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The First World War from Tripoli to Addis Ababa (1911-1924)

 | 
Shiferaw Bekele
, 
Uoldelul Chelati Dirar
, 
Alessandro Volterra
, 
et al.

Local Agencies and the War

World War I and the Perspective of a Hashemite Order in Yemen. Study of the Chronicle of Ismā‛īl b. Muḥammad al-Washalī1

Juliette Honvault

Résumé

From 1912 to 1920, Yemen echoed the European imperial competition by suffering from continuous blockades by the Italians and by the British, leading to a dispersion of powers and deep political tension. This article, which is based on the analysis of the chronicle of Ismā'īl b. Muḥammad al-Washalī (1867/1868-1937), explores the idea of an extended social and political affirmation of the Yemeni local elite, namely the sayyid-s (local Hashemites), on the ground of the local context of World War I. More than a simple witness, this Shāfi'ī scholar of the Tihāma uses his historical work to assert the position and status of the social group he belongs to. This can be seen as a performative means allowing him to ensure his own shift away from Ottoman allegiance in favour of the Hashemite order that seems to settle in the region through the growing influence of the key figures such as the Emir al-Idrīsī, the sharif of Mecca or the Imam Yaḥyā. Al-Washalī defends the old local social order threatened by the overwhelming development of modern liberalism as the perspective of the Ottoman defeat becomes clearer, namely after the launching of the Great Arab revolt by Sharif Ḥusayn in 1916, using moral arguments on the effects of the war over the populations, and very particular explanations of the facts and events. This chronicle can help explain how the Shāfi’ī elite participated in the handover of the Ottoman power, first to Emir al-Idrīsī’s state and then to the Zaydī Imam Yaḥyā.

Texte intégral

  • 1 This paper was first presented under the title “Fighting with the Ottomans: The Islamic Cause in Ye (...)
  • 2 See Blumi 2003, 70.
  • 3 See Kuehn 2011, 238-239, Ingrams and Ingrams 1993, 637.
  • 4 Zaccaria 2012, 22-23. I am grateful to Massimo Zaccaria for this information.
  • 5 See Bang 1996; Baldry 1976-1977 and 1976a, 55, where Baldry reports that on 9 October 1912, a new T (...)
  • 6 See Baldry 1978, 149 and Bang 1996, 104. Al-Idrīsī was the first Arab leader to ally with the Briti (...)
  • 7 Even in May 1917, the British administration in Aden would refuse to help undermine Yaḥyā’s authori (...)
  • 8 See Gavin 1975.
  • 9 See Baldry 1978, 148-197.

1The weak military activity in Yemen during World War I and the maintenance of the status quo between the British in Aden – who first settled there in 1839 – and the Ottomans – who re-conquered the northern part of the country from 1849 onward – has led historians to suggest that no important events occurred in the country at the time. The overall situation during the war, however, should not conceal what was a period of “high dispersion of powers”2 and of deep political tension. The general context is one of imperial competition regarding Yemen and of continuous blockades of the Yemeni coast, by the Italians first, and then by the British. Just after the invasion of Tripolitania on 29 September 1911, the Italians began to organise a blockade to prevent the numerous Ottoman troops3 stationed on this side of the Red Sea from attacking Eritrea.4 This measure promoted reconciliation between the Ottomans and their main opponent in Yemen, Imam Yaḥyā, who had succeeded his father at the head of the Zaydī population in 1904, and had kept on leading a bloody war since then. The Da‘ān agreement, signed on 9 October, gave him legal control of the Zaydī region in Upper Yemen, in exchange for the acknowledgment of the Ottoman sovereignty. Thereafter, the Ottomans’ enemies more or less became Yaḥyā’s ones. These included first the Italians and the British – identified by the imam as infidel people occupying sacred Islamic land –, but also the Emir Muḥammad ‛Alī al-Idrīsī, who had issued a da‛wa (summons to follow his Islamic leadership) in northern ‛Asīr in 1909, and then gained Italian support against the Ottomans at the beginning of the Libyan war in October 1911, until the Peace agreement of Lausanne a year after.5 After the declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, the British in turn imposed a severe blockade on Yemeni coasts to prevent dhows smuggling food, materials and arms into Turkish Arabia. On 30 April 1915, they succeeded in signing an alliance treaty with al-Idrīsī against the Ottomans in Aden,6 with the aim of avoiding direct conflict with Imam Yaḥyā.7 The conflict between the Ottomans and the British consequently essentially consisted in a single major Ottoman attack on the British position at the gates of Aden in Laḥj in May 1915;8 skirmishes on the littoral of the Red Sea following Yemeni and Ottoman attempts to break the British blockade; and the bombing of al-Ḥudayda in June 1917 as well as some Ottoman posts in and around al-Luḥayya in 1918.9 As for Emir al-Idrīsī, he made progress towards southern Tihāma, primarily after 1917, but after the Ottoman withdrawal in 1919-1920 he lost power against Imam Yaḥyā, who led the first independent Arab state of the twentieth century. The evolution of the balance of power in Yemen during the war invites us to consider the political dispositions of the Shāfi‘īs, and the traditional elite of ulemas and sayyid-s (normal plur. sādā': Hashemite people, i.e. descendants of the Prophet) among them in particular, either vs. the Ottomans or the local competing leaders. How did those who were satisfied with the Ottoman occupation accommodate the growing power of Emir al-Idrīsī, and then Imam Yaḥyā’s final control all over the country?

  • 10 Ismā‛īl b. Muḥammad al-Washalī al-Tihāmī al-Hasanī [from now onward al-Washalī] 1982. On the scarci (...)
  • 11 The British archives of the Foreign Office have been duly used by Baldry, and the French ones partl (...)
  • 12 Skinner 2012.

2This article proposes to explore the idea of an extended social and political affirmation of the Yemeni local elite, namely the sayyid-s, on the ground of the local context of World War I, and from a perspective that goes beyond the sole empowerment of Imam Yaḥyā. It is based on the analysis of the now well-known but still understudied chronicle of Ismā'īl b. Muḥammad al-Washalī (1867/1868-1937), a sayyid and Shāfi'ī scholar of the Tihāma. Al-Washalī began to write this chronicle in 1911, under the title Disseminating the Finest Praises about Yemen’s Masters of Generosity and Goodness and Reporting the Events that Occurred During This Time, which is now the most important Yemeni source on the wartime.10 The author, from his residence in al-Munīra, reveals a number of points on a multitude of small local conflicts between the Ottomans and the “British-Idrīsī side,” and on the effects of the blockade on the daily life of the inhabitants of the region and the weakening of the Ottoman forces. Yet the most interesting aspect of this chronicle is not the insight it provides on the military situation and the end of the Ottoman rule in Yemen, which are already well known.11 Rather, it is how it deals with the instability of power, and with the status given to the ulemas (scholars) and sayyid-s in an unsecure context such as the one of the World War. In the first part of this paper, I analyse how, as an ulema and a sayyid, al-Washalī delivers more than a simple chronicle of events. The context of writing, the tributes he pays to the different authorities and the selected events of the time he witnessed invite us to consider his chronicle as a political stand, or even a claim in favour of the social group he belongs to. The objective is not to determine the veracity of what al-Washalī writes. Rather, the argument defended here is that the chronicle can be seen, following Quentin Skinner’s interpretation of historical writing as taking a political stand,12 as a performative means allowing the author to ensure his own shift away from Ottoman allegiance in a way that can be both understood and emulated by the common people. Al-Washalī is, although without any weapon except his pen, an actor of the war who defends the social order threatened by the overwhelming development of modern liberalism. His arguments and justifications, which introduce the moral and ethical aspects of the shifting attitudes of some of the Tihāmīs, shall form the core of my analysis because they reveal his own authority to formulate them as a religious scholar. His chronicle then makes it possible to understand how he tried to provide a comprehensive account of the shifting attitudes of people in the Tihāma as the war progressed and the Ottomans lost their authority. This can help explain how the Shāfi’ī elite participated in the handover of the Ottoman power, first to Emir al-Idrīsī’s state and then to the Zaydī imam, Yaḥyā.

