In , Zaydis of Shibam Kawkaban rebelled and killed Ayyubid soldiers. Imam Abdullah was defeated at first, but was able to conquer Sana'a and Dhamar in , and al-Mu'izz Ismail was assassinated in Abdullah bin Hamza carried on the struggle against the Ayyubid until his death in After his demise, the Zaidi community was split between two rival imams.
The Zaydis were dispersed and a truce was signed with the Ayyubid in The Ayyubid army was defeated in Dhamar in Ayyubid Sultan Mas'ud Yusuf left for Mecca in , never to return. Other sources suggest that he was forced to leave for Egypt instead in The Rasulid Dynasty was established in by Umar ibn Rasul, who was appointed deputy governor by the Ayyubids in When the last Ayyubid ruler left Yemen in , Umar stayed in the country as caretaker.
He subsequently declared himself an independent king by assuming the title "al-Malik Al-Mansur" the king assisted by Allah. Umar established the Rasulid dynasty on a firm foundation and expanded its territory to include the area from Dhofar to Mecca. Umar first established himself at Zabid, then moved into the mountainous interior, taking the important highland centre Sana'a.
However, the Rasulid capitals were Zabid and Taiz. He was assassinated by his nephew in Omar's son Yousef defeated the faction led by his father's assassins and crushed several counter-attacks by the Zaydi imams who still held on in the northern highland. Mainly because of the victories he scored over his rivals, he assumed the honorific title "al-Muzaffar" the victorious.
After the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols in , al-Muzaffar Yusuf I appropriated the title of caliph. He chose the city of Taiz to become the political capital of the kingdom because of its strategic location and proximity to Aden. When the news of his death reached the Zaydi imam Al-Mutawakkil al-Mutahhar bin Yahya , he commented,. The greatest king of Yemen, the Muawiyah of the time, has died. His pens used to break our lances and swords to pieces.
They profited greatly by the Red Sea transit trade via Aden and Zabid. The economy also boomed due to the agricultural development programs instituted by the kings who promoted massive cultivation of palms. The Rasulid kings enjoyed the support of the population of Tihama and southern Yemen, while they had to buy the loyalty of Yemen's restive northern highland tribes. The Rasulid sultans built numerous Madrasas to solidify the Shafi'i school of thought, which is still the dominant school of jurisprudence amongst Yemenis today.
Under their rule, Taiz and Zabid became major international centres of Islamic learning. The kings themselves were learned men in their own right, who not only had important libraries, but who also wrote treatises on a wide array of subjects, ranging from astrology and medicine to agriculture and genealogy. The dynasty is regarded as the greatest native Yemeni state since the fall of pre-Islamic Himyarite Kingdom. They were of Turkic descent.
They claimed an ancient Yemenite origin to justify their rule. The Rasulids were not the first dynasty to create a fictitious genealogy for political purposes, nor were they doing anything out of the ordinary in the tribal context of Arabia. By claiming descent from a solid Yemenite tribe, the Rasulids brought Yemen to a vital sense of unity in an otherwise chaotic regional milieu. They had a difficult relationship with the Mamluks of Egypt because the latter considered them a vassal state.
Their competition centred over the Hejaz and the right to provide kiswa of the Ka'aba in Mecca. The dynasty became increasingly threatened by disgruntled family members over the problem of succession, combined by periodic tribal revolts, as they were locked in a war of attrition with the Zaydi imams in the northern highlands. During the last 12 years of Rasulid rule, the country was torn between several contenders for the kingdom.
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The weakening of the Rasulid provided an opportunity for the Banu Taher clan to take over and establish themselves as the new rulers of Yemen in CE. The Tahirids were a local clan based in Rada'a. While they were not as impressive as their predecessors, they were still keen builders. They built schools, mosques, and irrigation channels, as well as water cisterns and bridges in Zabid, Aden, Rada'a , and Juban. Their best-known monument is the Amiriya Madrasa in Rada' District , which was built in The Tahiride were too weak either to contain the Zaydi imams or to defend themselves against foreign attacks.
The Portuguese posed an immediate threat to the Indian Ocean trade. The Mamluks of Egypt, therefore, sent an army under the command of Hussein Al-Kurdi to fight the intruders. Instead of confronting the Portuguese, the Mamluks, who were running out of food and water, landed their fleet on the Yemen coastline and started to harass Tihama villagers for what they needed. Realizing how rich the Tahiride realm was, they decided to conquer it. The Mamluk victory was short-lived. The Ottomans had not decided to conquer Yemen until The Zaydi highland tribes emerged as national heroes by offering a stiff, vigorous resistance to the Turkish occupation.
The Ottomans had two fundamental interests to safeguard in Yemen: The Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and the trade route with India in spices and textiles—both threatened, and the latter virtually eclipsed, by the arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea in the early 16th century. Yemen is a land with no lord, an empty province. It would be not only possible but easy to capture, and should it be captured, it would be master of the lands of India and send every year a great amount of gold and jewels to Constantinople.
Zabid became the administrative headquarters of Yemen Eyalet. The Ottoman governors did not exercise much control over the highlands. They held sway mainly in the southern coastal region, particularly around Zabid, Mocha , and Aden. Of 80, soldiers sent to Yemen from Egypt between and , only 7, survived. The Ottoman accountant-general in Egypt remarked:.
