Religion in Yemen

Yemen holds close to their religion, which for the most part is Islamic. There is less than 1 percent of Yemen that follows other religions. When Israel became an independent state in 1948, most of the Yemeni Jews moved to Israel, leaving the rest of the country to practice Islam together. There are a few small Christian and Hindu groups in South Yemen and are considered the largest non Muslim group in the country.

In Arabic, Islam means “submission” and Allah means “God.” Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel was given messages from Allah to give to the prophet Muhammad. The holy scriptures of the Quran contain these messages. While this monotheistic religion does contain roots with the Christian and Jewish religions, they are very different throughout the worship.

There are the five pillars of Islam, which Muslims strive to fulfill. These include: pray five times each day, give charity, declare faith to Allah and his prophet, fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca (the Holy city) once in a lifetime.

While Sunday is considered the religious day of the week for Christians, it is Friday for the Muslims. The men will go to the mosque and pray and listen to teachings while the women will pray either in the home or in separate parts of the mosque.

One of the most important aspects to the Muslims is that of modesty. This is interpreted throughout the world very differently. Strict Muslims believe that women should be covered from head to toe whenever they appear in public. Some of the women in Yemen follow this style, however there are some women (as well as men) who will dress in Western styles, especially in some of the more populated cities. It is therefore common to see either style of dress on the women and should be respected.

There are two main branches of the Islam religion, caused by a split in beliefs. The Sunni Islam is the orthodox branch and believes that the leaders can come from all Muslims. The Shiite Muslims believe that only descendants of Muhammad can become imams.

It’s important to also recognize the Islamic holy days. They follow a lunar calendar, so the seasons will shift over time. The calendar is created based on Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina, called the hegira, on Muharram 1.

One of the most important holidays is Ramadan, which is when Muhammad became the prophet of Allah. Muslims do not drink or eat between sunrise and sunset. At night, people will gather to eat and there are two days of feasts and worship at the end of Ramadan. The other main holidays are Mouloud, which are Muhammad’s birthday and the Feast of Sacrifice.