The Era of Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn Yahyâ and his Son al-Mut.ahhar (10th/16th Century)

By Richard Blackburn (University of Toronto)

Yemen Update 42 (2000):4-8, 74

[Editor's Note: In order to show proper transliteration, this e-listing of the article adds a dot (.) after the relevant letter rather than under the letter in Arabic transliteration.]

Al-Mutawakkil 'alâ Allâh Sharaf al-Dîn Yah.yâ b. Shams al-Dîn b. al-Imâm al-Mahdî Ah.mad was the pre-eminent Zaydî Imâm of Yemen during the 10th/16th century. Having once secured acceptance of his religious and political leadership by almost all of the country's Zaydî communities, he was able to restore the influence and respect of the imâmate after a long period of weakness and divisiveness. He was actively supported by several of his sons, principally by al-Mut.ahhar, the eldest, a military leader and strategist of no mean talent who eventually would wrest control from his aging father. A salient feature of the period when the imâm or his son was the foremost indigenous leader, roughly from 1516 to 1572, was the coming of the Turks to Yemen. Their arrival was something of a spin-off from the southward movement of, first Mamlük, and then Ottoman policy in response to the threat posed by the Portuguese in India, the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Both Zaydî leaders had to contend with an expansionist Ottoman line of action exercised from an initially small provincial base in the southern Tihâmah. Ultimately, each failed to contain the local Ottoman forces, although al-Mut.ahhar, towards the end of his life riding the crest of a pervasive anti-Turkish sentiment, came near to expelling the foreigner from Yemen.

Sharaf al-Dîn was born at the fortress of H.a�ûr al-Shaykh on 27 Ramad.ân, 877/25 February, 1473. His father, Shams al-Dîn, was a member of the 'ulamâ', while his mother is said to have been a sharîfah and the daughter of a former imâm He received his early religious education and groundig in Zaydî doctrine, at first in his birthplace and later mainly at'â', under his father and a number of other local scholars, among them being 'Abdallâh b. Ah.mad al-Shaz.abî and 'Abdallâh b. Yah.yâ al-Nâz.îrî. During his lengthy period of education the Zaydîs in Yemen experienced protracted disunity, with no single imâm able to establish unchallenged sway over the community. Sharaf al-Dîn's reputation for learning and dedication to scholarship grew to the point where, in Jumâdâ I, 912/September, 1506, he put forward from Z.afîr, a town in the northwestern district of H.ajjah, his claim to the imâmate (da'wah). But owing both to spirited resistance to him from within the wider Zaydî community and to challenges from outside it, his leadership was to gain widespread recognition only after years of struggle and persuasion

The sunn� dynasty of the Âl T.âhir (ca. 858-923/1454-1517), based at al-Maqrânah and Juban in the southern highlands, had already gained control over most of Yemen, including'â' and several nearby fortresses, by the eve of Sharaf al-Dîn's appearance. 'Âmir b. 'Abd al-Wahhâb, its fourth sultan, was first challenged seriously not by Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn, who for a decade sought to secure leadership of the Zaydîs within parts of the northern highlands, the only region beyond T.âhirid control, but by a new, foreign political element in the Tihâmah. This was the mixed force of Egyptians and Ottoman-supplied lawands left behind at Zabîd in Jumâdâ I, 922/June, 1516 by the second Mamlûk naval expedition launched from Suez. Within less than a year this motley, but well armed, soldiery had penetrated the interior of Yemen where, at first encouraged by Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn, they displaced the T.âhirids from the Tihâmah and southern highlands before proceeding northwards. Sultan 'Âmir perished on 23 Rabî' II, 923/15 May, 1517, the day following his loss of'â' to them. When shortly it was learned that the Mamlûk sultanate had been defeated and supplanted by the Ottoman sultan Salîm I, the leadership of the Egyptians and lawands at'â' volunteered to recognize the Ottoman sultan as their suzerain.

