Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

Somali Clans mentioned in The Conquest of Ethiopia

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Meaningful excerpts from the book  Futuh Al-Habasha: The Conquest of Abyssinia (Futuh Al-Habasa) By Sihab ad-Din Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Qader. Brief information by the book provided by Amazon.com:


Sihab ad-Din Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Qader’s account of the early sixteenth century Jihad, or holywar, in Ethiopia, of Imam Ahmad bin Ibrahim, better known as Ahmad Gran, or the Left handed, is an historical classic. The Yamani author was an eyewitness of several of the battles he describes, and is an invaluable source. His book, which is full of human, and at times tragic, drama, makes a major contribution to our knowledge of a crucially important period in the hisoty of Ethiopia and Horn of Africa.

‘Futuh al-Habasa,’ or ‘Conquest of Abyssinia’ – which undoubtedly reflects the situation as it seemed to its Yamani author at the time of its composition. The forces of Imam Ahmad bin Ibrahim had occupied the greater part of Ethiopia. The resistance of Emperor Lebna Dengel had virtually come to an end, and many Christians had chosen to convert to Islam. The victorious Imam’s regime seemed there to stay.

This was, however, far from the end of the story. The Imam was killed in battle on February 21, 1543, whereupon his army almost immediately disintegrated. Those of his soldiers who could do so made their way back to the East. Not a few Muslim converts reverted to their former faith.

The Futuh thus refers to a relatively short, though crucially important, period in Ethiopia’s long history. The book is nevertheless valuable, in that its author was an eye-witness of many of the events he describes, and writes, as far as we can judge, with a degree of objectivity rare for his time.

Here are some of the quotes from the book, we think are significant:

At this moment the companions of the imam screamed out, saying, ‘The infidels have tricked us; they are after the livestock,’ whereupon the imam split his forces into two divisions: one he entrusted to Garad Ahmusa, composed of the Somali spearmen of the Marraihan, the Gorgorah and the Hawiya; around one-thousand of them from among the most famous spearmen. And from the soldiers bearing shields, the same number.

”He sent (another messenger) to the tribe of Marraihan whose chieftain was Hirabu bin Goita Tedros bin Adam*, and he also sent (messengers) to the outlying Provinces to spur them on to the jihad, for God, and in the way of the Most High God.

*: (160) Goita or Goyta, the Tegrenya for ‘master’ or ‘lord’, Francesco da Bassano, Vocabolario tigray-italiano, col.883, seems to have been sometimes used as a title and sometimes as a personal name.

The imam accepted his excuse, and then said to him: ‘But no good will come to you from just wishing (that things will improve). Thereupon Hirabu appointed his nephew to command the Marraihan and they rallied around the imam -ninety cavalry and more than seven-hundred footsoldiers- with Hirabu bringing up the rear. The imam went back to his city of Harar, taking the tribe of Marraihan with him.”

”Then Hirabu the chieftain of the Somali tribe of Marraihan, killed one of the equerries of the sultan ‘Umar Din when he was in Nageb. The imam heard about what Hirabu had done, and he said to the Sultan ‘Umar Din, ‘This Somali has acted treacherously towards you and killed your equerry.’ So the imam, and the sultan with him, prepared himself for an expedition and set out and arrived at the country of the Somalis, as far as Kidad. Hirabu. meantime, had fled and was hiding in his own country.The imam asked the sultan, ‘What shall we do now? I am going to send for him to hand over the horses, and to pay the blood-money. If he does so, then all is well: if he does not, then I shall go against him, while you go back to your country.’ So the imam sent to Hirabu to hand over the horses, and to pay the blood-money to some sharifs of the family of Ba’ Alawi, the Husainites, may God bless us through their means.”
”The army camped around the city (Harar; my own barracks), with each tribe being kept apart from the others. The tribe of the Marraihan was, however, wavering. Their chieftain was a man fond of intrigue and procrastination. Extremely wily, he loved double-dealing and swindles. The imam organised some of his soldiers and went to the Marraihan and confronted Hirabu and his tribe and said to him: ‘Why are you lagging behind in coming on the jihad? Hirabu complained about his plight, and excused himself on the grounds of his poverty-stricken state.

”A tribe called Girri then came to the imam. A dispute had arisen between them and their companions in another tribe called the Marraihan whose emir was called Hirabu, so the imam Ahmed sent a message to Hirabu emir of the Somalis, to make peace between them.”

”Now, having finished this, let us return to the earlier narrative, and look at what happened during the Somali campaign.When news of the imam’s leaving for the outlying provinces of Abyssinia reached them, a certain person, by name Hirabu, a chief of one of the Somali tribes called Marraihan, had arrived half-way along the route to the country of Harar. After verifying the departure of the imam to the land of Abbyssinia, he doubled back and returned to his own country.”
”He also sent (a messenger) to the tribe of Girri which was the tribe whose leader and chieftain was Mattan bin Utman bin Kaled, the Somali, his brother-in-law*
* 158) may also mean ‘the imam’s son-in-law’ See supra note 32. We know that the imam was only twenty-one when he defeated the patrician Degalhan (see p.27 supra) and that Mattan married his sister Fardusa (see p.44 infra).

Written by daud jimale

June 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

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