Walashma dynasty

The Walashma dynasty was a medieval Muslim dynasty of the Horn of Africa. It governed the Ifat and Adal Sultanates in what are present-day northern Somalia, Djibouti and eastern Ethiopia.

Genealogical traditions

The Walashma princes of Ifat and Adal all possessed Arab genealogical traditions.[1] According to both Maqrizi and the chronicle of the Walashma, ʿUmar Walashma, the founder of the dynasty, was of Quraysh or Hashimite origin.[2]

In terms of lineage, Walashma traditions trace descent from Akīl ibn Abī Tālib, the brother of the Caliph ʿAlī and Djaʿfar ibn Abī Tālib. The latter was among the earliest Muslims to settle in the Horn region. However, the semi-legendary apologetic History of the Walasma' asserts that ʿUmar ibn-Dunya-hawz had as a progenitor Caliph ʿAlī's son al-Hasan [1] with this genealogy being owed to their supposed ancestor Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn, a famous Somali saintly figure.[3]


The 19th century Ethiopian historian Asma Giyorgis suggests that the Walashma themselves spoke Arabic. He additionally describes the family as among the first Muslims to enter Abyssinia ("Habasha"), which he writes was originally inhabited by the Saba, Balaw, Kalaw and Noba.[4]

Sultanate of Ifat

Main article: Sultanate of Ifat

According to Maqrizi, the forefathers of 'Umar Walashma first settled in the Zeila-controlled Jabarta region. From there, they slowly expanded into the hinterland.[2]

Despite being described as a 'successor' to the Sultanate of Showa, the Sultanate of Ifat and Showa state were founded around the same time. ʿUmar DunyaHuz founded Ifat at Zeila in 1185, one of eight Sultanates that were established in the Horn of Africa during this period. The other sultanates were the aforementioned Showa along with the sultanates of Arbabni, Dawaro, Hadiya, Sharka, Bale and Dara). The original borders of the Sultanate of Ifat roughly correspond with the present-day Awdal region in northwestern Somalia. In 1278, the Walashma conquered the Sultanate of Showa. The dynasty later annexed the sultanate into Ifat in 1280, making Ifat the largest and most powerful of its peers. This annexation is usually attributed to ʿUmar, but he had been dead for 50 years by the time Showa was annexed. More likely, it was his grandson Jamal ad-Dīn or perhaps even his great-grandson Abūd.

In 1332, the Zeila-based King of Adal was slain in a military campaign against the Abyssinian Emperor Amda Seyon's invading troops.[5] Amda Seyon then appointed Jamal ad-Din as the new King, followed by Jamal ad-Din's brother Nasr ad-Din.[6] Despite this setback, the Muslim rulers of Ifat continued their campaign. The Abyssinian Emperor branded the Muslims of the surrounding area "enemies of the Lord", and again invaded Ifat in the early 15th century. After much struggle, Ifat's troops were defeated and the Sultanate's ruler, King Sa'ad ad-Din II, fled to Zeila. He was pursued there by Abyssinian forces, where they slayed him.[7]

Sultans of Ifat

Ruler Name Reign Note
1 Sulṭān ʿUmar DunyaHuz 1185 - 1228 Founder of the Walashma dynasty, his nickname was ʿAdūnyo or Wilinwīli
2 Sulṭān ʿAli "Baziwi" ʿUmar 1228 - 12?? Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz
3 Sulṭān ḤaqqudDīn ʿUmar 12?? - 12?? Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz
4 Sulṭān Ḥusein ʿUmar 12?? - 12?? Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz
5 Sulṭān NasradDīn ʿUmar 12?? - 12?? Son of ʿUmar DunyaHuz
6 Sulṭān Mansur ʿAli 12?? - 12?? Son of ʿAli "Baziwi" ʿUmar
7 Sulṭān JamaladDīn ʿAli 12?? - 12?? Son of ʿAli "Baziwi" ʿUmar
8 Sulṭān Abūd JamaladDīn 12?? - 12?? Son of JamaladDīn ʿAli
9 Sulṭān Zubēr Abūd 12?? - 13?? Son of Abūd JamaladDīn
10 Māti Layla Abūd 13?? - 13?? Daughter of Abūd JamaladDīn
11 Sulṭān ḤaqqudDīn Naḥwi 13?? - 1328 Son of Naḥwi Mansur, grandson of Mansur ʿUmar
12 Sulṭān SabiradDīn Maḥamed "Waqōyi" Naḥwi 1328 - 1332 Son of Naḥwi Mansur, defeated by Emperor Amde Seyon of Abyssinia, who replaced him with his brother JamaladDīn as a vassal.
13 Sulṭān JamaladDīn Naḥwi 1332 - 13?? Son of Naḥwi Mansur, vassal king under Amde Seyon
14 Sulṭān NasradDīn Naḥwi 13?? - 13?? Son of Naḥwi Mansur, vassal king under Amde Seyon
15 Sulṭān "Qāt" ʿAli SabiradDīn Maḥamed 13?? - 13?? Son of SabiradDīn Maḥamed Naḥwi, rebelled against Emperor Newaya Krestos after the death of Amde Seyon, but the rebellion failed and he was replaced with his brother Aḥmed
16 Sulṭān Aḥmed "Harbi Arʿēd" ʿAli 13?? - 13?? Son of ʿAli SabiradDīn Maḥamed, accepted the role of vassal and did not continue to rebel against Newaya Krestos, and is subsequently regarded very poorly by Muslim historians
17 Sulṭān Ḥaqquddīn Aḥmed 13?? - 1374 Son of Aḥmed ʿAli
18 Sulṭān SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed 1374 - 1403 Son of Aḥmed ʿAli, killed in the Abyssinian invasion of Ifat under Yeshaq I

