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Lecture | Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series

Keynote Lecture: Zaydis, Salafis and Houthis and Their Engagement with the Islamic Tradition in Yemen

Monday 22 January 2024
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Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series
Online via Zoom
Window in Dhar Al Hajjar palace, Yemen (1986) | Bernard Gagnon
Window in Dhar Al Hajjar palace, Yemen (1986) | Bernard Gagnon

This talk will discuss the various ways Zaydis, Salafis and Houthis have engaged with the Islamic scholarly tradition in Yemen. It will argue that in each case there have been attempts--since at least the 17th century and until recent times--by Zaydi and Salafi scholars on the one hand and more recently by Houthi activists on the other to reformulate the sources of religious authority. This involved the tafsir tradition and its exegesis of the Qur’an but also other textual sources of authority such as the hadith. Three individuals will be highlighted in the talk and they are: Imam al-Mansur al-Qasim ibn Muhammad (d. 1620), Muhammad al-Shawkani (d. 1834) and Husayn ibn Badr al-Din al-Huthi (d. 2004). Each of these three men attempted to reconfigure the “tradition” by claiming to be engaged in a return to the “true” sources of religious authority, a process amounting to the “sanitization of the tradition” from centuries of accumulated scholastic commentary and opinion, and which, they claim, has led the believers astray from Islam's central teachings.  Their respective projects can be understood as an attempt to arrogate power to the promoters of a specifically reconstituted form of the tradition.

About Bernard Haykel

Bernard Haykel is a scholar of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing on the history of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. He is professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of “Revival and Reform in Islam” and editor of “Saudi Arabia in Transition,” both published by Cambridge University Press, and also of numerous articles on a variety of pre-modern and modern topics.  He is presently completing a book on the modern political history of Saudi Arabia. Professor Haykel has supervised over 10 PhD dissertations that deal with Arabian politics and history and has received several prominent awards, such as the Prize Fellowship at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, and the Carnegie Corporation and Guggenheim fellowships. He earned his doctorate in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford under the supervision of Prof. Wilfred Madelung and Dr. Paul Dresch.

The Leiden Yemeni Studies Lecture Series is supported by the Horizon-2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project EMStaD YEMEN.

An overview of all events in this series can be found on the series page.

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