Shortly, most of the lawands and Egyptian Circassians withdrew southwards and formed themselves into largely independent regimes in parts of the TihIamah and southern highlands.'â' was quickly occupied by Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn from nearby Thulâ and established as his capital. The subsequent history of Yemen down to 945/1538 was dominated by conflict resulting from the political ambitions of three mutually hostile groups: a series of weak but toublesome T.âhirid pretenders in the mid-southern regions, between Dhamâr and Aden; the fractious Egyptians and Ottoman lawands, soon confined largely to the southern Tihâmah; and the expansionist Zaydîs of the central and northern highlands.

Accounts in the Arabic chronicles show that while, during this period, T.âhirid pretenders from Aden competed with Circassians and lawands from Zab�d over several southern towns, Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn, from'â' , singled out and pacified large regions, as if executing some master plan. The Zaydî districts north, northwest and northeast of'â' were to consume all of his energies during the first decade. These lands were dominated by his two archrivals for leadership of the Zaydis, namely the Âl al-Mans.ûr (Âl H.amzah) and Âl al-Mu'ayyad, the latter having their own competing imâm. Progress in the north was such that, by 934/1527-8, Sharaf al-Dîn could dispatch his eldest son and already seasoned commander, al-Mut.ahhar (908-80/1503-72), to the immediate south, where T.âhirids and Circassians and lawands alike had recently recovered territories. Al-Mut.ahhar quickly repressed these encroachments and restored or added to his father's dominions the districts of Jahrân, Dhamâr, Radâ', Yarîm and al-Maqrânah. Later the same year he dealt severely with a large-scale rebellion in the region of Khawlân east of'â' '.

For the next several years the imâm's resources were concentrated in the far north and northeast against his old foes, the Âl al-Mans.ûr and Âl al-Mu'ayyad, who had united against him in 937/1530-1. The Âl al-Mu'ayyad were neutralized in S.afar, 940/September, 1533, when S.a'dah opened its gates to Sharaf al-Dîn without a contest. Their erstwhile allies, however, fled northeastwards into Najrân, where they eluded submission for another year. With the incorporation of this last important Zaydî region to evade his authority, Sharaf al-Dîn could turn his attention to the non-Zaydî lands in the south, where the absence of his armies in force had given the T.âhirid governor of Aden an opportunity to recover lost territory. Al-MuÝahhar executed an excessively cruel but effective campaign which drove back the T.âhirids and brought areas as far south as Lah.j, Khanfar and Abyan under his father's authority. In 943/1536 Shams al-Dîn (914-63/1509-56) linked up with his brother al-Mut.ahhar for an assault on the Circassians and lawands at Zabîd. Despite a Zaydî advantage in numbers, the attack miscarried and developed into a major rout from which al-Mut.ahhar barely escaped alive. This setback notwithstanding, by 945/1538-9 Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn could claim authority over all of Yemen, except for the southern Tihâmah, the major port towns, and small pockets of internal resistance.

In this year the Ottomans' political status in Yemen was transformed from a voluntary and intermittent recognition of Ottoman suzerainty by the lawand or Circassian chiefs, entailing at most the use of the sikkah and khut.bahin the sultan's name, into a province established in the southern Tihâmah. This came about at the initiative of Khâdim Sulaymân Bâshâ, who commanded the Ottoman naval armada launched from Suez in Muh.arram, 945/June, 1538 to drive the Portuguese from western India. Although the expedition's main objective was not realized, the strategic port of Aden was seized from 'Âmir b. Dâ'ud, the last T.âhirid, on the way out (Rabî'I/August); and, on the return voyage, the lawand regime of Ah.mad al-Nâkhûdah at Zabîd was overthrown and replaced by an Ottoman administration (Shawwâl/February, 1539). Ottoman Yemen's status was soon elevated from that of a small province (sanjaq) to a large one (baklarbakî), doubtless through the influence of Sulaymân Bâshâ who shortly became the empire's grand vizier (948-51/1541-4).

