History through the Looking Glass
After the revolution, the second major challenge to the Zaydi sadah has been the Sunni reform movement which arose in the 1970s. The Zaydis, for their part, have begun to interrogate both Yemeni and Muslim history, and there has been a modest re-assertion of Zaydi Islam. However, Ahmad al-Husaynat’s narrative (chapter 11) suggests that some sadah feel that to an extent Zaydi knowledge has become a kind of “unofficial” memory. Several chapters demonstrate how Zaydi thought and history shape but also haunt people like him. Some have abandoned the Zaydiyyah and have turned to Sunni schools of thought. Others like Husayn b. Badr al-Din al-Huthi, a former Member of Parliament, challenged the government on current political issues and paid with his life. Generally, the main carriers of Zaydi Islam (but by no means exclusively) are members of the old elite who have suffered prejudice in the republic and experienced hostility from Sunni radicals who consider the Shi‘a to be heretic.1 The Shi‘a, above all its Zaydi branch, has always engaged in discourses of righteousness that often resulted in rebellious activities. The 1979 revolution in Iran, which ended centuries of quietist anticipation of the mahdi’s arrival, became strongly associated with that tradition. Meanwhile, with few exceptions, this pattern has been reversed.
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