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Annales d'Ethiopie

A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian


Muslims to Christianity during Yoḥannəs IV’s Reign. A Text
Found in a Manuscript in Eastern Tigray / Une prophétie
musulmane justifiant la conversion des musulmans éthiopiens au
christianisme sous le règne de Yoḥannəs IV. Un texte issu d’un
manuscrit du Tigré oriental
Stéphane Ancel

Citer ce document / Cite this document :

Ancel Stéphane. A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity during Yoḥannəs IV’s
Reign. A Text Found in a Manuscript in Eastern Tigray / Une prophétie musulmane justifiant la conversion des
musulmans éthiopiens au christianisme sous le règne de Yoḥannəs IV. Un texte issu d’un manuscrit du Tigré oriental. In:
Annales d'Ethiopie. Volume 30, année 2015. pp. 315-333;

doi : 10.3406/ethio.2015.1592

http://www.persee.fr/doc/ethio_0066-2127_2015_num_30_1_1592

Document généré le 08/03/2018


Résumé
Une prophétie musulmane justifiant la conversion des musulmans éthiopiens au christianisme
sous le règne de Yohannes IV. Un texte issu d’un manuscrit du Tigré oriental – Cet article
présente l’édition d’un court texte en Ge‘ez qui traite d’une prophétie musulmane concernant le
Roi des Rois Yohannes IV (1872-1889). Ce texte, probablement rédigé entre 1881 et 1889, se
présente comme une lettre écrite par les autorités musulmanes étrangères à l’attention des
musulmans résidant dans la région du Wällo. Selon l’auteur de ce texte, Yohannes est le roi élu de
Dieu, annoncé par une prophétie ; de fait, les musulmans du Wällo doivent se soumettre au
monarque chrétien. Ce texte a des caractéristiques bien spécifiques dont l’analyse montre qu’il
s’agit d’un document produit dans un milieu chrétien orthodoxe afin de justifier la politique
agressive menée à l’encontre des musulmans éthiopiens à cette époque. Le texte soulève ainsi
des questions concernant l’appareil idéologique élaboré à la cour de Yohannes IV.

Abstract
This paper presents the edition of a short Ge‘ez text dealing with a Muslim prophecy concerning
king of kings Yohannes IV (1872-1889). This text, written probably between 1881 and 1889, is
supposed to be a letter written by Muslim authorities from abroad to Muslims living in the Wällo
region. According to the pseudo-author, Yohannes is the chosen king of God, announced by a
prophecy ; thus Muslims from Wällo should submit immediately to the Christian monarch. This text
has very specific characteristics and its analysis shows that it was a document produced in a
Christian Orthodox milieu in order to justify the harsh policy directed against Muslims in Ethiopia at
that time. This way the text raises questions concerning the ideological apparatus elaborated and
developed at the court of Yohannes IV.
Stéphane Ancel ∗

A Muslim Prophecy
Justifying the Conversion
of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity
during Yoh.ann s IV’s Reign. e
A Text Found in a Manuscript
in Eastern Tigray
Une prophétie musulmane justifiant la conversion des
musulmans éthiopiens au christianisme sous le règne de
Yoh.ann s IV. Un texte issu d’un manuscrit du Tigré oriental
e

In 2012, a text dealing with a Muslim prophecy concerning king of kings


Yoh.ann s IV (1872-1889) was identified and photographed by the team of
e
Ethio-SPaRe project in Tämben, East Tigray. 1 This article aims at editing and
briefly commenting on the text because of its historical significance. The text,
written probably between 1881 and 1889, has very specific characteristics and
raises questions concerning an ideological apparatus elaborated and developed
at the court of Yoh.ann s IV.
e
During his reign, Yoh.ann s aimed at imposing religious uniformity in
e
his kingdom. At the council of Boru Meda in May 1878, the monarch,
wishing to put an end to the internal divisions of the Ethiopian Orthodox
Church, declared the täwah. do doctrine as the only one authorized in the
e
country. Yoh.ann s could count on help from each of the regional princes,
e
especially from n guś Menilek of Šäwa and ras Adal Täsämma of Goǧǧam,
e


