Ethiopian Treasures

The Muslim-Christian War (1528-1560)

Islam was introduced to Ethiopia in 615 AD when the followers of Prophet Mohammed, including his wife sought refuge in Aksum. The king of Aksum welcomed them, respected their religion and offered them protection. They later settled in Negash, east of Tigray, which has become one of the most important places for the Islamic faith in Ethiopia. Prophet Mohammed ordered his followers not harm Ethiopians. Islam spread to the east of the country mainly the Harar region, which was established by Sultan Abu Beker Mohammed in 1520 and became the Holy City for the Muslims. Harar also became an important city for trade, famous for its Islamic architecture such as the City Walls and a centre of Muslim scholarship.

However, the order of Prophet Mohammed not harm Ethiopians did not prevent Ahmed Gragn, a militant Muslim leader, whose forces swept across Ethiopia from Harar in the east of the country and threaten the complete distruction of Ethiopian Christendom in 1528. Ahmed Gragn destroyed many churches, by occupying Shewa, Gonder, Wollo and part of Tigray. At that time Lebna Dengel was the Emperor he requested help from the Portuguese to combat Ahmed Gragn advancing army. The Portuguese assistance did not arrive on time and Emperor Lebna Dengel was exiled at Debre Damo monastery, in Tigray. Emperor Lebna Dengel died in exile and Ahmed Gragn continued his campaign of destruction of churches.

In 1543, Emperor Galawdewos, the son of Emperor Lebna Dengel, took the throne and defeated and killed Ahmed Gragn in a Battle near Lake Tana with the assistance of the Portuguese. After the defeat of Ahmed Gragn, Galawdewos attempted to build the churches destroyed and restore peace but he was unsuccessful due to constant raids by Ahmed Gragn followers led by his widow Bati Del Wambara.

In 1559, Emperor Gelawdewos marched on Harar with the aim to eradicate the constant religious sectarianism taking place. Gelawdewos was killed in a battle and his head was paraded around the city on a stake.



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Historical Attractions