Sultanate of Adal

Main article: Adal Sultanate

Islam was introduced to the Horn of Africa early on from the Arabian peninsula, shortly after the hijra. In the late 9th century, Al-Yaqubi wrote that Muslims were living along the northern Somali seaboard.[8] He also mentioned that the Adal kingdom had its capital in the city,[8][9] suggesting that the Adal Sultanate with Zeila as its headquarters dates back to at least the 9th or 10th century. According to I.M. Lewis, the polity was governed by local dynasties consisting of Somalized Arabs or Arabized Somalis, who also ruled over the similarly-established Sultanate of Mogadishu in the Benadir region to the south. Adal's history from this founding period forth would be characterized by a succession of battles with neighbouring Abyssinia.[9]

After the last Sultan of Ifat, Sa'ad ad-Din II, was killed in Zeila in 1410, his children escaped to Yemen, before later returning in 1415.[10] In the early 15th century, Adal's capital was moved further inland to the town of Dakkar, where Sabr ad-Din II, the eldest son of Sa'ad ad-Din II, established a new base after his return from Yemen.[11][12]

Adal's headquarters were again relocated the following century, this time to Harar. From this new capital, Adal organised an effective army led by Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi (Ahmad "Gurey" or Ahmad "Gran") that invaded the Abyssinian empire.[12] This 16th century campaign is historically known as the Conquest of Abyssinia (Futuh al-Habash). During the war, Imam Ahmad pioneered the use of cannons supplied by the Ottoman Empire, which he imported through Zeila and deployed against Abyssinian forces and their Portuguese allies led by Cristóvão da Gama.[13] Some scholars argue that this conflict proved, through their use on both sides, the value of firearms like the matchlock musket, cannons and the arquebus over traditional weapons.[14]

Sultans of Adal

Name Reign Note
1 Sulṭān SabiradDīn SaʿadadDīn 1415 - 1422 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed, won some early victories before being soundly defeated by Emperor Yeshaq
2 Sulṭān Mansur SaʿadadDīn 1422 - 1424 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed, Defeated the Abyssinians at Yedaya, only to be defeated and imprisoned by Yeshaq
3 Sulṭān JamaladDīn SaʿadadDīn 1424 - 1433 Won several important battles before being defeated at Harjai, he was assassinated in 1433
4 Sulṭān AḥmedudDīn "Badlay" SaʿadadDīn 1433 - 1445 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed, known to the Abyssinians as "Arwe Badlay" ("Badlay the Monster"). AḥmedudDīn turned the tide of war against the Abyssinians and decisively defeated the forces of Emperor Yeshaq and liberated the land of Ifat. AḥmedudDīn founded a new capital at Dakkar in the Adal region, near Harar, creating the Sultanate of Adal. He was killed in battle after he had launched a jihad to push the Abyssinians back out of Dawaro.
5 Sulṭān Maḥamed AḥmedudDīn 1445 - 1472 Son of AḥmedudDīn "Badlay" SaʿadadDīn, Maḥamed asked for help from the Mameluk Sultanate of Egypt in 1452, though this assistance was not forthcoming. He ended up signing a very short-lived truce with Baeda Maryam
6 Sulṭān ShamsadDin Maḥamed 1472 - 1488 Son of Maḥamed AḥmedudDīn, he was attacked by Emperor Eskender of Abyssinia in 1479, who sacked Dakkar and destroyed much of the city, though the Abyssinians did not attempt to occupy the city and were ambushed on the way home with heavy losses.
7 Sulṭān Maḥamed ʿAsharadDīn 1488 - 1518 Great-grandson of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed of Ifat, he continued to fight to liberate Dawaro along with Imam Maḥfūẓ of Zeila. He was assassinated after a disastrous campaign in 1518 and the death of Imam Maḥfūẓ.