Institut des mondes africains, Paris. Contact: stephaneancel@hotmail.com.
The research resulting in this article was conducted for the
project “Ethio-SPaRe: Cultural Heritage of Christian Ethiopia,
Salvation, Preservation, Research,” funded by the European
Research Council within the EU 7th Framework Program IDEAS;
1
http://www1.uni-hamburg.de/ethiostudies/ETHIOSPARE. Nosnitsin,
2013: 371-376.

Annales d’Éthiopie, 2015, 30, 315-333


316 Stéphane Ancel

both present at the council of Boru Meda and for once in agreement with the
monarch. Followers of the other two doctrines, Q bat and Yäs.ägga l ǧǧ, were
e e
persecuted and obliged to recognize the new official faith of the kingdom.
But at the council of Boru Meda, Yoh.ann s also required Muslims and
e
“pagans” to convert to Christianity within two years or to leave the country.
Persecution against Muslims started, particularly in the Wällo region where
forced and mass conversions were organized, the local rulers having converted
to Christianity just after the council, ’imām Mäh.ammäd Ali, ruler of Wärrä
Himamo (subsequently ras and baptized as Mika‘el Ali) and ’imām Amäde
Libän “Abba Waṫäw,” ruler of Wärräbabbo (subsequently däǧǧazmač and
baptized as Haylä Maryam). 2
Historians have usually explained this new policy toward Muslims in
Ethiopia in terms of the evolution of the Ethiopian monarchy characteristics.
King of kings Tewodros II (1855-1867) and after him Yoh.ann s IV rebuilt
e
royal authority in Ethiopia. Supported by an intensive propaganda in which
the so-called neo-Solomonic ideology was predominant, they struggled to
reinforce the royal power, undermined during the zämänä mäsafent, and
to unify, by force or negotiation, all the regions of Ethiopia under their
personal authority. 3 History and literature were mobilized to legitimate
the new position of the king of kings: for instance, the k brä nägäśt was
e
used to legitimate Christian and authoritarian political culture in Ethiopia;
the fekkare iyäsus justified the messianic power of Tewodros II; while the
Aksumite heritage and Christian character of Ethiopia were seized upon and
monopolized by Yoh.ann s IV, who styled himself as “Elect of God and King
e
of Zion.” Creating and developing new royal regalia, monopolizing them and
involving history, ideology and violence, the monarchs and their followers
worked hard to legitimate their hegemonic position over the Ethiopian
political scene.
Apparently, the ideological apparatus used for justifying the royal position
of Yoh.ann s IV could have been seen as sufficient to justify also his confronta-
e
tion with Muslims. If numerous historical studies analyzed the great evolution
of the ideological apparatus used by Tewodros II or Yoh.ann s IV to justify
e
their royal authority, there is still a lack of studies concerning those engaged
by Yoh.ann s to justify his action against Muslims. Because it was based on the
e
promotion of Christianity and the Christian aspect of the Ethiopian monar-
chy, the neo-Solomonic ideology could have been understood as promoting
religious and cultural uniformity of Ethiopia. Some historians consider that it
is not a surprise to have seen Yoh.ann s proclaiming religious uniformity for
e
Ethiopia and thus engaging in confrontation with the Muslims. The position

2
On the religious policy of Yoh.ann s IV, see Caulk, 1972:
e 23-41.
3
Crummey, 1988: 13-43.
A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 317

of the king of kings towards Muslims was like that seen by historians as the
“natural” consequence of the evolution of Ethiopian monarchy. 4 If so, having
already analyzed the propaganda elaborated for imposing the royal authority
in Ethiopia, one can be tempted to think that such analysis would not be
necessary for the confrontation with Muslims. But a new finding brings a new
look at that period and, on the contrary, encourages such an analysis.

