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Tigray Did Not Embrace Muslim Refugees in the 7th Century, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians Did

Editor’s note : views expressed in the article reflects that of the writer’s.

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By Ahmed Yusuf,
(Twitter handle: @AhmedYusuf_et)

On Friday, February 25, 2022, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led government of Tigray misleadingly and without shame claimed that it was the owner of or provided exclusive credit to people of Tigray, Ethiopia’s rich traditions, civilizations and ancient history.

It deliberately attempted to mislead others saying that the Axumite Civilization centered at the present day Tigray embraced Christianity and accepted the Muslim Refugees of the 7th century Arabia.

But the fact is that the Tigrayan values at the time were founded on Ethiopian Orthodox Christian values which are broad and wide that its kingdom encompassed other ethnic groups as far as Yemen. Within its kingdom lived many ethnic groups including the Amhara, Eritreans and even Arabs. The dominant language at the time was Ge’ez not Tigrayan or Amharic. Hence, TPLF’s argument has no historical basis, it is distorted and it is very dangerous. It not only attempts to corrupt Ethiopia’s history but the history of Islam as well. 

Even the Muslim refugees who arrived at the courts of King Najashi (Negash) in the 7th Century read a verse of the Holy Quran dedicated to St. Mary to King Najashi seeing it as a common foundation. And the King, who did not consider himself a Tigrayan but a Christian, shared this common foundation with the foreigners who sought his protection. 

Similarly, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) instructed his companions to go to a Christian King in Habesha (Abyssinia). Arab historical records do not mention Tigray or a Tigrayan King but a Christian King, Kings of Kings of Ethiopia, who was open-minded and just.

Unfortunately, the current Tigray leadership led by TPLF is far from being as open-minded as King Najashi in the 7th Century. In fact, it is highly ethnocentric and cannot even get along with its neighbors who share the same color and religion as the people of Tigray.

When ethnicity becomes leading agenda in politics, it is more prone to cause differences even within members of a similar faith. This is evident not just in Tigray but throughout Ethiopia. 

Thanks to TPLF’s narrow-minded politics, people who once embraced others who are different from their own faith are now breaking allegiance even with their own brethren in faith. 

Two weeks ago, Tigray media announced the formation of the so-called Tigray Orthodox Church and hence declaring its separation from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Tigray Islamic Affairs Supreme Council also said it broke its allegiance with the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council. Tigray based Catholic and Protestant churches also followed suit.

The most interesting part here is that, for instance, the Muslim religious leader Sheikh Adem Abdulkadir from Tigray was the one, among others, who broke the news of separation from other Muslims in Ethiopia. This same Sheikh, interestingly, is also a member of the TPLF political party and ran for elections. Thus, it can be argued that a politician, a TPLF cadre, made the decision for Ethiopian Muslims and Tigrayan Muslims to part ways. C:\Users\Mowlid\Downloads\Untitled design(6).png

That said if Tigray was the once powerful civilization that embraced ideas even beyond its borders, why can’t it tolerate ideas that exist in its homeland? Why is it shrinking and breaking alliances instead of expanding? The answer is clear. As long as TPLF led Tigray holds dear to ethnic politics, abandons the true values of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity that was just and fair even to outsiders, it will continue to see its neighbors and its brethren in faith as enemies. 

Tigray may be a cradle of civilization, Tigray may house the ancient statues or it may even house the Al Nejashi Mosque, but as long as it is attached to the ethnic based politics perpetrated by the TPLF, it will remain deprived of those basic values that brought those ancient civilizations into existence in the first place.

Surely the Christians who allowed the construction of the first Al Najashi Mosque did not go into a killing frenzy into Afar. Instead they built for Muslims a place of worship. If the people today do not have these values of brotherhood or only share it within their own ethnic group, then wouldn’t the ancient statues and the Mosque in Tigray be similar to the pyramids in Egypt? Pile of rocks without owners? The stones are there but the people who built them are either gone or no longer hold dear the values of old.

Ahmed Yesuf is Editor-in-Chief of EthiopianCitizen.com  Follow him on twitter : @AhmedYusuf_et

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7 COMMENTS

  1. why worry to discuss anything with a group that kills, kills, kills…not only innocent people but also milk cows, schools. clinics…causing unimaginable hatred and fright between peoples. It is better if the tplf exist on their own and whoever wants to follow them can do so…bye bye make sure you have not left anything behind and go away, never return..with your hatred and false history

  2. Of course TPLF and those infected by TPLF are not welcoming to others even when they share the same faith and values let alone different faith and values. TPLF the communist has no faith or values. It worship money and the devil who will not punish them for committing heinous crimes. The greed and hate overpowers them and will not stop them from breaking violent and rude.

