Time of the Ayyübid Conquest of Southern Arabia *
By Abbas Hamdani
The Ayyübid conquest of southern Arabia in 569/1173 has recently attracted three major studies, namely those of G. Rex Smith 1 , Michael Bates2 and Muhammad 'Abd al-' AI Ahmad.3 The aim of this paper is not to repeat their effort but only to add some information on the Tayyibï community of the Yaman that was not available to them. Prior to the Ayyübid conquest, the Yaman was divided into several small principalities including the Mahdids of Zabïd (553-569/1158-1173), the Sharifs of the Mikhlif Sulaymàni (intermittently since 450/1058), the Zaydï Imàms of Sa'dah (intermittently since 280/893), the Hamdanids of San'a (492-569/1098-1173), the Zuray'ids of 'Adan (476-569/1083-1173) -the last two supporting the Hafizï Da'wah of the later Fatimids -and the Tayyibï Da'wah of Haraz as a continuation of the Sulayhid rule since 533/1138. Besides these, there were several small autonomous entities. Shortly before the Ayyubid conquest, the Mahdid ruler 'Abd al-Nabi had incorporated the territories and the treasuries of twenty-five such units4. This was only a short lived success. The Yaman presented a kaleidoscopic variety in its constant inter-state conflicts and readjustments. What concerns us here is the internal organizational set-up of one of these entities, namely the Tayyibi Da'wah of the Yaman which was more of a communal establishment than a state. In the context of the Ayyübid invasion, however, it proved to be more stable and enduring than other states.
Before I discuss the Tayyibi entity, I must say a few words about the reasons of the Ayyübid conquest. These reasons have been fully stated in the three studies mentioned above, particularly that of G.R. Smith5 who gives the opinions of all the medieval and modern writers, makes a case for multiple motivation and gives his own synthesis. Among those reasons that generally agreed upon is that the Ayyübids wanted to secure the southern areas of the Red Sea by removing Shï’i influence from them as they did in Egypt. This, however, is vague. There were in the Yaman various Shi'i Da'wahs and non- Shï'ï states such as the Mahdids. To my mind the main target of the Ayyübids was the Hafizi Da'wah, represented by the Zuray'ids of 'Adan and the Hamdanids of San'a, which had supported the last Fatimids whom the Ayyübids had recently overthrown. To this end they were prepared to tolerate and even encourage the rival Tayyibi Da'wah. The call for support of the Sulaymani Sharif Qasim b. Ghanim against the Mahdids served as an excuse and secured the first foothold for the Ayyübids. The revival of the Zaydi Imamate under al-Mansür 'Abd Allah b. Hamzah (593-614/1196-1217) after a suspension of almost twenty-five years, as a major force of Yamanï resistance must have proved to be an unpleasant surprise and constant embarrassment to the occupying power. The Tayyibi Da'wah had no choice but to retire from active politics, 6 but this proved to be a blessing in disguise as the Da'wah was not only saved from destruction but also began to operate freely and even grow in influence.