1. A Manuscript Preserved in Tämben


In November-December 2012, the team of the Ethio-SPaRe project visited
several churches and monasteries in the Tämben region (Däg‘a Tämben
wäräda, Southern T gray zone) and digitized a substantial portion of their
e
parchment manuscript collections. Among the institutions visited was Däbrä
Nazret Q ddus Yoh.ann s monastery in Tägoga. 5 This monastery was
e e
established by Yoh.ann s IV. Dr. Orlowska visited this monastery in 2003 and
e
provided the land charter granted by Yoh.ann s. 6 The digitization of the
e
parchment manuscript collection of the monastery brought to light that the
monarch had also donated numerous manuscripts to the monastery. Among
these manuscripts, nine have been identified as previously belonging to the
Mäqdäla library, 7 but many others were written at the time of the donation.
A parchment manuscript preserved in the collection of Tägoga monastery is
particularly interesting. It is a finely done manuscript of 104 folios (13 quires)
including five texts dealing with Oromos and Muslims in Ethiopia: 8 The Book
of the History of the Galla and the Vision of King L bnä D ng l [mäs.h.afä
e e e
tarik zä-galla wä-ra’ yä n gus nä l bnä d ng l] (fols. 3ra-41vb), The Book of the
e e e e e e
History of Wayzäro Argaya [mäs.h.afä tarik zä-wäyzäro argaya] (fols. 41vb-42va), a
chronological note entitled The Time Given by the Lord to the Galla Is 200 Years
(fol. 43ra-rb), the Gate of Faith [anqäs.ä amin] (fols. 51ra-90va), and finally a
letter sent by Muslims living abroad to Ethiopian Muslims (fols. 97ra-101vb).
All the texts are written in the same careful hand. The manuscript includes
a miniature of Yoh.ann s IV in folio 91r (fig. 1), unaccompanied by any
e
text. There is no colophon and no date is indicated by the scribe, but
both the handwriting and the manuscript can be assigned approximately
to the end of the 19th century thanks to paleographical and codicological
considerations. Also in folio 42va, after the end of the second text, the scribe
wrote a supplication for Yoh.ann s and mämher Tewoflos, the latter being
e

4
For instance, the conversion of Muslims in Wällo was considered by the
historian Zewde Gabre-Sellassie as a part of the “reunification” of the core
region of the Christian kingdom by Yoh.ann s IV. Cf. Zewde Gabre-Sellassie,
e
1975: 94-100. 5 Nosnitsin, 2013: 371-376. 6 Orlowska, 2006: 280-281, 298.
7
Ancel & Nosnitsin, 2014: 90-95. 8 The shelfmark given by the Ethio-SPaRe
project to the manuscript is TNY-014. The binding of the manuscript consists
of two wooden boards covered by brown-tooled leather. Its measurements are:
21.3 cm × 15 cm × 6 cm.
318 Stéphane Ancel

