¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 [This paper was presented to solicit comments on a current project compiling a Handbook of Ayyubid and Rasulid Yemen. It was delivered at a panel bringing together scholars who work on Rasulid Yemen with those who work on the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods in Egypt and Syria. I would appreciate any comments that readers have for this ongoing project. After the paper I give my preliminary table of contents for the handbook. My email is provided above.]
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Historians are fortunate to have a substantial archive of manuscripts and scholarly research on the period of the Mamluks who ruled Egypt and Syria from ca. 1250-1517 CE. But far less attention has been paid to their southern post-Ayyubid rivals, the Rasulids, who came to power in Yemen in 1229 and maintained control until 1454. There are several reasons why historians of the Mamluks should also be interested in Ayyubid and Rasulid Yemen. Most importantly, in both Egypt and Yemen the retainers of the Ayyubid sultans became the new rulers, so a comparative study of this phenomenon is long overdue.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 My remarks today are presented to spur interest in the study of Ayyubid and Rasulid Yemen as an integral part of the regional network from the 12th through the 15th centuries. I am currently compiling a Handbook of Ayyubid and Rasulid Yemen for Brill and would appreciate comments and advice from colleagues on how best to create a text that will be of broader use for anyone interested in this crucial time period. Ironically, the chronicle of the Rasulid court historian, al-Khazraj? (d. 812/1410) was edited, albeit poorly in Egypt, and translated by Sir James Redhouse just over a century ago, but apart from the British historian Rex Smith and more recently the young French historian Eric Vallet, there has been limited attention paid to the history of the Rasulids by Western scholars. David King has examined the astronomy, I have focused on agriculture and my fellow panelists have contributed to a better understanding of the Ayyubid and Rasulid era in Yemen, but we are few.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Apart from the major chronicles of al-Khazraj?, Ibn ??tim and a few others, our knowledge of the Rasulid state under al-Malak Mu?affar Y?suf, the second Rasulid ruler, is facilitated by the so-called late 13th century Yemeni Doomsday book, entitled N?r al-ma‘?rif by Muhammad J?zm in his edition of the text. 1 This source includes details on taxes, customs, salaries, Yemeni production and a variety of data that flesh out the standard historical accounts of rebellions and political intrigue. Eric Vallet has utilized the financial details in his excellent survey, and I am going through N?r al-ma‘?rif with a fine-toothed comb for the Brill handbook. A tax treatise from the reign of al-Mu?affar’s son, al-Malik al-Mu’ayyad D?w?d, also edited by Mu?ammad J?zm, and the 15th century Mulukhkha? al-fitan, edited by Rex Smith, allow for comparative analysis of the evolution of the administrative structure and the tax base. 2 In addition, the mixed manuscript prepared for al-Malik al-Af?al ‘Abb?s in the mid 14th century includes administrative and tax records as well as a range of literary and scientific excerpts and original works. 3
The Ayyubid-Rasulid Transition
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 In 1173 CE, when T?r?nsh?h, the brother of the Ayyubid founder ?al?? al-D?n, conquered the Yemeni coast and southern highlands, among his mercenary officers was Shams al-D?n ‘Al? ibn Ras?l, who fathered four sons. One of these sons, the emir N?r al-D?n ‘Umar, was left in charge when the last Ayyubid monarch, al-Malik al-Mas‘?d, left Yemen in 1229. How could an Ayyubid emir of Oghuz Turkish background break away from Ayyubid control of Yemen, receive the blessing of the Abbasid caliph and create a dynasty that lasted a little over two centuries? First, it seems that N?r al-D?n ‘Umar was no ordinary emir; his father and brothers had done much of the fighting and diplomacy in Yemen, since the Ayyubid rulers sent there seldom had any interest in staying. This was especially true of the young son of al-K?mil, al-Malik al-Mas‘?d, who had been given a trial run at leadership in Yemen, but was finally chosen by his father to take control of Syria. As he left Yemen in in 626/1229 to become governor of Damascus, it is said that he looted much of the royal treasury as well as extorting from merchants and landowners. This included 1,000 eunuchs, 500 crates of clothing, precious wood, gemstones and 70,000 gold embroidered robes, all of which took some 70 ships to transport back to Egypt. 