I have studied some of the complexities of the History of the Fatimid mission in the Yaman in a recent article.7 That mission was nurtured by the Sulayhid dynasty (439-532/1047-1137). After 524/1130 when the Fatimid dynasty had a crisis of succession, Sulayhid Yaman found its opportunity for political independence from Egypt and set up its separate Tayyibi Da'wah.8 Both the Sulayhid and Fatimid states soon ended in 532/1137 and 567/1171 respectively, but the communal and ideological establishment of the Tayyibi Da'wah continued in the Haraz region.9 The viability and continuity of this newly created Da'wah depended on its organization and leadership which is the subject of this paper and on which we have, fortunately, a contemporary document, Kitâb Tuhfat al-qulub of the third Da'i Mutlaq10 (the chief Da'i) of the Tayyibi mission, Abü Tay'i Hatim b. Ibrahim b. al-Husayn al-Hamidi (557-596/1161-1199). Da'i Hatim was contemporary with the Ayyùbid invasion and, in his Tuhfah, gives us an intimate picture of the Da'wah (sections 20-22).11 The book seems to have been written some time between 584/1188 and 5961/199, probably closer to the latter date.12 The above mentioned sections describe the tartïb al-hudüd, that is the strict order of precedence among the Da'wah officers of his time. The following is the list of these officers numbering thirty-five in all:
1. 'Ali b. Hatim: He was Da'ï Hàtim's son and successor. The purpose of the composition of the Tuhfàh by Da'i Hatim was to provide a nass (i.e. designation) for the succession of his son ' Ali. Hâtim and 'Ali belonged to the Hamidï family 13 of the Hamdan tribe which was closely related to the Hammad family of the celebrated Qadi Lamak b. Malik al-Hammadi, virtually the founder of the Da'wah organization in Sulayhid Yaman. Several of 'Ali's works are preserved in the Da'wah libraries particularly his Rawdal al-Hikram. 'Ali was assigned Haràz as the area of his work, but he later shifted to San'a. 14
2. 'Ali b. Muhammad b. al-Walïd: He succeeded Muhammad b. Tâhir b. Ibrahim al-Harithi as the Da'i's chief deputy in San’a' and Hamdan territory on Muhammad's death in 584/1188. ’Ali was a pupil of Muhammad but far more successful than the latter in handling the problem of refugees from the Ayyübid occupation in San'a'. These refugees poured in large numbers into Harâz.15 'Ali was made responsible for the organizational oath of initiation ('ahd and mithaq) throughout the Yaman. He was 'Ali b. Hatim's tutor and was appointed by the latter as the Da'i Mutlaq after him. .Ali b. Muhammad belonged to the Banu 'l-Anf family of the' Abd Shams branch of Quraysh. His uncle was a prominent da'i in the time of Da'i Hatim's father Ibrahim, and many of his family became dâ'is later. A prominent dâ'i and writer from among them was the Dâ'i Idris 'Imâd al-Qin al-Anf (d.832/1428).
'Ali b. Muhammad was a prolific writer. Among his many works the following are particularly noteworthy: (1) Kitàb Dàmigh al-bàtil in refutation of al-Ghazali's Kitàb Fadà'ih al-Bàtiniyyah, (2) Diwàn, a collection of poems of great historical value, (3) Diyà’ al-Albàb, a philosophical work, (4) Kitab al-Dhakhirah, a doctrinal work, and (5) Taj al-'aqa'id, a compendium of the Isma’ili creed.16 The last section of the Tuhafah praises 'Ali b. Muhammad as if he were a superior intellect in the Da'wah. The Da'i Hatim refers to him as al-Malik (master). 'Ali died in 612/1215.
3. Al-Sultan Ahmad b. Hisham:
4. Muhammad b. Ahmad b. 'Abbad al-Ahwari:
5. Al-Sultan Munif b. Hisham al-'Alawi:
6.Al-Sultan Zuray' b. As'ad al-Shaybani:
7. 'Abd Allah b. Mansür b. Abi 'I-Fath
8. Hanzalah b. Qasim:
9. Al-Qadi 'Ali b. Hanzalah b. Abi Salim:
10. Al-Qadi Mas'üd b. 'Abd Allah
11. Al-Qidi Muhammad b. 'Ali:
12. Jabir b. Ya'la al-Wadi'i
13. 'Abd Allah b. Muhammad al-Ishaqi:
14. As'ad b. Muhammad b. Sulayman b.Harith
15. Al-Qadi Muhammad b. As'ad b. Ahmad b. 'Imran:
16.Sulayman b. Abi 'I-Mas'üd
17. Ma'mar b. 'Atwah al-Qaysi
18. Rafi' b. Ahmad b. Mansür b. Harràn
19. Ahmad b. 'Ali b. Ibràhim
20. Al-Sharif Jawhar b. Müsà
21. Al-Sultan 'Ali b. Hasan b. Màlik:
22. Al-Shaykh Müsa b. Zuhayr al-Yami
23. 'Ammar b. Rashid
24. 'Ammar b. Shurahabil
25. Al-Sultan Jahfal b. 'Ali
26. Al-Sultan Washshah b. 'Imran:
27. 'Ali b. al-Husayn b. 'Ali b. Malik
28. Al-Sultan Zunayj b. Hasan
29. Hatim b. Mudafi'
30. 'Abdullàh b. Mahmüd
31. 'Umar b. Yahya:
32. Al-Sultan 'Ali b. Muhammad b. Abi Samra':
33. Al-Qadi Yahyà b. 'Abd al-Husayn
34. Ibràhim b. Sa'id b. Ahmad b. Nu'man
35. Al-Qàdi Hasan b. 'Ali:
Da'i Hâtim informs us at the outset of his description that he has more details in a previous book of his, Risalat al-Jawharah, and that he is summarising the information here. Unfortunately, this Risalah is not traceable in the Da’wah collections today. Even from the contents of these sections of the Tuhfah we can derive enough information to draw some conclusions.
