According to Al-Omari, Ifat was a state close to the Red Sea
coast, 15 days by 20 days "normal traveling time". The state had a river (Awash River
), was well peopled and had an army of 20,000 soldiers and 15,000 horsemen. Al-Omari mentioned seven cities in Ifat: Belqulzar, Kuljura, Shimi, Shewa
, Jamme and Laboo.
While reporting that its center was "a place called Walalah, probably the modern Wäläle south of Šäno in the Ěnkwoy valley, about 50 miles ENE of Addis Ababa
", G.W.B. Huntingford
"provisionally" estimated its southern and eastern boundaries were along the Awash River
, the western frontier a line drawn between Medra Kabd
towards the Jamma river
east of Debre Libanos
(which it shared with Damot
), and the northern boundary along the Adabay
The Al-Omari territorial account of Ifat Sultanate implies a size of 300 kilometers by 400 kilometers, which may be an exaggeration, according to Richard Pankhurst
According to Taddesse Tamrat, Ifat's borders included Fatager
. The port of Zeila provided an entry point for trade and served as the most important entry point for Islam into Ethiopian lands. Ifat rulers controlled Zeila, and it was an important commercial and religious base for them.
It was the northernmost of several Muslim states in the Horn of Africa, acting as a buffer between Christian kingdom and the Muslim states along the coastal regions.
Founding of Ifat
Ifat first emerged when Umar ibn Dunya-huz, later to be known as Sultan Umar Walashma
, carved out his own kingdom and conquered the Sultanate of Showa
(located in the highlands of Eastern Shewa
province in Tegulat).
Taddesse Tamrat explains Sultan Walashma's military acts as an effort to consolidate the Muslim territories in the Horn of Africa in much the same way as Emperor Yekuno Amlak
was attempting to consolidate the Christian territories in the highlands during the same period.
According to the Arab historian Maqrizi, known for his pro-Islamic version of history written around 1435 that Sultan Umar ibn Dunya-huz was the first ruler of Ifat and founded Ifat at Zeila
in 1185. He was also the grandson of the famous Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn
Umar died around 1275, stated Maqrizi, and was succeeded by "four or five sons" with each ruling a short period.
Finally, Sabr ad-Din I came to power and he ruled Ifat till the turn of the century. He was succeeded by Sultan Ali, according to Maqrizi, who was the first ruler to engage with a warfare against the Abyssinia
Conflict with Abyssinia
In 1320 a conflict between the Christian monarch and Muslim Ifat leaders began. The conflict was precipitated by Al-Nasir Muhammad
The Mamluk ruler Al-Nasir Muhammad was persecuting Christian Copts
and destroying Coptic churches. The Ethiopian Emperor Amda Seyon I
sent an envoy with a warning to the Mamluk ruler that if he did not stop the persecution of Christians in Egypt, he would retaliate against Muslims under his rule and would starve the peoples of Egypt by diverting the course of the Nile.
According to Pankhurst, of the two threats, the diversion of Nile was an idle threat and the Egyptian sultan dismissed it because he likely realized this to be so. The fear that the Ethiopians might tamper with the Nile, states Pankhurst, was nevertheless to remain with Egyptians for many centuries.
As a result of the threats and the dispute between Amda Seyon and Al Nasr, the Sultan of Ifat, Haqq ad-Din I
initiating a definite war of aggression.
He invaded the Christian Abyssinian territory in the Amhara kingdom, burnt churches and forced apostasy
He also seized and imprisoned the envoy sent by the Emperor on his way back from Cairo. Haqq ad-Din tried to convert the envoy, killing him when this failed.
In response, the irate Emperor raided the inhabitants of all the land of Shewa, much of it inhabited by Muslims at that time, and other districts of Ifat Sultanate.
The historical records of that time, depending on which side wrote the history, indicate a series of defeat, destruction and burning of towns of the opposite side.
According to the Christian chronicles, the son of the Sultan Haqq ad-Din Dadader Haqq ad-Din who was the leader of the Midra Zega and Menz
people who were then Muslims, fought the emperor in the battle of Marra Biete
in an area somewhere south of Marra Biete
in modern North Shewa
. Dadader forces were able to surround the emperor Amda Seyon I
, who nevertheless succeeded in defeating them and killed the commander Dadader in the battle .
rebellion was not an attempt to achieve independence, but to become emperor of a Muslim Ethiopia. Amda Seyon's royal chronicle states that Sabr ad-Din proclaimed:
"I wish to be King of all Ethiopia; I will rule the Christians according to their law and I will destroy their churches...I will nominate governors in all the provinces of Ethiopia, as does the King of Zion
...I will transform the churches into mosques. I will subjugate and convert the King of the Christians to my religion, I will make him a provincial governor, and if he refuses to be converted I will hand him over to one of the shepherds, called Warjeke [i.e. Werjih
], that he may be made a keeper of camels. As for the Queen Jan Mangesha
, his wife, I will employ her to grind corn. I will make my residence at Marade [i.e. Tegulet
], the capital of his kingdom.