4 In his stead he appointed N?r al-D?n as his deputy until a new sultan could be sent from Cairo.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Three years later N?r al-D?n ‘Umar took the name of al-Malik al-Man??r and initiated the Rasulid dynasty, recognized in 631/1234 by al-Mustan?ir (d. 1242), the contemporary caliph in Baghdad. With the Ayyubids embroiled in battles with the Crusaders and the caliph upset at the actions of the Zayd? imams in Yemen’s north, it was surely the Machiavellian thing to do in legitimizing a new dynasty in Yemen, especially one that was close to Mecca and had ambitions there. When al-Man??r began his own dynasty, the Ayyubid sultan al-K?mil was in no position to regain control of Yemen, given his trials with the Crusaders and instability at home. Egypt also depended on the trade route through the Red Sea via the port of Aden to the Indian Ocean. Thus, it was better to accept or at least acquiesce to Rasulid control of Yemen, hardly a threat to the Mamluk control of Egypt and Syria, than risk sending troops to wrest power away from the rebellious emir.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Al-Man??r had little problem maintaining control of the Tih?ma coastal region and southern highlands, but he was in continual conflict with the Zayd? imams and their tribal supporters in the north. The northern city of ?an‘?’ was especially difficult to hold, although he was able to spend an entire year there in 646/1248. He vied with al-K?mil for control of Mecca, lavishing gifts on the ka‘ba and establishing a madrasa. Al-Man??r was assassinated by his guards in 647/1249 at the instigation of a nephew. This was an inauspicious start for the dynasty, but his son al-Malik al-Mu?affar Y?suf was able to create a stable state structure over his 46 year rule that secured at least nominal control over the bulk of Yemen, including the port of Dhofar, currently on the Omani coast. 5
The Rasulid Bureaucracy
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 As historian Rex Smith has argued, the administrative and fiscal influences on Rasulid government came from a variety of sources. 6 Since the early Rasulids were originally in the service of the Ayyubids, it is not surprising that their administrative structure parallels this earlier system, which in turn had maintained a number of elements from the previous Fatimid rule in Egypt and Zengid practices in Syria. The nominal control of the Ayyubids meant that a number of indigenous Yemeni practices, especially those of the Zuray‘ids, who were displaced from Zab?d, continued. Finally, the ongoing relationship with the Mamluk sultans in Egypt also influenced the development of Rasulid governance.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 As a hereditary system, and one in which a sultan’s sons and relatives were placed in high positions of authority, the seat of government was the royal court, generally known as al-b?b al-shar?f. Overseeing the royal family required an official secretary (k?tib) to handle the domestic affairs, keep track of visitors, regulate access to the sultan and work closely with a variety of government officials. The sultan needed a cadre of officials to actually run the affairs of the domain, and many of these enjoyed the luxuries of the elite. One of the main authorities was the vizier (waz?r), a kind of first minister who would per force need to be trusted by the sultan. The vizier was often chosen to engage in negotiations for the sultan and oversaw collection of the revenues from the various districts. The exact powers of the vizier varied according to the sultan. Some were delegated power to act on their own and others were limited to doing the sultan’s bidding. It is clear that they often served an advisory role at the sultan’s court. The royal princes had advisors that could be called by the term waz?r as well. Another official with a similar role was the n?’ib or deputy, a term that appears to have been introduced during the reign of al-Malik al-Mu’ayyad for a newly arrived Mamluk emir.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 As the Rasulid holdings were consolidated and expanded, the bureaucracy evolved. The government administration as such is referred to in the time of al-Mu?affar by several terms (al-d?w?n, al-d?w?n al-kh???, al-d?w?n al-sa‘?d) as distinct from the specific official structure associated with the ruler (al-d?w?n al-sul??n?). The usage of al-d?w?n al-sa‘?d was also found in Fatimid and Ayyubid Egypt. Eric Vallet believes that this term reinforces the legitimacy of the administration as something stable and permanent and at the same time inseparable from the ruler. 7 G. Rex Smith suggests that the term d?w?n pragmatically refers to the civil service as a whole. 8 A wide variety of officials at various levels evolved, as noted in the list in Table 1.
