Contacts during the life of Muhammad1

Africa touches Arabia in the north at the Sinai peninsula over which a land route passed before the construction of the Suez canal.It also comes within 24 kilometers of the Arabian peninsula at Bâb al-Mandab, at the entrance of the Red Sea, and various ports on the Red Sea facilitate passage from one side to the other. In view of the closeness of East Africa to Arabia, the people of the two regions shared a lot in common.

Migration of peoples of both regions was common; Ethiopic is a Semitic language allied with the Southern Arabian Sabaean or Himyarite tongue.Besides linguistic and cultural links, trade was important.  Egypt imported large quantities of incense and spices from Arabia, and long before the time of Christ operated copper and turquoise mines in Sinai.

From the second or third century A.D. Ethiopia laid claim to parts of southern Arabia, and occupied part of Yemen from 340 to 378.  Judaism was spreading into the area and the Yemen king Ascad Kâmil (c. 385-420) embraced the Jewish faith. Christianity also entered these territories, and around 500 the region of Najrân adopted this faith as a result of the preaching of Faymiyűn, a Syrian monophysite.

Rivalry between the two religions led to a massacre of the Christians of Najrân by the Jewish king of Yemen, Dhű-Nuwâs, in 523 (See the vague reference in Qur’ân 85:4). The Christians appealed to the Byzantine emperor Justin I for help, and the latter asked the Negus, or king of Ethiopia, to intervene. The Ethiopians invaded Yemen in 523 and by 525 established control over the country. The Ethiopian general and governor Abrahah built in Sanâca a magnificent cathedral which became the rival of the pagan shrine in Mecca. According to Ibn-Ishâq, two devotees of the Meccan devotees of the Meccan Kacba desecrated the cathedral by defecating in it. To punish the offending party Abrahah led an unsuccessful expedition against Mecca in which he used an elephant. The Arabs of the north were greatly impressed, because they had never seen an elephant, and recalled the event by noting that Muhammad was born in “the year of the elephant” (c. 579).The Qur’ân (105) refers to the destruction of the Ethiopian army by “pebbles thrown by birds”, which some commentators interpret as an epidemic.  In 575 the Persians drove the Ethiopians out of Yemen.

When Muhammad began his preaching there were many Africans, slaves from the interior or merchants from the coast, residing in Arabian cities and villages.  Some were clients of the Quraysh tribe and were among the first to accept and suffer for the faith of Islam.  One of these was the slave Bilâl, who was freed by Abű-Bakr. He later became the first mu’adhdhin (caller to prayer) in Islam and a personal servant of Muhammad.

The Quraysh people could not bear the preaching of Muhammad and began to persecute his followers. To spare them suffering and danger to their faith (fitna), and also to prevent trouble from those who were not prepared to accept Abű-Bakr’s leading position in the community, Muhammad advised some of his followers to migrate and seek refuge in Ethiopia, which he described as a friendly country.  In 615 eighty-three Muslims emigrated to Africa in search of security and protection, and found it at the court of the Christian king of Ethiopia.As Africa once gave shelter to the founder of Christianity, so it did the same to the earliest adherents of the Islamic faith.

The emigration of these earliest Muslims did not stop the Qurayshite persecution.  In fact, the Qurayshites pursued the refugees to the court of the Negus. They offered him “presents of the choicest wares of Mecca” and appealed to him to surrender the Muslims, saying: “Some foolish fellows from our people have taken refuge in the King’s country. They have forsaken our religion and not accepted yours, but have brought in an invented religion which neither we nor you know anything about.”  The king did not yield to the appeal of the Quraysh delegation, but called the Muslims to state their case. Their leader, Jacfar ibn-abî-Tâlib, made a passionate plea in which he clearly and simply stated the teachings of Islam. He said:

O king, we were an uncivilized people, worshipping idols, eating corpses, committing abominations, breaking natural ties, treating guests badly, and our strong devoured our weak.Thus we were until God sent us an apostle whose lineage, truth, trustworthiness and clemency we know.  He summoned us to acknowledge God’s unity and to worship him and to renounce the stones and images which we and our fathers formerly worshipped. He commanded us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our engagements, mindful of the ties of kinship and kindly hospitality, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He forbade us to commit abominations and to speak lies, to devour the property of orphans, to vilify chaste women.He commanded us to worship God alone and not to associate anything with Him, and he gave us orders about prayer, almsgiving and fasting. We confessed his truth and believed in him, and we followed him in what he had brought from God, and we worshipped God alone without associating anything with Him.   We treated as forbidden what he forbade, and as lawful what he declared lawful. Thereupon our people attacked us, treated us harshly and seduced us from our faith to try to make us go back to the worship of idols instead of the worship of God, and to regard as lawful the evil deeds we once committed.