Before leaving the Tihâmah, Sulaymân Bâshâ whose military resources were inadequate to take Ta'izz by force, corresponded with Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn at'â' in an attempt to secure it by negotiation for his having executed the last of the T.âhirids, the long-standing enemies of the Zaydîs. The imâm's reply, although nowhere reported in detail, apparently included sufficient measure of his recognition of Ottoman suzerainty to satisfy the empire's ruling authorities. But his refusal to budge on Ta'izz prompted Sulaymân Bâshâ to instruct Mus.t.afâ Bâshâ, whom he appointed governor at Zab�d, to capture it. An unsuccessful operation to secure that objective was, in fact, undertaken late in 946/1539-40.

Unity within the imâm's family began to weaken as early as 947/1540-1, when the aging Sharaf al-Dîn redistributed authority more evenly among his sons. It became obvious to al-Mut.ahhar that his father was deliberately frustrating his ambition to succeed him. As an unflinching enforcer of his family's claim to Zaydî leadership, and as a general whose military ability had so often been demonstrated, he considered himself possessed of those qualities necessary for the preservation and expansion of his father's domain. But in the eyes of his father and of other Zaydî dignitaries, al-Mut.ahhar was disqualified from becoming imâm on two grounds: a congenital lameness in his left leg and, doubtless more important, the fact that he was not trained as a mujtahid, one learned in Zaydî doctrine. Thus thwarted in his political designs, al-MuÝahhar harboured a deep mistrust of his brothers, particularly of Shams al-Dîn, his father's close companion. It was, however, only in 952/1545-6 that this resentment led to hostilities. When a plan by Sharaf al-Dîn to have him arrested during the Friday congregational prayer miscarried, al-Mut.ahhar removed himself to Thulâ, from where he took up arms against his father and urged tribal leaders everywhere to withhold their obedience to the imâm. Whether as a result of this rebellion or of something quite separate, there were indications of growing discontent and alienation among tribesmen under Zaydî rule in the southern highlands. This doubtless was also connected with an uneven, at times unscrupulous, provincial administration fostered by the imîm's unwillingness to devote sufficient time and energy to mundane affairs of state.

It was at the crest of this intense strife within the ruling Zaydî family and of tribal disaffection in the south that Uways Bâshâ, the Ottoman province's third governor, appeared at Zabîd in the latter half of 953/1546. Al-Mut.ahhar, perhaps in desperation, but more likely out of expediency, wrote to the bâshâ, declaring his recognition of the Ottoman sultan as his overlord and inviting Uways Bâshâ to invade his father's lands. He is even alleged to have offered to assist the governor with troops and money. Boosted by this added incentive, Uways Bâshâ arrayed his provincial forces before Ta'izz and began besieging it on 1 Dhû al-H.ijjah, 953/23 January, 1547. The operation at first fared no better than the earlier one; but just when retreat seemed inevitable, grievances among the Zaydî governor's garrison led to mutiny and turned near defeat into victory for the besiegers. The defenders of this key centre of power in the southern highlands simply laid down their arms and surrendered the city on the tenth day of the siege. Uways Bâshâ, pausing only briefly to organize and garrison his prize, regrouped his forces for a campaign northwards aimed at the acquisition of'â'. He by then enjoyed added local support both from southern tribesmen unhappy with with Zayd� rule, and from Ismâ'îlîs who had lost territories to Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn.

Only at the end of 953/February, 1547, with the arrival at'â' of news of the loss of Ta'izz -- an impressive and ominous Turkish victory encouraged by al-Mut.ahhar-- did Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn realize fully the damage caused by his son's disaffection. In a hastily convoked council (dîwân) of Zaydî notables, the imâm conceded that, in the interests of regaining Zaydî unity, al-Mut.ahhar should be appeased. The latter's price for the purchase of his services was, however, high. An emissary sent to him at Thulâ was told that he was prepared to challenge the Turks and to reclaim his family's power only on condition that all fortresses currently in Zaydî possession, including'â', as well as all arms, provisions and personnel in them, be transferred to his authority. In effect, he was to become de facto imâm, at least for war. Several of al-Mut.ahhar's brothers were offered limited provincial jurisdictions: Shams al-Dîn at Kawkabân, Rad.î al-Dîn and al-H.asan at 'Azzân Banî 'Ashab, and Jamâl al-Dîn 'Alî (927-78/1521-71) at Dhamarmar and 'Azzân al-Fas.s.. Another brother, 'Izz al-Dîn (915-54/1510-47), who had remained governor of the northern district of S.a'dah since 941/1534-5, was not part of these negotiations.

Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn had no choice but to concede and retire. Al-Mut.ahhar arrived early in Muh.arram, 954/February-March, 1547 at'â', where one of his first acts was to have coinage struck in his name. A proven general now took responsibility for protecting Zaydî interests at a time when these were seriously threatened by a formidable interloper. But the excessiveness of al-Mut.ahhar's demands served to crystallize the acrimony already existing between himself and his father and brothers, rather than to restore the harmony which others expected. Henceforth, Sharaf al-Dîn and most of his sons not only refused to cooperate with the new Zaydî leader, but worked consistently to undermine his authority, at times even identifying with his enemy.

The close to ninety year-old Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn Yah.yâ died from plague on 7 Jumâdâ I, 965/27 March, 1558 at �af�r, where more than half a century earlier he had first proclaimed his imâmate. Stripped of his political power, but not of his prestige, in 954/1547, and subsequently made blind by old age, Sharaf al-Dîn had retired to a contemplative life, at first with his son Shams al-Dîn at Kawkabân, but then at Kuh.lân Tâj al-Dîn and finally at Z.afîr. The historical details of his life cast him in the mold of a deeply religious man who, though not lacking the martial qualities demanded of a Zaydî imâm, was much given to ritual devotion and intellectual pursuits. He composed, or sponsored the composition of, a number of Zaydî treatises. Of the twenty-two items identified by the modern researcher, 'Abdallâh al-H.ibshî, as being of Sharaf al-D�î's authorship, many are letters or responses to doctrinal questions. But a few, such as his al-Athmâr f� fiqh al-a'immah al-at.hâr, an abridgement of the Kitâb al-azhâr by his ancestor the imâm al-Mahdî Ah.mad, are judged to be of enduring worth. The same al-�H.bshî regards Sharaf al-Dîn as one of the outstanding imâms for the great influence he had on the course of Zaydî intellectual and political life.

Events were to show that the Zaydî leadership acted too late in attempting to halt the Ottoman offensive by accepting a proven general to defend their community. The advance of the Turkish forces on'â' from Ta'izz was stalled, but only briefly, when mutiny in their ranks led to the assassination of Uways Bâshâ. Azdamir Bak, a highly popular and competent Ottoman officer of Circassian and Egyptian background, was chosen by the loyalist majority as their temporary commander (sirdâr). Having with alacrity put down the rebellion, Azdamir was determined to pursue his predecessor's objective, the conquest of'â'. Support for this appeared from a new and unexpected quarter when Jamâl al-Dîn 'Alî, spiteful of al-Mut.ahhar as a result of the recent struggle for power in the imâm's family, appealed to Azdamir to wrest'â' from his brother.

Al-Mut.ahhar was under great pressure to justify his newly-won position of leadership by acting decisively to remove the Turkish threat. When diplomacy aimed at paying off the enemy proved of no value, he twice tried military measures, but both failed when his embittered brothers Shams al-Dîn and 'Alî withheld their much needed cooperation. The Ottoman army reached'â' and commenced besieging it on 1 Rajab, 954/17 August, 1547. For a week the city withstood the enemy's assault before a section of its walls was breached. Al-Mut.ahhar abandoned'â', his family's capital since 923/1517, to its fate and retreated, eventually to his mountain fastness of Thulâ. Soon firmly established in his new conquest, located at the country's centre, Azdamir Bak and his officers beheld their enemy in disarray. The Ottoman commander shortly availed himself of overtures made by a leader among the Âl-Mans.ûr (Âl H.amzah) Zaydîs, always serious rivals to Sharaf al-Dîn's family, to collaborate in a series of operations which ended with the dislodgement of 'Izz al-Dîn b. Sharaf al-Dîn from S.a'dah in the northern highlands.