Writing the Ottoman History of the Tihāma: Asserting the sayyid-s’ Authority

  • 13 See Rosenthal 1969, 71-86 on what he calls the “Annalistic form” made famous by ‘Alī Ṭabarī in the (...)
  • 14 See Kuehn 2011. The so-called “Rule of Difference” refers to the political model the Ottomans tende (...)

3If we accept the idea that a chronicle can fall into the category of plots, it is important to take into account the project that motivated al-Washalī to engage in such a work in 1911. Of course, al-Washalī was a learned man and as such, it is not surprising that he engaged himself in such a traditional form of writing.13 But what has to be stressed as well is the particular political context of the Yemeni province at that time that could have incited him to this work. After many years of administrative attempts to control the country, what Thomas Kuehn has called a “politics of difference” was experimented in the Zaydī zones. This opened the way to a more radical conciliatory attitude towards Imam Yaḥyā, and then to the Da‘ān agreement.14

  • 15 Ibid., 222-224.
  • 16 See Freitag and Clarence-Smith 1997, Freitag 2003, Boxberger 2002. We also refer to the case of a g (...)
  • 17 Indeed, the text is sometimes closer to “oral speech” than to a “written text,” the author addressi (...)
  • 18 Renaud Dulong has convincingly proposed this by distinguishing between historical “documents” and “ (...)

4The historical analysis of this 1911 event should also consider that it took place in the more general context of political contest against the traditional elites of the Muslim world (who in turn reacted by promoting their status) and their privileges; a contest led by Islamic reformism from Cairo but also from Indonesia. As early as in 1905, some sayyid ulemas had tried to present themselves to the Ottoman authorities as “keys” to the local society in Yemen. Already in 1910 two sayyid-s, representatives of Sana’a in the Ottoman Parliament, had suggested to the imperial government that the sayyid-s and the ulemas be put in charge in the province’s judiciary and as district and sub-district governors.15 Beyond Yemen and all over the mega-region covering the Indian Ocean, the sayyid-s were challenged by new and modern educated people and were reacting by asserting their Hashemite genealogy and the value of their Yemeni or Hadramī origins, sometimes by developing the educational structures of their original region.16 The chronicle should then be read as a conceivable means for its author (also a sayyid) of taking a stand, or even as a political act tracing some of the positions he possibly defended aloud in public in support of the social group he belonged to.17 The monthly account of events – be they political, military, linked to the death of individuals, or to natural, climatic occurrences – lends the chronicle the status of a neutral document that could serve as evidence when episodes related were politically evaluated and judged. Yet, as with all historical testimonies, there were intentions behind it, and specifically pro-sayyid-s in this case.18

  • 19 Ibrāhīm Aḥmad al-Maqhafī, introduction to Nashr al-thanā, by al-Washalī 1982, vol. 1, part 1, 11. T (...)
  • 20 Al-Washalī, 1982 vol. 4, part 2, 5.
  • 21 For example, see what happened around the time of Abdallah b. Aḥmad Bawnī Pasha; al-Washalī 1982, v (...)

5Al-Washalī situated himself at the political centre of the southern region of the Tihāma. To support this statement, one may stress the significance of his choice to link the chronicle to the previous three volumes of what the editor Ibrāhīm al-Maqhafī describes as the “encyclopedia of the biographies and families of well-known scholars and za'īms in the Tihāma.”19 Al-Washalī thus considers the chronicle as a “chapter [faṣl] on the amazing, unusual, and strange events” that occurred in the Tihāma and a continuation of the “encyclopedia” using the pretext that “historical science ['ilm al-tārīkh] could never be complete without an account of events [dhikr al-ḥawādīth].”20 Indeed, both projects also complete each other through the “historical facts” that appear in the encyclopedia instead of appearing in the chronicle,21 and the biographical data provided in the chronicle on important figures of the Tihāma.

  • 22 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 2, part 1, 186-191.

6The historical methodology that al-Washalī champions allows him to insert an autobiographical note in his work. In the latter, he details the high quality of the education he received from the famous Tihāulemas in the town of al-Zaydiyya thanks to his maternal uncle and Shaykh al-Islām Muḥammad b. ‛Abd Allah al-Zawwāk, a sayyid who cared for him as a child following his father’s death and who thereafter employed him as his mulāzim (“secretary”). After the death of the shaykh in 1311/1893-1894, he worked as a mulāzim and a children’s tutor for two other famous ulemas and sayyid-s, ‛Abd al-Raḥmān al-Qudaymī, and Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā al-Ahdal, in the town of al-Munīra, where he also worked on his historical project.22

  • 23 Abd al-Bārī Ṭāhir also highlights this in his preface: see al-Washalī 1982, Nashr al-thanā, vol. 1 (...)

7The objectives of the biographical encyclopedia also allowed al-Washalī to insert an entry on himself among the prestigious hierarchy of the Yemeni sayyid families. Al-Washalī’s nasab (“genealogy”) linked him to the large family of the Ḥasanīs (descendants from al-Ḥasan b. ‛Alī, the Prophet’s eldest grandson). It also linked him to the broader society of Yemeni sayyid-s – be they Shāfi’īs or Zaydīs – who had disputed power in Yemen for centuries and who had been familiar to the intellectual overcoming of their doctrinal antagonism since Muḥammad b. Isma’īl al-Wazīr in the fifteenth century, and more accurately in the time of Muḥammad al-Shawkānī in the eighteenth century.23

  • 24 The author seemingly began to write the biographical part of the book and the chronical one simulta (...)
  • 25 The year 1327/1909 is the first year to be reported in details in the chronicle. Just like the repo (...)
  • 26 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 62-80.
  • 27 Ibid., vol. 4, part 2, 85. See also Bang 1996, 90-94. Al-Washalī does not mention that al-Idrīsī si (...)

8Obviously, the place al-Washalī attributes to his own status within the sociological framework of Yemen is a way for him to proclaim his intellectual authority to speak about the region and its current political situation by asserting the specific identity of the Tihāma at a time when different local political projects are emerging in the southern Arabian Peninsula, to the detriment of the Ottoman Empire. When he began his work on this chronicle at the end of 1911,24 the Italians had weakened the Ottoman positions in Yemen, and al-Washalī seems to have been particularly aware of the growing authority of the local dissidents – and perhaps of a possible partition of the Ottoman province of Yemen into various small protectorates. In 1911, if not in 1909, when he probably began taking notes on the events he witnessed,25 he duly points out al-Idrīsī’s da‘wa in northern ‛Asīr in 1909.26 This led to a threatening situation for the Ottomans in the Tihāma in May 1911 when, as he reports, an Idrīsī attack on the Ottoman garrison of al-Ḥafāyir near Jāzān killed two thousand Ottomans and injured five hundred.27

  • 28 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 82-93.
  • 29 Kuehn 2011, 243.
  • 30 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 93.
  • 31 For a complete account in English of the Revolt of 1911, see Baldry 1976b.
  • 32 Al-Washalī 1982, “Ahdāth ‛ām 1330,” vol. 4, part 2, 93.

