The Wise Negus of Abyssinia gave shelter to the first Muslims fleeing persecution and said that the Muslims worship the same One God.
Rook, Do you remember writing this?
THE NIGHT BEFORE MY JUGDEMENT COME
I WAS PRAYIN IN A MOSQE AT 14 YEARS OLD
WHAT A MISTAKE FOR ME
I WAS CRYING BY MY OWN BLOOD DRIPPIN DOWN MY FACE BEGGIN YESUS 4 GIVENESS NOT KNOWIN IF I WOULD BE KILLED IF ID SEE LOVED ONES AGAIN
SELASSIE I SPARED ME
THE POWER IS IN THE TRINITY
ISLAM IS THE YOUNGEST RELIGION
AND IT CONTAINS DILUTED STORIES OF MOSES AND CHRIST
MUHAMMED EVIDENTLY WAS AQUAINTED WITH THE BIBLE
FOR THE BOOKS TO BE JUST REWROTE WITH ADDITIVES
AND TAKE AWAYS
DEATH TO BABYLON
AND THEIR IDOLS
TO EACH THEIR OWN STILL
WHEN HIS MAJESTY WAS SPEAKIN OF SPIRITUAL KINS MAN
IM SURE HE WASNT SPEAKIN OF PEOPLE WHO WILL CUT OFF YOUR HEAD
WHILE TRYIN TO BE KINS MAN
THE KORAN SAYS IF U DONT CONFESS ALLAH U ARE AN INFIDEL
WORTHY OF DEATH AS A PIG OR A RAT
SO I PERSDNALLY BUN FIRE ON ANY ONE OR THING THAT DISS THE TRINITY
Islam is a Noble religion but there are aspects I can't agree with. The Quran says the Yeshua Christ was NOT crucified. I don't agree with that, Selassie I says otherwise:
With the birth of the Son of God, an unprecedented, an unrepeatable, and a long-anticipated phenomenon occurred. He was born in a stable instead of a palace, in a manger instead of a crib. The hearts of the Wise men were struck by fear and wonder due to His Majestic Humbleness. The kings prostrated themselves before Him and worshipped Him. 'Peace be to those who have good will. This became the first message.
When He sacrificed himself at Golgotha for the atonement of our sin, He prayed with His last breath for the forgiveness of those who had tortured Him saying, 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'. Shame on those of us who are Christians and do not follow the way of the Savior of the World, whose life was filled with kindness, humility, and martyrdom! If we lived by the laws he gave us and were worthy of being called Christian, peace would have reigned on this earth.
Men were supposed to be the equals of the living angels who unceasingly sang praises before the eternal God. Had this been so, peoples of the world would not have been divided along lines of enmity.
Another thing is the violence with which Islam spread itself. You can't deny that Islam is a religion of the sword. The Islamic armies spread Islam by the sword into the Byzantine and Persian empires.
What about the horrible damage done to the monasteries of Ethiopia by Ahmad Gragn(1507-1543)?
What about the Islamic slave trade in Africans?
What about the Turkish oppression of the Serbs and other eastern Europeans? The Armenian genocide?
The Taliban? Al Qaeda?
These are aspects of Islam that I don't agree with. I am not trying to provoke a fight, just expressing Iself.
I was and still am interested in the history of Islam, but I am a Rastaman, not a Muslim.
2/3/2012 6:27:45 AM
Here are some English translations of Quran verses I have posted before:
Those who reject faith and hinder others from the Way of Allah, have indeed strayed far away from the Path. Surely, Allah will neither forgive those who reject faith and act unjustly; nor guide them to any path other than the path of hell, wherein they will live forever and this is easy for Allah. O mankind! The Rasool has brought you the Truth from your Rabb, so believe in it, it is better for you. If you disbelieve, then you should know that to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. Allah is the Knowledgeable, Wise. O People of the Book! Do not transgress the limits of your religion. Speak nothing but the Truth about Allah. The Messiah, Isa(Yesus), the son of Maryam was no more than a Rasool of Allah and His Word "Be" which He bestowed on Maryam and a Spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His Rasools and do not say: Trinity(three)". Stop saying that, it is better for you. Allah is only One Deity. He is far above the need of having a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. Allah is All-Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs.
The People of the Book ask you to bring down for them a book from Heaven. From Musa they demanded an even harder miracle than that. They asked him: "Make us see Allah with our own eyes." As a result of their wickedness, the thunderbolt overtook them. Then they took the calf for worship after receiving clear revelations. After all that, We still pardoned them and gave Musa clear authority. We lifted the mount of Toor over them and took the covenant from them that they will obey Our commandments. On another occasion, We commanded them to enter the gates prostrating in humility. Yet, on another occasion, We commanded them not to transgress in the matter of the Sabbath and took a solemn commitment from them. After all this, they still broke their covenant, rejected the Revelation of Allah, killed the Prophet unjustly. Yet, they say: "Our hearts are in secure wrappings which have preserved Allah's word; we need no more" Nay! Allah has selaed their hearts on accoun of heir disbelief. They have no faith except a little. They went in their unbelief to such an extent that they uttered terrible slander against Maryam. They say: "We have killed the Messiah, Isa, son of Maryam, the Rasool of Allah." Whereas in fact, neither did they kill him nor did they crucify him but they thought they did because the matter was made dubious for them. Those who differ therein are in doubt. They have nor real knowledge, they follow nothing but merely a conjecture, certainly, they did not kill him(Yesus Christ). Nay! The fact is that Allah took him up to Himself. Allah is mighty, Wise. There is none of the People of the Book but will believe in this fact before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection Isa will bear witness against them.
Juz 1 Surah 2: Al-Baqarah verses 190-193
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight against you, but do not exceed the limits. Allah does not like transgressors. Kill them wherever they confront you in combat and drive them out of the places from which they have driven you. Though killing is bad, creating mischief is worse than killing. Do not fight them within the precincts of the Al-Masjid-al-Haram unless they attack you there; but if they attack you, put them to the sword; that is the punishment for such unbelievers. If they cease hostility, then surely, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Fight against them until there is no more disorder and Allah's supremacy is established. If they desist, let there be no hostility except the oppressors.
2/3/2012 6:29:09 AM
Impact of Islam on Ethiopian History
ETHIOPIAN CHURCH HISTORY
7th - 12th Century
The rise of Islam and its impact on Ethiopia
The period following the rise and the rapid expansion of Islam in the near and the Middle East was a very critical one for the Christian kingdom of Axum. The whole civilization and culture of Axum, as well as its economic life, was based on its international maritime connections, Ever since the Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemeys had taken a scientific and economic interest in the Red Sea area, Axum had become an integral part of the Hellenic world. Axum held the same position also during the Roman and Byzantine Empires. It was indeed not a mere coincidence that the Church in Axum was established immediately after the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion of his Byzantine dominions. There seems to be no doubt, now, that there were many individual Ethiopian and foreign Christian's residing in the Aksumite kingdom, even before the formal establishment of the Church there. But the crucial step taken by Ezana to adopt the new religion and to make it a state Church followed upon a similar imperial decision by Constantine. It was also from the Eastern Mediterranean that the first Christian missionaries come to Axum. Abune Salama and others such as the Nine Saints came from the Byzantine world, and endowed the Aksumite Church with its earliest characteristics. These regular contacts continued down to the seventh century, and all-important economic, political, and religious developments in the Byzantine world were also reflected in Axum. With the rapid Muslim conquest, however, these historical channels of communication were almost completely cut off. Only with the Alexandrian Church did Christian Ethiopia continue to have precarious contact.
Before the rise of Islam, Axum was an extensive maritime and commercial Empire. In its heyday, it ruled many districts in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, across the Red Sea. It controlled the land of the Beja, a people who inhabited northern Eritrea and what northeastern part of the Republic of the Sudan. In the west, the political and military sphere of influence of Axum had already reached the Nile valley by the fourth century A.D. Beyond the River Takazz'e, the district of Semien and probably also the region as far as Lake Tana were within its territorial limits. However, it was in the south, in the predominantly Agew populated areas of Tigrai, Wa'ag, Lasta, Anogot and Amhara where the heritage of Axum struck its deepest roots. When almost completely excluded from the Red Sea trade, and having lost its maritime international orientation, the kingdom of Axum turned towards this Agew interior, and made it the center of a distinctive Christian culture over the centuries.
The rulers of Axum had acquired strong footholds in these central highlands already before the establishment of the Christian Church in the kingdom. They sent numerous expeditions of war and conquest into these areas from where they obtained tribute and a continuous supply of ivory, gold, and slaves. The Aksumite governor of the Agew was responsible for the long-distance caravan route to Sassou-some where near Fazolgi in eastern Sudan -from where Axum obtained much gold. These precious commodities were used for the international trade across the Red Sea in which Aksum was most active.
After their conversion to Christianity the kings of Aksum consolidated their power by establishing churches and military colonies in these central highlands. There are still today a number of churches many of them dug out of the living rock in Tigrai and Lasta-which are attributed to the early Christian kings of Aksum. These churches and military settlements became centers of still further movements of small family groups from the more crowded parts of northern Ethiopia. In this way, the areas as far south as the region of northern Shoa were gradually affected by these slow population movements. Local traditions indicate that already in the tenth and eleventh centuries a number of small isolated Christian families had been established in the districts of Menz, Merhabite, Muger, and Bulga in northern Shoa. The spear head of Aksumite expansion may have even further south and east. This seems to be suggested by the geographical distribution of some of the Semitic languages of Ethiopia-Amharic, Argobba, Harari, Guragi, and Gafat.
All these regions in which the Aksumite were expanding were originally pagan lands, and the people spoke different Cushitic language. We have no historical data to show how these people lived, and how they were socially and politically organized before the advent of Aksumite rule. When the Aksumite conquered them, however, they imposed upon them their own religion, language, and Political organization. It was this Aksumite impact on the Agew and Sidama interior of the Ethiopian region which resulted in the creation of a number of small, predominantly pagan kingdoms of which we have distant echoes in the traditions of early and late mediaeval Ethiopia. Among these, were the political units of the Athagaw (=Agew) mentioned in the inscriptions the Aksumite kings against whom fought long wars of resistance; the Semenoi (that is, the ancient people of Semien) who also fought against, and were conquered by the Aksumite; the pagan kingdom of Gojjam, (also of Agew extraction),which was only integrated into the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia in the fourteenth century; and the legendary kingdom of Damot (probably inhabited by Southern Cushitic or Sidama peoples),which was still very strong between the tenth and thirteenth centuries in the whole region south and south-west of Shoa.