The Quraysh delegates then resorted to accusing the Muslims to the Negus of denying the divinity of Jesus. Jacfar answered, “We say about Jesus that which our prophet brought, saying, he is the slave of God and his apostle and his spirit and his word which he cast in to Mary the blessed virgin” (cf. Q. 4:171). The Negus then took a stick from the ground and said, “By God, Jesus, son of Mary, does not exceed what you have said by the length of this stick!”. The story goes on that the Ethiopians then revolted against the Negus for having abandoned Christianity.  But he placated them by giving them an evasive answer and continued to practice Islam secretly.2

The whole dialogue of the refugees with the Negus and his supposed conversion to Islam is evidently a later Muslim embellishment, yet the basic outline of the story is credible. Thirty-three of the refugees, thinking that the persecution had ended, returned to Mecca before the Hijra. The rest returned seven years after the Hijra, except seven men who died, and cUbaydallâh. The latter became a Christian and chose to stay in Ethiopia until his death. Muhammad married his widow, Umm-Habîba. Ibn-Ishâq says of cUbaydallâh that “when he passed by the Apostle’s companions he used to say, ‘Our eyes are open but yours are veiled,’ i.e. We can see clearly but you are only trying to see; you can’t yet see clearly, the metaphor being taken from a puppy who tries to open its eyes and flutters them before he can do so, i.e. We have opened our eyes and we see, but you have not opened your eyes though you are trying to do so.”

A final contact of Muhammad with Africa is the alleged letters he sent in May 628 to six surrounding countries summoning them to accept Islam. Although such a bold gesture as it is related is implausible, it Muhammad seems to have been in contact with the ruler of Egypt, who around January 627 sent four slave girls to Muhammad. One of these, Mary the Copt, Muhammad took as his concubine, and the other he gave to one of his companions. Arab tradition gives the Egyptian ruler the title of Muqawqis, out of confusion with the patriarch who surrendered Alexandria in 641. But in 627 Persian officials were just beginning to withdraw from Egypt. Cyrus, the Muqawqis arrived only in 631.

On 8 June 632 Muhammad died. Following his unexpected death there was a struggle within his community over the appointment of a successor. By the time the Muslims resolved this issue and elected Abű-Bakr, the Arab tribes who had earlier submitted to Muhammad revolted, taking the position that all treaties made with Muhammad expired with his death. Abű-Bakr and his followers refused to accept this break-up of the Muslim Arab unity which Muhammad had created and considered the secession as apostasy (ridda).   After many battles the Muslims forced the rebels back into the fold and restored Arab unity.  With the old practice of raiding one another put to an end, the restless energies of the Arabs had to find another outlet.  The Arab armies poured over Syria, Iraq and Persia, and moved across Sinai to the West. The Muslims were ready to take over Africa by force, and their first was Egypt.

Occupation of Egypt: Summary

      The conquest

Egypt, the ancient land of the Pharaohs, occupied a strategic position dangerously near to the Hijâz and Syria. It was the granary of the Byzantine empire because of its rich soil, and Alexandria, its capital, hosted the main Byzantine naval force. Egypt, moreover, was the gateway to the rest of Africa.

The task of reducing Egypt fell to cAmr ibn-al-cÂs, a forty-five year old warlike, fiery and shrewd Qurayshite who had just recorded a sound victory over Palestine and wished to outshine his fellow Khâlid ibn-al-Walîd, the equally successful conqueror of Syria. According to traditional sources, the caliph cUmar, who was then in Jerusalem inspecting the conquered holy places, was reluctant to authorize the campaign because of its risk, but once cAmr entered Egypt he had to give his full support.With 4,000 horsemen cAmr took the historic route of conquerors and traders across Sinai which he himself had traversed many times before as a trader. Entering Egyptian territory in December 639, the Arabian army, after a month’s siege, took al-Farama (Pelusium), the key to eastern Egypt. They marched on and spent another month to capture Balbays.

