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  • Zeila Islamic Civilization

    Posted by on October 6, 2009

    Zeila_ruinsZeila Islamic Civilization
    Introduction of Islam
    Much is not known about the history of Awdal from 100 BC, after the fall of ancient, Egypt to 615 AD when Islam was introduced by a number of Prophet Mohamed’s (PBUH) followers. These followers were running away from Mecca’s powerful, reactionary Quraysh tribe, and sought refuge in Awdal. Among this group was the Prophet’s (PBUH) wife and cousin. They were welcomed warmly in Awdal, and later protected from Qureysh emissaries that wanted to take them back to Mecca and prosecute them.

    And when the Prophet (PBUH) heard about the incident, He (PBUH) thanked and blessed Awdal by saying ” May Allah bless the Habasha”; the word “Habasha” means “black” in ancient Arabic language and all East Africans are black, and fit the description.
    Unfortunately, that word “Habasha” was later, erroneously translated to mean “Ethiopia” by contemporary Ethiopian writers, and that is the reason many Ethiopian writers write about the Prophet Mohamed’s (PBUH) blessing of Ethiopia.

    IF the Ethiopian writers’ claim is true, why didn’t Ethiopians embrace Islam at the time(615 AD)? And even if the Ethiopian writers claim that Ethiopians were Christians already, why did seventy percent (70%) of the Ethiopian population converted to Islam between 1450 AD and 1500 Ad, when Islam was actually introduced to Ethiopia for the first time? Furthermore, since Ethiopia is a land-locked country the followers had to go through Awdal to get to Ethiopia. In fact, this geographical fact alone annuls Ethiopia writers’ claim.

    Even though the people of Awdal practiced many different religions through their Dynasty, they realized this new religion of Islam is the truth and immediately accepted it. In order to understand the new religion thoroughly, they started learning Arabic language so they can practice and live the teachings of Islam. And when they witnessed the holly Quran revelations they became staunch believers and started changing their names to Arabic ones. Even today, most newborns are given Arabic names.

    This new relationship and trade with the middle east marks the beginning of Awdal’s millennium of peace and prosperity. It lasted for about 1300 years, longer than any civilization at any time including this current one.
    Awdal Empire of 700 AD –>1900 AD
    Right after the Prophet’s (PBUH) death, an influx of religious teachers and merchants from the middle east, Oman and Yemen poured into Awdal and started doing business with the Empire. The Empire expanded. And, at the height of its power and prosperity in the sixteenth century, Awdal under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Guray, extended from Zeila to as far west as the city of Akxum; what is now western Ethiopia.
    Even though the colonial anthropologist I.M. Lewis intentionally gives a distorted image of Skeikh Ahmad Guray’s origin, calling him the issue of a Coptic priest and a Muslim harlot, the Sheikh is from the Abrain sub-clan of the Maxaad Casse’ clan of The Gadabursi. His off springs still live in the city of Zeila where he was the king of.
    There are many writings in several different languages about this long and peaceful era, but I chose to include some excerpts from the US Military Strategic Handbook of Somalia written after the Black Hawk down.
    The military wanted to learn everything about Somalia and be prepared for future occurrences if any. So they offered grants to ten US universities to study Somalia from the beginning to the present, (everything there is to know ).
    And the best beginning these researchers found was Awdal, where they say was the first place the word “Somali” was ever spoken. That alone emphasizes Awdal’s importance in the history of the Horn.

    ======== Here is what the US military wrote about Awdal=====

    Emergence of Adal
    In addition to southward migration, a second factor in Somali history from the fifteenth century onward was the emergence of centralized state systems. The most important of these in medieval times was Adal, whose influence at the height of its power and prosperity in the sixteenth century extended from Saylac, the capital, through the fertile valleys of the Jijiga and the Harer plateau to the Ethiopian highlands. Adal’s fame derived not only from the prosperity and cosmopolitanism of its people, its architectural sophistication, graceful mosques, and high learning, but also from its conflicts with the expansionist Ethiopians. For hundreds of years before the fifteenth century, goodwill had existed between the dominant new civilization of Islam and the Christian neguses of Ethiopia. One tradition holds that Muhammad blessed Ethiopia and enjoined his disciples from ever conducting jihad (holy war) against the Christian kingdom in gratitude for the protection early Muslims had received from the Ethiopian negus. Whereas Muslim armies rapidly overran the more powerful empires of Persia and Byzantium soon after the birth of Islam, there was no jihad against Christian Ethiopia for centuries. The forbidding Ethiopian terrain of deep gorges, sharp escarpments, and perpendicular massifs that rise more than 4,500 meters also discouraged the Muslims from attempting a campaign of conquest against so inaccessible a kingdom.
    Muslim-Christian relations soured during the reign of the aggressive Negus Yeshaq (ruled 1414-29). Forces of his rapidly expanding empire descended from the highlands to despoil Muslim settlements in the valley east of the ancient city of Harer. Having branded the Muslims “enemies of the Lord,” Yeshaq invaded the Muslim Kingdom of Ifat in 1415. He crushed the armies of Ifat and put to flight in the wastes along the Gulf of Tadjoura (in present-day Djibouti) Ifat’s king Saad ad Din. Yeshaq followed Saad ad Din to the island off the coast of Saylac (which still bears his name), where the Muslim king was killed. Yeshaq compelled the Muslims to offer tribute, and also ordered his singers to compose a gloating hymn of thanksgiving for his victory. In the hymn’s lyrics, the word Somali appears for the first time in written record.
    By the sixteenth century, the Muslims had recovered sufficiently to break through from the east into the central Ethiopian highlands. Led by the charismatic Imam Ahmad Guray (1506-43), the Muslims poured into Ethiopia, using scorched-earth tactics that decimated the population of the country. A Portuguese expedition led by Pedro da Gama, a son of Vasco da Gama who was looking for the Prester John of medieval European folklore–a Christian, African monarch of vast dominions–arrived from the sea and saved Ethiopia. The joint Portuguese-Ethiopian force used cannon to route the Muslims, whose imam died on the battlefield.

    At early nineteenth century Awdal was one of the most civilized Empires in the World. The city of Zeila was the biggest commerce center on the red sea, catering to the inlands of Africa, the Middle east, the Far east, and southern Europe, while the city of Harar was the pillar of Islamic education in Africa, rivaling Timbuktu university of west Africa. The British navy intelligence officer Richard Burton who was sent to spy on Awdal on 1855, wrote a lot about  the Awdal city of Harar’s academic advancement, and the city of Zeila’s economic prosperity. He was amazed with the region’s sophistication, and reported that back to England. That report coupled with the people of Awdal’s complacency and trusting nature , and the Christian Crusaders’ commitment to destroy  the powerful Islamic civilization, will eventually trigger Awdal’s downfall.

    By: Abdo Olhayeh, London UK.


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