9As for Imam Yaḥyā, al-Washalī also carefully reports how he threatened the Ottoman authorities with the support of important tribes (including the powerful ‛Alī al-Miqdād clan) as early as February 1911, in addition to how he himself was prey to local attacks.28 What has to be highlighted however is that the mention of the Da‛ān agreement in October does not give Imam Yaḥyā the advantage in the chronicle. Imam Yaḥyā henceforth in the chronicle is referred to as “the Imam of Shahāra,” a reference to the town where he settled, but above all a title that had been negotiated by the Ottomans in Da‛ān in order to contain his ambitions as “Commander of the Faithful."29 And according to the chronicle, the Ottoman mushīr (“marshal”) ‛Izzat Pasha who came to sign the agreement was only accompanied by fifteen “individuals,” whereas Yaḥyā had to prove his power with an entourage of ten thousand men. Al-Washalī then mentions that ‛Izzat Pasha not only gave to the Imam the qadā’ (district) “of the Mountains,” but also a monthly salary of thirty thousand riyals, as a way of underlining that the imam became the sultan’s obligé. Furthermore, he details the fact that Yaḥyā was in charge of collecting taxes on behalf of the Ottoman state, namely the dues on mīrī (“public”) lands and the zakāt, but also those related to camels and cows that were up until thant considered matrūk (“abandoned” or untaxed).30 While these details were not in fact mentioned in the treaty,31 it must be stressed that they are part of the arguments of the chronicle that tend to present it as much more advantageous to the Ottomans. Yet by adding that, after the treaty, “security spread throughout the mountains, Islamic rules were applied [qāmat al-aḥkām al-shar‛īyya], and controversies came to an end [sakinat al-fitan]”32 Al-Washalī shows how the alliance between the Ottomans and an educated sayyid could bring about peace and justice. Thus, al-Washalī is stressing how political stability of the Tihāmī region improved under a combined rule of the local sayyid-s and their Ottoman protectors.

  • 33 See Dakhlia 1998, 103.
  • 34 Al-Washalī 1982, general introduction to Nashr al-thanā, vol. 1, part 1, 13. This was probably writ (...)
  • 35 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 5.
  • 36 Abdülazīz was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1861 to 1976.
  • 37 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 5-25.
  • 38 This is particularly apparent in Muḥammad ‛Abd Allah al-Zawwāq’s poem, which is quoted by al-Washal (...)
  • 39 See Willis 2004, 128-29.

10Ottoman legitimacy in Yemen is presented using a political argument that al-Washalī develops throughout his narrative, based on the idea – one that was rather classical and not specifically Islamic – 33 that social and moral chaos leads to the introduction of a political leader who can bring about stability. It is obviously not insignificant that the event chosen to open the chronicle takes place forty years before, in the year 1287/1871. Here, al-Washalī reports “a famous event,” which he claims is known as “the year of the ‛Asīr.”34 Referring to previous historians’ accounts, he considers it one “of the most significant and the most terrible [events] that took place in Yemen.”35 It concerns the attack on the Ottoman position in Ḥudayda led by Muḥammad b. ‛Āyid, the Emir of ‛Asīr, along with thirty-five thousand combatants, which provoked the fury of “the Sultan Lion” (al-Sultan al-asad al-darghām), Abdülaziz.36 The Ottomans retaliated a few months later in 1872 by invading the Yemeni coasts, occupying what would become – at that time when al-Washalī is writing – the Ottoman province of Yemen.37 The combatants of the aggressive emir of ‛Asīr are not justified in their attack, being only “brutish people” (akhlāṭ) from the Sirāt Mountains and Qahtān. Al-Washalī does not mention the Ottoman presence in Ḥudayda since 1849, presenting it instead as an unquestioned and legitimate fact that was further bolstered by the authority of the Ottoman sultan – whom the unjust barbarians tried to defeat in Yemen for no justified reason in 1871. This historical account, in which local disorder obliged the Ottomans to re-assert their power in upper Yemen, lends real legitimacy to their presence in Yemen. Al-Washalī pursues his argument by showing how Turkish occupation was beneficial to a country that was undermined by conflict and fitna (the divisiveness among the Muslims condemned by the Koran).38 The social order and civil peace the Ottomans imposed on the Muslim populations were their primary means of securing power and ensuring that it was effective. While, according to the Zaydī historical accounts, the imams (al-Manṣūr Muḥammad, 1890-1904 and then Yaḥyā, 1904-1948) argued that the Ottomans’ inability to apply the sharia justified the jihād against them, and continued to do so after the Ottomans withdrew,39 al-Washalī shows that the Ottomans provided the Yemenis with peace and order against the instability of the local political conflicting powers.

  • 40 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 18.
  • 41 Ibid., 16.
  • 42 Ibid., 5-6 and 16-18. Al-Washalī also quotes the poem that his uncle Muḥammad al-Zawwāk dedicated t (...)
  • 43 On these four issues, see Ibid., 75, 79, 81 and 85, respectively. See also 166, on the telegraph.

11The argument of the internal stability provided by the Ottomans rests on the Islamic legitimacy of the empire. Whether al-Washalī aims at flattering them or at promoting them among the Yemenis, he also presents them as the most capable Islamic force when it came to challenging adversity in general and western hostility in particular. He praises this enduring empire and its leaders, who succeeded in both imposing their “superiority” over “impious countries” and respecting “the requirements of the high words of Islam” – leaders who “magnified Islamic rites,” were always ready to serve the Holy places, and “guaranteed the subsistence of all those who learned the Koran and the religious sciences.”40 Abdülhamid is presented as “a vigorous, courageous, and enterprising ruler to whom men and countries, along with godless communities (al-ṭawā’if al-kafiriyya), were subjugated.”41 In his text, al-Washalī prays that God ensures the Ottomans “victory, success and strength, [that He] helps them to triumph over enemies in a resounding victory.”42 He also shows a real interest in the technical innovations the Ottomans introduced in Yemen: the telegraph, printed books of hadiths (along with biographies of the Prophet and historical books in Turkish!), imported fruits thanks to the railroad they had built and extended to Medina, which paved the way for the construction of a railroad between the Red Sea and Sana’a with the assistance of French experts.43

  • 44 Ibid., 16.
  • 45 Ibid., 62, 64-65.

12The classic ideal of governance and justice embodied by the Ottomans meant that the liberal Young Turks – who instituted the consultative regime (amr al-shūrā) in 1908 and left the sultan with “only his name” – did not find a favourable position in al-Washalī’s work.44 He denounces these supporters of liberty and equality (“horrible things,” or umūr qabīḥa) as profiteers, corrupt people, and traitors to the Islamic cause; finally excluding them – along with the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) – from those he generally refers to as “the Ottomans” and are led by Sultan Muḥammad Rashshād.45 In his account, al-Washalī makes it understood that the Ottomans in Yemen were not influenced by the CUP’s political orientation in favour of centralisation, but that they adapted to the local power.