The Arabs met stiff resistance for the first time at the castle of Babylon, at the neck of the Delta on the south side of modern Cairo. cAmr, sensing that the Byzantines would stake all they had to defend this important citadel, sent to the Caliph for reinforcements.  cUmar sent Zubayr, the revered companion of the Prophet, with 4,000 soldiers to assist cAmr, and also to keep watch over this tough general who was reputed for his independent action. After crossing the Nile in an attempt to capture the Fayűm district, cAmr returned to meet Zubayr and two other contingents of cavalry sent to help.  The combined forces of about 15,000 men prepared to attack Babylon, but the Byzantines built up their forces for a counter-offensive and moved out of Babylon 20,000 strong to attack the Arabs at nearby Heliopolis, were the Arab were encamped. The battle of Heliopolis took place in July 640, resulting in the complete rout of the Byzantine army, with the military commander Theodorus fleeing to Alexandria, while Cyrus the Muqawqis was shut up in Babylon.  The land around was subdued and the siege of Babylon began.

According to the Arab version, at this point Cyrus requested an Arab delegation to meet him secretly to negotiate a surrender. Some historians like Caetani doubt this version and claim that Cyrus did not take part in this local surrender. Nevertheless the popular theory is that Cyrus met an Arab delegation led by a black man, cUbâda ibn-as-Samit, on the Nile island ar-Rawa.The defenders were offered three choices: Islam, tribute or the sword. Cyrus accepted to pay tribute and proceeded to Alexandria where he was recalled to Constantinople to give a report of his negotiations. He presented the terms to the emperor Heraclius who became enraged and, accusing Cyrus of treason, sent him into exile.

Meanwhile the siege of Babylon continued and after about seven months, on 6 April 641 the Arabs scaled the walls and secured a position on the ramparts, but could enter no further. The defenders were tired and discouraged and agreed to surrender the fortress in exchange for their lives. With fresh recruits swelling their army to about 20,000, the Arabs then marched towards Alexandria the capital.

The siege of Alexandria had gone on for 5 months when the emperor Heraclius died in February 641 and was succeeded by his son Constans II (641-648); the latter restored the patriarch-governor Cyrus to Alexandria. The city was impregnable and could have resisted the Arabs indefinitely but the people were demoralized and not prepared to sustain a long siege. After 9 more months of inconclusive battles, Alexandria was taken in the year November 641, but the details of its fall are not clear. Ibn-cAbdalakam says that a gateman was persuaded to open for the Arabs in exchange for his own security. But it is clear from John of Nikiou that there was some kind of capitulation signed by Cyrus with the agreement of the new emperor and the Empress-Mother Martina.

When news of the surrender of this beautiful and wealthy city got to cUmar, he entertained his general’s messenger with bread and dates and conducted a prayer of thanksgiving in the Prophet’s mosque in Medina.

According to the terms of surrender, the Byzantine garrisons would evacuate Alexandria in September 642 and would not return or attempt to recover Egypt. Furthermore, the Egyptians would pay a tribute (jizya) of two dinars a person per year, together with a land tax (kharâj) in return for their lives, goods and freedom of religion.On their part, the Muslims would desist from all seizure of churches and not interfere in any way with the Christians.The Jews were also allowed to remain in Alexandria.

Cyrus died in March 642. In September the Arabs took possession of Alexandria, as had been agreed.  They then proceeded to reduce the remaining Delta towns still holding out, and extended their conquest to the Pentapolis, the five principle cities along the Libyan coast as far as Tripoli.

      Why the Arabs succeeded

Although some writers have said that Egypt surrendered almost without striking a blow, it should not be supposed that the Arabs met no resistance.  Yet compared with other parts of North Africa, the Arabs found the conquest of Egypt very easy. Their success can rightly be attributed to their military strength based on good organization and leadership, the fervour of a new nation bent on conquest, the attraction of booty, and finally the religious motivation of waging jihâd to spread the rule of God as prescribed in the Qur’ân. It might also be added that the Arabs, unlike the Byzantines, were regularly supplied with reinforcements during the capture of the major towns, and also had the advantage of being entirely a cavalry force. All these factors without doubt contributed to the conquest of Egypt. But more important reasons lay with the condition of Byzantine rule in Egypt.

First, the Byzantines, like their Persian rivals, had become very weak because of the wars which both empires conducted against each other for many generations. To make up for lost revenues and still maintain high military budgets both empires imposed heavy taxes on their citizens, especially the subject peoples, who thereby lost their sense of loyalty to defend their imperial rulers against attackers. This was particularly true in Egypt, where so many years of not only oppressive taxation but also religious persecution had left the people no reason to entertain loyalty to the Byzantine regime.On the other hand, there is no basis for the supposition that the Copts actively cooperated with the Arabs in overthrowing Egyptian rule. The Chronicle of John, the Coptic bishop of Nikiou, shows that the Copts had no sympathy whatever for the invaders. Besides, Cyrus’ persecution had left them disorganized and leaderless, incapable of offering any help that would alter the course of the struggle.

