June 19, 2007 at 6:52 am | Posted in Ethiopia | Leave a comment

The rise of Adal & the Ethiopian Empire


Ahmed Gurey monument in Mogadishu.

Ahmed Gurey monument in Mogadishu.

Muslim Somalia enjoyed friendly relations with neighboring Christian Ethiopia for centuries. Despite jihad raging everywhere else in the Muslim world, Muhammad had issued a hadith proscribing Muslims from attacking Ethiopia (so long as Ethiopia was not the aggressor), as it had sheltered some of Islam’s first converts from persecution in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Parts of northwestern Somalia (modern northwestern Somaliland) came under the rule of the Solomonic Ethiopian Kingdom in medieval times, especially during the reign of Amda Seyon I (r. 1314-1344). In 1403 or 1415 (under Emperor Dawit I or Emperor Yeshaq I, respectively) measures were taken against the medieval Muslim kingdom of Adal (located in eastern Ethiopia and western Somaliland, centered around Harar and comprised of both Somalis and Afars), a tributary kingdom that revolted and whose raids were disrupting rule in adjacent areas. His campaign was eventually successful, but took much longer than other campaigns at the time due to the tendency of Adal warriors to disappear into the countryside after fighting. In 1403 (or 1415), the Emperor eventually captured King Sa’ad ad-Din II in Zeila and had him executed, with the Walashma ruling family exiled to Yemen. The Walashma Chronicle, however, records the date as 1415, which would make the Ethiopian victor Emperor Yeshaq I. After the war, the reigning king had his minstrels compose a song praising his victory, which contains the first written record of the word “Somali”.

The area remained under Ethiopian control for another century or so. However, starting around 1527 under the charismatic leadership of Imam Ahmed Gragn (Gurey in Somali, Gragn in Amharic, both meaning “left-handed), Adal revolted and invaded Ethiopia. Regrouped Muslim armies with Ottoman support and arms marched into Ethiopia employing scorched earth tactics and slaughtered any Ethiopian that refused to convert from Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity to Islam. Moreover, hundreds of churches were destroyed during the invasion, and an estimated 80% of the manuscripts in the country were destroyed in the process. Adal’s use of firearms, still only rarely used in Ethiopia, allowed the conquest of well over half of Ethiopia, reaching as far north as Tigray. The complete conquest of Ethiopia was averted by the timely arrival of a Portuguese expedition led by Cristovão da Gama, son of the famed navigator Vasco da Gama. The Portuguese had been in the area earlier in early 16th centuries (in search of the legendary priest-king Prester John), and although a diplomatic mission from Portugal, led by Rodrigo de Lima, had failed to improve relations between the countries, they responded to the Ethiopian pleas for help and sent a military expedition to their fellow Christians. a Portuguese fleet under the command of Estêvão da Gama was sent from India and arrived at Massawa in February 1541.

Here he received an ambassador from the Emperor beseeching him to send help against the Muslims, and in July following a force of 400 musketeers, under the command of Christovão da Gama, younger brother of the admiral, marched into the interior, and being joined by Ethiopian troops they were at first successful against the Muslims but they were subsequently defeated at the Battle of Wofla (28 August 1542), and their commander captured and executed. On February 21, 1543, however,a joint Portuguese-Ethiopian force defeated the Muslim army at the Battle of Wayna Daga, in which Ahmed Gragn was killed and the war won.

Ahmed Gurey statue in Mogadishu.

Ahmed Gurey statue in Mogadishu.

Ahmed Gragn’s widow married Nur ibn Mujahid in return for his promise to avenge Ahmed’s death, who succeeded Ahmed Gragn, and continued hostilities against his northern adversaries until he killed the Ethiopian Emperor in his second invasion of Ethiopia, Emir Nur died in 1567; the Ethiopians sacked Zeila in 1660. The Portuguese, meanwhile, tried to conquer Mogadishu but according to Duarta Barbosa never succeeded in taking it. The sultanate of Adal disintegrated into small independent states, many of which were ruled by Somali chiefs. Zeila became a dependency of Yemen, and was then incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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