  • 46 Ibid., 145.
  • 47 Ibid., 68.
  • 48 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 82.
  • 49 Ibid., 67-68, on Aug. 1909; 71, on Oct.-Nov. 1909; 97, on Mar. 1912; 145, on Dec. 1915, etc. Al-Was (...)
  • 50 Ibid., 67-68. See also, for example, 169, 175, etc.

13Indeed, the third important idea emerging from al-Washalī’s text is that the Ottomans were ruling in accordance with the local elites. He was himself clearly involved in this, since he portrays himself as having direct contact with the Ottoman administrative and military elites – saying, for example, that he received information for his chronicle from “reliable Turkish leaders” (al-thiqqāt min ru’asā’ al-Turk).46 In addition, he makes evident that the moral objective of bringing peace and order to a country divided by conflicts between tribal clans and families and subject to the hostility of “brutish”47 tribal people accustomed to violence and looting was widely supported thanks to the interventions of important local sayyid-s serving the Ottoman authority. Among them was Sayyid Ḥusayn b. ‛Alī al-Ahdal, who had led a counter-offensive against Imam Yaḥyā around Sana’a in February 1911, i.e. before he signed the Da‛ān agreement.48 But the most influential sayyid on the Ottoman side was undoubtedly al-Washalī’s protector, Sayyid Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā al-Ahdal,49 who regularly intervened between conflicting clans as a mediator, and whom al-Washalī accompanied during a dangerous conflict.50 Muḥammad al-Ahdal, presented as the “Master of al-Munīra” (Ṣāḥib al-Munīra), was a keen collaborator with the Ottoman administration throughout the Tihāma. More than that, he is presented as the “holy spirit” of the Ottoman sultan when al-Washalī mentions the dream of ‛Abd al-Qādir “Abū Sirrayn” (“He Who Has the Two Secrets”), a “just man” (rajul ṣāliḥ) living in Mawr, in 1909:

  • 51 Ibid., 91.

Sultan ‛Abd al-Ḥamīd – who was deposed – and his brother Sultan Muḥammad Rashshād – his successor – were sitting, at the home of Sayyid al-‛Allāma Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā al-Ahdal, Master of al-Munīra. The latter left them for a while, being called away by the Prophet – may God bless him – who then took the hand of Sultan Muḥammad Rashshād, and told the sayyid: “Place this one (meaning Muḥammad Rashshād) under the authority of this other (meaning ‛Abd al-Ḥamīd) and be careful.”51

14The idea presented here by al-Washalī is that not only did the sayyid-s help the Ottomans to bring peace to Yemen, but that they finally became the real protectors of the original Ottoman spirit distorted by the CUP leaders in Istanbul. Then, if the political role al-Washalī attributes to the Ottoman power and the local sayyid-s is to be taken seriously, his presentation of how power struggles evolved during World War I deserves particular attention.

World War I and the Shifting Balance of Power: A Historical Challenge

  • 52 Ibid., 62. Another chronicler, Zaydi, also described Imam Yaḥyā’s increasing power in 1908 (followi (...)
  • 53 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 69.
  • 54 Baldry 1976b, 182.
  • 55 Ibid., 184.
  • 56 Al-Washalī 1982, 72. Al-Washalī states that Muḥammad Tawfīq, an Ottoman who had studied for eight y (...)
  • 57 Ibid., 69.
  • 58 Ibid., 70, 72.

15The favourable light al-Washalī shed on the growing power of Emir (and Sayyid) al-Idrīsī who was already at war against the Ottomans when al-Washalī began the chronicle is quite intriguing. Instead of criticising the emir’s da‛wa, he appears to legitimise it, particularly when he declares that the da‛wa was accompanied by “wondrous facts and strange things” (umūr ‛ajība wa ashyā’ gharība), as if inexplicable (and perhaps divine) factors were involved.52 He explains that, just after Sultan Abdülḥamid was deposed in April 1909, coalitions of tribes violently attacked different Tihāmī towns and their civilians because “the rumor had been spread that al-Idrīsī ordered assaults on the soldiers of the [Ottoman] state, who were present in the towns, and the besieging of the garrisons.”53 Indeed, in August, “Idrīsī tribesmen” are reported to have occupied the towns of al-Qanāwīṣ, al-Zaydiyya and al-Luḥayya.54 The author, who witnessed one of these attacks, corroborates the explanation given by al-Idrīsī in November 1909, in which he disclaims all responsibility for the uprising, and accuses the Turkish mal-administration.55 Al-Washalī, who may have heard about this declaration, states that this order would never have been given by the Emir, whom he portrays as a learned man and an honourable sayyid. Furthermore, in order to clear al-Idrīsī’s name, al-Washalī mentions that the emir had connections with the Ottomans when he was in Cairo, some few years before.56 Thus, in al-Washalī’s view, al-Idrīsī could not have been an enemy of “the Turks,” and he accuses “the tribes,” who “due to their ignorance and their iniquitous nature, believed that it was true. They fought the soldiers and then attacked the people in the cities, and what happened happened, and praise be to God for what He wanted and did, whether it was sweet or bitter”.57 Al-Washalī finally explains that al-Idrīsī never wanted independence for the territory of ‛Asīr, but that, in fact, he simply wanted to “cooperate with the Ottoman state.”58

  • 59 Ibid., 91-97.
  • 60 Ibid., 100.
  • 61 Ibid.
  • 62 The Administrator of the French consular agency in Hodeidah relates also that the police had no mea (...)
  • 63 This situation will last at least until 1914, when Sultan ‘Alī in Laḥj relates that Governor Maḥmūd (...)

16Two years later, in December 1911 and particularly from January 1912 onwards, the beginning of the Italian blockade on the Tihāmī coast modifies al-Washalī's appreciation about the Ottomans and al-Idrīsī. In April he indicates, as a consequence of the blockade, a doubling of prices, and in July the heavy toll paid by the poor fishermen who were not allowed to carry out their activity.59 The situation was worrying for the Yemenis, as well as for the Ottomans, and may have required moral support from al-Washalī for the latter. But the Italian blockade appears to have been the first step of his disenchantment towards them. From then he expresses compassion for the poor people who were about to die of starvation, through expressions like Lā ḥawla wa lā quwwata illā bil-Lāh (“there is neither change nor power except by means of Allah”).60 He also reports assassinations outside the cities, and the fact that during a strong bombing attack of Ḥudayda in July, civilians ran away from the town and were robbed by the tribes on their way out.61 Al-Washalī’s report coincides with the information given to the French consul in Djeddah in May, and both reveal a common interpretation of the events.62 For the Consul, who wrote also that insubordination was spreading all over the country and that the tribes were taken full advantage of the blockade through smuggling activities, the balance of power was no longer in favour of the Ottomans.63

  • 64 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 98.
  • 65 For al-Washalī, “religion got lost in the desert like in the first times of Islam,” and “ignorance (...)
  • 66 On the weak impact of the Young-Turk Revolution on Yemen in 1908-1909, see Honvault 2011.
  • 67 The French vice-consul in Ḥudayda to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs reports, in the end of (...)
  • 68 See also Bang 1996,102.