The beginnings of the Zagwe' Dynasty
One of these political units, the kingdom of Bugna in Lasta, later emerged in the twelfth century as the most dominant single power in the region, and took control of the inland Empire that was once ruled by Aksum. The new rulers are collectively known as the Zagwe Dynasty in Ethiopian history and the y ruled the world of the Christian kingdom until the last quarter of the thirteenth century. The power of Aksum had declined, and her commercial supremacy in the Red Sea area had been taken first by the Persians and later by the huge Muslim Empire which dominated the whole of the near and Middle East and Northern Africa. The descendants of the ancient rulers of Aksum thus lost their Red Sea ports and much of the semi- desert coastal strip, and they seem to have concentrated their attention on their inland provinces south of Aksum. Even Aksum was apparently abandoned as a political center by the ninth century, and the center of gravity of the Christian kingdom moved to the region of southern Tigrai and what is today northern Wollo.
For about three centuries this area remained the center of the kingdom, which revived, once again, with a new identity as a land-locked Christian Empire. It entered a new period of conquest and expansion, and, according to an Arab historian of the tenth century, its political sphere of influence reached the region of Harar and Zeila. The same historian tells us, however, that in the middle of the same century the kingdom had suffered a number of military reverses, and the southern part of its territory was conquered by an apparently pagan queen, the queen of the Banu al-Hamuiyya, who had diplomatic and commercial relations with the Muslim kingdom of Yemen. The new political situation seems to have brought about a period of decline and internal conflict in the Christian kingdom. But the kingdom held on in the northern part of its territories unit the new Zagwe rulers took over in the middle of the twelfth century as we have mentioned earlier.
The term "Zagwe dynasty" means the dynasty of the Agew. As already stated above its rulers came from the district of Bugna, in Lasta. Their homeland was apparently one of the most important strongholds of the Agew people in their centuries-old relations with the Semitized Agew kingdom of Aksum. It was probably here that the armies of ancient Aksum were confronted with very strong movements of resistance when they were expanding southwards. It was also probably here that the Aksumite governor of the Agew had his headquarters from where he protected the long-distance gold trade of Aksum in the sixth century. All the dialectical groups of the Agew peoples consider this region as the land of their ancestors, and as a point of dispersal in their traditions of population movements. It was therefore not accidental that the Agew dynasty of Christian Ethiopia should emerge from precisely the same area.
The Agew people of Wa'ag and Lasta had already been within the Aksumite kingdom since the early centuries of the Christian era. It has already been said above that many churches in this area are attributed to the early Christian kings of Aksum. It was also in southern Tigrai and in Angot (northern Wollo), just next door to Wa'ag and Lasta, that the Christian kingdom had its political center for three centuries after the decline and fall of Aksum. The Agew peoples of these areas had therefore been profoundly acculturized by the Aksumite kingdom, and they had even adopted Christianity as their religion. The Agew kings of the Zagawe dynasty were therefore completely Christian from the start. They had, however, successfully resisted complete assimilation, particularly in a linguistic sense. Thus, although it is certain that they used Ge'ez as the language of their church services; they apparently continued to use their Agew mother tongue for their daily needs. Signs of this bi-linguality are clearly seen in some of the land charters given by the Zagwe kings in Ge'ez. In the major aspects of their rule, however, the Zagwe kings continued the cultural and political legacy of Aksum.
2/3/2012 6:31:59 AM
ETHIOPIAN CHURCH HISTORY
13th - 14th Century
Professor Sergew Hable Sellassie
Professor Tadesse Tamerat
The Capital of the Zagwe Kings was at Adefa, at the present site of the town of Lalibela. From here they continued the Aksumite Imperial tradition of conquest and Christian expansion. At Adefa they received and entertained many delegations from the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and probably also from the surrounding Muslim rulers of Egypt etc. Kings Yimrha and Lalibela, the greatest Kings of the Zagwe dynasty, had many such contacts with the eastern Mediterranean region and particularly with Egypt.
The history and traditions about the building of the beautiful Churches of Yimrahanne Kristos and the Lalibela group of rock-hewn Churches are dominated by allusions to such international contacts. The characteristic aspects of the building of these religious monuments are essentially loyal, however, to the best traditions of Aksumite architectural art. Thus, although it can be surmised that the Zagwe Kings may have used artisans from the eastern Mediterranean countries; the conception of the building was clearly indigenous and no doubt derived from the Aksumite heritage of the Zagwe dynasty.
Translations of many religious works from Arabic into Ge’ez are also said to date from this period. Despite later traditions to the contrary, therefore, the living achievements of the Zagwe dynasty clearly show that the period was one of cultural and literary revival in the Christian Ethiopic Kingdom.
The ‘Solomonic” Dynasty: This Dynasty was overthrown by Yikunno-Amlak, an Amhara warrior of the central province of what is now Wollo, which constituted the southern part of the Zagwe Kingdom. Besides Yikunno-Amlak’s successful revolt against the Zagwe, a number of crucial historical factors brought about this drastic political change in the Christian Ethiopic Kingdom.
Ever since the rise of Islam at Mecca, in the 7th century, the Aksumite had been losing their ancient ports and islands to the increasingly, dominant Muslim merchants of the Red Sea. From these marker stations on the seaboard, the Muslim merchants operated in the Christian highlands throughout the early mediaeval period. They gradually made a number of local converts to Islam, mainly in the major market villages and along the caravan routes. The right of public worship and free trade of these local Muslim converts was strongly championed by Muslim rulers of Egypt who could always put pressure on the Christian Ethiopian Kings through the Patriarchate of Alexandria. Until the tenth century it is very clear that these local Muslims were few in number, and their activities in the Ethiopian region were purely commercial in character. After the tenth century, however, their number began to grow and many Muslim settlements were established. These commercial Muslim settlements gradually assumed much political significance. This historical development was particularly true of the hinterland of the port of Zeila which was becoming the most important commercial outlet for the Ethiopian region. By the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries a number of small Muslim sultanates were established along the trade routes from Zeila to Ethiopian interior. The most important among these were the sultanates of Shoa, Ifat, Dawaro, and Bali. Since all these Muslim states were situated to the south and southwest of the central Ethiopian highlands, the Zagwe kingdom was growing more and more isolated and was receiving no benefits from the commercial exploitation of the rich regions of southern Ethiopia. The province of Amhara lay between the seat of Zagwe power in Lasta and these rich areas, and, when Yikunno-Amlak raised his banner of revolt in Amhara, the isolation of the Zagwe rulers became complete.
The dynasty founded by Yikunno-Amlak in 1270 is called the “Solomonic” Dynasty. This appellation is a result of an historical process that seems to have started in the early mediaeval period. After the decline of Aksum, the Christian Kingdom was surrounded by Muslim and pagan neighbors and was isolated from the rest the Christian world except the Alexandrian Church. During all this period the most important religious book in the possession of the Ethiopians was the Holy Bible which they took much inspiration. Taking accounts probably of the similar beleaguered circumstances, the Ethiopians began to identify themselves with Israel, and to deliberately imitate and adopt many of the institutions of the Old Testament. The most important expression of this attitude is the gradual identification of the Ethiopian ruling house with the family of King Solomon of Israel. This tradition is embodied in the "Kebre Negest," compiled in the thirteenth century, which tells the Ethiopic version of the legend of the Queen Sheba.
The Solomonic tradition was particularly important after Yikunno-Amlak founded his dynasty. All his descendants adopted the name of the “House of Israel”, and no one who did not belong to this house could accede to the Throne in the whole of the late mediaeval period. All the male descendants of Yikunno-Amlak, expect the reigning Monarch and his minor sons, were kept under heavy guard on the inaccessible mountain top of Gishen. When a King died, it was form among the detained Princes on Mount Gishen that his successor was chosen. This ingenious device gave a high degree of political stability to the mediaeval Christian Kingdom, a stability which was essential in that period of intensive struggle with the numerous Muslim sultanates that had been established in the south and the south-eastern part of the Ethiopian region.
Yikunno-Amlak’s grandson, King Amde-Seyon (1314-44), dealt effectively with these Muslim rulers in the area. His quarrel with them was not merely religious. He wishes to control their commercial activities by conquering the areas through which the trade routes passed, and break the age-old isolation of his kingdom. In a series of long wars he conquered Ifat, Dawaro, Bali, Hadya, and the pagan regions to the west and southwest of these centers of Muslim trade. From this time on the Christian Ethiopic Kingdom maintained its dominant position until the sixteenth century.
Just as in the preceding period of the Zagwe dynasty, the major aspects of the social, cultural, and military organization of the mediaeval Christian Kingdom were a direct replica of the Aksumite Kingdom. The “Solomonic” Kings of mediaeval Ethiopia maintained the Imperial traditions of ancient Aksum which remained their cultural and religious center to the end of the period. Unlike the Kings of Aksum, however, they did not build fixed urban centers or Capital Cities. They administered their huge unwieldy Empire from a series of peripatetic Royal Camps which nevertheless had the same functions as permanent towns or cities. This arrangement increased the mobility of the Royal Court, and the effectiveness of the Christian Army against local revolts.
In a vast empire with numerous big rivers, great mountains and spectacular valleys, without roads and bridges, the task of maintaining sufficient control over their heterogeneous subjects would have otherwise been impossible for the mediaeval Kings of Ethiopia.
Monasticism and the Expansion of the Church: It was within this historical milieu that the Church was making its impact felt in the Ethiopian interior. It has been mentioned in the second section above that the nine saints had instituted the earliest monasteries in the Aksumite kingdom. It is apparent that, together with monasteries other monastic communities later established in Tigre and Lasta, these ancient monasteries continued to be the cultural continued to provide educational facilities for the whole of the Ethiopian Christian leaders in mediaeval Amhara and northern Shoa, it is very clear that any ambitious young man had to travel all the way to northern Ethiopia to obtain any serious religious and literary training. When they returned to their native districts, some of these men opened small schools where they taught some of the local children how to read and write. But until the middle of the thirteenth century, it seems that none of these small local schools in the south attained any particular significance beyond providing very elementary educational service for a handful of local children.