Table 1. Officials and Bureaucrats in Rasulid Yemen 9
|am?r-?kh?r||head of stable|
|am?r ‘alam al-b?b al-sa?d||standard bearer of the august court|
|karr?n?||secretary or clerk|
|k?tib||secretary or official in general|
|k?tib al-wu??l?t||recorder of those arriving at the port|
|mash?’ikh al-fur?a||heads of the custom service|
|muq?i‘||holder of revenue estate (iq??‘)|
|mushidd al-b?b||inspector general|
|mustawf? al-b?b||comptroller general|
|q???||appointed religious judge|
|sh?hid ?und?q||book keeper|
|‘uraf?’ al-s??il||coastal inspectors|
|ust?dh al-d?r||marshall of the household|
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Within Yemen the sultan could confiscate land and property and do with it as he pleased, although in theory he had to operate within the strictures of Islamic law. The main concern, although to a lesser sense than under Ayyubid rule, was the revenue from annual taxes and the customs at the port of Aden. To ensure that the revenue was collected, the sultan would appoint a muq?i‘, a person in charge of a revenue estate or iq??‘, a term often erroneously translated as a “fief” in the medieval European sense. 10 Under the Rasulids this was essentially a usufruct right and was not permanent. Like the Mamluk system, the iq??‘ in Yemen was closely monitored in the administrative structure, since local rebellions against authority of the state were always a threat, even with trusted emirs. This appears to have been a greater problem in Mamluk Egypt and Syria than Rasulid Yemen. The most important tax regions were often given to relatives of the sultan or to powerful emirs known for their ability to win battles or influence the locals. In areas that were difficult to control, such as ?an‘?’, the muq?i‘ rarely lasted long in his post.
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 The key to Rasulid success lay in the ability to raise revenue. In addition to the allowed Islamic taxes, the sultans reserved the right to raise other kinds of taxes. Al-Malik al-Man??r, the first ruler, created a special tax on farm produce in 1247 CE, which was very unpopular and later abolished by his son, al-Mu?affar. As a result of the continual need to replenish the royal treasury, a bureaucratic administration was necessary. One of the most important government offices was the royal crop tax bureau (d?w?n al-khar?j al-sul??n?), for which there were designated districts. An account of the revenues from crop taxes by region exists for the reign of al-Malik al-Mu’ayyad near the start of the 14th century. 11 Customs levied on ships in the major Yemeni ports, most notably in Aden but also in al-Shi?r and the coastal port for Zab?d, provided substantial income for the Rasulid state. At the time of al-Malik al-Mu’ayyad in the early 14th century the annual revenue was almost 3.9 million dinars, with 20% coming from the port of Aden, 3% from the southern port of al-Shi?r, 35% from the mountain crop taxes and 42% from the Tih?ma crops. 12
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 The 15th century Mulakhkha? al-fitan mentions three other specific administrative bureaus. 13 One is simply called d?w?n al-kh???, a “special bureau” that Smith suggests was a kind of statistical office for registering taxes. A second is the d?w?n al-?al?l, in charge of the property of the sultan, whose personal income is derived from it. The third is the military or d?w?n al-jaysh There was no single military force, but rather a variety of groups, including the palace guard known as the Ba?riyya mamluks. 14 Mercenary slave corps, which were continually renewed, were at the disposal of the monarch, but local emirs usually had their own militia as well. At times the ad hoc tribal militia would side with the sultan, usually for a price. The history of the dynasty suggests that the sultan could not have complete trust in these groups, so he tended to lavish gifts to win their support. The bureau included a number of financial officers and bookkeepers to regulate salaries and supply needs for the soldiers and officers.
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 There were a number of special offices with varying administrative functions. One of the most secretive government offices was that of the royal treasury (al-khiz?na al-ma‘m?ra), spread out in various strongholds, including the well fortified fortress of al-Dumluwa. The port customs house (fur?a) was responsible for storing and assessing goods on which customs were due. A special building was dedicated to this in Aden. In addition to commercial activities, both the Ayyubids and Rasulids protected the sea travel lanes from pirates through the use of a state-sponsored coast guard, the shaw?n? ships. Supervisors were also needed for the Rasulid fortresses (al-?us?n al-ma?r?sa), which could also serve as prisons. These would submit annual reviews of the state of each fortress and meet with the waz?r, who was the link between them and the sultan. Officials were also needed for the state stables (al-i??abl?t al-sa‘?da) to house the mounts of the sultan, his family, officials and soldiers and for veterinary services. For the immediate service of the sultan and his officials, there was also an office in charge of provisions (?aw?’ij-kh?na), including the royal kitchen (al-ma?bakh al-kab?r) and official scribes. Several of the sultans maintained royal gardens, especially in the two capitals, and these required gardeners and other officials.