With 'Izz al-Dîn out of the way (and shortly dead), Jamâl al-Dîn 'Alî known to be favorably disposed towards him, Shams al-Dîn by then actually allied with him, and the circumstances of Sharaf al-Dîns family generally at a new low, Azdamir judged the time auspicious for bringing al-Mut.ahhar to heel. But after a futile forty-day siege of Thulâ, initiated at the close of 954/1547-8, al-Mut.ahhar agreed to the Ottoman commander's call for a truce whereby the latter withdrew his troops. When the following year Azdanir violated this truce, his forces suffered a second humiliating defeat by those of al-Mut.ahhar, at al-Bawn on the route to S.a'dah. Over the next couple of years (ca. 956-8/1549-51) there was, to judge from the silence of the chroniclers, something of a stalemate in the highlands, with the two main protagonists ensconced in their respective capitals, separated by a mere twenty-five miles, but with each avoiding entanglement with the other.

In 958/1551 there came to Yemen an Ottoman military and diplomatic mission headed by Mus.t.afâ al-Nashshâr Bâshâ, a former governor of the province. What had prompted this initiative, besides the acute need for troop reinforcements, was al-Mut.ahhar's continued unwillingness to recognize the sultan's suzerainty. Mus.t.afâ Bâshâ 's instructions were to effect a reverse of this, by peace or by force. When diplomacy was judged to have failed, hostilities were begun in Muh.arram, 959/December, 1551-January, 1552. The ensuing siege of Thulâ became protracted and was marked by friction between the Ottoman mission chief and Azdamir, who by then was Bâshâ and governor (baklarbakî) of Yemen. Eventually, with al-Mut.ahhar closely confined and the Ottomans making no headway, a significant peace agreement was concluded. In return for being left free to govern the northwestern districts that were his family's base of strength, al-Mut.ahhar agreed to accept the status of (honorary) Ottoman sanjaqbakî (regional governor) and abide by its implicit obligation of obedience.

This treaty was honoured for more than thirteen years, during most of which period each party to it was concerned with consolidating its respective sphere of authority. After 968/1560-1, however, the quality of Ottoman provincial leadership in Yemen declined perceptibly with the appointment in that year of Mah.mûd Bâshâ as governor there. He was apparently interested primarily in exploiting this remote posting to acquire quick fortune in order to purchase his way to higher office elsewhere. Although in pursuing this objective he was careful to avoid any breach of the treaty with al-Mut.ahhar at Thulâ, his administrative malpractices put Ottoman interests at risk. The manipulation, for his own benefit, of the local minting of Ottoman coinage caused hardship for the Turkish soldiery, who turned to purloining the local populace to compensate for the devalued currency in which they were paid. And Mah.mûd's extortionate and treacherous behaviour towards wealthy native families, such as that of the al-Naz.îrîs of Ibb and in the southern highlands, led to the alienation of hitherto non-Zaydî local support for the Ottomans.