In about 1248, however, a young monk, Iyasus-Mo'a (c.1211-1292) came to Lake Hayq and opened a small monastic school at the island church of St. Stephen. Iyasus-Mo'a was born in Dahna, a small district of Lasta bordering on the River Takazze. While still a young boy, he abandoned his home district, traveled to northern Tigre, and joined the famous monastery of Debra Damo. There, he studied for many years under the abbot, Abba Yohanni, who later conferred on him the monastic habits. Iyasus-Mo'a had been a very serious student, and he had particularly distinguished himself as an outstanding calligraphist.
He apparently copied many books while at Debra Damo, and he is renowned for having left a large collection of manuscripts when he died at Hayq in 1292. The school he opened at Hayq becomes very famous as the first center of higher Christian education south of Lasta. Many young men from the surrounding Christian communities joined his school. According to the hagiographic tradition about his life, one of his pupil was the founder of the "Solomonic" dynasty, King Yikunno-Amlak (1270-1285), and there are more reliable indications that the island monastery of Lake Hayq continued to be one of the most important cultural centers of the "Solomonic" kings until the advent of Ahmad Gragn in the first half of the sixteenth century.
Many of Iyasus-Mo'a's pupils later acquired considerable fame as monastic leaders of the Ethiopian Church. Abba Hiruta-Amlak is believed to have been the founder of the important island monastery of Daga Estifanos on Lake Tana. Many others are said to have founded similar monastic communities in mediaeval Amhara and central Begemdir. One of the most outstanding pupils of Iyasus-Mo'a was Abba Takel-Haymanot of Shoa (d.1313). He apparently joined Iyasua-Mo'a's school as a middle-aged man with many years of clerical service in Shoa behind him. He spent some nine years with Iyasus-Mo'a who gave him his first serious Christian education. After having been invested with the monastic habits by Iyasus-Mo'a, Takel-Haymanot decided to visit the ancient monastic centers in northern Ethiopia. He went to Debra-Damo and other places in Tigre where he remained for over ten years. In the meantime, he undertook further religious and monastic training and he apparently gained a much deeper insight into the history and ecclesiastical traditions of Ethiopia. He returned to Hayq with many followers after his long sojourn in Tigre. Iyasus-Mo'a now advised him to go back to his native district of Shoa and start a new monastery of Debra Libanos which has become one of the most important religious centers of Christian Ethiopia.
Similar monastic leaders were emerging during the same period in northern Ethiopia, and they established other cultural centres. Abba Ewostatewos (d.1352) deserves particular mention. He was apparently born in Gar'alta, in central Tigre and he studied under his own uncle, Abba Daniel, who was the abbot of Debra Mariam there. He then left Gar'alta and began teaching in Sara's, in what is today the province of Eritrea. There he was joined by many students who later founded their own monastic centers in the area. Ewostatewos himself was persecuted by his colleagues in the Ethiopian church for insisting on the Biblical custom of the observance of the Sabbath, and he left his country for Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus, and Armenia where he died after fourteen years of self-exile. He was accompanied by some of his pupils on his foreign travels, and some of them managed to return to Ethiopia after his death. Together with their colleagues who had remained in northern Ethiopia, these followers of Ewostatewos effectively organized themselves and they become one of the two monastic houses of the Ethiopian Church. (The other is the House of Takla-Haymanot of Shoa) important cultural and educational centers like Debra Mariam of Qohain, and Dabra Bizan (on the eastern edge of the Hamasen plateau) were later founded by the followers of Abba Ewostatewos. Thus, by the fifteenth century, numerous monastic centers had been established at a number of crucial points from northern Hamasen to Lake Zuway in the south, from the eastern edge of the Ethiopian plateau to beyond Lake Tana in the west. And, just like the ancient center founded by the nine Saints, the new monastic communities provided the only educational facilities available in the Christian highlands.
Development of Christian Literature: Each monastic community ran a number of schools depending on its size and its resources. A senior member of the community, specially noted for his learning and for his exemplary character, was given charge of each of these schools. The monasteries of Ethiopia vied among themselves for attracting well-known teachers, and the fame and prestige of a monastery largely depended on the quality of the teachers it employed. The courses given by each school were of course mainly religious and they depended on the level of the school.
There were mainly four general levels of education in these monastic communities. The first level concentrated on training children how to read. They started with the Ethiopic alphabet, and they were drilled into reading a series of increasingly difficult passages. The question of understanding and comprehension was not important at this stage. It was strictly a "Reading" exercise. After sunset, following the evening prayers and the community dinner time, the children of the "reading School" were taught to memorize and recite a series of increasingly difficult prayers. This "memorization exercise" often went on up to midnight.
The next stage was usually one in which courses in church Music were given at different levels. Since the days of Yared, who is believed to have been divinely inspired to compose the first notes of the distinctively Ethiopian church Music in the Sixty century, a meticulous system of courses was organized in this field. It is apparent that this elaborate program of musical studies was at the height of its development in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries. The Dagwa, the collection of hymns traditionally attributed to Yared , was most probably a cumulative product of many centuries. A major aspect of the Ethiopian Church Music in the ritual dance that always accompanies the liturgical chant. Monneret de Villard, a well-known student of Ethiopian Christian art and the history of the Nile Valley, has suggested that the liturgical dance of the Ethiopians may have originated in ancient Egypt. But in its contemporary manifestations a religious musical performance of the Ethiopian priests is strongly reminiscent of the dancing and the rejoicing of the Levites in front of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam. 6:2-5). A casual look at the musical instruments used by the priests clearly shows that the Ethiopians have also drawn much inspiration from the Old Testament. The whole atmosphere created during a religious service in Ethiopia evokes the old Biblical scene transmitted in the last chapter of the book of psalms:
"Praise him with the sound of the Trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and Dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the lord cymbals: Praise him upon the high sounding Cymbals."
The third stage of education was usually what can be called the "Poetry School". It has not been possible to find out the definite origins of this school, nor to ascertain the earliest period of its establishment. But there is no doubt that it had already developed by the fifteenth century, and it constituted one of the advanced level of education in Christian Ethiopia. The most important aim of this school was to increase the level of comprehension of the Church scholar and to make him a master of the Ethiopic Grammar. An essential element of the training here is drilling the student to compose poems of different level. In the evening, the student recited before his master the poems he had composed for the day, and the master commented on the form and the aesthetic qualities of the poems. When the student reached a tolerable degree of excellence the master promoted him to the next level. After all the students had finished reciting their poems, they gathered around the master who composed spontaneously a series of original poems. These were often known for their outstanding qualities in both form and content, qualities which the student vied among themselves to master explained what he meant by the lines of the poem, and this was followed by groups of his students meticulously analyzing with him each of the words of every line to appreciate their grammatical and syntactical place in the poem. This session often went on well beyond midnight every day, and it was the major occasion when the scholars could have the personal guidance of their master. To pass through the eight or nine stages of this "Poetry School" a student often needed more than two years; but if the scholar had the intention of becoming a master himself, he usually spent as many as ten years visiting as many different masters as possible. The "Poetry School" was one of the most prestigious institutions to have gone through, and its inmates could hope for some of the highest positions in both Church and State.
The next and last stage was the mastery of the interpretations of all the canonical books of the Church. The Ethiopian clergy had developed an elaborate system of analytical studies of each of the books of the Old and New Testaments. The Canons of the Church were also studied in the same meticulous fashion with a lot of legal hair-splitting. These studied were so detailed that there was sometimes a special master for each of the Books of the Old and New Testaments, as well as for some of the apocryphal works of the Church.
These were the different stages of education in mediaeval Ethiopia. Although the content of the program was strictly religious, there is no doubt that it solved the essential problem of developing the intellectual faculties of the scholar, and it prepared him for specific roles in the mediaeval Ethiopian community. What is more important is that the graduates of the monastic school system were employed not only in the Church but in all various administrative, judicial, and other department of the State. Nor was it with the limited prospect of leadership in the Church that students went to those schools. Indeed many of the royal princes who later ascended the throne -kings like Dawit (1380 -1412), Zar'a Ya'iqob (1434-68), and Na'od (1494-1508) are known to have attended such schools. Zar'a Ya'iqob and Na'od were particularly noted for their considerable scholarship, and they were the authors of a number of important original compositions in the Ethiopic language. Prolific writers such as King Zar'a Ya'iqob and Abba Giyorgis of Gascha were products of the great monastic schools of the fifteenth century. The literary and artistic achievements of mediaeval Ethiopia were indeed outstanding. Many translations from Arabic, and numerous original Ge'ez works date from that period. A short visit to the Museum of the Institute of Ethiopia studies at Haile Sellassie I University also gives some idea of the works of Christian art of those times. The library collections of the numerous island and mainland monasteries throughout Christian Ethiopia, even today, are a living testimony to the splendor of cultural life in mediaeval Ethiopia.
2/3/2012 6:32:49 AM
ETHIOPIAN CHUCH HISTORY
15th – 18th Century
PERSECUTION AND RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSIES
Professor Tadesse Tamerat
After the reign of Zar’a Ya’iqob (1434-68) and his immediate successor Ba’ida-Maryam (1468-1478), the Orthodox Christian kingdom of Ethiopia had a series of minor kings who were too young to take the affairs of State in their own hands. This brought some of the more ambitious royal officials into temporary prominence as “guardians” of the Crown. These officials had numerous rivals for power, and the whole kingdom entered into a period of political conflicts and Civil War which lasted for about fifty years. The end result of this was the gradual weakening of the Christian army and the slackening of the frontier defense system. In the long struggle with the Muslim kingdom of Adal, this brought about a sudden change in the balance of power between the Orthodox Christianity and Islam.