We have seen no foundry like Yemen for our soldiers. Each time we have sent an expeditionary force there, it has melted away like salt dissolved in water. The Ottomans sent yet another expeditionary force to Zabid in , while Imam al-Mutawakkil Yahya Sharaf ad-Din was ruling the highlands independently. Imam al-Mutawakkil Yahya chose his son Ali to succeed him, a decision that infuriated his other son al-Mutahhar ibn Yahya.
Al-Mutahhar was lame, so was not qualified for the imamate. He urged Oais Pasha, the Ottoman colonial governor in Zabid , to attack his father. Indeed, Ottoman troops supported by tribal forces loyal to Imam al-Mutahhar stormed Taiz and marched north toward Sana'a in August He was considered a competent ruler given Yemen's notorious lawlessness, garrisoning the main cities, building new fortresses, and rendering secure the main routes. He used his authority to take over a number of castles, some of which belonged to the former Rasulid kings. Mahmud Pasha killed a Sunni scholar from Ibb.
The Ottoman historian claimed that this incident was celebrated by the Zaydi Shia community in the northern highlands. Disregarding the delicate balance of power in Yemen by acting tactlessly, he alienated different groups within Yemeni society, causing them to forget their rivalries and unite against the Turks. Mahmud Pasha was displaced by Ridvan Pasha in By , Yemen was split into two provinces, the highlands under the command of Ridvan Pasha and Tihama under Murad Pasha. Imam al-Mutahhar launched a propaganda campaign in which he claimed that prophet Mohammed came to him in a dream and advised him to wage jihad against the Ottomans.
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Al-Mutahhar led the tribes to capture Sana'a from Ridvan Pasha in When Murad tried to relieve Sana'a, highland tribesmen ambushed his unit and slaughtered all of them. Over 80 battles were fought. The last decisive encounter took place in Dhamar around , in which Murad Pasha was beheaded and his head sent to al-Mutahhar in Sana'a.
By , only Zabid remained under the possession of the Turks.
However, the Turkish army in Egypt was reluctant to go to Yemen due to their knowledge of the hegemony of the northern Yemenis. Mustafa Pasha sent a letter with two Turkish shawishes hoping to persuade al-Mutahhar to give an apology and confirm that Mustafa Pasha did not promote any act of aggression against the Ottoman army, and state that the "ignorant Arabian" according to the Turks, acted on their own.
Imam al-Mutahhar refused the Ottoman offer. When Mustafa Pasha sent an expeditionary force under the command of Uthman Pasha, it was defeated with great casualties. He executed a number of sanjak-beys in Egypt and ordered Sinan Pasha to lead the entire Turkish army in Egypt to reconquer Yemen. Sinan Pasha was a prominent Ottoman general of Albanian origin. The siege was lifted once a truce was reached. Imam al-Mutahhar was pushed back, but could not be entirely overcome.
After al-Mutahhar's demise in , the Zaydi community was not united under an imam; the Turks took advantage of their disunity and conquered Sana'a, Sa'dah , and Najran in Imam al-Nasir Hassan was arrested in and exiled to Constantinople , thereby putting an end to the Yemeni rebellion. The Zaydi tribesmen in the northern highlands particularly those of Hashid and Bakil , were ever the Turkish bugbear in all Arabia.
The Ottomans who justified their presence in Yemen as a triumph for Islam, accused the Zaydis of being infidels. Hassan Pasha was appointed governor of Yemen and enjoyed a period of relative peace from to Pupils of al-Mansur al-Qasim suggested he should claim the imamate and fight the Turks. He declined at first, but the promotion of the Hanafi school of jurisprudence at the expense of Zaydi Islam infuriated al-Mansur al-Qasim.
He proclaimed the imamate in September , which was the same year the Ottoman authorities inaugurated al-Bakiriyya Mosque. By , Imam al-Mansur the victorious regained control over the highlands and signed a truce for 10 years with the Ottomans. Imam al-Mansur al-Qasim died in His son Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad succeeded him and confirmed the truce with the Ottomans.
In , the Ottomans lost Aden and Lahej. The reason behind Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad's success was the possession of firearms by the tribes and their unity behind him. In , Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad sent an expeditionary force of 1, men to conquer Mecca. The army entered the city in triumph and killed its governor. The Ottomans were not ready to lose Mecca after Yemen, so they sent an army from Egypt to fight the Yemenites.
Seeing that the Turkish army was too numerous to overcome, the Yemeni army retreated to a valley outside Mecca. Ottoman troops attacked the Yemenis by hiding at the wells that supplied them with water. This plan proceeded successfully, causing the Yemenis over casualties, most from thirst. The tribesmen eventually surrendered and returned to Yemen.
Al-Mu'ayyad Muhammad died in He was succeeded by Al-Mutawakkil Isma'il , another son of al-Mansur al-Qasim, who conquered Yemen in its entirety, from Asir in the north to Dhofar in the east. During his reign, and during the reign of his successor, Al-Mahdi Ahmad — , the imamate implemented some of the harshest discriminatory laws ghiyar against the Jews of Yemen, which culminated in the expulsion of all Jews Exile of Mawza to a hot and arid region in the Tihama coastal plain.
The Qasimid state was the strongest Zaydi state to ever exist.
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During that period, Yemen was the sole coffee producer in the world.