Ifat Sultanate

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Ifat was a Muslim sultanate covering eastern Shewa to Barbara in Somalia led by the Walashma dynasty.

The historian al-Umari, records that it was near the Red Sea coast, and states its size as 15 days travel by 20 days travel; its army numbered 15,000 horsemen and 20,000 foot. Al-Umar also credits it with seven "mother cities": Belqulzar, Kuljura, Shimi, Shewa, Adal, Jamme, and Laboo. Modern historians believe its borders included Fatagar, Dawaro and Bale; this gave Ifat control of the trade route inland from Zeila, making it a major commercial power.


Ifat first emerged in the 13th century, when its sultan Umar Walashma (or his son Ali, according to another source) is recorded as conquering the sultanate of Shewa in 1285. Taddesse Tamrat explains sultan Umar's military acts as an effort to consolidate the Muslim territories in the Horn of Africa in much the same way Emperor Yekuno Amlak was consolidating the Christian territories in the north at the same time. These two states inevitably came into conflict over Shewa and the territories further south. A lengthy war ensued, but the Muslim sultanates of the time were not strongly unified. Ifat was finally defeated by Emperor Amda Seyon I of Ethiopia in 1332, who exerted his supremacy over the defeated kingdom by appointing first Jamal ad-Din, then his brother Nasr ad-Din as its king.

Despite this victory, revolts from the Muslim people of Ifat continued. In the early 15th century, the Ethiopian Emperor branded the Muslims of the surrounding area "enemies of the Lord" and invaded Ifat. The Ifat armies were crushed once and for all and their king, Sa'ad ad-Din, fled to Zeila; the Emperor pursued and the king was killed. The sources disagree which Emperor conducted this campaign: according to the medieval historian al-Makrizi, in 1403 Emperor Dawit pursued the Sultan of Adal, Sa'ad ad-Din II to Zeila where he killed Sa'ad ad-Din, and sacked Zeila; however, another contemporary source dates the death of Sa'ad ad-Din to 1415, and gives the credit to Emperor Yeshaq.

Ifat eventually disappeared as a distinct polity following the invasion of Ahmad Gragn, and the subsequent Oromo migrations into the area. Its name is preserved in the modern Ethiopian district of Yifat in the Oromia Region.


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