ʿAlī Muḥammad al‑ʿAnsī al‑Ṣanʿānī who grew up in Ṣanʿā’ and himself studied there with ʿAlī Yaḥyā al‑Baraṭī (Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 2 pp. 280-300). It remains the case, as Serjeant lamented decades ago (ʽTribal affinities’ p. 46), that historians concentrate on the towns. There must surely be alternative sources to be had from the rural branches of these learned families.

18 For the dates and events below see al‑Wazīr Ṭabaq al‑ḥalwā p. 241, al‑ʿAmrī Yemen p. 45, Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 1 p. 588, Nayl al‑waṭar (1929) vol. 2 p. 294, al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt pp. 34, 60-3. Examples can easily be multiplied.

19 I am indebted to Nājī ʿAbdullāh Dāris for the lines following. They sound, one has to say, very much what one hears in accounts of the Banī Hilāl. For the proverb on Saḥūl Ibn Nājī, just above, see al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt p. 70. People from Dhū Ḥusayn, not least from the shaykhly family of al‑Shāyif, also acquired land in Lower Yemen. But Dhū Ḥusayn’s main involvement was with the west, towards Ḥajjah, while families of Dhū Muḥammad are found mainly between Ibb and Taʿizz.

20 al‑Ḥibshī (ed.) Ḥawlīyāt pp. 34-5, 46, 92, 99, 102, 105-6, 134-5. For Thawābah, below, ibid. pp. 164-6. The chronicle describes people from Baraṭ as khārijīn (outsiders): certainly they were naqāʼil (people who had moved), but many, one suspects, had by now long been permanent residents of Lower Yemen.

21 Ḥabshūsh Ru’yah pp. 114, 116, Yémen pp. 173, 175.

22 Muḥammad al‑Dumaynī was an important merchant in the 1950s. He became associated with Muṭīʿ al‑Dammāj, a great Lower Yemeni magnate whose family is, again, originally from Baraṭ and who himself played a conspicuous role in republican politics. See e.g. P. Dresch A History of Modern Yemen (2000).

23 Many of the names can be found associated with Lower Yemen in al‑Ḥajrī’s Buldān. The history remains largely unexplored, although I believe Zayd b. ʿAlī al‑Wazīr is now researching Dhū Muḥammad’s involvement with the areas around Ibb and Jiblah. In passing one should note how easily people have usually assimilated to the region, adopting Shāfiʿī forms of prayer and local forms of dress.

24 Ḥusayn al‑Dīn Tārīkh pp. 323-5, 334, 354, 478-9, 487. The connections among the different branches of Bayt al‑ʿAnsī, and the extent of their influence over Dhū Muḥammad, Dhū Ḥusayn and neighbouring tribes, are hard to trace. For a later generation of Āl Juzaylān see e.g. Ḥusayn al‑ʿAmrī Mi’at ʿām min tārīkh al‑yaman al‑ḥadīth (1988), pp. 100, 117, 138.

25 Zabārah Ā’immat al‑yaman vol. 1/2 p. 82, vol. 2 p. 352. For the following reference, to the wealth of Āl Abū Ra’s, see Muḥammad al‑Yāzilī Min al‑thawrah al‑bikr ilā l-thawrah al‑­umm (2002) pp. 14, 38-9.

26 For example, in the dispute over Wādī Silbah that we mentioned earlier people came from near Ta’izz in quite large numbers and many others contributed funds. For Dhū Muḥammad’s involvement in national politics, and references to the relevant sources, see Dresch Modern Yemen. Suffice it to say that standard depictions of tribal shaykhs at the period as figures of the right wing apply poorly in Dhū Muḥammad’s case.

27 Dhū Muḥammad is not, however, central to governmental interests. Indeed one of the shaykhs said to me bitterly some years ago, “We are the Ḥugarīyah of the north”, al‑ Ḥugarīyah being a region south of Ta’izz that was long a by-word for under-development. As everywhere, in fact, a gap is opening between the poor and rich.

28 Yayqar Muḥammad Abū Ra’s remembers as a boy doing the journey in twelve days. The traditional Yemeni reckonings of time or distance, which go back at least to al‑Hamdānī, are given in al‑Ḥajrī’s Buldān. What is not at all clear is the relation between the rules at Baraṭ and the conduct of Muḥammadīs living e.g. in Lower Yemen. The only clue is in text A section 22 where raids away from Baraṭ are briefly mentioned.

29 If these areas are taken as equivalent to the land of the state, then by default they specify the land of the tribes. In the latter type of space, one assumes, refuge and compensation would involve claims against other tribes, governed by the principles we shall look at in part three.

30 Such common sense runs deep. It informed much rhetoric by urban intellectuals in the period of Arab Nationalism, and it continues now in the age of the new imperialism where tribal areas are depicted as a haven for “terrorists”.

31 For Ibn al‑Amīr’s biography see Zabārah Nashr al‑ʿarf vol. 2 pp. 505 ff., and for his poem on the occasion of the sack of al‑Luḥayyah ibid. p. 887-9. For late 18th century condemnations of the Baraṭ tribes as not Muslims see also Zabārah Nayl al‑waṭar (1929) vol. 1 pp. 262, 299. For the citation of al‑Shawkānī, below, Dresch Tribes p. 213, Haykel Revival and Reform p. 66.

32 H. al‑ʿAmrī The Yemen in the 18th and 19th Centuries (1985) p. 163, cf. Haykel Revival and Reform p. 85. Rising against injustice had once been the cardinal tenet of the school. For the broader significance of this shift in values see Haykel. The term baghī (tyrant) might better be translated simply wrong-doer: it is routinely used in this literature of tribal figures, and were dictionaries not to hand, one would think it meant rebel or dissident.

33 Luṭf Allāh Jaḥḥāf quoted Haykel Revival and Reform p. 179. Unfortunately Jaḥḥāf’s chronicle of al‑Manṣūr’s time (Durar nuḥūr al‑ḥūr), covering AD 1775–1809, has not, I think, seen print yet. The marginalia covering 1816–18, in al‑Mahdī ʿAbdullāh’s reign, have been edited by Ḥusayn al‑ʿAmrī as Ḥawlīyāt al‑mu’arrikh jaḥḥāf (1998).

Table des illustrations

Titre Document 5: Baraṭ and Sharīfs of Mecca (c. 1850)
URL http://books.openedition.org/cefas/docannexe/image/841/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 344k
Titre Map 3: Upper and Lower Yemen
URL http://books.openedition.org/cefas/docannexe/image/841/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 535k

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2006

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

Cette publication numérique est issue d’un traitement automatique par reconnaissance optique de caractères.

Acheter

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search