Sultanate of Ifat


The Sultanate of Ifat was a medieval Muslim state in the eastern regions of the Horn of Africa between the late 13th century and early 15th century. Led by the Walashma dynasty, it was centered in the ancient city of Zeila. The kingdom ruled over parts of what are now eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and northern Somalia.
According to Taddesse Tamrat, Ifat's borders included Fatagar, Dawaro and Bale. The port of Zeila provided an entry point for trade and served as the most important entry point for Islam into Ethiopian lands. Ifat rulers controlled Zeila, and it was an important commercial and religious base for them.
According to the Arab historian Maqrizi, known for his pro-Islamic version of history written around 1435 that Sultan Umar ibn Dunya-huz was the first ruler of Ifat and founded Ifat at Zeila in 1185. He was also the grandson of the famous Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn Umar died around 1275, stated Maqrizi, and was succeeded by "four or five sons" with each ruling a short period. Finally, Sabr ad-Din I came to power and he ruled Ifat till the turn of the century. He was succeeded by Sultan Ali, according to Maqrizi, who was the first ruler to engage with a warfare against the Abyssinia.
As a result of the threats and the dispute between Amda Seyon and Al Nasr, the Sultan of Ifat, Haqq ad-Din I responded, initiating a definite war of aggression. He invaded the Christian Abyssinian territory in the Amhara kingdom, burnt churches and forced apostasy among Christians. He also seized and imprisoned the envoy sent by the Emperor on his way back from Cairo. Haqq ad-Din tried to convert the envoy, killing him when this failed. In response, the irate Emperor raided the inhabitants of all the land of Shewa, much of it inhabited by Muslims at that time, and other districts of Ifat Sultanate. The historical records of that time, depending on which side wrote the history, indicate a series of defeat, destruction and burning of towns of the opposite side. According to the Christian chronicles, a son of the Sultan Ali named Dadader was killed by the Emperor's forces, who was the leader of the Midra Zega and Menz people who were then Muslims.
The Sultanate of Ifat eventually disappeared as the Christian kingdom expanded. Adal Sultanate with its capital of Harar emerged in the southeastern areas as the leading Muslim principality in latter part of the 14th century. Several small territories continued to be ruled by different Walasma groups up to the eighteenth century. By eighteenth century several Christian dynasties named Yifat and Menz, which were the province names of Ifat sultanate, were established. Presently, its name is preserved in the modern-day Ethiopian district of Yifat, situated in Shewa.
Ifat or Yifat, once the easternmost district of Shewa Sultanate, is located in a strategic position between the central highlands and the sea, and includes diverse population. Its predecessor state Shewa Sultanate is believed to be the first inland Muslim state and by the time it was incorporated into Ifat much of the inhabitants of Shewa land were Muslims. According to the chronicle of Shewa Sultanate converting the inhabitants in the area begun in 1108, and the first to convert were the Gurage people whom Trimingham suggested them being the ancestors of Argobbas. A few years later after the conversion of the Gurage people, the chronicle of Shewa sultanate mentions that in 1128 the Amhara fled from the land of Werjih people. The Werjih were a pastoral people, and in the fourteenth century they occupied the Awash Valley east of Shewan Plateau.