The Walashma dynasty was a medieval Muslim dynasty of the Horn of Africa founded in Ifat (modern eastern Shewa).[1] Founded in the 13th century, it governed the Ifat and Adal Sultanates in what are present-day Somaliland, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and eastern Ethiopia.[2]

Genealogical traditions

The Walashma princes of Ifat and Adal claimed to possessed Arab genealogical traditions.[3][4] In terms of lineage, Walashma traditions trace descent from Banu Makhzum tribe by El Maqrisi. But Ifat Sultanate 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-hawaz was a descendant of Caliph ʿAlī's son al-Hasan.[3] This is not supported by both Maqrizi and the chronicle of the Walashma. But ʿUmar ibn-Dunya-hawaz, whom both assert was the founder of the dynasty, was of Quraysh or Hashimite origin.[4][5] Fourteenth century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun mentions the ancestors of Walasma were once tributary to the Kingdom of Damot.[6]

However, most historians, including Enrico Cerulli and J. Spencer Trimingham, regard the Walashma dynasty to be of local origin.[7][8] Cerulli asserts that according to Harar chronicles, the 10th century saint "Aw" Barkhadle from Arabia was the fifth ancestor ofʿUmar ibn Dunya-hawaz, founder of the Walashma Dynasty.[9][10][11] Ioan Lewis also mentions that in a short king-list titled 'Rulers of the land of Sa'ad ad-Din', Barkhadle is recognized as one of the Walashma ancestors.[12] Lewis places his death at around 1190 AD.[13] J. Spencer Trimingham does note that according to local traditions though, he was said to have lived for over 500 years, placing his death in the early 16th century.[14][15] Some rulers of the Walashma Dynasty are also thought to be buried at the site of Aw-Barkhadle in modern-day Somaliland.[16] As descendants of Barkhadle, it was said that the Walashma success, longevity, and influence was due to their native family background[17] Walasma are historically tied to the ancestors of Argobba and the people of Doba.[18] The Harari people also claim to be associated with the Walasma.[19] Bahru Zewde, Richard Pankhurst, Djibril Niane regard the Walasma Sultans of Ifat and Adal to be predominantly Argobba and Harari,[20][21][22][23]. However, Amelie Chekroun suggests no possible link to identify the people of medieval Ifat with the Argobba people.[24]

Walasma dynasty of Ifat initiated a series of marriage alliances with the leaders of Adal, according to the chronicle "Conquest of Abyssinia" by Arab Faqih, Harla lords descendant from the last Walasma ruler of Ifat Sa'ad ad-Din II participated in the sixteenth century Ethiopian–Adal War.[25][26] The last known Walasma member in Adal was Barakat ibn Umar Din of Harar during the sixteenth century.[27] The Kabirto of Harla as well as Doba who originate from the Walasma dynasty were overthrown in 1769 by the Mudaito dynasty of Afar in Aussa (modern Afar Region), the descendant of Kabirto Shaykh Kabir Hamza, preserved their history through manuscripts.[28][29][30]

The title Walasma was still used in Ifat province as late as the nineteenth century with governors of that region claiming descent from the old dynasty.[31] In 1993 Mohammed Saleh who professed his ancestors were the Argobba Walasma of Ifat revealed that his progenitors were traders of the Shewa-Harar route for centuries.[32]


According to Ferry Robert and Harbeson John the language spoken by the people of Adal as well as its rulers the Imams and Sultans would closely resemble contemporary Harari language.[33][34] The 19th-century Ethiopian historian Asma Giyorgis suggests that the Walashma themselves spoke Arabic.[35][36]

Sultanate of Ifat

During the end of the 13th century, northern Hararghe was seat of a Muslim sultanate named under the rule of Makhzumi dynasty.[37] A contemporary source describes the sultanate being torn apart by internal strafe and weakened by struggles with neighboring Muslim states. In 1278 one of these neighboring states, named Ifat in eastern Shewa, led by the Walashma invaded the Sultanate of Shewa. After a few years of struggle the sultanate was annexed into Ifat. This annexation is usually attributed to ʿUmar, but he had been dead for 50 years by the time Shewa was annexed. More likely, it was his grandson Jamal ad-Dīn or perhaps even his great-grandson Abūd. In 1288 Sultan Wali Asma successfully conquered Hubat, Adal and other Muslim states in the region. Making Ifat the most powerful Muslim kingdom in the Horn of Africa.[38]

In 1332, the Sultan of Ifat, Haqq ad-Din I was slain in a military campaign against the Abyssinian Emperor Amda Seyon's troops.[39] Amda Seyon then appointed Jamal ad-Din as the new King, followed by Jamal ad-Din's brother Nasr ad-Din.[40] 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.[41]