most probably the abbot of Däbrä Libanos monastery. 9 Besides, the monarch
established the monastery where the manuscript was found. All these facts
argue that the manuscript was written during the reign of the monarch.
The first three texts are known to scholars; they have been identified by
Prof. Lusini as representing a literary cycle in Amharic concerning Oromo
people and reflecting the Christian historiography of Oromo history. 10 The
first text of the manuscript is the Book of the History of the Galla and the Vision of
King L bnä D ng l. This is the long version of the text, written in Amharic but
e e e
including passages in G ‘ z. Prof. Lusini has showed that this version differs
ee
from the (short) one presented by André Caquot in that it includes the vision
of L bnä D ng l, present also in the D rsanä Ragu’el, and some other passages. 11
e e e e
This text begins by presenting the legend of the origin of the Oromo people
beginning with the slave called Lalo. 12 Then the author tries to explain the
horrors caused in Ethiopia by the ǧihād of ’imām Ah.mad b. Ibrāhı̄m al-Ġāzı̄
(known also as Ah.mad Grañ) and the defeat of king of kings L bnä D ng l e e e
(1508-1540). According to him, the horrors of ’imām Ah.mad’s war were caused
by the monarch himself, because of his behaviour and his sins. The king
allowed tobacco at the court and other behaviour which the author disapproves
of, like the Muslim custom of washing hands before eating. Both “pagan” and
Muslims customs at the royal court of L bnä D ng l are denounced by the
e e e
author. So ’imām Ah.mad is presented as the instrument of God’s punishment.
But the text also includes the appearance of the Virgin Mary with Archangel
Ragu’el to the king during a dream. The Archangel prophesies to the king
the destiny of his four sons, Fiqtor, Gälawdewos, Minas and Ya‘eqob. In the
incipit, the author explains that the text was commissioned by king of kings
Zä-D ng l (1603-1604) (in fol. 3ra of our manuscript). This text is known in
e e
at least seven manuscripts. 13
Then the text called The Book of the History of Wäyzäro Argaya [here Ag ya] e
follows in the manuscript. We know at least four other witnesses of this text. 14
This text is always associated with the previous one and we do not know any
witness of this text that exists alone. The relation between the two texts is
extremely close since wäyzäro Argaya is supposed to have protected herself

9 10
In office in 1872-1889. Cf. Dege, 2010: 937. Lusini, 1991-1992:
163-169; Lusini, 1994: 641-647; Lusini, 2005: 140-141. 11 Lusini, 1991-1992:
165-166; Lusini, 1994: 643-644; Caquot, 1957a: 91-122; Caquot, 1957b:
123-143. 12 This legend has been studied by Prof. Triulzi and Prof. Ficquet.
Cf. Triulzi, 1994: 593-601; Ficquet, 2002: 55-71. 13 EMML 80 (Menilek II),
EMML 144 (early 20th century), EMML 1126 (Menilek II), EMML 1313 (1912
A.D.), EMML 1521 (20th century). Cf. CR 25 (1902 A.D.) and Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek Cod. aeth. 34 (Hs.34) (19th century). Cf. Lusini, 1991-1992:
14
166; Lusini, 1994: 643; Strelcyn, 1976: 25; Six, 1989: 56. EMML 80
(Menilek II), EMML 144 (early 20th century), EMML 1126 (Menilek II) and
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Cod. aeth. 34 (Hs.34) (19th century). Cf. Lusini,
1991-1992: 167-168; Lusini, 1994: 645; Six, 1989: 56.
Figure 1. Miniature of Yoh.ann s IV, fol. 91r.
e
© Ethio-Spare
320 Stéphane Ancel

from destruction the book narrating the history of Oromo and the vision of
L bnä D ng l. The text tells that wäyzäro Argaya, the granddaughter of Zä-
e e e
D ng l had to leave Lake Zway because of the invasion of Oromo people. But
e e
she brought with her the book. In Gondär, she used it to try to convince king
of kings Sus nyos (1607-1632) not to adopt Catholicism and finally, thanks to
e
her action, the monarch abdicated in favor of his son Fasilädäs (1632-1667). As
far as I know, the chronological note entitled The Time Given by the Lord to the
Galla Is 200 Years is also not attested alone but always with the two previous
texts, in only three other witnesses. 15 This very short text prophesizes the
length of Oromo rule and ends with the reign of Zä-D ng l. 16 e e
According to Prof. Lusini, this literary cycle should be dated to the
beginning of the 17th century because of clear references to Zä-D ng l in e e
the three texts. 17 This hypothesis should be qualified. I guess we have
some reasons for doubting the date given by the author(s) of these texts: all
witnesses are dated to the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the
20th century; the text should be posterior to the D rsanä Ragu’el (dated to
e
the 17th century) and its distribution in the country; and such texts justify
19th-century Ethiopian claims on territories that it does not control anymore.
Before Prof. Lusini, Prof. Bairu Tafla was already suspicious and believed
on the development of such tradition during the 19th century, 18 and he was
followed later in that opinion by Prof. Ficquet, 19 but it seems to be clear for
him that this literary circle concerning the Oromo people originated from the
Šäwa region and was spread in the early 19th century. The witness of this
“Oromo literary circle” presented here is, as far as I know, the first one that
could be dated before to the reign of Menilek II (1889-1913) and it is only the
second one attested in Northern Ethiopia. 20
The well-known text entitled anqäs.ä amin (“The Gate of Faith”) follows
the “Oromo circle” in our manuscript. This is a well-known text written in
G ‘ z in 1540 by the abbot of Däbrä Libanos nbaqom (1470-1560). 21 As a
ee E
E
Muslim who converted to Christianity, nbaqom proposes here an anti-Islam
apology, formally addressed to ’imām Ah.mad. This text is the sole Christian
polemic text against Islam that attempts to explain Christian faith from the
Kuran. It seems to have been the main source of Christian arguments against
Islam from the 16th century and its presence here shows that it has still been
used as such during the second half of the 19th century. The association of this