17Far from giving neutral information, al-Washalī in turn introduces for the first time the idea that the Ottomans could not protect the common people anymore. His narrative strategy is to note the growing power of Emir al-Idrīsī during these events, who led many attacks on the Ottomans, thanks to his ability to provide food, money, ammunitions and weapons to his supporters in spite of the blockade. Al-Washalī avoids putting into question the agreement between the emir and the Italians, only reporting that it was difficult to know the identity of the emir’s suppliers, since “the information provided by the people were confused.”64 The remark raises the question of how information, and also propaganda, was circulating from here and there to the people of Yemen, but still, it also suggests that al-Washalī was free to present things as he wanted. At the end of the year 1912, when the Italian blockade ended, he finally raised the question of why the blockade had been set. Relaying on “news” and “journals” (we do not know where they were published, but surely from an Arab editor outside Yemen) he denounces for the first time some of “the Ottoman leaders” (umarā' al-dawla al-‘uthmāniyya) in Istanbul. He holds responsible those people who had “bought Tripoli to the Italians and who had made people believe that they did it with the authorization of the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet Rashshād.” He relates the war that followed in Libya between the Italians and the Sayyid Muḥammad al-Sanūsī, which lasted “almost a year” before Sultan Mehmet became aware of what was happening and reacted by prohibiting Italy from getting food and products coming from the Ottoman provinces. This is what would have caused, following al-Washalī, the Italian response on the Yemeni coast. What we understand from this explanation is that the “Ottoman leaders” who “bought Libya” to Italy were people from the CUP, whom al-Washalī denounces as traitors and impious people who gave their soul to the Europeans.65 This denunciation did not undermine the idea, for al-Washalī, that the absolute enemies of Islam were the impious countries (that is to say the Europeans), and that the unique safeguard against them was the Ottoman Islamic State. But it suggests that the “liberals” who were in power in Istanbul were not representative of the Ottoman society, and especially of the Ottoman society in Yemen, which was still loyal to the old Islamic order of Sultan Abdülhamid.66 Al-Washalī then shows how, as early as 1913, and at a time when some Tihāmīs started expressing their disappointment at the Ottoman rule more or less openly,67 the conflict shifted toward negotiations in order to implement an agreement similar to the one Yaḥyā had signed; but this ultimately failed in the summer of 1914.68

  • 69 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 139.
  • 70 Al-Washalī explains that al-Idrīsī offered his Arab-Ottoman enemies an opportunity to surrender bef (...)

18The emir of ‛Asīr remains difficult to defend, especially after it becomes apparent that he had allied with the British in the spring of 1915. Did al-Idrīsī manage to hide the agreement? Al-Washalī for his part ignores it. One of his justifications for this is to try to show that al-Idrīsī was not always in good terms with this “impious community.” He reports that, in June 1915, when the emir arrived in Mīdī from Jāzān in the night, cannons were fired against him from the boat which had landed him.69 Al-Washalī does not mention that, since the British controlled the Red Sea, the boat could only have been one of their own, but in case, he suggests that the emir had left the British on bad terms. In the aftermath of these events, al-Idrīsī, suddenly determined to fight the Ottomans, is portrayed as just, loyal in battle, and respectful of the rules of war and Islam.70

19Al-Washalī’s extremely accommodating attitude toward al-Idrīsī progressively increases as the Ottomans’ situation deteriorated in both Yemen and the rest of the empire. The Arab revolt led by the Hashemite Sharif Ḥusayn in October 1916 marks an important step, and is presented as severely affecting the Ottomans. Al-Washalī describes this event in a very singular way when he records it in his chronicle on 10 November 1916, of course not mentioning the British initiative to which Sharif Ḥusayn had responded positively. Al-Washalī completely relies on the account related to him by people from Hedjaz and is careful in emphasising that “the responsibility (of the narrative) lies squarely with the person who has seen” the events. In his version of how the revolt broke out, he observes an initial error on the part of the Ottomans when they replaced Sharif Ḥusayn with Emir ‛Alī Ḥaydar Pasha – a sayyid as well, but originating from the Bosphorus. The argument, which targets the Ottoman government in Istanbul, follows Ḥusayn’s proclamation diffused in the entire region,71 carrying out the idea that the revolt was caused by the CUP Government’s betrayal of Islam and of the Muslims,72 instead of arguing with the idea of Arab independence, whose success was limited to the northern Arab provinces of Syria and Iraq.

  • 73 On the German-Ottoman alliance in the Arabian Peninsula during the war, see Da Riva and Biocca, 201 (...)
  • 74 This story should perhaps be linked to the tragic episode of six soldiers in the German navy and th (...)

20The second reason proposed by al-Washalī to explain the revolt allows him to justify what appears as a manipulated (and then acceptable) British support. He reports that Ḥusayn revolted also against the fact that the Ottomans had opened their ranks to a foreign and ungodly community, the Germans, by allying with them.73 He writes that seven Germans had come to the Sharif (from Sana‘a) in order to propose that he leaves for Germany with them (why? it is not explained), but that instead of following them, Sharif Ḥusayn ordered their beheading, and that he eventually had the seven heads sent to the British.74 According to al-Washalī, this wartime gift made the British indebted to the authoritative and powerful Sharif of Mecca:

  • 75 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 152-153.

The English were grateful to him, and they began to attach value to him. They were in constant contact with him by telegraph, and they sent him gold so that he could wage war against the Turks settled in Mecca and Jeddah. The Sharif then gathered a large number of tribes and told them: “You know that you are the people of the Sacred House (the Holy Places). The Turks mixed with the Germans, so that they could take their railway to Medina and Rabīgh [South of Medina], with the ultimate goal of extending to Mecca. They forbade you to live on your camels. But should you live away from your religion and your sanctuary?”75

  • 76 In Hedjaz the Turks were called “Germans” by the Bedouins: see Letter of Col. Brémond to the French (...)
  • 77 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 167.
  • 78 John Baldry notes that the British patrols were quite ineffective until 1917 – although in January (...)
  • 79 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 150. Al-Washalī declares that he writes these events a day of the (...)
  • 80 Ibid., 160.
  • 81 Ibid., 167 and 172.
  • 82 Ibid., 152, 155, and 162.
  • 83 Ibid., 142.
  • 84 Ibid., 156. On Zabīd, see also 176.
  • 85 Ibid., 168, 169, 170, 173, 174, and 176.
  • 86 Ibid., 172 and 176.
  • 87 Ibid., 173.

21The Germans’ interference in the Ottoman Empire’s internal affairs in 1916 – an idea that had spread in popular milieus in the Hedjaz, as the French consul in Jeddah noticed76 – offers a clue about al-Washalī’s gradual criticism of the Ottoman presence in Yemen. The denunciation is rather implicit – and may be linked to the observation of the severe punishment the Ottomans inflicted on those who turned against them.77 It emerges in his presentation of how the Ottomans dealt with the British blockade, which intensified after the Arab Revolt.78 Al-Washalī conscientiously highlights the terrible situation the people had to endure that year as a result of the “impious English State blockade,” and how they were forced to live on wild berries, and sell their children – even noticing a man who had “sold his mother.”79 The shortage of food and arms seriously affected the military Ottoman positions. Since communications were cut, the Ottomans failed to pay the soldiers’ salaries – a situation that, according to al-Washalī, forced the central administration to send two officers from Istanbul to Sana‘a by land transport and even foot, with pockets full of money for the Ottoman army in Yemen in 1917.80 The author highlights that many tribes who were allied with the Ottomans and Imam Yaḥyā ended up turning away from them, while for his part, al-Idrīsī made a series of new alliances: he succeeded in bringing ten thousand combatants over to his side in the fall of 1917, paying and feeding them well. He distributed weapons, flour, and money to those around him.81 As far as the British were concerned, they could rely on the Zarānīq tribes. They also managed to buy the support of people in northern “Yemeni ports” like Jeddah (sic) in July 1916 and in Salīf in April 1917.82 According to al-Washalī, the application of additional taxes, notably affecting the merchants of the Tihāma, was another result of the blockade. Although the taxes were increasingly unbearable, the Ottomans did not hesitate to brutally punish those who refused to pay them. Women fell victim to repression, a growing number of freed slaves were sold,83 and the town of Zabīd was bombed, killing seventeen people, after merchants refused to lend the Ottomans sixteen thousand rials.84 Rural areas were also affected by the Ottoman reaction to the situation. Al-Washalī mentions small details to demonstrate how they also terrorized the people of the Tihāma by burning the villages of al-Idrīsī’s supporters,85 seizing their goods,86 or plundering the local merchants (namely the wealthier Indians).87