For all these reason, in spite of its 50,000 troops in Egypt, the Byzantine empire could not withstand the Arab invasion.

      Egypt under Arab rule

In accordance with the wishes of the caliph cUmar, the site on which cAmr pitched his camp outside Babylon became the new capital with the name Fusâ.This remained the Egyptian capital until 969 when the Fâimids made their headquarters at nearby al-Qâhira (Cairo).

In his policy towards the Copts, after the rigours of conquest, cAmr treated them leniently. There were the usual discriminatory Sharîca prohibitions, such as of a Christian man marrying a Muslim woman, of Christians’ attempting to convert Muslims or forbidding their members to become Muslims, but cAmr retained Copts in administrative posts and allowed the people to enjoy lighter taxes and greater religious freedom than they had under the Byzantines. cAmr cleared the ancient Pharaonic canal linking Babylon with the Red Sea, and cargoes of Egyptian goods were conveyed by this way to Medina. The caliph cUmar, however, was dissatisfied that the tax revenue from Egypt was far less than what the Byzantines were collecting and he demanded immediate payment of a greater amount. cAmr refused, because this would violate the treaty made with the Copts. cUmar thereupon curtailed cAmr’s power by appointing cAbdallâh ibn-Sacd ibn-abî-Sarh in 644 to govern Upper Egypt and control land-tax as well. In the same year cUmar was assassinated and his successor cUthmân immediately removed cAmr from Egypt altogether.

In 645 a Byzantine fleet landed at Alexandria, easily retook the city and began advancing towards Fustât.To meet the emergency cAmr was sent back to Egypt.He defeated the Byzantine army in a battle near Nikiou in 646 and then stormed and recaptured Alexandria and punished the city severely.  Again cAmr withdrew after his military success, since the Caliph would not allow him to be governor of Egypt rather than just military commander.His ambition was only fulfilled in 658, during the caliphate of Mucâwiya, as a reward for winning Egypt to Mucâwiya’s cause. There cAmr died in 664 at the age of about seventy.

At first Muslim rule did not bring prosperity to Egypt. The governors appointed by the Umayyads caliphs of Damascus (661 to 750) ruled the country indirectly through Copts who followed the inherited Byzantine system of administration. This gradually gave way to a direct rule by Arab appointees, with a change to Arabic as the language of government. At the end of this period Islam was still mostly confined to the Arab elite, while the Coptic population remained Christian.

Under the cAbbâsids oppressive taxation, which fell more heavily on the Copts, impoverished the country and caused dissatisfaction and spasmodic revolts. More and more Copts became Muslims because of many advantages, including lesser taxes; this process was helped by the immigration of vast numbers of Arabs, some colonists (muhâjirűn), others (mawâlî) having lived in the bordering eastern desert for a long time.  The governor from 868, Ahmad ibn-Tűlűn (whose famous mosque in Cairo marks his memory), brought a respite from this situation by effectively breaking from Baghdad authority, but the űlűnid dynasty fell to the caliphal troops in 905. Another short period of more or less independent rule began with the governor Ikhshîd in 935, but this fell to the Fâtimid troops in 969. Egypt took on an increasingly Islamic and Arab character. Yet still at the dawn of the Fâimid period (969, discussed in Ch. 3) the vast majority of the people outside the main towns were Coptic speaking Christians.

Under the Mamlűk ruler al-Malik an-Nâsir (1310-1341) persecution led many Copts to become Muslim, and at that time the Coptic language gave way to Arabic as the common spoken language.Over the centuries the majority of the Copts became Muslim as a result of intermarriage, advantages in employment or business, occasional persecutions and the desire to emerge from a second-class status in the society, so that today only about 10% of the population is still Christian. The strength of the Coptic community in resisting Islam over so many centuries has come largely from the monasteries, which have been the centres of Coptic intellectual and spiritual life, and from the indigenous character of the Church, which has always used the Coptic language and has been close to the culture of the people.

The Arab invaders transformed Egypt, but they too were transformed in the process. Since they had nothing to offer in art, architecture, philosophy, medicine, science, administration etc., they not only admired but also copied these things and made use of them, whether directly from Egyptians or from conquered Syrians or Iraqis. Sometimes the old and the new fused to give rise to completely new achievements. For instance, wonderful new architectural styles resulted from the use of existing technology for Islamic purposes avoiding any human or animal representation.  Similarly the existing social and administrative structure was modified by an Islamic spirit to produce a new way of life.