15
EMML 80 (Menilek II), EMML 144 (early 20th century), EMML 1126
(Menilek II). Cf. Lusini, 1991-1992: 168-169; Lusini, 1994: 645. 16 The text
is edited in Lusini, 1991-1992: 168. 17 Lusini, 1991-1992: 167; Lusini, 1994:
644-645. 18 Bairu Tafla, 1987: 81, footnote 52. 19 Ficquet, 2002: 58; Triulzi,
1994: 596. Published in 1994, his paper was presented in 1988 and at that time
Prof. Triulzi, has been waiting for the result of the analysis of his colleague
Lusini. 20 The manuscript CR 25 (1902 A.D.) was copied for Conti Rossini
in Asmara. 21 For the edition of the text and its analysis, cf. Van Donzel,
1969.
A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 321

text with the “Oromo circle” in our manuscripts confirms the idea that Oromo
people and Muslims were closely associated, even confused in a similar image
in the minds of Christian highlanders. Oromo people have been seen as the
heirs of ’imām Ah.mad, as it is explained in the Book of the History of Galla
presented before. Having been put together in the same manuscript, these
texts claim that there was a clear cultural and political distinction established
between Christian Orthodox in one side and Oromo and Muslims together in
another side.

2. A Previously Unpublished Text Including a Muslim Prophecy


about King Yoh.ann s IV e
Finally a fifth text (fig. 2), written in G ‘ z and of five folios (fols. 97ra-101vb),
ee
completes the manuscript. This text is supposed to be a letter written by
“Muslims of the Arab country.” No other information is provided concerning
the author(s), nor the date of writing. This letter was supposed to have
been sent to Muslims living in the Argobba, Wärräbabbo, Yäǧǧu, and Wärrä
Himäno regions and purports to be the answer to a letter that they had sent
first in 1880-81 A.D. Here is the original text in G ‘ z and its translation in
ee
English.