The above list does not simply describe the distribution of duties and areas of work, but also indicates a strict order of precedence. The Da'ï tells us that a lower tank should never trespass on the authority of the higher rank. The precedence is by 'ilm (knowledge) and fadl (excellence). He admits that there are some who have no training (dars wa-riyadah fi 'l-'ilm) but the necessity of filling the gaps in the Da'wah's ramparts' bas led him to appoint them. We have noticed that there was an inner circle of five, namely 'Ali b. Hatim, 'Ali b. Muhammad b. al-Walid, Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Ahwari, Sultan Munif b. Hishim and Sultàn Zuray’ b. As’ad (nos. l, 2, 4, 5 and 6) who knew all the secrets of the organisation. The rest must take orders from their superiors in rank. There is a distribution of geographical areas but two officers have a total coverage: for the oath and discipline, 'Ali b. Muhammad b. al- Walid (no. 2) is in charge; while Sultan Ahmad b. Hishâm (no. 3) has overall control of financial matters.
The Da’wah is not restricted to Haraz, but is spread also to San'a' and the northern territory of Hamdan, at Dhü Jiblah and Mikhlaf Ja'far; and at ’Adan, Lahj, and the Ma’afir area to the north of 'Adan. The Da'wah has in its organisation eight local barons who are referred to as sultans, namely Ahmad b. Hisham, Munif b. Hisham, Zuray' b. As'ad, 'Ali b. Hasan, Jahfal b. 'Ali, Washshah b. 'Imran, Zunayj b. Hasan and 'Ali b. Muhammad b. Abi Samra (nos. 3, 5. 6, 21, 25, 26, 28 and 32), six qàdis, i.e. 'Ali b. Hanzalah, Mas'üd b. 'Abd Allah, Muhammad b. 'Ali, Muhammad b. As'ad b. Ahmad b. ‘Imran, Yahyà b. 'Abd al-Husayn and Hasan b. 'Ali (nos. 9, 10, 11, 15, 33, 35); one Sharif, Jawhar b. Müsi (no. 29), two young members, 'Ali b. Hatim and Hanzalahl b. Qasim (nos. 1 and 8), and one definitely identifiable prince of the fallen Hamdanid house of San’a, al-Qàdi Muhammad b. As’ad b. Ahmad b. 'Imran (no. 15).
Most of those at the top and in the inner circle are not sultans, but long- standing tested members of the Da'wah.
The greatest instrument of discipline is the 'ahd or mïthaq for which, the Da'i Hatim says, there are innumerable reasons. It is not for religious tyranny but for the safety of an underground movement and cohesion of its various scattered units. It is for "kitman sirr awliya' Allah' (i.e. guarding the secrets of God's devotees) in the words of Da'i Hatim.
