Shia Islam standing strong against radicalism in Yemen.

As Yemen continues to undergo profound metamorphoses, its people driven by a need to reinvent their nation and more
importantly the principles that command and define them as a
nation following decades of blind nepotism, Yemen highlands has
cried out in rejection of Sunni radicalism, bent on reclaiming its
Shia heritage.
From both a purely historical and religious perspective, such a revival of
Shia Islam in Yemen has absolutely nothing to do with politics and rather everything to do with the principles that have always driven and defined Shia Islam.
To better understand Yemen’s highlands Houthi movement (a Shia
group led by Sheikh Abel-Malek al-Houthi), one needs to look back over
a millennia ago, when the northern tribes of Yemen pledged themselves
to God and His Prophet, Mohammad (PBUH).
Back when the Prophet of God (PBUH)
worked to spread Islam across Arabia,
Khalid ibn al-Walid was sent to the
people of Hamdan, Yemen’s tribes, to
urge them to convert to the One God
and His last covenant. Although
Khalid ibn al-Walid stayed with the
people of Hamdan over 6 months,
informing them of the teachings of
the Quran, none converted, all
determined to remain true to the
traditions of their forefathers.
Frustrated, al-Walid returned to
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in
Medina defeated.
Al-Bara’ bin Azib bin al-Harith - a
devout Muslim and ardent supporter
of Imam Ali (PBUH) - then tells us of
Imam’s exploit: “The Messenger of
God (PBUH) sent Khalid b. al-Walid to
the people of Yemen inviting them to
Islam, and I was among those who
went with him. He persisted in the
matter for six months, but they did
not respond, so the Messenger of
God sent Ali b. Abi Talib and ordered
him that Khalid and those who were
with him should return, but if any of
them would like to follow him he
should allow them. Al-Bara’ said, “I
was one who followed Ali (PBUH), and
as we reached the borders of Yemen,
the people got the news. They
gathered around him and Ali (PBUH)
led us in the morning prayer. When
he had finished [the prayer], he lined
us up in one row. Then he moved
before us, praised and extolled God,
then read to them the letter of the
Messenger of God. All of Hamdan
embraced Islam in one day, and he
wrote to the Messenger of God
(PBUH) about it. When the Prophet
(PBUH) read Ali (PBUH)’s letter he fell
down, prostrating himself to God.
Then he sat up and said, ‘Peace be
upon Hamdan, Peace be upon
Hamdan’ [After the conversion of
Hamdan] the people of Yemen
followed in succession with their
acceptance of Islam.”
Now it is important to
understand that the people
of Yemen came to know
Islam through none other
than Imam Ali (PBUH), the
Prophet (PBUH)’s cousin and
son-in-law; a man whose
valour, devotion and
righteousness have eclipsed
all and inspired generations
ever since. While most might
have forgotten, it is this
religious footprint that Imam
Ali (PBUH) left behind that to
this day animates Yemen.
What the mind might have
forgotten, the heart
remembers. Yemen’s
conversion to Islam came
about because of Imam Ali
(PBUH); he managed in a day
to inspire an entire people
and thus change the face of
Arabia forever.
From that moment on in Islamic
history, Yemen became an extension
of Hijaz, the pillar of early Islam and
more importantly a place where the
voices of a time long gone still
resonate.
Throughout the early tribulations of
the Islamic empire, when games of
politics and thirst for power came to
sully the message left by the Prophet
of Islam (PBUH), the northern tribes of
Yemen, remained, unlike many others
in the immediate region, true to Ahlul
al-Bayt, intent on honoring their
pledge of obedience and reverence
before God. Such a pledge was sealed
in 893, when Imam Yehia ibn al-
Hussayn, a descendant of the Prophet
of Islam (PBUH), answered the call of
Yemeni tribes.
Acting as a mediator in an inter-tribal
conflict, Imam Yahia soon acted as a
catalyst for Yemen highlands folks
when he denounced the unjust rule of
the then-Caliph.
It is at that moment in time that Shia
Islam took yet another dimension in
Yemen, it became a force that
opposes tyranny through legitimate
leadership. Just as Imam Ali (PBUH)
stood before Muawiyah, denouncing
his lunacy, the Imams of Yemen have
come to incarnate as an institution
justice over tyranny, truth over deceit.
By accepting Imam Yehia as their
leader, Yemen’s northern tribes totally
rejected the authority of the Sunni
Caliphate, then based in Baghdad,
having for a second time professed
their allegiance to Imam Ali (PBUH).
Today, we are witnessing a
resurgence of such sentiment.
Following decades of nepotism and
sectarian-based segregation, the
Houthis, the keepers of Shia Islam in
Yemen, have returned to claim their
heritage over extremism and
radicalism.
As Yemen twists and turns, looking for
a new direction, the Houthis have said
to be determined not to allow Sunni
radicals from taking over their
homeland, as to reclaim their heritage
and act as a barrier once more to
despotism.
Stronger maybe for their resolve is
born from a deep sense of moral duty
and loyalty to their homeland, the
Houthis have proved a mighty force
against Sunni radicals’ legions.
Outnumbered at times, often under
siege and at a clear disadvantage
geographically as Sunni Saudi Arabia
stood only a few kilometers north, the
Houthis have, against all odds, re-
carved Yemen highlands to their
image.
Today, the once small rebel group
stands master over Yemen’s northern
region, having grown in such strength
that the Sana’a central government
would now not dare directly come in
opposition of its leadership.
As Yemenis have come to recognize
radicalism for the evil that it is, many
have looked onto the Houthis as a
liberating force. With over 40% of
Yemen’s population being Shia, the
Houthis have become much more
than just a dissident movement, the
group carries within the seed of a new
religious awakening, a confirmation
maybe of the oath northern tribes
took long ago before Imam Ali (PBUH).