My Yemeni Village (Part-4)

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To read the previous part of this story, click here.

In pre-Islamic times, Yemen was an important trading centre. Many towns and cities grew rich because of the trade in expensive aromatics (incense). In many parts of Yemen today, one can find find traces of the pre-Islamic Sabaean and Himyaritic kingdoms. In those ancient times, the people living in my country wrote their language using a very beautiful writing system called musnad in Arabic.

Examples of this old form of writing can be seen mainly on rock faces all over Yemen. In our village, several old houses have foundation stones covered with musnad inscriptions. I can not read them, but experts who study this writng system at universities can. This old South Arabian script had 29 letters.

The example of musnad writing in the picture comes from an area not far from Al-Ashrafiyyah village. Some villagers there told me the meaning of this inscription. It discusses the reconstruction of a border castle between the kingdoms of Himyar and Saba'.

After Yemen embraced Islam and we began to read the Holy Qur'an, the Arabic script quickly replaced the musnad system of writing. Today, whenever we see examples of musnad inscriptions, we remember that Yemen has a very ancient history.  

All Muslim in Yemen have a special fondness for Mu'adh ibn in Jabal Ansari(Rh) the beloved Companiion of the Prophet (SM) because of his very important connection with our country.

As a very young boy, I remember hearing the stories of Mu'adh ibn Jabal. Mu'adh grew up in Yathrib (Al-Madinah) and embraced Islam before the hijrah. He visited the Prophet(SM)in Makkah where he pledged his allegiance to him. Mu'adh was an excellent student of Islam. The Prophet(SM) reportedly said, "The most knowledgeable of my ummah in matters of halaI and haram is Mu'adh ibn Jabal."

Various kings of Yemen sent messages to the Prophet(SM) in Al-Madinah informing him that they and their people had accepted Islam. The Muslims in Yemen now needed du'at, wise teachers to instruct them in their new religion. The Prophet(SM), therefore, chose Mu'adh ibn Jabal as governor of Yemen and as leader of a group of du'at to be sent there.

Before leaving for Yemen, the Prophet(SM) asked Mu'adh how he would rule the area. "Should any problem arise, I will first try to solve it using the wisdom of the Holy Qur'an. If that fails, I will seek an answer in your sunnah. If this too is unsuccessful, I will issue my own orders in line with the revelations of Allah," Mu'adh replied. Our Prophet(SM) was very pleased with this answer and prayed that all rulers of the world govern in this way.

Last summer, I visited the Great Mosque in the village of Al-Janad, not far from the city of Taizz. This is one of the oldest and most important mosques in all of Yemen. Mu'adh ibn Jabal spent many years preaching in this very mosque. Its tall, single white minaret proclaims Allah's Oneness and reminds us of the foremost goal in the life of Mu'adh ibn Jabal (Ra), may Allah be pleased with him.

The first minarets of Islam (from the Arabic manarah meaning "lighthouse") in Islam were probably just a few external steps leading to a roof top.

The minaret as we know it today started as a square and then became an 8-sided octagon. Finally, it became a cylinder topped with a small dome.

There are many types of minarets built in Yemen. In the mountains, local stone, of course, is used as a building material. My father designed and built the stone minaret you see here. A staircase inside the minaret takes the muezzin to the top window from where he begins to recite the adhan : Allahu Akbar.

In other parts of Yemen, a mixture of mud and straw is used to make bricks. These, in turn, are used to make minarets which are sometimes covered with plaster and then painted. Beautiful Qur'anic ayahs are often written in brick around their bases. For example, another minaret in the picture has ayah al-kursi (the "Throne Verse") inscribed at its base.

Al-Hamdulillah, I am a Muslim who lives in a land as old as Islam itself ! We in Yemen have been builders in stone for thousands of years. Our traditional way of life links us directly with our past. Insha Allah, I will become a master builder of minarets, just like my father. Insha Allah, my minarets will remain standing for centuries and will always call Muslims to din al-haqq.

To read the first part of this story, click here.

Luqman Nagy

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