  • 88 Ibid., 161.
  • 89 Ibid., 167.
  • 90 Ibid., 171.

22Al-Washalī also relates a serious situation concerning division among the Ottomans, when he attributes the British attack on the town of Salīf in June 1917 to the complicity “of some officers of the [Ottoman] State in Salīf. They apparently corresponded with them [the British] secretly and received a lot of gold coins from them, selling their religion, seeking to rely on the impious Muslim countries.”88 Whereas, in al-Washalī’s presentation, Sharif Ḥusayn had shown his political and personal force by beheading seven Germans so that he could submit the British to his authority, these Ottoman officers had no means, in al-Washalī's narrative, to be presented differently but as traitors. What could be expected then from a state which was plagued by division and which adopted forms of violence usually associated with tribes, when its legitimacy was based precisely on its ability to establish order and harmony? Unlike Sharif Ḥusayn, the Ottomans certainly offered no further evidence of their honour, and their defeat seemed more and more inevitable – if not desirable. Al-Washalī notices that they left the city of Luḥayya, taking the “diwān’s notebooks” with them (a sign of their escape),89 and that they were also unable to hit and damage the British planes flying over their positions.90

23As for al-Idrīsī, it no longer matters that he was supported by the British, for it is as if his growing Islamic leadership justifies the means. From this period onward, al-Washalī calls his combatants “the Army” (al-jaysh) – lending his supporters a form of legality. Thereafter, “al-jaysh” alone suffices to designate al-Idrīsī’s army.

  • 91 See also Baldry 1978, 162 for the occupation of Kamarān, which remained under British administratio (...)
  • 92 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 177. Perhaps al-Washalī was unable to fathom how much the Ottomans (...)
  • 93 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 178.
  • 94 Although the Mudros Agreement contains only 25 articles. Cf. “Art. VXI: Surrender of all garrisons (...)

24In al-Washalī's chronicle, the end of the war in October 1918 is marked by the British bombing and occupation of the city of Ḥudayda, from then on occupied like the Kamarān Island (June 1915) and Luḥayya (June 1918).91 For him, this is a huge event that affected Islam and all Yemeni Muslims.92 Associated with “one of those impious communities called Amīrīkān [Americans],” the British imposed “forty conditions” on the Ottoman State, one of which was “the sale of Yemen, Syria, and Iraq”:93 probably referring to the armistice of Mudros (30 September 1918),94 al-Washalī provides an interpretation that condemns both the British and the Ottoman attitudes toward these previous Ottoman provinces. Following the agreement, the Ottoman army was to surrender in Yemen without leaving any regrets.

  • 95 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 180.
  • 96 Ibid., 205.
  • 97 Ibrāhīm al-Maqhafī, introductory note to Nashr al-thanā, by al-Washalī, 5.
  • 98 Unfortunatly, al-Washalī became much less expansive in his chronicle after 1920.

25Al-Washalī fails to mention that the fall of Luḥayya was the result of an Anglo-Idrīsī cooperation but instead, underlines that the Ottomans in ‛Asīr handed over all their weapons to al-Idrīsī, now referred to as Mawlanā al-Imām (“Our Lord the Imam”) or as Imam Amīr al-Mu'minīn (“Commander of the Faithful”) – a title that had hitherto been reserved for the Ottoman sultan. As for Imam Yaḥyā, al-Washalī does not mention that he had already taken possession of Sana’a, and that he was also handed over with many weapons from the Ottomans.95 Obviously, the chronicler had definitively chosen his side. This is confirmed by the way he refers to Yaḥyā’s title, which shifts from Imam of Shahāra to the slightly more restrictive Sayyid al-‛Allāma (“Very Learned Sayyid). Yaḥyā, who was believed to have lost the war at the same time as the Ottomans, ends up simply considered as an important religious scholar expected to pledge allegiance to the new leader, al-Idrīsī, along with al-Washalī, who would be placed in charge of the district (Qaḍā) of al-Ḥudayda in 1921.96 After the emir’s death in 1923 and the deterioration of his emirate, however, al-Washalī will defect to the new authority of Imam Yaḥyā, becoming the town mufti in addition to the head of the district.97 Following his previous allegiance to the Ottomans, one can imagine that he had little difficulty dealing with the numerous “ex-Ottomans” who stayed on in Yemen and now served Imam Yaḥyā’s new State.98

Conclusion

26The years of World War I, following the Young Turks Revolution (1908) and Sultan Abdülhamid’s dismissal (1909), were years of profound upheaval for the Yemenis – particularly for those who, like al-Washalī, had sworn allegiance to the Ottomans. The “Rule of Difference” carried out by the latter had enhanced the local powers of the sayyid-s, and al-Washalī shows how the pan Islamic ideology developed by Sultan Abdülhamid contributed to the recognition of their social and political ascendency and, finally, to their alliance with the Empire.

  • 99 Kuehn 2011, 231.

27The author was obviously captivated by the leadership of Emir al-Idrīsī as soon as 1909, and was aware of the growing power of Imam Yaḥyā after the treaty of Da‘ān in 1911. Time had come to try to assert the unity of the Tihāma behind its noble and educated leaders, the sayyid-s, the group he belonged to, and to secure their future. The chronicle was certainly the sole tool to achieve this goal, and al-Washalī made it a document claiming the – implicit or explicit – recognition of all forms of sovereignty – sunnī or zaydī –, provided that they were framed as an Islamic power that was strong enough to ensure security and bolster the social authority of the local elite. The Ottoman administrators’ fears that the Shāfi‛īs’ loyalty was not secured because of the Zaydī rebels’ capacity to diffuse their rebelliousness99 may have been totally unfounded. Al-Washalī’s defection to al-Idrīsī was not a repudiation of the Ottomans’ former authority. Rather, he validated the idea of a natural continuity between two opposing Muslim sides that were not actually enemies: al-Idrīsī was simply able to support the Islamic values of peace and security that the Ottomans could no longer honour and uphold because of their defeat during World War I, and his ties with the “impious” British deserved to be ignored. Al-Washalī’s chronicle can be seen as means of revealing the qualities of a new Yemeni state, the contours of which, while still variable, are nonetheless characterised by peace and justice thanks to its educated elite, and by a rejection of all forms of Christian and occidental influence. In this sense, al-Washalī took a stand as a sayyid in the debates of his time in order to define and elaborate the nature and structures of the future government of Yemen. In these, his chronicle emphasised and demonstrated how the ulemas could – or even, should – play an essential role in the application of justice. It also provided a template for structuring the political sphere, in which sayyid-s were expected to dominate the society. After all, the author illustrated and continuously underscored the crucial part he was playing as a sayyid and scholar in guiding the people to accept the authority of their leaders. By doing so, he may also be one of the Shāfi'ī actors of the revival of the model articulated around the alliance of ulemas and rulers that the Qāsimī dynasty had developed from the beginning of the eighteenth century, and that Imam Yaḥyā would reassert while creating the first modern State of Yemen after the 1920s.