In fact, after his first incursion, Sabr ad-Din appointed governors for nearby and neighboring provinces such as Fetegar
and Alamalé (i.e. Aymellel, part of the "Guragé
country"), as well as far-off provinces in the north like Damot
, and Gojjam
. He also threatened to plant khat
at the capital, a stimulant used by Muslims but forbidden to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians
Sabr ad-Din's rebellion in early 1332, with its religious support and ambitious goals, was therefore seen as a jihad
rather than an attempt at independence, and it was consequently immediately joined by the nearby Muslim province of Dewaro (the first known mention of the province), under the governor Haydera, and the western province of Hadiya
under the vassal local ruler Ameno. Sabr ad-Din divided his troops into three parts, sending a division north-westwards to attack Amhara
, one northwards to attack Angot, and another, under his personal command, westward to take Shewa
Amda Seyon subsequently mobilized his soldiers to meet the threat, endowing them with gifts of gold, silver, and lavish clothing – so much so that the chronicler explains that "in his reign gold and silver abounded like stones and fine clothes were as common as the leaves of the trees or the grass in the fields."
Despite the extravagance he bestowed on his men, many chose not to fight due to Ifat's inhospitable mountainous and arid terrain and the complete absence of roads. Nevertheless, they advanced on 24 Yakatit
, and an attachment was able to find the rebellious governor and put him to flight. Once the remainder of Amda Seyon's
army arrived, they destroyed the capital of Ifat zeila
and killed many soldiers at the battle of Zeila
. But Sabr ad-Din once again escaped. Amda Seyon's forces then grouped together for a final attack, destroying one of his camps, killing many men, women, and children, taking the rest prisoner, as well as looting it of its gold, silver, and its "fine clothes and jewels without number."
Sabr ad-Din subsequently sued for peace, appealing to Queen Jan Mengesha, who refused his peace offer and expressed Amda Seyon's determination not to return to his capital until he had searched Sabr ad-Din out. Upon hearing this, Sabr ad-Din realized that his rebellion futile and surrendered himself to Amda Seyon's camp.
Amda Seyon's courtiers demanded that Sabr ad-Din be executed, but he instead granted him relative clemency and had the rebellious governor imprisoned. Amda Seyon then appointed the governor's brother, Jamal ad-Din I
, as his successor in Ifat. Just as the Ifat rebellion had been quelled, however, the neighboring provinces of Adal and Mora
just north of Ifat rose against the Emperor. Amda Seyon soon also put down this rebellion.
the Muslim rulers of Ifat continued their campaign against the Christian Emperor. His son, Emperor Sayfa Arad appointed Ahmad, also known as Harb Arad ibn Ali as the sultan of Ifat, and put Ali's father and relatives in prison.
Sayfa Arad was close to Ahmad and supported his rule, however, Ahmad was killed in an Ifat uprising. Ahmad's son Haqq ad-Din II
then came to power in Ifat. Internal ruling family struggle in Ifat expelled grandfather Ali's son named Mola Asfah who gathered forces and attacked Ahmad's son. A series of battles affirmed Sultan Haqq ad-Din II position of power.
The new Sultan moved away from previous capital of Ifat, to a new town of Wahal. From there, he ceaselessly fought with the Emperor, in over twenty battles through 1370, according to Maqrizi's chronicle written in 1435. The Ifat Sultan Haqq ad-Din II died in a battle in 1376.
According to historian Mordechai Abir, the continued warfare between Ifat Sultanate and the Ethiopian Emperor was a part of the larger geopolitical conflict, where Egypt had arrested Coptic Church's Patriarch Marcos in 1352. This arrest led to retaliatory arrest and imprisonment of all Egyptian merchants in Ethiopia. In 1361, the Egyptian Sultan al-Malik al-Salih released the Patriarch and then sought amicable relations with Ethiopian Emperor. The actions of the Ifat Sultanate and Muslim kingdoms in the Horn of Africa, states Abir, were linked to the Muslim-Christian conflicts between Egypt and Ethiopia.