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Briefly, what were the major differences in the formation and evolution of the Rasulid state from the Mamluks, the latter gaining power almost two decades after the Rasulids? My reading of early Mamluk history, which is still in a preliminary stage, suggests several factors. First, the Mamluks faced opposition from the Crusaders and then from a sequence of Mongol invasions. It was difficult enough to try to control both Egypt and Syria, let alone opening a new front to retake Yemen. While the Rasulids were in continual conflict with the northern Zayd?s, there was no outside threat to their rule. Second, the Mamluk phenomenon has been characterized as a “highly urbanised society” (Irwin 1986:156), given the importance of Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo. Yemen boasted no major urban centers throughout the Rasulid era; the population was mostly rural and the majority were sedentary tribal farmers. Although Zab?d was a major educational and trade center, it never developed into a cosmopolitan city. The lack of potable water at Aden mitigated its expansion into a large port town.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Third, the succession of sultans in Yemen was relatively stable compared with the violent rivalry that characterized the Mamluks. Levanoni has argued that Mamluk polity conceived of the sultan as leader of a coalition, which was caused by the incessant factional strife, rather than a hereditary dynasty, 15 but in Yemen the succession was clearly dynastic from the start. The Rasulid sultan was styled as both malik (“king”) and sultan. By the time of al-Malik al-Af?al in the mid 14th century, the epithets had expanded to the point where he is lauded as al-sul??n al-mu‘a??am (the exalted sultan) and al-im?m al-a‘?am (the supreme religious leader), the latter perhaps a dig at the troublesome Zayd? leaders who were called imams. 16 While al-Man??r was killed by his own troops, his son al-Mu?affar ruled for over four decades, longer than any Ayyubid or Mamluk sultan. Upon the sultan’s death in 1295 CE, the Zayd? imam al-Mu?ahhar ibn Ya?y? is reputed to have said: “The mighty Tubba‘ has died; the Mu‘?wiya of the age has died; the one whose reed pens have broken our swords and our spears has died.” This was indeed a left-handed compliment, comparing his rival al-Mu?affar to the legendary pagan Himyarite king Tubba‘ and the hated Umayyad caliph Mu‘?wiya. Unlike the Mamluk case, where emirs were rarely trusted and easily replaced or killed, there was less rivalry between the emirs and the ruling family in the Rasulid state. Fourth, the Rasulid emirs and sultans built up better relations with the local population than most of the Mamluk rulers did in Egypt or Syria. The chronicles record a stream of diplomatic moves and truces between the Rasulids and the Zayd? imams.
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 One of the key factors that influenced cooperation, or at least a minimum of conflict, was the importance of international trade through the port of Aden to India and beyond, an issue studied in depth by Roxani Margariti. 17 The K?rim? syndicate, which monopolized several key imports, was able to work with both regimes, at least during the 13th and early 14th centuries. This trade network was very important soon after the Rasulids came to power, given the turmoil of the overland route created by the initial Mongol invasions. While my handbook is not intended to compare the Rasulids with the Mamluks directly, this is obviously a significant research topic that I hope other scholars will pursue. We would certainly welcome more colleagues, especially young scholars looking for a niche, to join the Bani and Ibna Bani Rasul guild.
1971 IK??‘. The Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition) III:1088-1091.
1986 The Middle East in the Middle Ages: The Early Mamluk Sultanate, 1250-1382. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
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2008 Irtif?‘ al-dawla al-Mu’ayyad?ya. ?an‘?’: Al-Ma‘had al-Frans? li-al-?th?r wa al-‘Ul?m al-Ijtim?‘?ya bi-?an‘?’ and al-Ma‘had al-Alm?n? li-al-?th?r.
1906-1918 al-‘Uq?d al-lu’lu’ya f? ta’r?kh al-dawla al-Ras?l?ya. The Pearl Strings; A History of the Res?liyy Dynasty of Yemen. London: Luzac and Co. (Editor and translator: J.W. Redhouse; five volumes).