The Wars of Ahmad Gragn
With the Ottoman (present day Turkey) conquest of the Greek Byzantine Capital of Constantinople, the whole Near and Middle East, Islam was given a special impetus in the Red Sea area and in the African Horn. The Muslim communities of the Ethiopian region began to be more and more aggressive particularly in their relations with the Orthodox Christian Empire. Many Turkish and Arab mercenaries came over from across the Red Sea, better equipped with the superior arms of the Ottoman Empire. The Muslim invasion of the Ethiopian highlands in the beginning of the sixteenth century was thus a tremendous success. The leader of the Muslim forces during this conflict was Imam Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim or Gragn, as he is known in Ethiopian Chronicles. His Chronicle, entitled Futuh al-Habasha (meaning “The Conquest of the Abyssinians”), relates how the Muslim invasion was particularly aimed at destroying the Orthodox Church in the Ethiopian highlands. As the center of the mediaeval Christian culture of Ethiopia and as the place where the kings also kept their fabulous treasures, the Church was attacked by the Muslim forces with particular fury. Dazzled by the riches of the Churches and Monasteries, the Muslim troops burnt and looted for a period of about fifteen years, and almost completely destroyed the mediaeval heritage of Orthodox Christian Ethiopia. The following passage is a vivid description of how the island monastery of Hayq was sacked, and it characterizes the attitude of the Muslim army throughout the period of their success between 1531 and 1543:
“They carried off the gold… there were crucifixes of gold in great quantity, books with cases and bindings of gold, and countless statues of gold; each Muslim took 300 ounces; each man had sufficient gold plate to satisfy three men. They also took a vast quantity of cloth and silk… The next morning (the Muslim chief) sent the Imam three rafts loaded with gold, silver and silk; there were only five men on board, two in front and three at the back, the rest of the raft being covered with riches though it could have carried 150 persons. The cargo was unloaded in front of the Imam who marveled at it and forgot the treasure which he had seen before. The rafts returned to the island and were a second time loaded with riches. They came three times, on each occasion loaded; they then returned to the island and the men went on board to return to the mainland. On the following day Ahmad partitioned the spoil; he gave one part to the Arabs and … one to the troops who had gone on the water; the rest he divided among the Muslims”.
It was in this way that the material and spiritual heritage of Mediaeval Orthodox Ethiopia, like that of the Greek Byzantine Church, was destroyed during the wars with Islamic hordes. Many of the inhabitants in the Muslim-occupied areas were forced to renounce their Orthodox Christian faith and adopt Islam. Although some chose to die for their faith, the large majority of the Christian peasants acquiesced to at least a nominal acceptance of Islam.
The Dilemma in Ethiopian Relations with Europe
The Ethiopian kingdom was later restored after the death of Ahmad Gragn (1543) and after the defeat of his army by Emperor Galawdewos (1540-59) who was given effective military assistance by the Kingdom of the Portuguese. Relations with the Portuguese had already started towards the end of the fifteenth century, and reciprocal envoys had been exchanged between Lisbon and the Ethiopian court. The Ethiopians were impressed by reports of the technical advances in Europe and wanted to share in this material civilization. From the earliest stages of their contacts with Europe the Ethiopians expressed their desire to receive European technicians and artisans, and the kings were especially interested in firearms. Already in the fifteenth century some isolated European adventures had reached Ethiopia even before the Portuguese, and they had been employed by the kings as masons, craftsmen, and amateur painters. When official relations were later initiated with the Portuguese, it was precisely their interest in the material civilization of Europe which preoccupied the minds of the Ethiopians. Emperor Libna-Dingil requested artists, builders, craftsmen, and men who could make guns for him. He also desired to establish a strong military alliance with the Portuguese. But outside these cultural and diplomatic contacts, a completely different interest preoccupied the Europeans. Thus, almost completely ignorant of the history and the spiritual heritage of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Portuguese sought to act as the agents of the Roman Catholic Church - Pope. This caused a lot of unnecessary bloodshed in the first part of the seventeenth century, and led to the final expulsion of the Jesuit mission by Emperor Fasiladas in 1632.
The Roman Catholic Religious Order Priests, “The Jesuit’s” experience was very bitter for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and it naturally led to the creation of very strong hostility towards anything European for a long period of time. During their short time in Ethiopia, the Jesuits had done a great deal of damage and they had seriously disturbed the spiritual stability of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Thus, immediately after the official expulsion of the Jesuit mission, there was a very long period of intensive doctrinal controversies within the Ethiopian Church which sadly, lasted for over two centuries. When these controversies are seen in the right historical perspective, it is very clear that they arose from the need to re-examine the doctrinal positions of the Ethiopian Church and to purify the Church from possible external influences still lingering even after the expulsion of the missionaries. The end result of all this was an intensive movement of literary and intellectual revival in the kingdom of Gondar. What is most impressive is that, despite the decline of the monarchy and the disintegration of the State into a number of regional entities during the so-called “Era of the Princes,” the Ethiopian Orthodox Church preserved its basic unity. And from the middle of the nineteenth century, when the monarchy started to revive once again, the Church resumed its historic role as the most important unifying factor in Christian Ethiopia.
2/3/2012 6:38:07 AM
For the 20th century, Remember Ledj Iyasu?
Chapter 6 - The reason why the rancour between Ledj Iyasu and myself began
AFTER my appointment to the governorship of Harar and my marriage to Wayzaro Manan, I lived happily for about a year. But thereafter, since in this world joy and sadness always alternate, my joy began progressively to change into sadness. The reason for this is as follows:
After the death of Ras Bitwaddad Tasamma, who had been Ledj Iyasu's guardian and regent of the Empire, no other guardian had been appointed for Ledj Iyasu. But the latter thus sought in everything the company and counsel of worthless men who only wanted their own immediate profit, while the great nobles and ministers became hostile and removed their hearts from him.
Those worthless men whom he had made advisers associated with some foreign traders and said: 'We are importing from abroad commodities like this; we are sending abroad goods like that, hence excuse us customs-duties.' Very few only were those who sought the truth and advised him as follows: 'Quite apart from obtaining permits by fraud, if they do this your government will be harmed; if they do that your government will profit; if they do this rotten thing, the people will be hostile.'
Furthermore, when he claimed, by virtue of his Wallo descent, to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad, counting back some forty generations, and when he worked for a meeting and rapprochement in faith with the Muslims, he would not accept it if anyone tried to advise: 'Lay off, for it is this sort of thing that will bring damage upon your government and upon yourself.' He began to arrange for the Palace arms and all the other excellent equipment to go to Negus Mika'el.
While, in doing all this, he was aware of everybody's hostility, and instead of watching things by being in one place, he did a great deal of roaming about, joyfully invading tranquil provinces and killing people, some time going to Gimira, another to Wallo, yet another to Adal country, and sometimes to Harar. The blood of many was flowing. When he returned from his trips, the nobles and ministers, tendering advice and getting angry, all despaired when they realized their inability to restore his mind to sanity.
There were, however, some who advised him as follows: 'If the honour of the great nobles of Menelik's time were reduced and their rank diminished, then it would be convenient for you to raise to office the humble; it would assuredly result from this that these minor figures will respectfully love you alone, and with their support you will be able to act as you wish and to destroy your enemies.' As this appeared to him to be true, he began to strive to bring this about.
He himself came upon me at Harar in 1907 (= 1914/15), summoned my army's officers and the great among the peasants, and asked at a secret meeting: 'Tell me if there is a wrong that Dejazmatch Tafari has done you.' He then granted audiences while giving advice to my detriment, stayed for a few days and then returned. I heard this from men who had actually been questioned.
Afterwards, in Genbot (= May 1916), he summoned me to Addis Ababa; and when we had remained together for about two months, he set out from Addis Ababa by night on 21st Hamle (= 29th July), without informing me, boarded the train at Akaki, and next morning I heard about his descent to Harar.
When I knew for certain that he had gone down to Harar and although he went there without informing me, I thought it should not appear that I was hostile to his journey there because he had not given me prior information (for the title to the Harar governorship was mine), and I therefore wrote him a letter as follows: 'If you are staying at Harar, let me come there; if you are returning to Addis Ababa, I shall return together (with you).' When I had sent him that letter by the hand of my servant Zallaqa Kallala, he wrote back to me on 28th Hamle 1908 (5th August 1916) as follows: 'I had told Bitwaddad Hayla Giyorgis that he should inform you of the reason why I came to Harar. If you were to come to Harar now and then to return with me to Addis Ababa, the railway deficit would be very great for you, because your army is so numerous; hence stay there. If I were to stay here for a long time, I would write to you again.'
When he entered Harar city, evil men, who came between us and tendered advice that he should dismiss Dejazmatch Tafari from the governorship of Harar and appoint himself, began to press him to put into practice the counsel they had earlier proffered, for now they had Ledj Iyasu to themselves. Therefore, on 7th Nahase 1908 (= 14th August 1916) he summoned my deputy, Fitawrari Gabre, and gave orders that all the camping places in the hands of Dejazmatch Tafari's servants be seized—apart from those occupied by government troops. He then transmitted the following orders by telegram to Bitwaddad Hayla Giyorgis: 'I have assumed, with immediate effect, the governorship of Harar.
I have given the governorship of Kaffa to Dejazmatch Tafari; let him be told.' He informed me that I was to go to Kaffa at once, as these were Ledj Iyasu's orders.
Subsequently he (Ledj Iyasu) sent me a letter direct, written on the 10th of Nahase 1908 (= 17th August 1916), stating: 'I have appointed Harar my own personal governorate; I have placed under your governorship Kaffa and Maji, and under your authority Gurrafarda.'
When the people at Addis Ababa, great and small, heard this, they declared openly: the fact that he (Ledj Iyasu) is taking away the governorship of Harar from Dejazmatch Tafari is not so much for the governorate but because he has been converted to the Islamic faith and for the sake of further rapprochement to the Muslims.
At the time of the Great World War, when some foreigners, presented to him (Ledj Iyasu) their view: 'even though you cannot help the English, the French, and the Italians, who are Ethiopia's neighbours at the frontiers, with armed force, it would be good if you would at least assist with provisions, i.e. with food', yet he did not listen. Instead, he had begun on an exchange of secret correspondence with the peoples surrounding Ethiopia, the Adalites and the Somalis, with a view to resisting the Allies. But as the representatives of the three governments resident at Addis Ababa had discovered this exchange of secret letters, they made an official approach and, it is reported, presented [the correspondence] to Bitwaddad Hayla Giyorgis,
When the leaders of Ethiopia found out about this whole affair, they became convinced of the need to depose Ledj Iyasu. But as it appeared to them likely that their secret would be betrayed if they were assembled together for consultation, they chose servants as trusted messengers and began to correspond through them as go-betweens. But some met by night at a hidden place and, after talking to each other face to face, separated again. Others again were asking: 'Inform us first about the successor once Ledj Iyasu is deposed'; but the party which approved of Ledj Iyasu's deposition began to grow steadily, since they gladly accepted the opinion when they were told: 'We shall put Emperor Menelik's daughter, Wayzaro Zawditu, on the throne and shall appoint H.H. Ras Makonnen's son, Dejazmatch Tafari, as Crown Prince and Regent.'