With the arrival of Rid.wân Bâshâ, Mah.mûd's replacement, at'â' in Rabî' II, 973/November, 1565, the possibility for renewed Ottoman-Zaydî conflict was revived by the new appointee's unwillingness to reaffirm the principles of the treaty of 959/1552. The governor's envoy sought from the Zaydî leader changes to the treaty, but al-Mut.ahhar refused and threatened reprisals should it be violated. Any move planned by Rid.wân Bâshâ was, however, delayed when, only shortly into his term, the decision was taken, in Jumâdâ II, 973/December, 1565, at Istanbul to split Yemen into two provinces (baklarbakîs): one of them named'â' and including the central, northern and southern highlands; the other retaining the name Yemen but embracing only the Tihâmah and the southern highlands around Ta'izz. Learning that he was to have charge of the poorer and more demanding province of'â', Rid.wân Bâshâ decided to seek to accumulate as much personal wealth as possible. His subsequent attempt to impose vastly increased taxes on Wâdî al-Sirr, a district within al-Mut.ahhar's sphere of authority, led its populace to rebel, slay an Ottoman tax collector, and proclaim their support for al-Mut.ahhar in any necessary countermeasures. Rid.wân Bâshâ proved quite unequal to the consummate strategist who was his opponent. The Zaydî leader was able not only to defeat the force sent by the governor to avenge the death of the Ottoman official, but also to deceive Murâd Bâshâ, the appointee to the new governorship of Yemen (Tihâmah), into withholding further support in money and personnel from his increasingly beleaguered counterpart in the highlands. Furthermore, he succeeded in inducing two leaders from the Âl al-Mu'ayyad and Âl Hamzah (Al al-Mans.ûr) Zaydîs in the north to besiege into submission the undersupplied Ottoman garrison at S.a'dah.

The siege and ultimate loss of S.a'dah through al-Mut.ahhar's complicity signalled all-out war between him and Rid.wân BBâshâ. But the latter's forces, lacking reinforcements and supplies, were no match for those of al-Mut.ahhar, who thus was able to bring all of the lands to the northeast, north and west of'â' within his hegemony. When the hard-pressed Ottoman governor requested a truce, it was granted on condition that any remaining Ottoman garrisons in the highlands withdraw to'â'. The once extensive northern sector of the province of'â' was thus reduced to a tiny enclave around its capital, all but fully encircled by territories under Zaydî control.

Less than three months following the arrangement of this truce, Rid.wân Bâshâ received word of his dismissal and recall to Istanbul; and with his departure in Dhû al-Qa'dah, 974/May, 1567, the truce concluded with al-Mut.ahhar became invalid. Al-Mut.ahhar deemed himself free to seek to re-establish the independent authority once exercised by his father throughout most of Yemen. A number of factors moved him to seize the opportunity: the Ottoman garrison at'â' was confined and vulnerable; Murâd Bâshâ, the governor of Yemen (Tihâmah) at Ta'izz, was deceived and likely unprepared to counter a Zaydî initiative; and discontent with Ottoman rule almost everywhere in Yemen was palpable. Perhaps even more compelling was the fact of Sultan Sulaymân's death in 974/1566: since Al-Mut.ahhar his father had only ever had dealings with the one Ottoman ruler, the resurgent Zaydî leader could have viewed his demise as signalling an opening to terminate the relationship.

Al-Mut.ahhar's first measure was to put the Ottoman garrison at'â' under close siege. He was surprised to learn, however, that Murâd Bâshâ was encamped with a large army at Dhamâr, and had dispatched a contingent northwards. When this advance force was subsequently ambushed and annihilated at the critical pass named Dhirâ' al-Kalb by Zaydî troops commanded jointly by al-Mut.ahhar's nephew, al-H.usayn b. Shams al-Dîn, and by 'Alî b. al-Shawî', of the ashrâf of al-Jawf and a former Ottoman regional governor (sanjaqbakî), tribal elders in the Dhamâr region declared for al-Mut.ahhar. This impressive victory, along with al-Mut.ahhar's written appeals for tribal leaders to join him in throwing off Ottoman rule, stimulated widespread rebellion in the southern highlands. Murâd Bâshâ was captured and killed by tribesmen when an elaborate plan of deception to get him out of Dhamâr and back to Ta'izz failed. His severed head was put on display at'â' where, once it was identified, the Ottoman garrison surrendered the city to al-Mut.ahhar in S.afar, 975/August, 1567.

