Reviewed Work(s): Futuh Al-Habaša: The Conquest of Abyssinia [16th Century] by Šihab ad-Din Ahmad bin Abd al-Qader bin Salem bin Utman, Paul Lester Stenhouse and Richard Pankhurst

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Author : Mohammed Hassen

Year : 2004

Contributor : Jamal Ali

 The Jihad of Imam Ahmad (1529 1543) was the major turning point in the history of the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia, the Muslim state of Adal,1 and the history of the Horn of Africa. At the cost of incredible human lives, incalculable cultural and material destruction, Imam Ahmad was able to create a short-lived empire that included most of what are today, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somali land, and even Southern Somalia up to cape Gardafu, if not to Mogadishu. This was the first forced unification of the Horn of Africa. In terms of uniting the region, creating a centralized administration, Imam Ahmad was the first Muslim Ethiopian leader, who aspired to and temporarily succeeded in creating a greater Ethiopia, in which Islam briefly replaced Christianity as the dominant governing ideology and the religion of the overwhelming majority of the population. The book under review (hereafter Futuh Al Habasa … is an elaborate, and remarkably detailed, narrative written in Arabic shortly after 1559. Though prone at times to exaggerate and to adopt flowery language, interspersed with poetry, its author was, on the whole, a good and, for the most part, dispassionate observer. He writes largely as an eye witness (p. XVIII). Though Futuh Al-Habasa was well known to scholars conversant in Arabic or French or both since the nineteenth century, this is the first full-scale English translation, which will make the content of this valuable treasure widely available to those interested in the sixteenth century history of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa.3 We are indebted to Paul Lester Stenhouse and Richard Pankhurst, for the elegant translation and good annotations …..