When they asked me to enter upon these consultations, (I replied): When I first departed for my father's governorate of Hararge to take up my appointment, Ras Bitwaddad Tasamma took us both (Ledj Iyasu and myself) to the house of the Archbishop, Abuna Mattewos, and caused us to enter upon a covenant, by oaths and invocations, that Ledj Iyasu should not depose me from my governorship of Hararge and that I should not seek his throne by foul means. But now Ledj Iyasu has violated the solemn covenant of oaths and invocations, has dismissed me from my governorship of Hararge, and for my part this is sufficient evidence. Furthermore, I said to them: since you have now convinced me of Ledj Iyasu's conversion to Islam, there is nothing in which I differ from you. And they gave me adequate information by reading out everything they had written, so that it be proof to the people for the future.
Words of Ras TafarI
Chapter 7 - From the deposition of Ledj Iyasu on 17th Maskaram 1909 (= 27th Sept. 1916) to the assumption of the crown by Queen Zawditu on 4th Yakatit 1909 (= 11th February 1917)
WHILE Ledj Iyasu went to and fro between the towns of Dire Dawa, Harar, and Jijjiga, and while he assembled Adalites and Somalis giving them medals and arms, he stayed there declaring: 'I am on your side in respect of religion'; it was then heard that Muslims were mocking: 'he is neither Christian nor Muslim'. On the 17th day of Maskaram 1909 (= 27th Sept. 1916), on the day of the great feast of Masqal, it was arranged that the nobles with the army, and the Archbishop Abuna Mattewos, and the Etchage Walda Giyorgis with the priests, should assemble at a prepared place within the precincts of the Palace; and when they had all arrived and taken their seat according to their rank, the following indictment against Ledj Iyasu, which had been secretly prepared, was read out:
'The Christian faith, which our fathers had hitherto carefully retained by fighting for their faith with the Muslims and by shedding their blood, Ledj Iyasu exchanged for the Muslim religion and aroused commotion in our midst; in order to exterminate us by mutual fighting he has converted to Islam and, therefore, we shall henceforth not submit to him; we shall not place a Muslim king on the throne of a Christian king; we have ample proof of his conversion to Islam:
(1) He married four wives claiming: "the Qur'an permits it to me". Of these wives one is the daughter of Abba Jiffar of the Jimma nobility; the second is the daughter of Hajj Abdullahi of the Harar nobility; the third is the daughter of Abu Bakr of the Adal nobility; the father of the fourth, Dejatch Djote, became a Christian and baptized his daughter; while she lived under her baptismal name Askala Maryam, it was to Dejatch Djote's daughter that he (Ledj Iyasu) later on, after his conversion to Islam, gave the Muslim woman's name of Momina.
(2) He built a mosque at Jijjiga with government funds and gave it to the Muslims.
(3) At that time he sent to Mahazar Bey, the foreign [Turkish] consul resident at Addis Ababa—as he was celebrating the Ramadan feast—our Ethiopian flag (on which there was written "The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has prevailed" and adorned with the sign of the Cross) on which he had caused to be written the following words (in Arabic): "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah".
(4) He wore Somali Muslim clothes and the Muslim turban, held the Islamic rosary, and was seen to prostrate himself in the mosque.
(5) He was seen praying and reading the Qur'an having had it transcribed in Amharic characters.
(6) On the headgear of his special guards he had embroidered the legend "there is no god but Allah".
(7) H.H. Ras Makonnen had built a church at Harar and had made the area adjoining the church into a dwelling for the clergy, giving the Muslims a place in exchange; then, 32 years later, he (Ledj Iyasu) expelled the clergy and restored it to the Muslims.
(8) When a girl was born to him he saw to it that she would grow up learning the Muslim religion, and he gave her to the Muslim Madame Hanafi and said: "Bring her up on my behalf".
(9) He despised the descent of Menelik II, which comes direct from Menelik I, and claimed to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad; assembling the great Muslim sheikhs he spent the day convincing them of his genealogical calculations.
(10) The day on which our great king, Emperor Menelik, who had bequeathed him the throne, died, instead of mourning and of arranging lamentations he went out horse-riding to Jan-Meda and spent the day playing combat-games. He forbade Menelik's body to be buried with dignity and thus it has remained up to now. We possess a great deal of further
similar proof (against Ledj Iyasu).
Therefore, having deposed him (Ledj Iyasu), we have placed on the throne Wayzaro Zawditu, Emperor Menelik's daughter. We have appointed Dejazmatch Tafari, the son of H.H. Ras Makonnen, Crown Prince, with the rank of Ras, and Regent of the Empire.'
When the reading of this proclamation was concluded, all those assembled said with one voice: 'We accept gladly, hence let it be carried out with success.' The Archbishop, Abuna Mattewos, and the Etchage Walda Giyorgis spoke the following final words: 'Ledj Iyasu has repudiated the Christian religion and, because he has been converted to the Islamic faith, we have excommunicated him; you will be excommunicated if henceforth you follow Ledj Iyasu and submit to him—instead of living strong in the Orthodox faith and watchful of the freedom of your government'.
Afterwards the proclamation was issued by which the Throne and the Crown went to Queen Zawditu, while the succession to the Throne and the Regency Plenipotentiary went to me; the text of the proclamation was then transmitted by telephone to the princes and nobles and all the provincial governors in the whole of Ethiopia. As it was about 40 years since Negus Mika'el had been converted from Islam to Christianity, he had been mentioning to some of the nobles his sadness at his son's conversion to Islam; consequently, the text of the proclamation was transmitted to him in the thought that he was bound to be allied with us now as regards his son's deposition.
When Ledj Iyasu, staying at Harar, heard about his own deposition, the enthronement of Queen Zawditu and my appointment as Crown Prince and Regent Plenipotentiary, he collected Somalis and Adalites and arranged for disturbances to be created in the city; as Christians and Muslims were now fighting on separate sides, some 500 men from both sides died. As Dejazmatch Baltcha and Qagnazmatch (now Ras) Emru were at the time at Harar, they were seized; but Ledj Iyasu released Dejazmatch Baltcha under oath that he would not get separated from him. Qagnazmatch Emru, however, he kept under detention.
All my officers and servants—with few exceptions—who were at Harar deserted Ledj Iyasu, departed for a district called Qarsa, and began to wait there in proper battle formation. Qagnazmatch Emru escaped from the place at which he had been detained and went out [there].
This is what happened to Ledj Iyasu subsequently: Having collected a regular body of troops, he appointed Dejazmatch Gugsa Alyo as army commander; since it was reported that Ledj Iyasu had despatched him to Awash, we made Dejazmatch Ayalew Berru army commander and sent Dejatch Hayla Maryam Lamma, Dejatch Admasu Berru, Ledj Ababa Damtaw, Ledj Dasta Damtaw, Fitawrari Makuriya Garmame, and added other regular troops. They encountered each other at a railway station called Me'eso (Miesso), and on the 25th of Maskaram (== 6th October) they defeated Dejazmatch Gugsa Alyo. He himself, however, escaped by train and entered Dire Dawa.
When Ledj Iyasu saw that the Christians at Harar and its entire province as well as the Muslims were deserting him, he went down to Dire Dawa and seized about all he could of the money in the treasury; what he could not (take), he sent to Jibuti by the hands of M. Ydlibi and then travelled by way of the Adal desert to reach his father's governorate of Wallo.
But a telephone message had been transmitted to Negus Mika'el to the effect: 'As your son has gone over to Islam, we have deposed him, have enthroned Queen Zawditu, and have appointed H.H. Tafari Makonnen Crown Prince and Regent Plenipotentiary.' When Negus Mika'el realized this, he said: 'I had been striving to make my son firm in the Christian faith even to the point of angrily counselling him, but nevertheless I cannot silently look' on while they take away from him the throne which his grandfather, Emperor Menelik, had given him.' It was reported then that Negus Mika'el had mobilized his army by proclamation and was marching towards Shoa; therefore, the princes, nobles, and ministers jointly sent him the following message in writing:
'May it reach Negus Mika'el whose authority is written upon his shoulder, King of Zion.
You, the King, know that all the work which your son, Ledj Iyasu, has accomplished from the time he became Crown Prince up to the present was childish behaviour. When we meant to train him with reproachful counsel, we did not find the occasion because, to our chagrin, he never stayed long enough in one place. When at times we managed to find him and tendered advice, he would not accept our view. When we watched him patiently, lest his personality should feel offended, thinking that perhaps one day soon he would become aware of his government's need and of his own rank and honour and perhaps abandon his youthful pursuits, yet he had still not had enough of these puerilia and began striving to establish Islam in our country Ethiopia which had lived steadfast in her Christianity for some 1600 years since Abreha and Asbeha and Salama, the revealer of the light.
When in the previous year he came to Wallo, you, oh King, know yourself all the things he did together with the Muslims during the rainy season. Again, we have heard of your angry counsel to Ledj Iyasu, when you recognized that his heart had been alienated from the Christian faith, and said to him: "I beg you, my son, abandon this plan of yours!", yet even you, oh King, did not prevail. And now we are sending you, together with this letter, photographs of him which prove all the things he has been doing jointly with the Muslims when he went down to Harar secretly without informing us.
We had suffered all this patiently, but when all of us together, including the Archbishop and the Etchage, sent him a letter requesting him to come to Addis Ababa, at any rate for the New Year celebrations, he persisted in not coming. Our anxiety in acting in this manner arises from the thought lest the Christian faith be extinguished and, for this reason, the blood of Christians be shed in vain and our country pass into the hands of foreigners; may the king thus be very mindful of this matter! It is known that the people would not have risen up, unless they had been certain of this. Moreover, we would remind you of the extinction of your name as well, for it is bound to remain recorded in history for future generations: Because of Ledj Iyasu, Negus Mika'el's son, the Christian religion was eclipsed in Ethiopia, and the Islamic faith expanded.
In writing all this to the king, it is not that we have acted thus with the intention that Ledj Iyasu be harmed or, in particular, that the king be antagonized, but it is with the thought that we should act jointly for what is of benefit to our religion and to our government; your plans do not diverge from ours, for we know that you love Emperor Menelik and all of us and are much concerned for the Christian faith.'
24th Maskaram 1909 (== 5th Oct. 1916).