Islam overruns Nubia

When the Arabs moved into Egypt, before the main army had even taken Alexandria another contingent moved south along the Nile. This force was repelled at the border of Nubia but in 651 cAbdallâh ibn-Sacd invaded Nubia and went as far as besieging Old Dongola, the capital of Maqurra. A peace treaty was made, one of the provisions of which was that the Nubians should provide the Muslims of Egypt with 360 slaves each year.

In 710 the northern kingdom of Nobatia and Maqurra (without Alwa) merged. During the caliphate of al-Muctasim (833-42) the Nubians got the payment of their slave tribute reduced to once every three years. The Egyptians did not try to invade again for several centuries, and the united Nubian kingdom reached the peak of its civilization between 800 and 1000. The Alwa kingdom also prospered and had sovereignty over the land of Darfur in the west where there was a Christian kingdom called Amqal made up of many different tribes. Recently ruins of monasteries and churches have been discovered in Darfur.   Alwa’s westward influence extended as far as the Zaghawa of Kanem, with whom it came into conflict in the 10th century,3 and probably well into Nigeria, where the Nubian cross passed to the Jukun and then became a common symbol in Benin.4

As for Muslim penetration into Nubia, from the time of al-Muctasim in 833 the cAbbâsid caliphs began replacing the Arabs in the army with Turkish slaves or clients called the Mamlűks. The Arabs, deprived of their privileges and tax exemptions, drifted south into Nobatia and pagan Beja to the east, where they worked in the gold mines.Arab marriages with Beja and Nubian women soon gave the Arabs, through the local customary law of matrilineal succession, political prominence. In this way, by the 11th century the Muslim and Arabic Kanz dynasty took over the territory around Aswan. The Arabs with their camels also controlled the transport to the Red Sea port of Aydhâb, bringing the nomadic Beja into contact with Islam.

The rise of the Turkish Mamlűk rule in Egypt (1251-1517) led Arab tribes in southern Egypt to revolt.Baybars (1260-77) ruthlessly suppressed them and put Egyptian administrators over the ports of Aydhâb and Suakin.This Mamlűk action isolated Nubia from the outside world and provoked King Dâwűd’s raid on Aydhâb in 1272. The Mamlűks also intervened in Nubian dynastic disputes, favouring one candidate against another. When King Shamamun (1277-6), whom they had chosen, refused to pay tribute the Mamlűks sent an expedition against him in 1287 and 1289.In 1296 he was deposed in favour of another Nubian claimant in Cairo, Karambas. Meanwhile some of the other Nubian captives in Cairo who claimed the throne became Muslim. One of these, cAbdallâh Bashambu, accompanied an Egyptian expedition in 1316 and was made king the next year. Shortly afterwards a Muslim member of the Kanz dynasty took over. The people were then rapidly islamized, but the grave of a bishop has been found at Qasr Ibrim (by Lake Nasr) who was ordained in 1373. At some date after that Christianity died out completely in the northern Nubian kingdom.

The abandonment of the gold mines of northern Nubia and of the pilgrimage route through the Nile port of Aydhâb after the Crusades left many Arabs unemployed, and they drifted south into the southern Nubian kingdom of Alwa and Kordofan. These marauding nomads finally overran Alwa around 1500. Christianity survived at least another 25 years (as evidenced by the Portuguese Jesuit Fr. Alvarez report from Ethiopia) and then died out. Only small colonies of Nubian Christians who migrated to Egypt kept their faith after this time.

Ethiopia survives Muslim pressure

Ethiopia’s early friendly relationship with Islam was not long lasting.  By the time of Muhammad’s death and through the 7th century conflicts were occurring on the Red Sea.  At first the Ethiopians had the advantage, but the caliph Mucâwiya (661-80) organized a naval force which tipped the balance in favour of the Muslims.  In 702 the Muslims occupied the Dahlak islands. By the middle of the 8th century the Ethiopians were forced out of the Red Sea. The coastal towns declined and the Muslims began moving into Eritrea, becoming the middle men in trade with the interior. At the same time the Red Sea trade was becoming less important because the Muslim conquest of Iraq and Persia had opened the Damascus-Baghdad silk route to the East.