Moving quickly to benefit from tribal anarchy and to keep the Turks in retreat, al-Mut.ahhar delegated to family members and associates authority over yet unconquered towns and districts in the south. Prominent among his appointees were his sons, Lut.fallâh in particular, and the amîr 'Alî b. al-Shawî', who was to receive Ta'izz. The latter centre, where the Ottoman provincial treasury was stored in the fastness of al-Qâhirah, surrendered inRabî' II, 975/October, 1567 to the designated Zaydî governor, who without delay moved on to besiege into submission the neglected Turkish garrison at Aden. Al-Mut.ahhar's offensive was boosted by a rebellion against the Ottomans at Jâzân in the remote northern Tihâmah, as well as by his acquisition of the mountainous districts skirting the western borders of the highlands. Within only a short passage of time the Zaydî leader's political authority extended over a greater area than that which his father's embraced in the heyday of his imâmate.

Although by S.afar, 976/August, 1568 all that remained of Ottoman Yemen -- technically still two full provt.ahhar's rebellion did not ultimately succeed. 'Alî b. al-Shawî' had captured Mawza', Mocha and H.ays before proceeding, in defiance of his master's orders, to lay siege to Zabîd. Here the assembled remnants of Ottoman soldiery, commanded by H.asan Bâshâ and having good reason to anticipate the arrival soon of reinforcements, stood their ground. After two days of combat outside the town's walls, H.asan Bâshâ's forces put the large Zaydî army to rout. An Ottoman toehold in the region was thus preserved. Shortly, 'Uthmân Bâshâ, the son of the Azdamir Bâshâ mentioned earlier in this account, arrived in the Tihâma has governor of a reunited single province of Yemen. He brought with him three thousand reinforcements with whom he set about without delay to regain lost territory. Towards the end of 976/April-May, 1569 he was followed by a much larger expeditionary force commanded by the vizier Sinân Bâshâ, the one to whom the restoration of Ottoman sway over southern Arabia had been entrusted. Owing mainly to his exertions, over the next year and a half Ottoman authority in Yemen was recovered to what it had been in Azdamir's time, while the political influence of al-Mut.ahhar was reduced to its earlier modest level.

The aging al-Mut.ahhar b. al-Imâm Sharaf al-D�n Yah.yâ died in Rajab, 980/November, 1572 at Thulâ, his usual residence and capital located a short distance from'â' . One chronicle account, that left by his grandson 'Îsâ b. Lut.fallâh, has it that he had been poisoned. Al-Mut.ahhar had had to surrender'â' to Sinân Bâshâ in S.afar, 977/July, 1569, following which he was for a time active in prosecuting brief sorties to relieve sons and nephews under Ottoman siege. Peace was at last concluded with Sinân Bâshâ in Sha'bân, 978/January, 1571. His personal piety notwithstanding, al-Mut.ahhar lacked the necessary doctrinal learning to be recognized as imâm. Scarcely ever is he referred to by that title in the Arabic chronicles. Occasionally there came forward other claimants to the imâmate in his time, usually from among the Âl al-Mu'ayyad or Âl-Mans.ûr (Âl H.amzah) Zaydîs in the north. At least one of these had the support of Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn when he was in forced retirement. Al-Mut.ahhar left several sons and nephews, but they were scattered throughout various mountain fastnesses where they usually ruled as Ottoman officials or under Ottoman sufferance, and there was no single candidate for the succession. Some years later, in 994/1585-6, the local provincial authorities transferred four of al-Mut.ahhar's sons, namely Lut.fallâh, 'Alî Yah.yâ, H.ifz.allâh and Ghawth al-Dîn, into exile on the Bosphorus, never to return to their homeland.


A Arabic Language

1) Manuscripts

o Anonymous. Al-T�jân al-wâfirat al-thaman. Cambridge University Library, Arabic MS

Qq 1652.

o F�rüz, Ah.mad b. Yûsuf b. Muh.ammad. Mat.âl�' al-nîrân. Cambridge University Library, Arabic MS Qq 1651.

o Ibn Dâ'ir, 'Abdallâh b. S.alâh. b. Dâ'ud b. 'Alî Al-Futûh.ât al-Murâd�îah fî al-jihât al-

Yamânîyah. Istanbul: Râghib Pasha Library, Arabic MS 979.

