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Posts Tagged ‘Khusraw Anushirwan’

SAYF IBN DHI YAZAN – THE CAVALIER OF YEMEN

 

 

Famous historiographer Ibn Khaldun described Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan’s generosity: One may compare the gifts Ibn Dhi Yazan presented to the Qurashite ambassadors. He gave each of them ten pounds (ritl) of gold and silver, and ten slaves and maidservants and one flask of ambergris. To ‘Abd Al-Muttalib he gave ten times as much. Ibn Dhi Yazan’s realm, as it was located in the Yemen, was under the complete control of the Persians at that time. His generosity, however, was caused by high-mindedness, which stemmed from the royal authority that his family, the Tubba’s, has possessed in the Yemen and from the superiority they had once exercised over the nations of two Iraqs, India and the Maghrib. (Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah, I, 360)

 

Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan (سيف بن ذي يزن), of the Himyarite royal line, played an important role in Arabian history in the expulsion of the Abyssinians from South Arabia when they had held away since the time of Dhu Nuwas. A member of the former royal family of the Yemen, Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan, was obliged to expel foreigners from his country and reestablish his ancestors’ dynasty. He started a freedom movement, but when local support proved insufficient for the achievement of his aims, he went to the Persian king in search of military support. Native traditions records that he first sought assistance against the foreign yoke of the Abyssinians at the Byzantine court and later at the court of Persian Khusraw. Khusraw, however, would not risk anything in an enterprise with such hopeless prospects, so he just gave to Sayf a number of criminals out of the jails under a leader whose name was Wahriz in order to assist him. The Abyssinians under Masruk were defeated and driven out of the country and Sayf was installed by the Persians as king.

From this tradition and several Arabic poems, it was concluded that Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan conquered the Abyssinians with the help of the Persian king Khusraw Anushirwan, broke their rule over Yemen and held away over the land of his ancestors under a Persian protectorate. His victory over the Abyssinians may be dated about 570 AD.

After Yazan was installed as king, he was killed by Ethiopian slaves and the Persian army returned bringing southern Arabia under Persian rule and it belonged to the Persian Empire until the time of the prophet Muhammad.

Story of Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan was studied and transmitted among the Muslims from the beginning of the Islamic era. The hero is portrayed as a Muslim warrior of the time before the advent of Islam who fights successfully against pagans establishing the dominion of Islam. He is one of the first genuine Arab heroes. In the romance Sirat Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan the war between the Muslim Arabs and Abyssinians occupies considerable space. The king of Abyssinia, whose conflict with Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan runs throughout the text of the romance, gives a clue of the date of origin of the sirat. In the story he is called Saif Ar’ad and corresponds to the Ethiopian king Saifa Ar’ad who reigned in Abyssinia 1344-72. From this reference it is possible to deduce that the existing versions of the Sirat date from 15th century, during the Mamluk period. However, whole romance did not arose at the same time; some parts were composed and put into circulation earlier. Egypt is the place of origin of the romance or, more precisely, Cairo.

Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan lived in the pre-Islamic period. Like his father Dhu Yazan, he was convicted of the truth of Islam before Muhammad and was won over to the new religion. In place of Muhammad, who had not been yet appeared, in the profession of faith, there is the prophet Ibraheem. In such a way we see that the purpose of the war was the gaining of recognition for the unity of Allah and recognition of the mission of His prophet Ibraheem.

In the romance there are the records of the origins of famous towns, places and buildings, of the bringing of the river Nile into Egypt, numerous travels and adventures, splendid buildings, regions and men that are described in such a picturesque way. Countless are the magic treasures mentioned in the course of the story. The magicians form the greatest obstacle to the believers and Al-Khidr, the helper of Muslims, who regularly overcomes powers of the magicians. This hero and Yemeni ruler traveled throughout ancient Egypt observing the architectural styles and religious rituals. Throughout the romance we find descriptions of ancient Egyptian motifs such as the pursuit for the Book of the Nile as well as the words and names that belong to the pagan Egyptian era, such as that of the sky goddess Nut.

Sirat Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan gives the truthful image of the life in Egypt at the end of Middle Ages and forms valuable historical source.