After this letter had reached Negus Mika'el, he refused to return in any circumstances; and as our envoys informed us by telephone of his marching forward, we placed the army that was stationed at Addis Ababa at the time under the command of Ras Lul Sagad and sent him on in advance. When he reached a Shoan district called Tora Mask, he suddenly encountered Negus Mika'el's advance troops, and on Tuesday, 7th Teqemt (= 17th Oct. 1916), we heard by telephone of the death in battle of Ras Lul Sagad, Dejatch Tasamma Gazmu, Liqa Makwas Ababa Atnaf Sagad, Fitawrari Zawde Gobana, Asalafi Abbe, Qagnazmatch Delnasahu, Asalafi Delnase, Ato Shawaye, and other army commanders.
Already earlier on our War Minister, Fitawrari Habta Giyorgis, had left Addis Ababa on 3rd Teqemt (= 13th October); and when he reached Koramash after a long march, we arranged that he should stay there distributing to each soldier arms from the war material at Koramash. And We Ourselves set out on 9th Teqemt (= 19th October). So that the armed forces from each district should arrive by as rapid a march as possible, We informed the army by the following proclamation:
The text of the Proclamation.
'Listen, people of my country, Ethiopia!
Since Ledj Iyasu, digressing from Emperor Menelik's wishes, had openly shown his adherence to Islam, prostrating himself in mosques together with Muslims and tracing back his Islamic genealogy, while setting aside Menelik's curse against him designed to prevent him committing evil deeds, he was unable to carry on the administration, and we, therefore, had to depose him and placed Queen Zawditu on her father's throne.
While we were thinking that Negus Mika'el was aware of his son's conversion to Islam and that together with us he would be shedding his blood for the Christian faith, he came marching from Wallo to fight us and insisting that we should at once submit to a Muslim king. Therefore, those of you who are men, follow me!'
After We had issued this proclamation, We marched forward. But since bloodshed among Ethiopians themselves is extremely saddening, I arranged that monks and priors from the monasteries of Dabra Libanos and Zequala and from all the various churches should be selected and come with their crosses to request Negus Mika'el to go back to Wallo without making war. But word reached us by telephone that Negus Mika'el, far from going back, had in fact seized and arrested the monks who had been sent to bring about peace; we thus became convinced that his decision to engage in battle was now plain and generally known.
On 15th Teqemt (= 25th October) we set out from Koramash and marched on; on 16th Teqemt (= 26th October) our camp and that of Negus Mika'el spent the night opposite each other at a plain of the Tarra district called Sagale.
On Friday, 17th Teqemt (= 27th October), starting at 7 o'clock at night (= 1 a.m.), he (Negus Mika'el) stationed his army officers on the right and left flanks, and positioned himself in the centre; and when the morning dawned, he began opening fire and launched a surprise attack against our gunners who had been spending the night on guard duty. Thereupon We placed Our War Minister, Fitawrari Habta Giyorgis, at the front, Ras Kassa at Negus Mika'el's rear, and the remaining Rases and Dejazmatches on the right and left flanks; when we had joined the entire army at the rear, we engaged the enemy in battle.
When we had fought from early morning for about five hours and when the Shoan army, leaping like a leopard seeing a goat, like a lion seeing a cow, entered in battle formation—swords drawn and fighting hand to hand—Negus Mika'el was defeated and captured. Of his army many died and many were captured, while those who remained fled and returned to Wallo.
When Ledj Iyasu, having to travel by way of the Adal country and marching fast to reach the battle, arrived at Ankober, he heard of Negus Mika'el's defeat; he retraced his steps and got to the Wallo region by the Adal detour.
Although it was generally known that Negus Mika'el had been captured, this was a formality only; in fact, We arranged everything befitting his dignity, so that no humiliation whatever should affect him. As for the other prisoners, since we have no other quarrel with Wallo and mindful of the fact that we are all natives of one Ethiopia, we allowed them, by proclamation, to go back to their country of Wallo after their release.
As we announced the story of the victory to Addis Ababa by telephone all the people of the capital, from Queen Zawditu downwards, were overjoyed. When we got back to Addis Ababa, on Thursday, 23rd Teqemt (= 2nd Nov.), H.M. Queen Zawditu, seated in a vast tent at Jan-Meda, and the people of the capital being assembled in full, received us with a great parade, with ululating and with joy.
A leap of faith
Early Muslims looked beseechingly to Ethiopia and sought refuge in its territory from their persecutors, the polytheist Arabians. But the Christian kingdom, besieged for 15 centuries by Islamic states that formed a formidable ring around it, refused to succumb to the new religion. Gamal Nkrumah explores the often contentious connection between Ethiopia and Islam
Since time immemorial Ethiopia has retained her supercilious air. Throughout the centuries, the rugged Nile Basin country, bound to Islam from the religion's inception, has attracted scant attention compared to Egypt. Ethiopia's seclusion, however, did nothing to dispel its mystique. Ethiopia's ambiguous identity fascinated those outsiders who cared to take a closer look. Black, but not black enough. Christian, but only partially so. At once both primitive and civilised.
Numerous Arab and Muslim chroniclers have lavished praise on the only land beyond Arabia's borders that Prophet Mohamed turned to in his hour of need -- the only country that responded positively to his call for assistance. Perhaps the most important Arab treatise celebrating the special role Ethiopia played in early Islam was Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti's seminal work Raf' Sha'n Al- Hubshan (The Raising of the Status of the Ethiopians), written in the late 15th century. It was an earnest plea to reaffirm the equality of the races in Islam.
Ahmed Bin Ali Al-Maqrizi, who in 1435-36 wrote Kitab Al-Ilmam bi Akhbar man bi-Al- Habasha min Muluk Al-Islam (The Book of True Knowledge of the History of the Muslim Kings of Abyssinia), focussed on the mediaeval Muslim sultanates in the Horn of Africa, including those within the country today known as Ethiopia.
Jamal Al-Din Abu Farraj Ibn Al-Jawzi's The Lightening of the Darkness: On the Merits of the Blacks and the Ethiopians, written in the late 12th century AD, was another mediaeval treatise emphasising the non-racist principles of Islam. Others were far less charitable, suspiciously eyeing Ethiopia as an enemy of Islam. Indeed, Ethiopia has long been mistaken for a Christian country.
"Although the medieval legend of the Kingdom of Prester John, Europe's Christian ally beyond Islam, had been applied to various regions of Asia and Africa, Ethiopia as an exotic, remote mountain and Christian kingdom was an admirable candidate," explained Martin Bernal in Black Athena: The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation.
Interestingly enough, because Ethiopia is widely seen as an isolated bastion of the monotheistic religions in Africa -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- the ancient religious, linguistic, cultural and commercial ties that bind the country to ancient Arabia, Egypt and Nubia have often been overlooked.
"Furthermore, Ethiopia could very plausibly be linked to Ancient Egypt. It should, however, be made clear that the name Abyssinia was used precisely to avoid Ethiopia, with its indelible associations with blackness," Bernal notes. Indeed, many scholars believe that some of the pre- Christian religious practices in Ethiopia were influenced by those of Ancient Egypt.
Geographical proximity and linguistic affinity ensured that Ethiopia's history and culture were intertwined with that of Arabia since ancient times. Ethiopia emerged as a country of special symbolic significance at the dawn of Islam. "For Muslims, Ethiopia is synonymous with freedom from persecution and emancipation from fear," wrote a former president of the Washington, DC- based Federation of Ethiopian Muslims in North America.
Furthermore, the rich heritage of Islam can be found among the Ethiopian people who speak the Semitic and Cushitic Afro-Asiatic languages, which includes Arabic. Among the Cushitic speaking peoples of Ethiopia who embrace Islam are the Afar of the desolate Danakil depression, the Somali, the Oromo -- the most populous ethnic group in Ethiopia today, and the Sidamo. The Semitic speaking people of Harar are also Muslim.
The centuries-long legacy of Muslim arts is apparent all around the country, but especially in historical cities such as Harar. The people of Harar are culturally distinct from other Ethiopians -- both Muslim and Christian. They speak Adari, a Semitic language closely related to Arabic and Amharic, and have been staunch Muslims for the past 500 years. Adari, derived from the Arabic word hadar, meaning urbanite or urbane, emerged as the language of scholarship and trade in a huge swathe of eastern Ethiopia. Today it is largely confined to Harar and the Ahmar (Red) mountain range surrounding the city.
Click to view caption
Mosque in Shek Husen; Bale, southeastern Ethiopia; one of the surviving ancient gates of Harar; a mosque in Negash
northern Ethiopia the first mosque built in the country. Clockwise: An ethnic Afar beauty; an Oromo basket seller and Harari houses
ETHIOPIA IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF ISLAM:
Islam has deep roots in the land now known as Ethiopia, and which in the past was better known as Abyssinia. Baraka Umm Ayman, Prophet Mohamed's nurse who raised him after the death of his mother, was Ethiopian. She remained his lifelong friend and loyal confidante.
Pre-Islamic cultural and commercial links between Abyssinia and Arabia go back a long way as attested in the Holy Qur'an. The Qur'an's Sura of the Elephant recalls the pre- Islamic Ethiopian General Abraha's attempt to capture Mecca and demolish the Ka'aba that was diverted by mysterious birds that filled the sky and pelted the Ethiopian army with stones. Those among the mighty elephant-mounted Ethiopian force not crushed to death quickly dispersed. Mecca and the Ka'aba were miraculously saved.
Pagan Arabians, clansmen of the Prophet's own Qureish tribe, vehemently opposed the new religion revealed to their kinsman. They viciously and systematically persecuted his followers.
Among the oppressed was an Ethiopian slave, Bilal Al-Habashi, or Bilal the Abyssinian, who believed in the Prophet's message. He was tortured by his master Omaya Ibn Khalaf for his beliefs. The Ethiopian had a beautiful and resonate voice and he became the first muezzin, or caller to prayer, in the history of Islam.
When the Prophet Mohamed instructed a small band of his early followers to flee Mecca and cross the Red Sea in 615 AD, he knew that they would find safe haven in the neighbouring Ethiopian Christian kingdom.
First 10 then 40 others crossed the Red Sea for the court of the goodly king known in Arab tradition as Ashama Ibn Abjar, or Al-Nagashi Ashama. The party included such notables as the third Caliph Othman Ibn Affan and his wife Ruqayya Bint Rasulillah, the prophet's daughter. Among those given asylum in Ethiopia were two future wives of Prophet Mohamed -- Ramla Bint Abi Sufyan, better known as Umm Habiba, and Sawda Bint Zama'a. Some Ethiopian Muslim traditions claim that the Ethiopian king bestowed a golden dowry on Umm Habiba when she became betrothed to the Prophet Mohamed. Islamic chroniclers maintain that the Prophet Mohamed corresponded with the Ethiopian monarch and that when the king died, the Prophet performed the Salat Al-Gha'eb, or prayer in absentia -- the first such prayer recorded in Islamic history.
