The Republic of Yemen is officially a Muslim country. Almost all of the inhabitants are Sunnis of the Shaf'i school, one of the four major schools of Islamic law. They reside chiefly in the coastal plains and the southwestern part of the country. Most of those remaining are Shi'as of the Zaydi sect, who live in the highlands. This sect, originating in the 9th century, takes its name from Zayd bin 'Ali (d.740), a descendant of Muhammad, and doctrinally is very close to Sunni Islam. In addition, there is a small minority of Isma'ilis, members of another Shi'a sect.
Nearly all of the country's once sizable Jewish population has emigrated. There are no legal restrictions on the few hundred who remain, although there are traditional restrictions on places of residence and choice of employment. About 500 Jews live in the villages between San'a and Saada in northern Yemen. There are also small Christian and Hindu communities. In remote areas there is still evidence of shamanism, animism, and other indigenous forms of religion.