The establishment of the Fâtimid caliphate in Egypt in 969 in opposition to the cAbbâsid caliphate in Baghdad revitalized the Red Sea as a trade route between Egypt and India.Large numbers of Ethiopians became Muslim along the Eritrean coast and the trade routes to the interior. The Egyptian rulers became the champions of the Ethiopian Muslims and their freedom of worship, a role they were in a strong position to play, because they held as hostage the Coptic Church in Egypt on which the Ethiopian Church depended. The Fâtimids not only pressed the patriarchs of Alexandria to send letters to the Ethiopian kings demanding that they give the Muslims freedom, but they also interfered with the choice of the Egyptian candidate to be ordained as metropolitan of Ethiopia. The latter was obliged to send tribute to the caliph, to build mosques for the Muslims in Ethiopia and to protect Muslim traders there.

The Ethiopian Muslims, however, spread mainly because they had the monopoly of the long distance trade.After the 10th century they made significant advances because trading brought them into southern Ethiopia where they made converts among the pagans. This was an area where the Christian kingdom came into competition and conflict with the Muslims in later centuries.

From the 13th to the 15th centuries Ethiopia was expanding politically, and along with it the Church spread.One of the greatest figures of this movement was King Zar’a-Ya’iqob (1434-77). He also settled the long standing controversy started by the monk Ewostatewos (d. 1352), who insisted on the observance of the Sabbath and other Old Testament customs. These were popular among the people, but resisted by the bishops. At a council in 1450 the Old Testament practices were sanctioned. In this period the close ties of the Ethiopian Church with the state kept it from expanding beyond the boundaries of the state. Neighbouring peoples looked upon it as an agent of Ethiopian expansionism, and the Ethiopian government by its policy of religious nationalism expected it to be just that.

In the year 1477 there began a period of decline in Ethiopia because of dynastic struggles. The heterogeneous tribes brought under Ethiopian hegemony in the 14th and 15th centuries were not fully assimilated and were ready to collaborate with the enemy at the door. In 1531 disaster struck.

The imâm Amad ibn-Ibrâhîm al-Ghâzî, known to the Ethiopians as Amad Grań (“the left-handed”), first gained control of the Muslim areas of Harar and Somalia, southeast of Ethiopia and then prepared his followers for a jihâd against Ethiopia. The Ottoman government of Egypt supplied him with firearms in order to counter the Portuguese, who by 1508 had destroyed Arab power on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean and had occupied the port of Massawa on the Eritrean coast. The Spanish too, at Zailâ, supplied the Muslims with arms to counteract the Portuguese.

Within a short time Ahmad overran nearly the whole of Ethiopia, driving the king to flee from one mountain refuge to another. The Muslim occupation lasted only from 1531 to 1543, but the amount of destruction in this short time “can only be estimated in terms of centuries”.5  Churches were pulled down, their riches plundered, the books and paintings burnt, and the clergy massacred. The people turned Muslim in droves; “hardly one in ten retained his religion”.6  Some were allowed to keep their Christianity and pay the jizya, but most were given the choice only of death or becoming Muslim, and any who put up resistance were massacred.

Final disaster was averted only by the intervention of the Portuguese, to whom the Ethiopians appealed for help.In 1542 Cristovăo da Gama led 400 men into Ethiopia. After fourteen months of successful campaigning, Cristovăo and 250 of his men were killed in a battle against Amad and the Turkish reinforcements sent to help him. Fifty of the surviving Portuguese thought all was lost and returned to Massawa. The remaining 100 regrouped with King Galawdewos (1540-59) and attacked and killed Amad in his camp in 1543. With his death Amad’s troops dispersed. Ethiopia was free, but never the same again.

Ethiopia’s isolationism increased with its struggles against the Galla tribe, further Muslim incursions and European attempts to bring its Church into communion with Rome. Even so, a strong Church has survived up to the present time.

«— Chapter 1

The Spread of Islam
Through North to West Africa

Chapter 3 —»

1The texts in this section are from Ibn-Hishâm, as translated in my Early Islam (Lagos: Dominican Publications, 1997).

2Tabarî (in Guillaume, p. 657) gives another version of the Negus’ alleged conversion to Islam.

3In the anonymous Akhbâr az-zamân; cf. T. Lewicki, Arabic external sources for the history of Africa to the south of the Sahara (Warsaw, 1969), p. 48; also Ibn-awqal, ibid., p. 43.

4Cf. J. Kenny, The Catholic Church in tropical Africa 1445-1850 (Ibadan, 1983), p. 68.

5T. Tamrat, Church and state in Ethiopia 1270-1527 (Oxford, 1972), p. 301.

6Gonzelman, Chroniques de Galâwdęwos in J.S. Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia (Oxford, 1952), p. 88.