Sultans of Ifat

Ruler Name Reign Note
1 Sulṭān ʿUmar Dunya-Hawaz 1197–1276 Founder of the Walashma dynasty, his nickname was ʿAdūnyo or Wilinwīli. He started a military campaign to conquer the Sultanate of Shewa. The Sheikh Yusuf al-Kowneyn is his 5th ancestor.
2 Sulṭān ʿAli "Baziyu" Naḥwi ʿUmar 1276–1299 Son of ʿUmar Dunya-Hawaz, he led many successful campaigns the most notable of which being the Conquest of the Shewa and burning of their capital marking the end of the Makhzumi dynasty.
3 Sulṭān ḤaqqudDīn ʿUmar 12??–12?? Son of ʿUmar Dunya-Hawaz
4 Sulṭān Ḥusein ʿUmar 12??–12?? Son of ʿUmar Dunya-Hawaz
5 Sulṭān NasradDīn ʿUmar 12??–12?? Son of ʿUmar Dunya-Hawaz
6 Sulṭān Mansur ʿAli 12??–12?? Son of ʿAli "Baziyu" ʿUmar
7 Sulṭān JamaladDīn ʿAli 12??–12?? Son of ʿAli "Baziyu" 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 Dawit I or Yeshaq I[a]

Sultanate of Adal

Adal was a general term for a region of lowlands inhabited by Muslims east of the province of Ifat. It was used ambiguously in the medieval era to indicate the Muslim inhabited low land portion east of the Ethiopian Empire. Including north of the Awash River towards Lake Abbe as well as the territory between Shewa and Zeila on the coast of Somaliland.[42][21][43] According to Ewald Wagner, Adal region was historically the area stretching from Zeila to Harar.[44][45] In the late fourteenth century Walasma princes Haqq ad-Din II and Sa'ad ad-Din II relocated their base to the Harari plateau in Adal forming a new Sultanate.[46]

The last Sultan of Ifat, Sa'ad ad-Din II, was killed in Zeila after he had fled there in 1403, his children escaped to Yemen, before later returning to the Harar plateau in 1415.[47][48] In the early 15th century, Adal's capital was established in the town of Dakkar, where Sabr ad-Din III, the eldest son of Sa'ad ad-Din II, established a new base after his return from Yemen.[49][50] By the late 1400s the Walasma sultans began to be challenged by the Harla emirs of the Harar plateau with rise of Imam Mahfuz.[51]

Adal's headquarters were relocated in 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.[50] 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.[50] 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.[52]

The Walashma sultans of Ifant and Adal also apparently had a fair taste for luxury, the commercial relations that existed between the Adal Sultanate and the rulers of the Arab peninsula allowed Muslims to obtain luxury items that Christian Ethiopians, whose relations with the outside world were still blocked, could not acquire, a Christian document describing Sultan Badlay relates:

"And the robes [of the sultan] and those of his leaders were adorned with silver and shone on all sides. And the dagger which he [the sultan] carried at his side was richly adorned with gold and precious stones; and his amulet was adorned with drops of gold; and the inscriptions on the amulet were of gold paint. And his parasol came from the land of Syria and it was such beautiful work that those who looked at it marveled, and winged serpents were painted on it."[53]

Sultans of Adal

Name Reign Note
1 Sulṭān SabiradDīn SaʿadadDīn 1415–1422 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed, He returned to the Horn of Africa from Yemen to reclaim his father's realm. He subsequently became the first ruler and founder of the new Adal dynasty winning many victories before dying of natural causes.
2 Sulṭān Mansur SaʿadadDīn 1422–1424 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed. He launched an expedition against Dawit I, killing him at the Battle of Yedaya.[54][55]
3 Sulṭān JamaladDīn SaʿadadDīn 1424–1433 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed. He won numerous important battles against Yeshaq I before killing him in the battle of Harjah. Famed for piety and justice he was killed by jealous cousins in 1433.
4 Sulṭān Sihab ad-Din Ahmad Badlay "Arwe Badlay" 1433–1445 Son of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed, also known as "Arwe Badlay" ("Badlay the beast"). Badlay embarked on a full scale conquest of Abyssinia successfully invaded the Ethiopian Empire and capturing Bali before being killed by the forces of Zara Yaqob at the Battle of Gomit. Badlay also founded a new capital at Dakkar, near Harar.
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 I.
6 Sulṭān ShamsadDin Maḥamed 1472–1488 Son of Maḥamed AḥmedudDīn, he attacked the Emperor Eskender of Abyssinia army in 1479, and slaughtered the majority of his army.
7 Sulṭān Maḥamed ʿAsharadDīn 1488–1518 Great-grandson of SaʿadadDīn Aḥmed of Ifat, he continued to raid the Abyssinians especially during Lent with Mahfuz enslaving innumerable numbers of Abyssinians and Killing King Na’od. He was assassinated after a failed campaign in 1518
8 Sultan Maḥamed Abūbakar Maḥfūẓ 1518–1519 Very popular leader who attempted to recapture Fatagar
9 Sulṭān Abūbakar Maḥamed 1518–1526 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. Abūbakar Maḥamed was the last Walashma sultan to have any real power.
10 Garad Abogn Adish 1519–1525 Successor to Maḥamed Abūbakar Maḥfūẓ
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' forces, ending the dynasty.