Interestingly enough, there is no explicit reference in the records of the Ethiopian Church corroborating the first hijra, or exodus, of early Muslims to Ethiopia. It is not entirely clear exactly where the early Muslims settled, but it is often assumed that they stayed in the vicinity of the ancient Ethiopian capital Axum. Neither the Ethiopian Church records nor king lists mention a king called Ashama, even though some Ethiopian sources traditionally name a Negus Adriaz as the righteous king in question.
Muslim tradition has it that the Ethiopian king converted to Islam and adopted the name of Ahmed, much to the consternation of his subjects, the court and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Prophet Mohamed, as a token of his gratitude to the deceased king, urged his followers to especially revere the Ethiopians and treat them kindly. "Utruku Al-Habasha wa tarakukum," Prophet Mohamed is said to have admonished his followers -- "Leave the Abyssinians alone, so long as they do not take the offensive."
The question arises as to why Ethiopia? The Prophet could have chosen a safe haven for his followers in any of Arabia's other neighbours: modern-day Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iraq or Iran. Instead he chose Ethiopia, largely, it is said, because of the righteous reputation of Ethiopia's king, the Negus or Al-Najashi. "Go to Ethiopia, there is a king there that is just," Prophet Mohamed told his followers. His counsel proved to be wise.
Iran, then known as Persia, was a pagan country and the far-flung provinces of the Byzantine Empire -- Egypt and Syria -- were teetering on the verge of rebellion. The Copts of Egypt asked the Prophet to intervene on their behalf and overthrow Byzantine rule.
Ethiopia, in sharp contrast, was a free and pietistic land ruled by a magnanimous monarch.
Ethiopia was also a black African kingdom. Europeans conceived it as such. For the Arabs, however, Ethiopia was a multi-racial land and hence they named it Al-Habasha, the Land of the Mixed Race People. Abyssinia, a term derived from the Arabic Al-Habasha, was a curious geographic construct. It was neither full- fledgedly black African nor was it thoroughly Arabised. It stood apart and always at the crossroads. It was an ancient Christian kingdom that had ruled huge swathes of the Arabian Peninsula. As such it had strong cultural and economic links with the people of Arabia, and especially those of Al-Hejaz (the region which includes Islam's holiest cities Mecca and Medina) and Yemen.
Islam's hold on Ethiopia was never absolute. Still, Ethiopia has the third largest Muslim population in Africa after Nigeria and Egypt. The country has between 30-40 million Muslims, although estimates vary considerably. Still there is a sizable Muslim community in Ethiopia, more numerous than the entire population of countries like Iraq, Algeria or Morocco. It is also a community that has long cherished its special bond with the Muslims of Egypt and Arabia.
In spite of the peaceful and idyllic characterisation of the country by the early Muslim exiles, Ethiopia at the time of the first hijra was a kingdom on the verge of dissolution. Its kings frequently had to go to war to reassert their authority in the outlying provinces, regain lost territory and meet the challenge posed by provincial rulers.
Ethiopia had just lost Yemen, which fell into Persian hands. This loss forced the Ethiopian armies to retreat to their mountain strongholds in northern Ethiopia.
With the spread of Islam, the old Christian kingdom of Axum in northern Ethiopia began a long process of decline. Not only were Axum's fortunes reduced, but the kingdom's territory diminished because tributary states and outlying regions seceded.
The Muslim world, following Prophet Mohamed's injunction, largely left Christian Abyssinia to its own devices.
The first hijra to Ethiopia is considered by some scholars as Islam's first true overseas adventure. A number of Muslim Ethiopian scholars claim that many words in Ge'ez are found in the Holy Qur'an. Both Ge'ez -- the classical Semitic tongue of Ethiopia -- and Arabic do share a strong and ancient linguistic affinity.
Today, in the remote northern Ethiopian hamlet of Nagash in eastern Tigray, a unique but unassuming mosque is said to stand on the exact location that was first settled by the early Muslim exiles to Ethiopia. Other parts of the country, however, contain important Muslim sanctuaries and holy shrines. In the town of Shek Husen in the old province of Bale, Muslim pilgrims from all over the Horn of Africa come in search of religious knowledge and blessings. The eastern Ethiopian federal city-state of Harar is another town considered sacred to Ethiopian Muslims.
ETHIOPIA AND THE MEDIAEVAL ARABIAN WORLD:
The ancient Christian kingdom of Abyssinia kept itself aloof from the Muslim world that engulfed it. The early eighth century, however, saw the mushrooming of Muslim communities which sprang up in different parts of present-day Ethiopia. These communities were not necessarily linked through politics or trade with Christian Abyssinia. Islam spread especially quickly among the nomadic peoples who inhabited the arid and far-flung corners of the country.
Arabian nomads lived similarly to the peoples of the Horn of Africa such as the Afar and the Somali peoples of the lowlands to the east and south of the Ethiopian highlands where the Christian kingdom flourished. Among the Oromo, another nomadic people whose language is related to those of the Afar and Somali people, Islam spread gradually. The Oromo shared the highlands with Christian Abyssinia, but the Oromo were predominant in the western, southern and eastern parts of the highlands, while the Christians were traditionally concentrated in the northeastern highlands.
The spread of Islam, as such, had no direct correlation with Axum's demise. But all of Ethiopia's neighbours -- save Nubia for a few centuries -- embraced the new religion.
Muslim traders monopolised the spice trade between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Even though Ethiopia was located at the crossroads of the spice trade, it isolated itself and was largely excluded from the lucrative trade. The Christian Ethiopian Zagwe dynasty (mid-12th to mid-14th centuries AD) and the successive Solomonic dynasty (mid-14th century to 1974) virtually cut off the country from its neighbours. Egypt, however, maintained its connections with Christian Ethiopia and thus somewhat moderated the country's insularity.
Generally though, Christian Ethiopia in mediaeval times was a landlocked and largely self- engrossed kingdom. The Muslim sultanates of Ethiopia, however, were heavily involved in the spice trade. By the mid-16th century, there were 15 different Muslim sultanates in what is today Ethiopia. These Muslim states prospered tremendously because of their trading in coffee and spices. The most powerful and influential of these sultanates were Iffat (an Oromo sultanate in Shoa) and Adal (Afar). Other important kingdoms included Kefa, which was founded by the Sidamo people around 1400, and Jimma in southwestern Ethiopia. These latter two sultanates are reputed to be the original homeland of coffee.
The Arabic-speaking ports of Berbera, Massawa and Zeila on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden were springboards from which the new religion spread into remoter parts of the region. The spread of Islam among the peoples of the Horn of Africa took place over several centuries. Islam was quickly adopted by the Somalis, the Afar, the Sidamo and many Oromo -- ethnic groups that are to this day predominantly Muslim. Ifat and Zeila became important Muslim sultanates, as did the Jimma and the Sidamo peoples, who had important commercial ties to Arabia and the Muslim countries bordering the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Tradition maintains that the mediaeval maltreatment of Copts in Egypt was reciprocated in Ethiopia by the persecution of the country's Muslims. The Mamluke Sultan Jaqmaq's (1438- 1453) correspondence with Emperor Zar'a Ya'qub showed how important the treatment of Muslim Abyssinians was to the rulers of Muslim states in the Middle East and North Africa, especially Egypt. Likewise, the treatment of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority by the Muslim rulers of the country was taken very seriously by the Ethiopians.
A letter written in 1290 by Ethiopia's Emperor Yibga Zion (1285-1294) to the Mamluke Sultan Mansur Al-Qalawun of Egypt (1279-1290) was typical of the mediaeval correspondence between Egyptian and Ethiopian rulers. "I shall protect the Muslims throughout my kingdom and His Highness will do the same with the Christians of Egypt; so let us unite in mutual understanding and common action, and let us go on corresponding."
The further strengthening of cultural ties between Egypt and Ethiopia during this period had a direct impact on the Muslim community in Ethiopia. During the reign of Emperor Dawit David (1380-1412), the translations made by Coptic monks from Arabic to Ge'ez made many Arabic texts readily available to the Ethiopians.
However, the co-existence of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and traditional African religions has not historically been an easy one. Sectarian tensions continued down the centuries, often erupting into deadly conflicts and devastating wars which marred the legacy of early Muslims in Ethiopia.
AHMED THE LEFT-HANDED AND THE RISE OF HARAR:
The legacy of the 1528-1560 Muslim-Christian wars that ripped Ethiopia apart was a mistrust between Christians and Muslims that never completely abated. Successive regimes have tried to gloss over the deep-rooted differences and have tried to foster a sense of national unity but the outcome of the wars continued to breed hostility.
At the heart of the jihad was the Muslim city of Harar, perched high in the Ahmar Mountains of eastern Ethiopia and long-regarded as the beacon of Islam and the holiest Islamic city in the country.
Harar became a Muslim power under Sultan Abu Bakr Mohamed in 1520. Its rise to prominence, however, was bloody and battle-ridden. Abu Bakr Mohamed was quickly toppled and killed by the religious zealot and military strongman Ahmed ibn Ibrahim, better known as Ahmed Gragn or Ahmed the Left-Handed.
The latter soon emerged as the scourge of Christian Ethiopia.
Ahmed Gragn's ultimate aim was to unite the Muslims of the Horn of Africa by establishing an Islamic state in the region. To accomplish this aim, he launched a holy war or jihad against Christian Ethiopia. Gragn at first appeared to be invincible. His armies overran Shoa in 1529, Amhara in 1531 and finally Tigray in 1535. The ancient Christian kingdom of Ethiopia appeared to be mortally wounded. Only a miracle or divine intervention could save Christianity in the country. According to Ethiopian Church records, nine out of every 10 Ethiopian Christians were forced to convert to Islam as a direct result of Ahmed Gragn's campaigns. His goal was the complete Islamisation of the country.
Relations between the Christians of northeastern Ethiopia and the thriving Islamic sultanates of eastern, central and southwestern Ethiopia were traditionally characterised by a tense co-existence. With Ahmed Gragn's campaigns, open hostilities and conflict became the norm. At stake was the destiny of Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa, as well as the cultural orientation of an ancient multi-linguistic and multi-religious land.