Sultan Maḥamed Abūbakar Maḥfūẓ & Garād Abūn ʿAdādshe, usurpers who seized the throne in the chaotic period following the death of Maḥamed ʿAsharadDīn.

10 Sulṭān Abūbakar Maḥamed 1525 - 1526 He killed Garād Abūn and restored the Walashma dynasty, but Garād Abūn's cousin Imām Aḥmed Gurēy avenged his cousin's death and killed him. While Garād Abūn ruled in Dakkar, Abūbakar Maḥamed established himself at Harar in 1520, and this is often cited as when the capital moved. However brief his reign, Abūbakar Maḥamed was the last Walashma sultan to have any real power.
11 Sulṭān ʿUmarDīn Maḥamed 1526 - 1553 Son of Maḥamed ʿAsharadDīn, Imām Aḥmed Gurēy put Maḥamed ʿAsharadDīn's young son ʿUmarDīn on the throne as puppet king in Imām Aḥmed Gurēy's capital at Harar. This essentially is the end of the Walashma dynasty as a ruling dynasty in all but name, though the dynasty hobbled on in a de jure capacity. Many king lists don't even bother with Walashma rulers after this and just list Imām Aḥmed Gurēy and then Amīr Nūr Mujahid.
12 Sulṭān ʿAli ʿUmarDīn 1553 - 1555 Son of ʿUmarDīn Maḥamed
13 Sulṭān Barakat ʿUmarDīn 1555 - 1559 Son of ʿUmarDīn Maḥamed, last of the Walashma Sultans, assisted Amīr Nūr Mujahid in his attempt to retake Dawaro. He was killed defending Harar from Emperor Gelawdewos, ending the dynasty.

Sultanate of Harar

Main article: Sultanate of Harar

In 1559, the Ethiopian General Hamalmal captured Harar and killed Sultan Barakat. The Walashma dynasty did not go extinct (there are still members alive today), but Amīr Nūr ibn Mujahid was chosen to succeed him. Nūr ibn Mujahid subsequently founded a new dynasty and sultanate in the same year, the Sultanate of Harar.

See also


  1. 1 2 M. Elfasi, Ivan Hrbek (1988). Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, General History of Africa, Volume 3. UNESCO. pp. 580–582. ISBN 9231017098.
  2. 1 2 Tamrat, Taddesse (1972). Church and state in Ethiopia, 1270-1527. Clarendon Press. p. 124.
  3. Lewis, I.M. (1998). "Saints and Somalis: Popular Islam in a Clan-based Society", The Red Sea Press, Retrieved on 22 September 2015.
  4. Giyorgis, Asma (1999). Aṣma Giyorgis and his work: history of the Gāllā and the kingdom of Šawā. Medical verlag. p. 257. ISBN 9783515037167.
  5. Houtsma, M. Th (1987). E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936. BRILL. pp. 125–126. ISBN 9004082654.
  6. The Glorious Victories, p. 107.
  7. J. Spencer Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia (Oxford: Geoffrey Cumberlege for the University Press, 1952), p. 74 and note explains the discrepancy in the sources.
  8. 1 2 Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 25. Americana Corporation. 1965. p. 255.
  9. 1 2 Lewis, I.M. (1955). Peoples of the Horn of Africa: Somali, Afar and Saho. International African Institute. p. 140.
  10. mbali, mbali; Dekmejian, R. Hrair (2010). "Somaliland". Basic Reference. London, UK: mbali. 28 (2): 217–229. doi:10.1017/S0020743800063145. Retrieved 2012-04-27.
  11. Briggs, Philip (2012). Bradt Somaliland: With Addis Ababa & Eastern Ethiopia. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 10. ISBN 1841623717.
  12. 1 2 Lewis, I. M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. James Currey Publishers. p. 17. ISBN 0852552807.
  13. I.M. Lewis, A pastoral democracy: a study of pastoralism and politics among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa, (LIT Verlag Münster: 1999), p.17
  14. Jeremy Black, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas, Warfare: Renaissance to Revolution, 1492-1792, (Cambridge University Press: 1996), p.9.
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