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Notes

1 This paper was first presented under the title “Fighting with the Ottomans: The Islamic Cause in Yemen During World War I” at the International Conference of Istanbul Not All Quiet on the Ottoman Fronts: Neglected Perspectives on a Global War, 1914-18, held on 9-12 April 2014. It has been partly edited by Angela Krieger.

2 See Blumi 2003, 70.

3 See Kuehn 2011, 238-239, Ingrams and Ingrams 1993, 637.

4 Zaccaria 2012, 22-23. I am grateful to Massimo Zaccaria for this information.

5 See Bang 1996; Baldry 1976-1977 and 1976a, 55, where Baldry reports that on 9 October 1912, a new Turkish-Yemeni agreement was concluded (59), and that an Italian mission impressed upon al-Idrīsī the necessity of not coming to terms with the Ottomans (62).

6 See Baldry 1978, 149 and Bang 1996, 104. Al-Idrīsī was the first Arab leader to ally with the British in their war against the Ottoman Empire.

7 Even in May 1917, the British administration in Aden would refuse to help undermine Yaḥyā’s authority, choosing to wait to see who would take control of the country in Yemen: see ‘Letter of the Resident in Aden to the Indian Office, 15 May 1917,’ and ‘Note from the 28 Aug. 1917,’ in Ingrams and Ingrams 1993, vol. 6, 107 and 110, respectively.

8 See Gavin 1975.

9 See Baldry 1978, 148-197.

10 Ismā‛īl b. Muḥammad al-Washalī al-Tihāmī al-Hasanī [from now onward al-Washalī] 1982. On the scarcity of local Arab chronicles in the Arabian Peninsula, see Freitag, Pétriat and Strohmeier 2016.

11 The British archives of the Foreign Office have been duly used by Baldry, and the French ones partly by Chevalier 2006, 73-92.

12 Skinner 2012.

13 See Rosenthal 1969, 71-86 on what he calls the “Annalistic form” made famous by ‘Alī Ṭabarī in the 9th century.

14 See Kuehn 2011. The so-called “Rule of Difference” refers to the political model the Ottomans tended to apply from time to time in Yemen since the end of the 1870s, aiming to rule according to the “Customs and Dispositions” of the Yemenis instead of the Ottoman imperial centralisation principle. It came to demarcate the Province of Yemen as a subordinate and colonial space.

15 Ibid., 222-224.

16 See Freitag and Clarence-Smith 1997, Freitag 2003, Boxberger 2002. We also refer to the case of a great Hadrami scholar from Zanzibar (under British protectorate since 1890), Bā Kāthir (1855-1925), who decided in 1911 (the year of the Treaty of Da‘ān) and upon the advice of a shaykh of Hadramaut, to write the story of a trip he made fifteen years before between Egypt, the Hedjaz and his region of origin. As shown by Friedhelm Hartwig, the goal of the narrative was not to describe the trip in itself, but to highlight the social space in which the Sayyid-s of Hadramaut evolved, the faith that motivated them and the extent of their religious knowledge. See Hartwig 2001.

17 Indeed, the text is sometimes closer to “oral speech” than to a “written text,” the author addressing the reader with interjections like “look!”. See al-Washalī 1982, 159.

18 Renaud Dulong has convincingly proposed this by distinguishing between historical “documents” and “monuments” – the latter being linked to “society’s capacity to testify about itself as well as its capacity to anticipate the memory of future generations,” see Dulong 2002.

19 Ibrāhīm Aḥmad al-Maqhafī, introduction to Nashr al-thanā, by al-Washalī 1982, vol. 1, part 1, 11. The book is made of two parts, each divided into two volumes: genealogy and biographies of great scholars descending from al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī (vol. 1); genealogy and biographies of great scholars descending from al-Hasan b. ‘Alī (vol. 2); biographies of other great scholars of the Tihāma (vol. 3); and the chronicle (hawādith al-waqt wa nawādīrihi) (vol. 4).

20 Al-Washalī, 1982 vol. 4, part 2, 5.

21 For example, see what happened around the time of Abdallah b. Aḥmad Bawnī Pasha; al-Washalī 1982, vol. 3, part 2, 92.

22 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 2, part 1, 186-191.

23 Abd al-Bārī Ṭāhir also highlights this in his preface: see al-Washalī 1982, Nashr al-thanā, vol. 1, part 1, 8. On this issue, see Bernard Haykel 2003. Al-Washalī, refers to and quotes Muḥammad al-Shawkānī in his chronicle: see al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 23.

24 The author seemingly began to write the biographical part of the book and the chronical one simultaneously at the end of 1911: as underlined by ‘Abd al-Bārī Ṭāhir, in the general introduction, al-Washalī indicates that someone who was born in 1296/1879 is thirty-three years old at the time when he writes his history, i.e. around 1330/1912 (36); and he indicates the year when he is writing in the chronicle, 1329/1911, 1982, vol. 4, 10.

25 The year 1327/1909 is the first year to be reported in details in the chronicle. Just like the reports for the years that follow, it contains eleven pages, whereas those for the years prior to this rarely exceed two pages and only provide a summary of the most important events. After 1339/1920, events were observed in less details, perhaps due to the author’s new administrative and religious responsibilities.

26 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 62-80.

27 Ibid., vol. 4, part 2, 85. See also Bang 1996, 90-94. Al-Washalī does not mention that al-Idrīsī signed a treaty with the Ottomans in al-Hafā'ir, which was ratified in Istanbul in January 1910. The Ottomans recognised al-Idrīsī as the qā’im maqām (representative of the sultan) of ‛Asīr, provided that he acknowledged their right to collect taxes in the port cities and to maintain garrisons in the territory. Al-Washalī does mention, however, al-Idrīsī’s campaign against the Ottomans in 1910 and how, despite the support of Sharif Ḥusayn from Mecca, the latter did not succeed in driving him back.

28 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 82-93.

29 Kuehn 2011, 243.

30 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 93.

31 For a complete account in English of the Revolt of 1911, see Baldry 1976b.

32 Al-Washalī 1982, “Ahdāth ‛ām 1330,” vol. 4, part 2, 93.

33 See Dakhlia 1998, 103.

34 Al-Washalī 1982, general introduction to Nashr al-thanā, vol. 1, part 1, 13. This was probably written after the biographical encyclopedia.

35 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 5.

36 Abdülazīz was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1861 to 1976.

37 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 5-25.

38 This is particularly apparent in Muḥammad ‛Abd Allah al-Zawwāq’s poem, which is quoted by al-Washalī and evokes a correlation between the arrival of Sa‛īd Pasha and the end of the fitna-s: Ibid., 15.

39 See Willis 2004, 128-29.

40 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 18.

