Avishai Ben Dror

Dr. Avishai Ben Dror

Associate Fellow
Avishai Ben Dror

Research Abstract

"History, Identity and Muslim Culture in Harar (Ethiopia) Since the Latter Part of the 19th Century until the Beginning of the 21st Century"
The central aim of the research is to explore the impact of the confrontations of 1875 and 1887 in the Harar region on the religious, political, social and cultural lives of the indigenous Harari, Oromo and Somali people as well as on those of the Egyptian and Ethiopian occupiers. I will show that Harar's long history is dominated by the interplay between two traditions. On the one hand, the town was home to a moderate, permissive and popular form of Islam; a mixture of Sufism and mild orthodoxy. This form of Islam suited Harare's status as a regional center of trade, and reflected its local culture. On the other hand, the city was also home to a militant brand of Islam, inspired by the 16th century anti-Ethiopian holy war led by Ahmad Gragn. Thus, although little direct evidence regarding the general conduct of the Harari elite under the modernist Egyptian occupation has been found, it is apparent that they accepted the change compliantly and pragmatically. The history of Harar continued to fluctuate between these two traditions when the town became part of Ethiopia. Throughout the 20th century, most of Harar's elite opted for integration into the Christian empire and benefited from the wider commercial opportunities it offered. From this perspective, it seems that the Egyptian occupation between 1875 and 1885 influenced the Hararis' future in imperial Ethiopia. The more militant dimension of Harar's identity was also to surface occasionally, often linking the town's educated middle class to Islamic activists in Somalia, to the Wahhabiyya in Saudi Arabia, and to Muslim intellectuals and preachers in Egypt. The History of Harar is not only necessary in order to understand the present-day developments and trends of Muslims societies in the Horn of Africa, but it can also provide a unique and indispensable perspective to the general examination of varied Muslim world.


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