Breaking of the 'ahd would lead to disciplinary action. In this connection one individual is singled out by name: Isma’il b. 'Ali al-Zawàhi. He belonged to the prominent Zawàhï family who controlled the Da'wah in pre-Sulayhid times and also played an important role in the service of the Sulayhid Queen Arwà. 28 Reasons for his expulsion are stated by Dà'i Hatim, namely that he had become resentful of the people higher in authority than he was; that he was finding fault with the hudüd (hierarchy of the Da’wah) and ashab al-kamal (people of merit), that he denied the superiority of the Prophet Muhammad and preached the divinity of human beings - in short he was guilty of organisational and religious indiscipline. As a result of this, the Dâ.i had pronounced barâ'ah (disassociation) from him by saying: 'Ana bari'un min fâ'ili dhâlika'. This involved the withdrawal of fash, or permission, from an offending officer to practice his organisational duties. It certainly did not imply excommunication, either of the officer or of any individual member of the community.29
Lastly a question should be answered about the relations between the Da'i Hatim's Da'wah and the Ayyübid administration. In the pre-Ayyübid phase of Hatim's mission, his chief opponents were fellow Hamdanids: the House of 'Imran b. al-Fadl at San'a' and the House of Zuray' at 'Adan. We have a detailed account of the Da'ï's war with Sultân 'Ali b. Hatim of San'a' during 561-564/1165.1168.30 The conflict was occasioned by the fact that the Hamdânids and Zuray'ids supported the Hâfizi Da'wah of the later Fatimids while the Tayyibis of Harâz opposed it. After the Ayyübids occupied both Egypt and the Yaman and so brought an end to the Fatimid dynasty with its Hafizi Da'wah, the old conflict no longer had any meaning. Although we find 'Ali b. Hâtim and his brother Bishr in the camp of the Zaydi Imam al-Mansür 'Abd Allah b. Hamzah (593-614/1196-1217) who now emerges as the main enemy of the Ayyübids 31, their children and relatives are reported to be in possession of various fortresses. 32 These are probably some of the sultâns in Da'i Hatim's Da'wah. One figure is identifiable, namely Muhammad b. As'ad b. Ahmad b. 'Imràn (no. 15).
As for the first three Ayyübids, contemporary with Dâ'i Hatim, we see a progressively improving relationship between the conquerors and the Tayyibi Da'wah. Türànshah (569-579/1174-1184) and Tughtakin (579-593/ 1184-1197) make a tour of conquests all over the Yaman and although San'a' and Hamdan territory in the north are occupied, Harâz is not penetrated. The Dâ'i's representative, Muhammad b. Tahir b. Ibrahim al-Harithi, operates openly in San'a' to regulate the flow of refugees to Harâz. He is overwhelmed with the problem, dies in 584/1188 and is followed in the job by 'Ali b. Muhammad b. al-Walid. Although the Ayyübids are not necessarily friendly, they seem to permit this activity and tolerate the existence of the Tayyibi Da'wah. After all they had both shared in the past the common hostility to the Hafizi phase of the Fatimid Caliphate.
With the coming of al-Malik al-Mu'izz Isma'il (593-598/1197-1202) to power and the emergence of the Zaydi Imam al-Mansür 'Abd Allah b. Hamzah as his main enemy, the Tayyibi Da'wah is extremely at ease. Al- Malik al-Mu'izz is accused of having adopted the 'Batini' madhhab (i.e. the Tayyibi Isma'ili).33 This is of course not correct because the main Isma'ili history of the period, Nuzhat al-afkar, makes no mention of it, nor does the earliest source on the period, al-Simt al-ghali. The Simt makes al-Mu'izz claim caliphate in the Umayyad line, 34 which would be very remote from 'Ali-id sympathy. It is possible, however, that there existed a collaboration between al-Mu'izz and the Tayyibi Da'wah.
Dâ'i Hatim, under these circumstances, was able to consolidate his position and extend his Da'wah even beyond Harâz. The Tayyibi Da'wah became the rallying ground for those Yamanis who did not wish to join the Zaydi Imâm's resistance to Ayyübid rule - particularly the Yaman south of Harâz. Both the Da'i and the Sultan died about the same time - the former in 596/1199 and the latter in 598/1202. We need not go beyond that time. The end of Da'i Hatim's life marks the beginning of a phase of Tayyibi collaboration, however reluctant, with Sunni régimes from outside the Yaman, the desertion by the majority of Hamdân of the Ismâ'ïli cause and the espousal of the Zaydi one 35 and the transition from Hamdani leadership of the Tayyibï Da'wah to the leadership of the Anf Qurashi family. The championship of Yamani nationalism was now in Zaydi hands. Since Hamdan increasingly deserted the Tayyibi Da'wah and joined Zaydi ranks, one can say that Yamani patriotism proved a more powerful factor for them than religious consistency. The later Tayyibi Da'wah of the Yaman and India, however, preserved in its literature the memories of past Yamani glories in collaboration with the Fatimid Caliphate.