41 Ibid., 16.

42 Ibid., 5-6 and 16-18. Al-Washalī also quotes the poem that his uncle Muḥammad al-Zawwāk dedicated to the Ottoman victory against the tribes of Ḥāshid, Ibid., 15-17.

43 On these four issues, see Ibid., 75, 79, 81 and 85, respectively. See also 166, on the telegraph.

44 Ibid., 16.

45 Ibid., 62, 64-65.

46 Ibid., 145.

47 Ibid., 68.

48 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 82.

49 Ibid., 67-68, on Aug. 1909; 71, on Oct.-Nov. 1909; 97, on Mar. 1912; 145, on Dec. 1915, etc. Al-Washalī also cites the actions of Sayyid ‛Abd al-Bārī b. Aḥmad al-Ahdal in Luḥayya in 1914, 119.

50 Ibid., 67-68. See also, for example, 169, 175, etc.

51 Ibid., 91.

52 Ibid., 62. Another chronicler, Zaydi, also described Imam Yaḥyā’s increasing power in 1908 (following the Young Turks Revolution) using a similar vocabulary, in order to legitimise it on a religious level: see Honvault 2011.

53 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 69.

54 Baldry 1976b, 182.

55 Ibid., 184.

56 Al-Washalī 1982, 72. Al-Washalī states that Muḥammad Tawfīq, an Ottoman who had studied for eight years with al-Idrīsī in Egypt, was sent to mediate during the crisis with the emir.

57 Ibid., 69.

58 Ibid., 70, 72.

59 Ibid., 91-97.

60 Ibid., 100.

61 Ibid.

62 The Administrator of the French consular agency in Hodeidah relates also that the police had no means of handling robberies in town, especially by night, and that local people were forced to organise their own collective defense, with guns and jambya-s (traditional Yemeni knives). He added that the tribes were encouraged by the Italians in order to incite them to join with al-Idrīsī, and that in these conditions, the Ottomans were forced to “distribute privileges” to their opponents, and to carry out a sort of “reconciliation policy” with them, with the result that the Ottoman troops and the civil servants were “demoralised”: Note from to the French consul in Djeddah, 3 May 1912, CADN, Djeddah, Consulat and Légation de France (1908-1912), vol. 59 (Hodeida 1908-1912), 2 MI 3253.

63 This situation will last at least until 1914, when Sultan ‘Alī in Laḥj relates that Governor Maḥmūd Nadīm “is serving the wishes of the Imam more than the provisions of the convention, so much so that he by his behaviour has incurred the displeasure of the Turkish officers”; see the Letter of Sultan ‘Alī to Jacob, Resident in Aden, 19 August 1914, in Ingrams and Ingrams 1993, vol. 6, 7.

64 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 98.

65 For al-Washalī, “religion got lost in the desert like in the first times of Islam,” and “ignorance increased and knowledge reduced” with the liberals of the CUP: Ibid., 103.

66 On the weak impact of the Young-Turk Revolution on Yemen in 1908-1909, see Honvault 2011.

67 The French vice-consul in Ḥudayda to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs reports, in the end of 1912, a discussion with a local “notable” stressing what he presents as a shared opinion among the “Arabs:” that “at this point, the common life [with the Turks], although religious brothers, is no longer possible.” The vice-consul argues that this is the second time in a few months that such an opinion is reported to him: Letter of the 11 December 1912, Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes (CADN), Hodeidah, Corr 1912-1914, vol. 16.

68 See also Bang 1996,102.

69 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 139.

70 Al-Washalī explains that al-Idrīsī offered his Arab-Ottoman enemies an opportunity to surrender before his attack in July 1915, corresponding to the holy month of Ramadan. One of al-Idrīsī’s commanders (a sharif of the Ḥusaynī family) ordered his soldiers to fight only if they were attacked: his soldiers did not act until their Arab allies’ opponents attacked them at the most unexpected time, during the first morning prayer: Ibid., 140-141.

71 Up to the French Somaliland and Abyssinia at the end of January 1917.

72 Horne 1923, available at <http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/arabindependence_hussein.htm>, accessed on 6 Jan. 2018.

73 On the German-Ottoman alliance in the Arabian Peninsula during the war, see Da Riva and Biocca, 2016.

74 This story should perhaps be linked to the tragic episode of six soldiers in the German navy and their Lieutenant-Commander von Moeller, who reached Sana’a in March 1916 and Jeddah in May: they “were barbarously murdered, and their bodies mutilated, by tribesmen south of Rābigh.” See the following guide for the use of British commanding officers produced during World War II by the Naval Intelligence Division 2005, 293-94. I am grateful to Martin Strohmeier, who informed me of the existence of several films on the adventure from the Coco Islands to the Hedjaz of fifty men from the German battleship Emden (the last one being Die Männer der Emden, directed by Berengar Pfahl in 2012), which led me to the unfortunate episode of these six soldiers.

75 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 152-153.

76 In Hedjaz the Turks were called “Germans” by the Bedouins: see Letter of Col. Brémond to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Briand, 17 October 1916, CADN, Le Caire Ambassade, 528.

77 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 167.

78 John Baldry notes that the British patrols were quite ineffective until 1917 – although in January of that year, “the Danakil were able to smuggle arms from Yaman into Eritrea,” see Baldry 1978, 194. The blockade is scarcely mentioned in the British archives assembled in the Records of Yemen, but Bury’s report dated the 22 Nov. 1917, and sent in 1918, raises the issue, in Ingrams and Ingrams 1993, vol. 6, 137. A note on al-Idrīsī of the 20 October 1917 mentions the blockade without directly quoting him: al-Idrīsī asks for more food, and requests that pearl-fishing be allowed once more, Ibid., 134.

79 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 150. Al-Washalī declares that he writes these events a day of the month of Muharram 1335, i.e. September 1917.

80 Ibid., 160.

81 Ibid., 167 and 172.

82 Ibid., 152, 155, and 162.

83 Ibid., 142.

84 Ibid., 156. On Zabīd, see also 176.

85 Ibid., 168, 169, 170, 173, 174, and 176.

86 Ibid., 172 and 176.

87 Ibid., 173.

88 Ibid., 161.

89 Ibid., 167.

90 Ibid., 171.

91 See also Baldry 1978, 162 for the occupation of Kamarān, which remained under British administration until 1967, and 182 for Luḥayya.

92 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 177. Perhaps al-Washalī was unable to fathom how much the Ottomans’ departure would be fatal to the trade that had considerably contributed to the city’s development, the population sharply falling to two thousand inhabitants (versus forty-two thousand before the war): see Chevalier 2008. The British eventually left Luhayya, Ḥudayda, and Kamarān Island permanently in 1919, 1921, and 1967, respectively.

93 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 178.

94 Although the Mudros Agreement contains only 25 articles. Cf. “Art. VXI: Surrender of all garrisons in Hedjaz, Assir, Yemen, Syria, and Mesopotamia to the nearest Allied Commander”, in Sir Frederick Maurice 1943, 85-87.

95 Al-Washalī 1982, vol. 4, part 2, 180.

96 Ibid., 205.

97 Ibrāhīm al-Maqhafī, introductory note to Nashr al-thanā, by al-Washalī, 5.

98 Unfortunatly, al-Washalī became much less expansive in his chronicle after 1920.

99 Kuehn 2011, 231.

Auteur

Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, IREMAM UMR 7310, 13094 Aix-en-Provence, France

© Centre français des études éthiopiennes, 2018

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