Ironically, it was the timely intervention of Portugal -- a Roman Catholic European power -- that saved Orthodox Christian Ethiopia. Lebna Dengel, the reigning Christian emperor at the time, sent urgent dispatches to the Portuguese requesting their aid. In 1540, some 400 Portuguese troops arrived to train and arm the Christian Ethiopian army. For the first time in Ethiopian history, guns were used on the battlefield. The tables were turned and the Muslim forces fled. The introduction of firearms determined the course of battle and the future of the country. The Muslim armies, however, were still able to exile Dengel to the impregnable Monastery of Debra Damo in Tigray where he later died in 1543. His son Galawdewos ascended the Solomonian throne and died in 1559 during his siege of Harar, after which his head was paraded around the city on a stake.
The arrival of the Portuguese represented a reversal of fortunes for the Muslims of the Horn of Africa. They never fully recovered from their defeat at the hands of the Ethiopian Christians and their Portuguese allies. Despite the attempts of Gragn's widow, Bati Del Wambara, to carry on his jihad, the Muslim Sultanate of Adal was finally destroyed by Christian Ethiopia in 1577. For centuries, Muslims were forced to play second fiddle to Christians.
Muslim traders and scholars from Harar, however, continued to have a tremendous influence on the Islamisation of other parts of Ethiopia and different ethnic groups of the country.
In 1647 Emir Ali Ibn Dawoud ruled Harar with an iron fist, and in a determined effort to Islamise the non-Muslim Oromo tribes surrounding the city, he embarked on a series of jihads. Today the bulk of Ethiopia's Muslims are Oromo, but many of the country's Muslims regard Harar as their spiritual centre and the guardian of Islamic culture and scholarship in the Horn of Africa.
Harar had its own currency and established diplomatic relations with a number of Muslim states in the region, but its autonomy was abruptly ended when Khedive Ismail of Egypt dispatched forces that occupied the city, and executed its emir. The Egyptian occupation of Harar was short-lived. In 1885 Emir Abdullah of Harar led a resistance movement that ended the Egyptian occupation.
Egyptian interest in the Nile Basin countries intensified after Mohamed Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, set his sights on the Sudan. In 1820-1821 Mohamed Ali's armies conquered the entire Sudan and proceeded to expand into central Africa and the Red Sea Basin, thereby encroaching on territory under the control of the Christian Abyssinian kingdom. The Pasha's expansion included clashes with Muslim sultanates in the Horn of Africa.
Mohamed Ali's successors advanced even further into the African continent. The Pasha's house greedily embraced the worst aspects of Western colonialism. The entire Nile Basin, with the notable exception of the Christian Abyssinian kingdom, was now in Egyptian hands. Certain kingdoms in the African Great Lakes region, like Buganda, also remained outside the Egyptian domain. The Egyptians soon adopted the European approach of condescendingly looking down on African cultural traditions and arrogating a civilising mission for themselves.
Khedieve Ismail's designs on an African empire were checked by Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV in the events leading up to the Battle of Gura. Britain and other European powers were determined to check Egypt's southward expansion. They wanted to make sure that Khedieve Ismail's grandiose designs to create an pan-Nilotic empire were crushed. The Europeans saw Ethiopia as a key ally in a plot to dash Ismail's plans.
The Egyptians were headquartered in the Red Sea port of Massawa, today the chief port of Eritrea. The stage was set for a showdown.
Khedieve Ismail deployed American mercenaries at the head of his 15,000-strong army. The Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV mustered some 60,000 crudely-armed warriors. After a series of battles, an estimated 8,500 Egyptian troops perished and beat a hasty retreat to Massawa. While Ismail retained control of Massawa and the Red Sea coastal strip, he pledged never to re-enter the Ethiopian highlands.
The Ethiopian victory at Gura in 1876 was the forerunner to the even more impressive and far- reaching Ethiopian defeat of the Italians at Adwa in March 1896. The Battle of Adwa was the first major victory of an African army over a European power. Egypt's overwhelming loss paved the way for British occupation of Egypt in 1882.
The great powers of Europe, and especially Britain, took a keen interest in the Horn of Africa and the Nile Basin. Ethiopia too was fast changing and the Christian Solomonian rulers of the highlands were expanding their domain into lands towards the south and east -- predominantly Muslim territories. In 1887, Harar lost its independence as an ancient Muslim sultanate when Menelik, the Prince of Shoa who would later become the founder of modern Ethiopia, defeated Emir Abdullah at the Battle of Chelenko. Menelik appointed Ras Makonen, the father of the future Emperor Haile Selassie, as ruler of the city. A new administration was set up which incorporated members of the deposed emir's family.
As Harar was the birthplace of Ras Tafari, who was later to assume the imperial title Haile Selassie, the city developed a special symbolic importance. The respectful treatment of the city's predominantly Muslim population by the new Christian rulers became a focus of Arab scrutiny and a catalyst for Muslim-Christian relations in Ethiopia.
The first Ethiopians to embrace Islam did so during Prophet Mohamed's own lifetime. Their descendants were historically known as the Jabarti or the Muslims of the Ethiopian highlands. The Jabartis lived relatively peaceably among their Christian and Jewish compatriots until an Ethiopian imperial decree was issued in 1668 which ordained that Jabartis (Muslims) and Felashas (Jews) would have to reside in separate quarters from the Christians. This effectively created a state of religious segregation.
The decree was no doubt inspired by the Portuguese, who began to meddle in the affairs of the country around that time. Portuguese mercenaries settled in the regions adjacent to Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, during the reign of Emperor Susneyos (1607-1632). Gradually gaining influence over the Ethiopian throne, the Portuguese in 1622 announced the official conversion of Emperor Susneyos to Roman Catholicism, much to the chagrin of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Solomonian aristocracy. Susneyos went on to persecute his Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish subjects. Thousands were butchered in massacres that were inspired by the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.
Susneyos surrounded himself with a protective ring of Portuguese mercenaries who soon came to dominate his court. His people, however, rebelled and in 1632 Susneyos was forced to abdicate and his son Crown Prince Fasilidos became Emperor.
This tragic episode in Ethiopian history had far-reaching repercussions. First, it galvanised the people of the Ethiopian heartlands around the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the ruling elites officially adopted Orthodox Christianity as the state religion. Europeans were viewed suspiciously and the country deliberately shunned outside influences. Roman Catholics, Muslims and Jews were precluded from ascending the imperial throne which became the exclusive prerogative of Orthodox Christians.
The Solomonic tradition continued well into modern times.
THE RECENT HISTORY OF THE SOLOMONIAN DYNASTY:
After the death of Menelik II in 1913, Lij Iyasu ascended Ethiopia's Solomonian throne. Lij Iyasu, the grandson and designated heir of Menelik II, was viewed suspiciously by the imperial court and the Christian Orthodox aristocracy. He was regarded as overly friendly towards Muslims. Indeed, even though officially an Orthodox Christian, many of his courtiers suspected his secret conversion to Islam. Several of Lij Iyasu's wives were Muslim and while his admirers saw these marriages as important political alliances that cemented ties with the far-flung and newly conquered Muslim regions of the empire, his critics felt that the country was in danger of becoming a Muslim dominated state. The Orthodox clergy and nobility conspired to remove Iyasu.
In 1916, Iyasu was ousted and he fled to the inhospitable and predominantly Muslim lowland region inhabited by the warlike Afar. Princess Zewditu, Menelik II's daughter, was hastily crowned Empress of Ethiopia. Iyasu was captured by imperial forces five years later and was incarcerated in Fiche, northern Shoa. It was not the first time that an Ethiopian monarch suspected of being sympathetic to Muslims was politically sidelined. It simply reinforced a long- standing tradition.
Strangely enough, it is held that certain members of the Solomonian royal family were Ashraf -- that is they claimed descent from the Prophet Mohamed. A relatively recent example was the Empress Menen, consort of Emperor Haile Selassie, who claimed she was descended from the Prophet Mohamed through her mother Sehin, daughter of Negus Mikael (alias Mohamed Ali) of the old province of Wollo.
See also Solomonic lineage.
Abdullah bin Muhammed al-Bakir
5th in descent from the Prophet
Imam Ali I
Imam Muhammed I
Imam Muhammed II
Imam Ali II
Muhammad Ali (Mikael) (died 1919)
(Princess) Sehin (wed Janterar Asfa)
Empress Menen (wed Haile Selassie)
2/3/2012 7:03:54 AM
Bismillah ir rah man ir raheem, yes brother I remember that clearly,i still had a very limited overstanding of islam, in the Quaran people as I did pik out verses,and read just the verse in contex with out knowing the story as I did..in paticular kill them where u find them ,this revelation came after the meccans were killing muslims where ever they found them for years muhammed peace be upon him wouldnt fight bk or any thing till.Allah gave permission as far as raiding the caravans and killing them they were raking bk their own possessions stole by the meccans when they ribbed and killed and raped muslims family thst remained in mecca..as far as slavery goes muhammad pbuh ,turned slaves into leaders of islam Bilal a ethiopian was the first to stand on top the kaaba and call to prayer, aswad was a black man whom.felt like the lowest of people do to how he was treated in society at a time wen black amd brown was worse then blak and white muhammed pbuh told him he was the best of people and married to him the most beautiful woman in medina he was soon after martyrd defending islam.tje prophet wept laughed and turned hid head he cried becaus he lost one of his best freinds he laughed because he went straightvto heaven he turned his head because he seen him in a vision with his knew wives tand they were more beautiful then the one he was givin.here, another slave was so close to the prophet that his father looked for him for years, when the father found him he said ive come for my son..muhammed pbuh said ok he is a free muslim he can go with u or stay the slave said I will choose no one over the prophet saddened his father deeply but muhammed turned slaves in to leaders polytheists to monoteists ..now later when the prophet died people did plenty wrongbin Allah name they will getvtheres in judgement day like everyone of us me and u...also yhe first part wen I was 14 I went to.mosque but never took shahadda shirk and apostate is not forgivin of muslims,,one who took shahada how ever wen u do take shahafda all previous din are erased new slate from.that day trully born again,yes thrre were crszy bad people in islam but our religion comes fro.the quaran in arabic and the sunnah of the prophet ,,i was paraphrazing the story on.bilal and aswad you cant hearcthe beauty of it till u hear for ur self