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Abyssinia (in Arabic: Habasha (الحَبَشَة)) was an old region on the eastern part of Africa, including modern countries as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. The Misrian (Egyptians) and Himyarites dynasties ruled over Abyssinia before the birth of Christ. In 341 C.E. Christianity was officially adopted as the state religion. Before the Hijra of the prophet (s) to Medina, Muslims migrated to Abyssinia twice and were supported by its emperor. Several Islamic sultanates, such as Sultanate of Ifat, were established in Abyssinia in the Islamic era. In 14th/20th century small parts of Abyssinia gradually declared independence, and today, Ethiopia occupies the largest parts of that region.
Habash was apparently the name of a nation living in the south of Arab region, which traveled to the western part of Yemen and then South Africa, where they integrated with Kushi nations (nations from South Africa who had migrated to modern Kenya and Tanzania in the second millennium before the birth of Christ).
Empires before the Islamic Era
During the reign of sixth Egyptian dynasty (reign: 3703-3500 B.C.E.), Minosuphis (Egypt emperor), sent out his forces for war in a land called Puwanit, after their victories they came back from Abyssinia with trophies such as; fumigation, ebony, tusk, and leather.
In the second century B.C.E., a group of Himyar tribes colonized Abyssinia where they expanded Semitic culture and integrated with the black people of Abyssinia.
Christianity as the State Religion of Abyssinia
'Ezana or 'Ezna, one of the renowned Axum kings, adopted Christianity as the official state religion of his country in 341 C.E., after he converted to Christianity. Abyssinia is regarded as the first African country to adopt Christianity as official state religion.
After the Appearance of Islam
- Main article: Migration to Abyssinia
First Migration to Abyssinia
Five years after the mission of the Prophet (s), as Quraysh increased harassment and torture to his followers, the Prophet (s) sent a group of them led by his cousin, Ja'far b. Abi Talib to Abyssinia. This is regarded as "Muslim's first migration".
Second Migration to Abyssinia
The second migration in which 83 men and 11 women from Quraysh and seven persons from other tribes migrated to Abyssinia, occurred before the Hijra of the Prophet (s) to Medina.
Islamic Era and Contemporary History of Abyssinia
Along with the emergence of Islam, Axum kingdom, the great power by the Red Sea, fell into decline. Ever since, the signs of Christianity faded away from the Red Sea coasts and Axum routes were occupied by Muslims. Thus Abyssinian Christians went up to high altitudes and remained isolated for a while, until 10th/16th century when they sought new contacts with Europe.
In the Islamic era, several Islamic sultanates, famous as Imarat al-Taraz al-Islami were established in Abyssinia. As people started to emigrate from Arabian Peninsula to this region, these sultanates gradually extended, and they adhered to Abyssinia's emperors.
Ifat had the greatest power among the seven Muslim sultanates. Therefore it could retain the sovereignty of Abyssinia's emperor and extend the religion of Islam as far as Zila' Port on the coast of 'Aden Gulf. Ifat was generally the growing site of Islam in Abyssinia.
When the Solomonic dynasty reigned over the Abyssinian Empire, they took a side in the conflicts with Ifat which last for centuries. Their greatest battle was the one between Abyssinian Emperor, known as 'Umda Sahyun, and Haqq al-Din I, the ruler of Ifat, whose brother, Sabr al-Din and Jalal al-Din, formed a union with other Islamic sultanates after the former. Nevertheless the Abyssinian Emperor was victorious. He looted the Islamic cities and set fire to the mosques.
Seeking revenge, Haqq al-Din II reunited Islamic sultanates and they defeated the forces of Abyssinian emperor. After he was killed, his brother Sa'd al-Din Abu l-Barakat defeated Abyssinian emperor, but his death in 818/1415 brought an end to Sultanate of Ifat.
Attempt of the Priests
In 11th /17th century, Catholic priests made an unsuccessful attempt to propagate their religion in that country.
From 11th/17th century onwards, Abyssinia was often occupied with civil wars for centuries. In 13th/19th century, an Abyssinia chief who was the Muslim's worst enemy, united the country and ruled as Tewodors II (reign: 1271/1885 - 1285/1868). He lost a battle against the British and committed suicide. After a period of civil war, Yohannes came to rule.
Establishment of Modern Countries
Italy invaded Masawa' Port in 1302/1885 and Menelik II reigned Abyssinia in 1306/1889. He won a battle against Italian forces, therefore, Italian dominance over the northern parts of Abyssinia (modern Eritrea) was restricted and the independent country of Ethiopia was established.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from حبشه in Farsi Wikishia.