o 'Îsâ b. Lut.fallâh b. al-Mut.ahhar b. al-Imâm Sharaf al-Dîn Yah.yâ. Rawh. al-rûh. fî-mâ jarâ ba'da al-mi'ah al-tâsi' min al-fitan wa al-futûh. London: British Library, Arabic MS

Or. 4583.

o Jamâl al-Dîn Muh.ammad b. Ibrâhîm b. b. Ibrâhîm b. 'Alî b. al-Imâm Yah.yâ

Sharaf al-Dîn. Al-Sulûk al-dhahabîyah fî khulâ al-s�îah al-Mutawakkilîyah al-

Yah.yawîyah. London: British Library, Arabic MS Or. 3731.

2) Published Works

o al-H.ibshî, 'Abdallâh Muh.ammad. Mu'allafât h.ukkâm al-Yaman. Wiesbaden, 1979. pp.


o al-Jurâfî, 'Abdallâh b. 'Abd al-Karîm. min târ�kh al-Yaman. Cairo, 1951.

pp. 88-90, 134-41.

o al-Mawza'î, Shams al-Dîn 'Abd al-S.amad b. Ismâ'îl b. 'Abd al-S.amad. Al-Ih.sân fî dukhûl mamlakat al-Yaman tah.ta z.ill âl 'Uthmân, ed. 'Abdallâh Mu�h.mmad al-H.ibshî.'â': Manshûrât Wizârat al-Awqâf wa al-Irshâd no. 4, n.d.

o al-Nahrawâlî, Qut.b al-Dîn Muh.ammad b. Ah.mad al-Makkî. Ghazawât al-Jarâkisah wa

al-Atrâk fî janûb al-Jazîrah = al-Barq al-Yamânî f� al-fath. al-'Uthmânî, ed. H.amad

al-Jâsir. al-Riyâd., 1967.

o Sâlim, Mus.t.afâ Al-Fath. al-'Uthmânî al-awwal li'l-Yaman 1538-1635. Cairo, 1969.

pp. 115-293.

o al-Shawkânî, Muh.ammad b. 'Alî Al-Badr al-t.âli' bi-mah.âsin man ba'da al-qarn al-

sâbi', 2 vols. Beirut, n.d. i, 278-80; ii, 309f.

o Yah.yâ b. al-H.usayn b. al-Qâsim b. Muh.ammad b. 'Alî. Ghâyat al-amânî fî akhbâr al-

qut.r al-Yamânî, ed. Sa'îd 'Abd al-Fattâh. 'Ashûr. Cairo, 1968.

o Zabârah, Muh.ammad b. Muh.ammad. A'immat al-Yaman. Ta'izz, 1375/1955-6. pp.


B Other Languages

o Blackburn, J. Richard. "The Collapse of Ottoman Authority in Yemen". Die Welt des

Islams, xix (1980), 119-76.

o Idem. "The Ottoman Penetration of Yemen: An Annotated Translation of Özdemür Bey's Feth.nâme for the Conquest of'â' in Rajab, 954/August, 1547". Archivum Ottomanicum, vi (1980), 55-100.

o Idem. "Two Documents on the Division of Ottoman Yemen into Two Beglerbegiliks (973/1565)". Turcica, xxvii (1995), 223-36.

o Müneccimbasi Efendi. S.ah.â'if ül-akhbâr. 3 vols. Istanbul, 1285/1868-9. iii, 214-57.

o Râshid, Târîkhî Yemen ve'â. 2 vols. Istanbul, 1291/1874-5. i, 12-145.

o Rustem Pascha. Die osmanischen Chronik des Rustem Pascha, paraphrast Ludwig

Forrer. Türkische Bibliothek, xxi. Leipzig, 1923.

o Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand. Jemen im xi (xvii) Jahrhundert, die Kriege der Türken, die Arabischen Imâme und die Gelehrten. Göttingen, 1884. pp. 3-14.

o Yavuz, H. Yemen'de Osmanli hâkimiyeti (1517-1571). Istanbul, 1984.

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