    Well majority of Tigrayans now are attached to the ethnic based politics perpetrated by the TPLF, and benefited immensely from the 27 years of TPLF occupation of military, economic and political sectors all over Ethiopia. Now the driving force behind pillaging and massacring Amhara and Afar region is that nostalgia and lament of loosing everything. That time made it possible for ANY Tigrea to go to any direction and become the landowner of Coffee, sugar, flower, crops, buildings, businesses and etc. by throwing out previous owners with no questions asked.
    The sad reality now is such pillaging behavior now is happening with the current regime Oromo/OLF cadres. So Ethiopians are not out of the ethnic based politics perpetrated by OLF/Prosperity Party woods yet.

    It is impossible to live in peace and respect for the rule of law with TPLF and those infected by TPLF greedy and hate disease. The greed has gone beyond belief when they try to keep Wolkait Tegede and Raya Amhara land and people as their own and forcing to teach them speak Tigrigna even after the people of Wolkait and Raya vehement patriots fight against and to stay as Amhara with Amhara and NOT as Tigrea.

  3. Well, please stop all Tigray Hate propaganda⚘
    That is this article is about and the long long comment above. Too much hate against Tigray cannot bear a positive fruit for yourselves.

  4. I just had a stroke reading this lol. You are the definition of delusional, you are just jealous of the rich tigrayan history.

    • I agree. If our legal system was as advanced as some countries, this would have been at least forced to retract. I’m not a Tegaru. Just reading it made me so upset because because this cannot be taken as a political opinion, rather a hatred. He is entitle to disagree with the rich history of Tigray. But I do-not believe it’s acceptable to insult a whole population as intolerant to justify his conclusion.

  5. Hostile is the definition of TPLF
    30 past history tells peace and tranquility between Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Amharas, Afars, Somalis, Oromos and everybody else until TPLF came and gone after 27 in power.
    TPLF used ethnicity and religion as a tool to divide and create suspicions and hate between harmonious people. But it failed to accomplish its evil plan.

    TPLF is known for hostile, greedy and intolerant nature from its inception. In fact that is the platform of the foundation of that group. So the story exactly matches TPLF’s nature. Just looking at what happened for 27 TPLF years and what is going on today by OLF/Oromos Prosperity Party and how it was able to infect and damage OLF Oromos brain is the testimony of TPLF.

    But the peace and truth always win and all of that false TPLF narratives will crumble and be gone forever. Except those in power individual Oromos are still suffering from poverty and opportunity and they are waking up.

  6. Ahmed Yusuf, judging from your pieces (including your tweets), as a fellow Muslim Ethiopian, this is the only reason I wouldn’t say “I am ashamed of you”: why should I give you a power to represent me by association?

    Your hatred of Tegarus has made you lose your sense of reasoning. You made me wonder how one is capable of spreading too many lies in such a short peace. I will mention some.

    * Your whole argument is intended to discredit the rich Tigray history and make it only an Orthodox Christean history. However, why couldn’t it be both?

    • You use the people in the region speaking Ge’ez instead of ‘Tigrayan’ language 1400 years ago? But isn’t it the same with every ethnic group? We all have diverse ancestors the further we go back in history. Our languages too are more recent. Yet, the events in our homeland are considered ours because they belonged to our ancestors. (I’m from the South, and the same principle applies there).

    * In terms of percentage, there are more Orthodox Christians in Tigray than in the Amhara region. So, your revisionist fake story holds no water. The residents of Tigray during the First Hijra (Migration) of Muslims are the ancestors Tegarus, who are currently mostly Christeans, some Muslims.

    • You asked “wouldn’t the ancient statues and the Mosque in Tigray be similar to the pyramids in Egypt? Pile of rocks without owners?”. Answer: No!! Ancient Egyptians were black people like us, unlike the current Arabs. But the Tegarus have been always there. (Of course, like the rest of us, they have been mixing through intermarrying.)
    • Although relations between Muslim and Christian citizens generally harmonious, historic injustices against Ethiopian Muslims have been there in Each Christian monarchy. Yet, it was invisible to you.
    • I leave Tigray Orthodox case for the followers to comment, but I personally don’t see a big deal with “the Tigray Islamic Affairs Supreme Council breaking its allegiance with the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council”. The national body is guilty of the same crime you accuse the Tigray body of. Aren’t you aware of the fact it’s power hungry leaders aren’t resisting reform and avoiding election? Was it easy for you to understand the closeness of Tigray muslim leader to TPLF, yet you aren’t aware of the Majlis leadership being close to the regime?

    Finally, I absolutely have no problem with your criticism of the TPLF and I myself do not support them. However, I understand the grievances of Tegarus. It doesn’t matter how much support TPLF has, purposely generalizing the whole population as religiously and ethnically intolerant is outrageous.

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