Family tree

Walashma dynasty
Sultanate of Ifat
Umar Walashma
r. 1185–1228
Ali Umar
r. 1228–12??
Haqq al-Din Umar
r. 12??–12??
Husayn Umar
r. 12??–12??
Nasr al-Din Umar
r. 12??–12??
Mansur Umar
Jamal al-Din Ali
r. 12??–12??
Mansur Ali
r. 12??–12??
Nahwi Mansur
Abud Jamal al-Din
r. 1228–12??
Haqq al-Din I Nahwi
r. 13??–1328
Sabr al-Din I Nahwi
r. 1328–1332
Jamal al-Din I Nahwi
r. 1332–13??
Nasr al-Din Nahwi
r. 13??–13??
Zubayr Abud
r. 12??–13??
Layla Abud
r. 13??–13??
Ali Sabr al-Din
r. 13??–13??
Ahmad Ali
r. 13??–13??
Haqq al-Din II Ahmad
r. 13??–1386/7
Sa'ad al-Din II Ahmad
r. 1386/7–1402/3
Sultanate of Adal
Sabr al-Din III
Sa'ad al-Din

r. 1415–1422/3
Mansur Sa'ad al-Din
r. 1422/3–1424
Jamal al-Din II
Sa'ad al-Din

r. 1424–1433
Badlay Sa'ad ad-Din
r. 1433–1445
Abu Bakr Sa'ad al-Din
Muhammad Badlay
r. 1445–1472
Azhar Abu Bakr
Shams al-Din

r. 1472–1488
Muhammad Azhar
r. 1488–1518
Abu Bakr

r. 1525–1526
Umar al-Din

r. 1526–1553
Ali Umar al-Din
r. 1553–1555
Barakat Umar al-Din
r. 1555–1559

See also


  1. ^ He was killed either in 805 AH / 1402-3 CE during the reign of Dawit I (according to al-Maqrizi) or in 817 AH / 1414-5 during the reign of Yeshaq I (according to Cerulli, ed. (1931). "History of the Walashmaʿ". R.R.A.L. Ser. vi. Vol. iv. p. 45.)[41] Some historians pick one of the two possible dates (e.g. Paul Henze selects 1403 in Layers of Time, A History of Ethiopia [New York: Palgrave, 2000], p. 67).


  1. ^ Ifat. Britannica.
  2. ^ Jyee, Dr. Ravi (2016). WORLD ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF AFRICAN COUNTRIES. New Delhi, India: AFRO-ASIAN-AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, OCCUPATIONAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (ACCORD). p. 360. Founded in 1285 by the Walashma dynasty, it was centered in Zeila. Ifat established bases in Djibouti and Somalia, and from there expanded southward to the Ahmar Mountains.
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ a b Mekonnen, Yohannes (29 January 2013). Ethiopia: the Land, Its People, History and Culture. Yohannes Mekonnen. ISBN 9781482311174.
  5. ^ Tamrat, Taddesse (1972). Church and state in Ethiopia, 1270-1527. Clarendon Press. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-19-821671-1.
  6. ^ Ibn Haldun. Encyclopedia Aethiopica.
  7. ^ Trimingham 1965, p. 67.
  8. ^ Cerulli, Enrico. Islam: Yesterday and Today translated by Emran Waber. Istituto Per L'Oriente. p. 323.
  9. ^ Cerulli, Enrico (1926). Le popolazioni della Somalia nella tradizione storica locale. L'Accademia. "Cerulli suggests that the Saint "Aw Barkhdale" (Yusuf Al Kownayn) can be associated with "Yusuf Barkatla", ancestor of Umar' Walashma, founder of the Ifat dynasty"
  10. ^ Lewis, Ioan M. (1998). Saints and Somalis: Popular Islam in a Clan-based Society. The Red Sea Press. p. 89. ISBN 9781569021033.
  11. ^ Somalia; Wasaaradda Warfaafinta iyo Hanuuninta Dadweynaha (1972). The Writing of the Somali Language: A Great Landmark in Our Revolutionary History. Ministry of Information and National Guidance. p. 10. Aw Barkhadle, he was a native, who lived in about 1,000 years ago and is buried now in a ruined town named after him, Aw Barkhadle, which is a few miles away from Hargeisa.
  12. ^ Lewis, Ioan M. (1998). Saints and Somalis: popular Islam in a clan-based society (1. Red Sea Press ed.). Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press [u.a.] p. 92. ISBN 9781569021033.
  13. ^ Lewis, Ioan M. (1998). Saints and Somalis: popular Islam in a clan-based society (1. Red Sea Press ed.). Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press [u.a.] p. 93. ISBN 9781569021033.
  14. ^ Trimingham 1965, p. 251.
  15. ^ Drake-Brockman, R.E. British Somaliland. p. 219.
  16. ^ Mire, Sada (5 February 2020). Divine Fertility: The Continuity in Transformation of an Ideology of Sacred Kinship in Northeast Africa. London New York: Routledge. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-429-76924-5.
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  24. ^ Chekroun, Amélie (23 February 2023). La Conquête de l'Éthiopie - Un jihad au XVIe siècle (in French). CNRS editions. p. 179. ISBN 978-2-271-14543-7.
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Works cited

Further reading

  • Kifleyesus, Abbebe (2006). Tradition and Transformation: The Argobba of Ethiopia. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 84. ISBN 978-3-447-05341-9.