Ethiopian–Adal War

Ethiopian–Adal War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Ethiopian-Adal War

caption=Ahmed Gurey monument in Mogadishu
date=1529 until 1543
result=Ethiopian-Portuguese Victory, Ottoman evacuation, crippling of the Adal Sultanate
combatant1=Ethiopian Empire Kingdom of Portugal
combatant2=Adal Sultanate
Ottoman Empire
commander1=Dawit II of Ethiopia
Wasan Sagad
Gelawdewos of Ethiopia
Cristóvão da Gama
commander2=Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi
Sayid Mehmed
Garad Emar

The Ethiopian-Adal War was a military conflict between the Ethiopian Empire and the Adal Sultanate from 1529 until 1543. The Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi (nicknamed "Gurey" in Somali and "Gragn" in Amharic (ግራኝ "Graññ"), both meaning "the left-handed") came close to extinguishing the ancient realm of Ethiopia, and converting all of its subjects to Islam; the intervention of the European Cristóvão da Gama, son of the famous navigator Vasco da Gama, helped to prevent this outcome. However, both polities exhausted their resources and manpower in this conflict, allowing the northward migration of the Oromo into their present homelands to the north and west of Addis Ababa. [See, for example, Richard Pankhurst, "The Ethiopians: A History" (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), pp. 96f and sources cited therein.] Many historians trace the origins of hostility between Somalia and Ethiopia to this war. [For example, David D. Laitin and Said S. Samatar, "Somalia: Nation in Search of a State" (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987).] Some historians also argue that this conflict proved, through their use on both sides, the value of firearms such as the matchlock musket, cannons, and the arquebus over traditional weapons.Fact|date=June 2008


When the Imam Ahmad gained control over the Adal Sultanate, he also attracted the tribes of Somalia and the Afar to his cause against the Ethiopians to the west, initiating a jihad against Dawit II, Emperor of Ethiopia in 1527. He was supported in his cause by several Falashas and Orthodox Ethiopians who opposed Dawit II's rule.

Course of the war

In 1529 the forces under Imam Ahmad, defeated a larger Ethiopian army at the Battle of Shimbra Kure. This victory came at heavy cost, but it solidified the Muslim morale, providing proof that they could stand up to the large Ethiopian army.

The victories that gave the followers of Imam Ahmad the upper hand came in 1531. The first was at Antukyah, where canon-fire at the start of the battle panicked the Ethiopian soldiers. The second was on 28 October at Amba Sel, when troops under the Imam not only defeated but dispersed the Ethiopian army and captured items of the Imperial regalia. These victories allowed the Muslims to enter the Ethiopian highlands, where they began to sack and burn numerous churches, including Atronsa Maryam where the remains of several Emperors had been interred. [ [ "Local History in Ethiopia"] (pdf) The Nordic Africa Institute website (accessed 28 January 2008)]

The country was looted by the Ahmad's forces, who destroyed several Christian monuments and oppressed the non-Muslim Amhara and Tigray.

Dawit II died in 1540 and his heir was captured by the Muslims; the Empress was unable to react as she was besieged in the capital. In 1543 the Ethiopian guerrillas were able to defeat the Muslims with the help of the Portuguese navy, which brought 400 musketeers led by Cristóvão da Gama. Although da Gama was captured in the Battle of Wofla, and later killed, in 1543 Ahmad died in the Battle of Wayna Daga with the help of the surviving Portuguese musketeers.

Mohammed Hassan has plausibly argued that because the participants in this conflict weakened each other severely, this provided an opportunity for the Oromo people to migrate into the lands south of the Abay east to Harar and make them their homelands. [Mohammed Hassen, "The Oromo of Ethiopia: A History (1570-1860)" Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1994.]

ee also

*Turkish-Portuguese War (1538–1557)
*History of Somalia
*History of Ethiopia


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