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Islam by country


According to the latest 2007 national census, Islam is the second most widely practiced religion in Ethiopia after Christianity, with over 25 million (or 33.9%) of Ethiopians adhering to Islam according to the 2007 national census,[1] having arrived in Ethiopia in 615.[2] Islam is the religion of the overwhelming majority of the Somali, Afar, Argobba and Harari, and the largest group of the Oromo peoples of Ethiopia according to the 1994 national census.



The first Muslims in Ethiopia were immigrants from Mecca, persecuted by the new leading tribe, the reactionary Quraysh. They were received by the ruler of Ethiopia, whom Arabic tradition has named Ashama ibn Abjar, and he settled them in Negash. Located in the Tigray Region, Negash is the historical center of Islam in Ethiopia and parts of East Africa. The Quraysh sent emissaries to bring them back to Arabia, but the King of Ethiopia refused their demands. The Prophet himself instructed his followers who came to Ethiopia, to respect and protect Ethiopia as well as live in peace with Ethiopian Christians.[3] While the city of Medina, north of Mecca, ultimately became the new home of most of the exiles from Mecca, a seventh century cemetery excavated inside the boundaries of Negash shows the Muslim community survived their departure.[4].

Islam later developed more in the coastal regions of the southern horn of Africa, particularly among the Somali. This was challenged by the mostly Christian northern people of Abyssinia, including Amhara, Tigray and north western Oromo. However the north and northeastern expansion of the Oromo, who practiced mainstream traditional Waaqa, affected the growth of Islam in its early days. Historian Ulrich Braukamper says, "the expansion of the non-Muslim Oromo people during subsequent centuries mostly eliminated Islam in those areas." However, following the centralization of some Oromo communities, some of them adopted Islam and today constitutes over 40% of their population.[5]

Under the former Emperor Haile Selassie, Muslim communities could bring matters of personal and family Law and inheritance before Islamic courts; many did so and probably continued to do so under the revolutionary regime. However, many Muslims dealt with such matters in terms of customary law. For example, the Somali and other pastoralists tended not to follow the requirement that daughters inherit half as much property as sons, particularly when livestock was at issue. In parts of Eritrea, the tendency to treat land as the corporate property of a descent group (lineage or clan) precluded following the Islamic principle of division of property among one's heirs.

The First Muadhdhin

The Ethiopian Bilal was one of the foremost companions of the Prophet Muhammad and the first Muadhdhin -muezzin- or the caller to prayer.[6]

Ancient Muslim sultanate

Ethiopia is believed to be the site of the oldest sultanate in the world. The Makhzumite Dynasty of Shewa was founded in AD 896, and was later replaced by the Ifat Sultanate, which was founded in the 1280s by Umar Walashma, apparently with the help of the Christian Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia.[7] There is further evidence of Muslim presence to the southwest of this area in the form of 18 inscribed Islamic gravestones, which have been found along the trade route south of the Awash River between Harar and Lake Langano.[8]

The First Hijrah

When the Prophet Mohammed saw the persecution to which his followers were subjected to in Mecca, he told them to find safe haven in northern Ethiopia, Abyssinia, where they would "find a king there who does not wrong anyone." It was the first hijra (migration) in Islam history.[9]

The fourth holiest Muslim city

Ethiopia is home to Harar, which according to UNESCO, is "considered 'the fourth holy city' of Islam," with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines.[10][11]

Muslims in contemporary Ethiopia

Mosque in Harar

Much as the rest of the Muslim world, the beliefs and practices of the Muslims in Ethiopia are basically the same: embodied in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. There are also Sufi brotherhoods present in Ethiopia. The most important Islamic religious practices, such as the daily ritual prayers (Salat) and fasting (Arabic صوم, Sawm, Ethiopic ጾም, or Tsom - used by Christians as well) during the holy month of Ramadan, are observed both in urban centers as well as in rural areas, among both settled peoples and nomads. Numerous Muslims in Ethiopia perform the pilgrimage to Mecca every year.

In Ethiopia's Muslim communities, as in neighboring Sudan and Somalia, many of the faithful are associated with, but not necessarily members of any specific Sufi order. Nevertheless, formal and informal attachment to Sufi practices is widespread. The emphasis seems less on the contemplative and disciplined mysticism, and more on the concentration of the spiritual powers possessed by certain founders of the orders and the leaders of local branches.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Census 2007", first draft, Table 6. The total population size for this Region includes 8 rural kebeles in Elidar woreda, whose numbers were estimated. The statistics in the latest version of the CIA World Factbook are taken from the 1994 national census.
  2. ^ J. Spencer Trimingham. 1952. Islam in Ethiopia. Oxford: Geoffrey Cumberlege for the University Press, p. 44
  3. ^ Ofcansky, Thomas P.; LaVerle Berry (1991). "Ethiopia and the Early Islamic Period". A Country Study: Ethiopia. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Retrieved 2007-09-25. "According to Islamic tradition, some members of Muhammad's family and some of his early converts had taken refuge with the Aksumites during the troubled years preceding the Prophet's rise to power, and Aksum was exempted from the jihad, or holy war, as a result." 
  4. ^ Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 43.
  5. ^ Ulrich Braukamper, Islamic History and Culture in Southern Ethiopia (2003)
  6. ^ The First Muadhdhin - Bilal ibn Rabah
  7. ^ Cedric Barnes, "Abyssinia" in Josef W. Meri and Jere L. Bacharach (eds.) Medieval Islamic civilization, pp. 12f
  8. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, The historical geography of Ethiopia from the first century AD to 1704, (Oxford University Press: 1989), pp. 76f
  9. ^ the first hijrah to Abyssinia
  10. ^ "Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town". World Heritage List. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 6 August 2009. "It is considered 'the fourth holy city' of Islam, having been founded by a holy missionary from the Arabic Peninsula." 
  11. ^ The fourth holiest Muslim city

External links

Further reading

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