Sunday 26 May 2024

The Jibrites of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia

The origin of the Jibrites traces back to Arab Muslim immigrants who sought refuge in Habesha during the conflicts between Islamic states in the Arabian Peninsula. Some of them belonged to the Khuza'im tribe, while others traced their ancestry back to Aqeel ibn Abi Talib or Uthman ibn Affan, may Allah be pleased with them. Their affiliation can be traced back to the Quraysh tribes, as they were Arabs and not Abyssinians.


Jibrites spoke both Arabic and various Habesha languages common in the region. They write using Arabic and Habesha scripts. The language they spoke was called Argoba (Arabic-jabah), which became the tribe's name altogether.

Trade remains the principal profession of the Jibrites, in addition to agriculture and other crafts like weaving and customs transactions. Ifat Kingdom controlled the trade route connecting the interior to Zaila on the Red Sea coast. Consequently, they prospered as one of the most flourishing kingdoms. They engaged in barter and exchange, but in Ifat, the Egyptian currency was used with its various denominations.

 Customs, Characteristics, and Beliefs:

The Jibrites (Argoba ) were known for their adherence to their religion. They were righteous jurists and ascetics, predominantly following the Shafi'i school of thought. Their customs intertwined with all aspects of life in the region they lived in. They upheld certain traditions almost like laws, especially regarding religious matters. Known for their piety in worship, honesty in transactions, calm nature, and sincerity in work, they maintained a pleasant appearance with fair faces and dark reddish-brown skin, and uniform bodies.

It was a tradition among the Jibrites to marry off their daughters to any Muslim suitor, thereby reducing the rate of unmarried women. This practice led to their intermingling with various tribes, steering them away from tribal and group biases. By nature, their women were veiled, and they often married only one wife.

The Army:

The Ifat Jibirt army consisted of fifteen thousand cavalrymen followed by around thirty thousand infantrymen or more. They led the Islamic jihad against the Abyssinian Christians.

Ifat was the first among the Islamic kingdoms to rebel against the Abyssinian king during the reign of King Haq Aldin, uniting with other kingdoms. The warfare was intense between Ifat and the Abyssinian kingdom, with Ifat prevailing shortly thereafter, asserting its authority over most Islamic city-states. In the era of the former Imam Ahmed Ibrahim mentioned before, Ifat managed to destroy and defeat the Abyssinian Habesha Kingdom of Amhara, a condition that persisted for a while.

 Fall of the Ifat Jibirt Kingdom:

Ifat's domination continued in East Africa, imposing its name over all the kingdoms and prevailing over all the Muslims in the region. Ifat distributed slaves from the Abyssinian prisoners to regions in Yemen, the Hejaz, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq.

The Abyssinian king sought help from the Europeans who, in their early days in Africa, declared Ethiopia a Christian island surrounded by Muslims. Having strong ties with them through the Coptic Church in Egypt, which promptly informed them of the region's affairs, they invoked the aid of the Europeans.

The European relief under Christopher de Gama introduced firearms to the region for the first time. The relief armies supported the Abyssinians in preparation for the battle. Muslim combatants fiercely fought against firearms, but the martyrdom of the valiant Imam Ahmed Qaray, who led the troops personally in the decisive battle, marked the downfall of the Ifat Jibirt state.

Upon hearing the news of the Imam's martyrdom, the Muslim warriors dispersed, returning to their homelands to escape the Abyssinian ruler's persecution. The Abyssinian kings began persecuting Muslims, further fracturing their groups. This oppression forced many Muslims to convert to Christianity or face death, leading a large group of Muslims to flee to various regions around the world.

The dispersion of the Jibrites from the Abyssinian king continued for centuries until now. They settled in distant villages away from the Abyssinian ruler and his authority, spreading across Arab and Islamic lands. Their affiliation transitioned to Jibrit as opposed to only Ifat. They have an Islamic heritage with old mosques built during the Ifat Kingdom and even before in all the regions they inhabit, such as the region and mosque of Shonki, Gozi Mosque, the Jibirt region, the capital Omar Walasma Mosque, Melsai and Ahmed Mosque for the Imam Ahmed tribe, and Ahwaj Maqbarah, which houses the graves of companions and Qur'anic reciters. They played a significant role in building the cities of Harar and Jijiga, which flourished under the rule of Ifat during the reign of Amir Nur Mohammed.

The presence of the Jibrites in Ethiopia remains prevalent across most cities and villages, dominant in the regions of Afar, Amhara, Tigray, and Harer.

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