Monday, May 11, 2009

Wahhabism in Yemen

It's worth taking a look at how Wahhabi Islam actually spreads, which is many contexts is unrelated to opposition to westernization. Here's what Shelagh Weir says in her book A Tribal Order: Politics and Law in the Mountains of Yemen:
"One of the remarkable features of the Sunni-Wahhabi movement was that it flourished in the birthplace and heartlands of Zaydi-Shi'ism. This was largely because it tapped a hitherto dormant resentment of key tenets of Zaydi doctrine still manifest there - especially the sayyid claim to religious authority and social superiority on the grounds of religious descent, which Wahhabis felt contravened Islamic ideals by promoting inequality.

"The most public and active converts to Wahhabism in Razih were shibab (young men -ed.) from some qabili and most 'butcher' families (lower states -ed.). These young men, who were struggling to find work and marriage payments, and were traditionally subordinate to their elders and 'betters,' were attracted to Islah (which they equated with Wahhabism) by its welfare program, and to Wahhabism by its egalitarianism. They credited their education for their conversion. In contrast to their mostly illiterate fathers, who had depended on religious specialists for guidance, they had attended the first secondary schools (which opened in Razih in the 1980s), and had studied the Sunni texts then flooding Yemen and formed their own opinions...

Many Razihi shaykhs also supported Wahhabi-Sunnism. They resented their unequal marriage relations with sayyids, and being humiliatingly rebuffed when they applied to marry sharifahs. They also hoped the pro-shaykh and anti-sayyid thrust of Islah would strengthen their positions and bring material benefits, as had happened among shaykhs in the Sa'dah region."

It is in the social and political context that specific religious practices gained meaning as signs of identity and ideology.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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Blogger Jonathan Dresner said...

A lot of religions have spread due to their egalitarianism, or at least leveraged it in useful ways. Buddhism comes to mind, and early Christianity.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am sayyid from tribe al jamalullail from greater baalawi tribe of hadhramaut in indonesia. i am convert to wahhabi or salafusholih 2 years ago.

7:37 PM  

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