1983 Mathematical Astronomy in Medieval Yemen. A Biobibliographic Survey. Malibu: Undena.
1994 The Mamluk Conception of the Sultanate. International Journal of Middle East Studies 26(3):373-392.
2007 Aden and the Indian Ocean Trade: 150 Years in the Life of a Medieval Arabian Port. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
1969 The Ayyubids and Rasulids – the Transfer of Power in 7th/13th Century Yemen. Islamic Culture 43:175-88.
1978 The Ayyubids and Early Rasulids in the Yemen (567/694/1173-1295). London: Luzac. (two volumes).
2005 The Rasulid Administration in ninth/fifteenth century Yemen – Some government departments and officials. Studia Semitica: The Journal of Semitic Studies Jubilee Volume, edited by Philip S. Alexander et al. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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2010 L’Arabie Marchande: État et Commerce sous les Sultans Ras?lides du Yémen (626-858/1229-1454). Bibliothèque Historique des Pays d’Islam, 1. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne.
1993 Texts and Pretexts: The Unity of the Rasulid State in the Reign of al-Malik al-Mu?affar. Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Méditerranée 67(1):13-21.
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(1998) The Manuscript of al-Malik al-Afdal: al-‘Abbâs b. ‘Alî Dâwud b. Yûsuf b. ‘Umar b. ‘Alî Ibn Rasûl (d. 778/1377): A Medieval Arabic Anthology from the Yemen. London: Gibb Memorial Trust.
Preliminary Table of Contents
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 This will probably change somewhat as the material is added. I provide a few subheadings for illustration at this stage. My idea is to provide enough information so that each volume could in theory stand on its own.
Handbook of Ayyubid and Rasulid Yemen: Volume 1: General
Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0
2. Political History
Sultan and Royal Household
4. Money, Weights and Measures
5. Local Economy
6. International Trade
7. Daily Life
Support for Mecca
Mosques and Madrasas
Astronomy and Astrology
2. Commodities Traded through Yemen’s Ports
7. Handbook of Ayyubid and Rasulid Yemen: Volume 2: Agriculture
Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0
Part I: Agriculture in the Rasulid Context
1. The Rasulid Agricultural Corpus
2. Land and Soil
3. Water Resources and Irrigation
Rainfall and Rain Seasons
Cisterns and Water Reservoirs
Qanats (Underground Infiltration Galleries)
Water Law and Rights
4. Seasonal Reckoning
5. Cultivation Methods (include labor costs)
Leveling and Scraping
Plant Care and Protection
Manure and Fertilizer Use
Harvesting and Processing
6. Cultivated Crops of Yemen
Classification of Crops
Fruits and Vegetables
Herbs and Spices
Fabric and Dye Plants
Part II: Translations of Texts
(1) Mil? al-mal??a f? ‘ilm al-fil??a (The Fine Science of Elegance in the Knowledge of Agriculture)
(2) Abridged Bughyat al-fall???n
Part III: Glossaries
- ¶ 55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0
- See J?zm (2003-2005) for the Arabic edition. ↩
- See Smith (2006) for the Arabic facsimile and a translation. ↩
- See Varisco and Smith (1998) for the Arabic text and Varisco (1996) for a brief survey. ↩
- This is reported by al-Khazraj? (1911(1):42-43). ↩
- See Varisco (1993) for a discussion of al-Mu?affar’s reign. ↩
- Smith (2005:228-229). ↩
- Vallet (2010:254-55). ↩
- Smith (2005:230). ↩
- For more details, see Smith (2005:237-244). ↩
- As Cahen (1971:1088) notes, the nature of this iq??‘ system varied over time and from place to place. ↩
- This is edited by Jazm (2008). ↩
- Vallet (2010:249), who has an extensive analysis of the commerce and taxation during the Rasulid era. ↩
- See Smith (2005, 2006) for more details. ↩
- This term is derived from Egypt. ↩
- Levanoni (1994:374). ↩
- These terms, among other glowing attributes, are recorded in the introduction to a work by al-Malik al-Af?al on the duties of rulers (Traini 2005). ↩
- See Margariti (2007). ↩