The Yufirids (Arabic: بنو يعفر, romanized: Banū Yuʿfir) were an Islamic Himyarite dynasty that held power in the highlands of Yemen from 847 to 997. The name of the family is often incorrectly rendered as "Yafurids". They nominally acknowledged the suzerainty of the Abbasid caliphs. Their centres were San'a and Shibam. The Yufirids followed Sunni Islam.
Rise of the dynasty
At the time when the direct rule of the Abbasids over Yemen declined, the Yufirids from Shibam began to expand their power base in the Yemeni highland. They claimed descent from the Himyarite kings. The first attack on San'a in 841 failed miserably and the Abbasid governor received troops from Iraq for assistance. Nevertheless, the Yufirids were able to successfully repel the counterattacks against their stronghold in Shibam. In 847 they conquered the area between Sa'dah and Ta'izz. San'a fell to their arms when the governor Himyar ibn al-Harith fled from Yemen. It became the headquarters of the new dynasty for a while.
Internal feuds and temporary eclipse
After a stable reign of 25 years the founder of the dynasty, Yu'fir bin ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān al-Ḥiwālī al-Ḥimyārī left the affairs of the state to his son Muhammad in 872. Muhammad preferred to use Shibam as the capital of his kingdom, rather than San'a. In 873 he received a diploma of confirmation from the Abbasid caliph. Muhammad ruled over Sa'na, Janad and Hadramawt but paid formal deference to the Ziyadid dynasty in the Tihama lowland. A flood that inundated San'a in 876 served as the motive for Muhammad to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca and henceforth devote his time to religion. The reins of government were given to his son Ibrahim who murdered his father and uncle in the mosque of Shibam in 892 (or 882) to ensure that there would be no pretensions of power from that direction. The instigator of the murders was none but his own grandfather, the ex-ruler Yu'fir. Now, however, a series of revolts led to the expulsion of the Yufirids from San'a. An Abbasid governor took charge of the city for a while, but after 895 conditions turned increasingly chaotic.
Competition for San'a
At the beginning of the tenth century there were struggles between the followers of the Zaydiyyah brand of Islam and other polities of the Yemeni highlands. The first Zaydi imam al-Hadi ila'l-Haqq Yahya temporarily took over San'a in 901 but was later forced to leave the city. In the same period Ibn Haushab and Ali bin al-Fadl disseminated the creed of the Fatimids among the highland tribes and acquired a great following. The two leaders are usually referred as Qarmatians although they were actually appointed as da'is (leaders) by the Fatimid ruler. They were able to conquer San'a in 905, and limit the kingdom of the Yufirids to Shibam and Kawkaban. For long periods the Yufirid ruler Abū Ḥassān Asʿad bin Ibrāhīm had to stay in the Jawf region further to the north. San'a shifted hands with great frequency in this period; from 901 to 913 the city is said to have been conquered 20 times, surrendered through negotiation three times, and been unsuccessfully besieged five times. Eventually the dynasty managed to defeat the followers of the Fatimids and win back San'a in 916.
Abū Ḥassān Asʿad died in 944 and was, as it turned out, the last grand Yufirid leader. In the middle of the tenth century the decline of the dynasty set in as the members of the family feuded with each other. The Zaydi imam al-Mukhtar al-Qasim managed to acquire San'a in 956 but was murdered in the same year by a Hamdan chief called Ibn al-Dahhak who dominated politics until 963 and acknowledged the Ziyadids in Zabid. Next, a chief from Khawlan called al-Asmar Yusuf set up the prince Abdallah bin Qahtan on the throne. Abdallah had a long and turbulent reign and successfully attacked the Ziyadids in 989, investing and plundering Zabid. He then stopped mentioning the Abbasids in the khutba and instead adhered to the Egyptian Fatimid caliph. Abdallah died in 997 and was succeeded by his son As'ad (II). However, the authority of the Yufirids in San'a now vanished and they had no significance anymore. The clan is occasionally mentioned in the chronicles until as late as 1280.
List of rulers
- Yu'fir bin Abd ar-Rahman (847-872)
- Muhammad bin Yu'fir (872-892 or 872-882), son
- Abd al-Qahir bin Ahmad bin Yu'fir (892), nephew
- Ibrahim bin Muhammad (892-898 or 882-886), son of Muhammad bin Yu'fir
- Reign of the Qarmatians in San'a (905-916)
- As'ad bin Ibrahim (c. 898-944), son of Ibrahim bin Muhammad
- Muhammad bin Ibrahim (944-956), brother
- Abdallah bin Qahtan (963-997), grandson
- G. Rex Smith, "Politische Geschichte des islamischen Jemen bis zur ersten türkischen Invasion" in Werner Daum, Jemen, Frankfurt am Main, p. 137.
- H.C. Kay, Yaman: Its early medieval history, London 1892, p. 223-4.
- R.B. Serjeant & R. Lewcock, San'a'; An Arabian Islamic City, London 1983, p. 55.
- G. Rex Smith, "Politische Geschichte des islamischen Jemen bis zur ersten türkischen Invasion" in Werner Daum, Jemen, Frankfurt am Main, p. 138.
- R.B. Serjeant & R. Lewcock, San'a'; An Arabian Islamic City, London 1983, p. 56.
- Enzyklopädie des Islam, Vol. III, Leiden 1936, p. 155.
- H.C. Kay, Yaman: Its early medieval history, London 1892, pp. 225-7.