In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Islam in Yemen

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Archaeology
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  • Islamic Law and Tribal Customary Law
  • Sanctuary (Hijra and Hawta) Concept
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Islamic Studies Islam in Yemen
Daniel Martin Varisco
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0093


Yemen plays a prominent role in the early history of Islam. The Christian Yemeni king Abraha is said to have attacked Mecca during the lifetime of Muhammad’s grandfather. The Sassanian governor of Yemen, Bathan, was an early convert to Islam. It is also said that ʿAli, Muhammad’s nephew, brought the message of Islam to Yemen. During the reign of the Ummayid caliph al-Muʿawiyya, Yemen was divided into two regions: the north, centered around the city of Sanʿa’, and the south, around the town of al-Janad. Yemen proved difficult to control under the Abbasid caliphate because of its remoteness and tribal character. In the mid-9th century, the local dynasty of the Yuʿfirids took control of the highlands. At the beginning of the 10th century, the Shiʿa leader Yahya ibn al-Husayn established the Zaydi imamate in the northern highlands of Yemen; this lasted until the Republican revolution of 1962. In the southern highlands, along the Red Sea coast and along the Gulf of Aden, local dynasties evolved, which were often subjected to foreign invasions. The Ayyubids invaded Yemen from Egypt at the end of the 12th century, followed by the Rasulid dynasty until the middle of the 15th century and the first Ottoman Turkish occupation in the mid-16th century. From 1839 to 1967, Britain controlled the major southern seaport of Aden. Most of Yemen remained divided, with the Shiʿa Zaydi school dominant in the north and the Sunni Shafiʿi school most common in the south and along the coast. The Hadramawt region maintained its independence for most of Yemen’s history and established strong links with India and Indonesia through out-migration. Following the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, an Islamist perspective has increased, promoted in part through Saudi Arabian Wahhabi influence. The current state constitution defines Yemen as following Islamic law, with only a small number of Yemenite Jews and no indigenous Christian population. Instability in Yemen following the Arab Spring revolution in 2011 led to the overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Salih, the rise of the Huthis, and the expansion of extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.


General bibliographic resources on Yemen often provide references relative to Islam (Auchterlonie 1998, Mondesir 1977, Stevenson 1994). The Index Islamicus and the AIYS Yemen Bibliography provide references on all aspects of Islam in Yemen. Sayyid 1974 provides a major reference guide to Yemeni manuscripts. Targeted bibliographies are available for Ottomans (Blackburn 1979) and Zaydis (Gochenour 1986, Haykel 2002).

  • AIYS Yemen Bibliography.

    Over 1,000 references through 1990.

  • Auchterlonie, Paul. Yemen. Rev. ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1998.

    Basic bibliographic source for all subjects relating to Yemen, including Islam.

  • Blackburn, J. R. “Arabic and Turkish Source Materials for the Early History of Ottoman Yemen, 945/1538–976/1568.” In Sources for the History of Arabia: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Studies in the History of Arabia, 23rd–28th of April, 1977. Edited by Abdelgadir M. Abdalla, Sami al-Sakkar, and Richard Mortel, 197–210. Studies in the History of Arabia, Part 2, Vol. 1. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: University of Riyadh Press, 1979.

    Focuses on the Ottoman period.

  • Gochenour, D. Thomas. “A Revised Bibliography of Medieval Yemeni History in Light of Recent Publications and Discoveries.” Der Islam 63 (1986): 309–322.

    Focuses on Zaydi sources.

  • Haykel, Bernard. “Recent Publishing Activity by the Zaydis in Yemen: A Select Bibliography.” Chroniques Yéménites 9 (2002): 225–230.

    Focuses on recent Zaydi sources.

  • Index Islamicus.

    Since 1906. Comprehensive bibliography with topical and regional indexes.

  • Mondesir, Simoné. A Select Bibliography of Yemen Arab Republic and Peoples’ Democratic Republic of Yemen. Durham, UK: University of Durham, Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, 1977.

    Dated but still useful bibliography.

  • Sayyid, Ayman Fu’ad. Sources de l’histoire du Yémen à l’époque musulmane. Cairo, Egypt: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale du Caire, 1974.

    Major bibliography of Yemeni manuscripts in Arabic, with a French introduction.

  • Stevenson, Thomas B. Studies on Yemen, 1975–1990: A Bibliography of European-Language Sources for Social Scientists. Westbury, NY: American Institute for Yemeni Studies, 1994.

    Indexed guide to major publications in European languages; includes a bibliography of Yemen bibliographies.

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