The end of Ifat sultanate
In 1376, Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din Abdul Muhammad
, also called Sa'ad ad-Din II, succeeded his brother and came to power, who continued to attack the Abyssinian Christian army. He attacked regional chiefs such as at Zalan and Hadeya, who supported the Emperor.
According to Mordechai Abir, Sa'ad ad-Din II raids against the Ethiopian empire were largely hit-and-run type, which hardened the resolve of the Christian ruler to end the Muslim rule in their east.
In the early 15th century, the Ethiopian Emperor who was likely Dawit collected a large army to respond.
He branded the Muslims of the surrounding area "enemies of the Lord", and invaded Ifat. After much war, Ifat's troops were defeated. Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din subsequently fled to Zeila.
The Ethiopian Emperor's soldiers pursued him there, where they slayed him at the battle of Zeila.
The sources disagree on which Emperor conducted this campaign. According to the medieval historian al-Makrizi
, Emperor Dawit I
in 1403 pursued the Sultan of Adal
, Sa'ad ad-Din II
, to Zeila, where he killed the Sultan and sacked the city of Zeila
. However, another contemporary source dates the death of Sa'ad ad-Din II to 1415, and credits Emperor Yeshaq
with the slaying.
The Sultanate of Ifat eventually disappeared as the Christian kingdom expanded. Adal Sultanate with its capital of Harar emerged in the southeastern areas as the leading Muslim principality in latter part of the 14th century.
Several small territories continued to be ruled by different Walasma groups up to the eighteenth century.
By eighteenth century several Christian dynasties named Yifat and Menz, which were the province names of Ifat sultanate, were established.
Presently, its name is preserved in the modern-day Ethiopian district of Yifat
, situated in Shewa.
Sultans of Ifat
The Somalis led by Yemeni immigrants founded a state which they called Ifat with its principal center in Zeila
According to I.M. Lewis, the Zeila polity was governed by local dynasties consisting of Somalized Arabs or Arabized Somalis, dynasties, who also ruled over the similarly-established Sultanate of Mogadishu
in the Benadir
region to the south.
Many centuries of trade relation with Arabia began with the establishment of commercial colonies along the coast by the Himmyrati Kingdom and these eventually developed into two small states of Zeila or Adal in the north and Mogadishu in the south, gradually local dynasties of Somalized Arabs or Arabized Somali ruled." In due time these converts [Somali-Arabs] even established the Muslim sultanates of Ifat, Dawaro, Adal, and Dahlak and put pressure on the highland Ethiopian Christians by controlling trade through the main seaports of Suakin, Aydhab, Zeila, and Berbera.
The Walashma dynasty of Ifat is more commonly linked with the Sheikh Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn
who is described as a Somali
Scholars proposed, based on Al Umari's account stating that the inhabitants of Ifat mainly spoke Ethiopian Semitic.
Ifat or Yifat, once the easternmost district of Shewa Sultanate, is located in a strategic position between the central highlands and the sea, and includes diverse population.
Its predecessor state Shewa Sultanate
is believed to be the first inland Muslim state and by the time it was incorporated into Ifat much of the inhabitants of Shewa land were Muslims.
According to the chronicle of Shewa Sultanate converting the inhabitants in the area begun in 1108, and the first to convert were the Gbbah people whom Trimingham suggested them being the ancestors of Argobbas.
A few years later after the conversion of the Gbbah people, the chronicle of Shewa sultanate mentions that in 1128 the Amhara fled from the land of Werjih people. The Werjih were a pastoral people, and in the fourteenth century they occupied the Awash Valley east of Shewan Plateau.
By the mid-fourteenth century, Islam expanded in the region and the inhabitants north of Awash river were the Muslim people of Zaber and Midra Zega (located south of modern Merhabete
); the Gabal (or Warjeh people today called Tigri Worji
); and much of the inhabitants of Ankober, were under the Sultanate of Ifat.
Tegulat, previously the capital of Shewa Sultanate, is situated on a mountain 24 km north of Debre Berhan
and was known by Muslims as Mar'ade.
The chronicle of Amda Tsion even mentions Khat being widely consumed by Muslims in the city of Marade.
Tegulat, later became the seat of Emperor Amde Tsion, thereby, making it the capital of the empire. The emperor then appointed the descendants of Walasmas as the king of all the Muslim lands.
In the predominately Somali capital of the Ifat Sultanate, Zeila
, and local Somali territories, the Somali
language was most commonly present.
The 19th-century Ethiopian historian Asma Giyorgis suggests that the Walashma themselves spoke Arabic.
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