2.1. Text:
[Fol. 97ra]
¤sŒ: …gÊ€bLr: ŒH”: ÂŒs°Shl ~ nM¶: …s‰m: Èbr: 22
A’b ~ nÕMf: °Œy¶°: ¶≈’: µÑ¢ ~ Èà¶wÅ: p¨¶: €sĶ:
Œmh•¶: …s‰m ~ ÈŒngU°: ‚tÓÍÑ ~ tbÓM: ˲: ˜‰m: p¤:
k¥•n: ÂtmkM°: Œ›fnt: s¥Hn: €sĶ: fŸ•n ~ Œmh•¶: …s‰m:
È€Ú’: €rߧ: Â’§©: ÂΡ: Â’‚Œ»: [Fol. 97rb] ¤ÕHt: p¨¶: ¶≈rkΩ:
¤Ârs: ŒHrm ~ €n¤b¹ƒ: €…Œr¶: ¡‰²ƒ: È°ÕMá: ¤ws´³:
…nÈ: tb‡: ¼Œ: °¼U°: ¤md’: ‚tÓÍÑ: nÛU: †°: ff‹n:
ƒy≈»³° ~ ¶P°: ƒy≈»°: …s‰m ~ Ât¨‡¶: ànw: †¶: ¶≈’:
gfe¶ ~ p¤: nÛP: …sµn¥l ~ Â×gŒ¸: t¨‡¶: €†bw¶: ¤È¶HÏ: ©±:
…mº∫: [Fol. 97va] …sŒ: b…œ: sÑl: w…± ~ ‚nkl: €ms¶: …m{…}Ø∫:
‚◊t†: msŠ∫: ¿e¤¸: t¨‡¶: ng“: †¶: °ÚfOt¶: †nÛP: msr:
ÂnÛP: …sµn¥l ~ ¼Œ: Ñdu·¶: …m˲: ÕlŒt: …n°: y…²: ÕlŒ°:
kuÔt ~ ÂÑwÕ∫¶: …m…Ô: zn±: nÛU: ÚãI ~ nM¶˜: ¤sm’°:
…gÊ€bLr: ¹Â˜€kΩ: P¹Î: €wUO ~ …sŒ: €ntΩ: tb‡¶: ¤
[Fol. 97vb]
¶≈rkΩ: €†bw¶: ¤¼Œ: ¼P°: †kΩ: …gÊ€bLr: €zɶ ~
…Œ¸: ¼Œ: ntlÇ: Â…Œ¸: ¼Œ: n≤Îy: …mº∫ ~ Â…Œ¸: ng¤r: ÐbA:
msŠ∫ ~ €†{¤}wkΩ¶: ff‹: mg§—: †nÛP: ‚tÓÍÑ ~ ¤¶≈rkΩ:
È°ÕMà: ¤: Â2CBÂ7: AŒ°: ŒHŒd ~
ÂnM¶˜: nbl: ¤à¡Ô: …gÊ€bLr: ¤Um’± ~ ∆¤: €n¤b¶:
ÂH°t¶: ¤ws [Fol. 98ra] °: ŒÕHà: flsf¹: ÂtmMr°: ¼Åkbt:

22
This could represent a confusion between G ‘ z b h.er and Arabic barr, both
ee e
meaning “land, country.”
322 Stéphane Ancel

ÂŒÕHà: ◊Ômt: ÂŒÕHà: ×Ät: ÂÂlÕ: ˜‹‘n: ÂŒÕHà: …≈m:


ˆ◊: ≈em•n ~ §M’: µ¤b ~ …mlÔ°: krsµs: ¤:Â1C: AŒt: ¤6:
€w•u: Â2: ŒÅel ~ ¤ŒËgb°: ¨±: †H“n: Ȓ]d: °’k¤: ³©t:
Èb“r: ÈÕIf: ‰eŠ∫: ¤◊†Œ: Ârq: ÂŒd‹ [Fol. 98rb] ±: †zn±: ³©t:
:CC Â?drum: w…± ~ ·q: 2…Œt: Âszr: Â3€Ûbe ~ gdΩ:
…Œt: ÂUzr: Â1€Ý§et ~ ³”¼: zn±: ³©t: …mqdŒ: lÔ±:
†krsµs ~ 7]M: AŒt ~ °’k¤: ÕIf: ¤ws°: z½: ³©t: twl×:
†≈rÑm: ms†: Âl× ~ °˜q‹±: †krsµs ~ ÂtnS„∫: ÂerÚ±:
Â×gm: mÕ€±: Âs°: A† [Fol. 98va] m ~ ÂÕIf: zn±: ¤¡†: sy†:
Œ‰Át: ¤◊†Œ: …b•Ä ~  l˝: ŒUŒ“: ?Â6ÂŒnà◊: ŒUŒr ~
¤fӐ: ŒUŒ“: ©: Èybl: ¤Ôs”: ŒÅel: ¤:C¤8CÂ?…mlÔ±:
†krsµs ~ yÂÕ…: b…š: ◊א: sΩ: ¿f: Èw…±: ¿ ~ Ây¼wn: nÛP:
Âyt¼Pt: 23 ¤md’: ‚tÓÍÑ ~ ÂÂ∆¤: [sic] Á¶: …mlÔ°: krsµs ~ :Â8
[Fol. 98vb]
CÂ@: y…uz: ff‹: md’: ‚tÓÍÑ: mU•¡: Âme•§: ˜¹:
ÂÔ¥§ ~ Ây¶gU: †eŠƒ: =AŒ°: Â9€w•s ~ Â…mdu’: z: yÚyU:
p¤: à†Ú: gÓn: zw…±: §M’: ¸l: ¤l›¶: €’b: Ây¼yÔ: ¤…g“:
Ây˜²: ≈Ó ~ Ây¶gU: ¤md’: gbÝ ~ ŒngUt: Ȥ€≈n ~ ÂÎHnÖΩ:
†€bÑ°: krs²Ñn ~ Ây¶Ut: msÝײ [Fol. 99ra] …Ω: †…s‰m ~ Ây¼wn:
ŒngU±: ws°: md’: gbÝ: :Â2AŒ° ~ ÂÑÐnA: †mdr: ¤€H²:
ƒy≈»°: krsµs: …n°: y…²: €rµÙk›Ät ~ zw…±: Ȓ{¼}b¹∫:
ÕIà: ¤ws°: ŒÓMft: ◊×≈wÑn ~ ¤ws°: zn±: ³©t ~ ³©t¸:
°’k¤: ¤ws°: ŒËgb°: ¨±: †H—n: Ȓ]d ~ Âzn±: ³©t:
È…msy†: …gÊ [Fol. 99rb] €bLr: w…± ~ ÂÕMూ: ¤l›¶: eb•Ä ~
…sŒ: ¶¤’: ¤¨°: ŒËgbt: ÈH—n: Ȓ]d: …s¼: ˲: e†t¶: ws°:
¨°: ŒngUt: ¤¼Œ: yb‡: ¤…n²€∫: ◊Ômt: ¼Œ: w…±: r½b:
¤¨°: ŒngUt: …s¼: y…Ì ~ ¤¼Œ: ΀mr: …gÊ€bLr ~ ¤ŒÓMft¸:
…†: €†w: p¨¶: €≈n: w…±: ÂÓdq: ¡‡ ~ Âzn±: ff‡: …mqdŒ:
Ñs°r…Ï: †” [Fol. 99va] t: ÂŒzΩ’: ×Ät: ÂÂnÞl: Â˚rAn ~ ¤…n°:
ff‡: gbr ~ Â×gŒ: y¨: ¤ws°: ˚rAn: ¤€n◊Ð: ¼Åkbt ~ ¤ws°:
³©t: eŸb: r…yÇ: Ât’{k}bÇ ~
Âzn±: b…š: nÛU: È€b°†: €˜˜†: ƒy≈»°: …s‰m: …Œ:
Á¶: €≈n: ¤¼Œ: t¨‡: ◊א: sΩ: ¿f: Èw…±: ¿: ¤¿le: l›n ~
ÂŒlkU¸: Âr…ΰ: ÚÑ: ¼Œ: ub’: †y: ·s: £ [Fol. 99vb] Ω¸: …rbe:
ÂÚÑ: sáM ~ dmd≈∫: d‡l: ½¹z‚∫: f±l ~ ‹±: t…mrt:
P¹yt: ¤°•k©±: ms†: ˜b…: …†: y–…yÇ ~ ÂÑs°äU…Ω: s¶:
ÚÑ ~ €l©: MØÝ: …mMÅ›²∫ ~ ÂÕIf: ws°: …•I: ÈÎ≈n: ¤◊†Œ:
Mnd: 70 Â1 ~ Âws°: …•I: ÈØÝm: ¼≈∫: ÕIf: ¤◊†Œ: Mnd:
70 ~ ÂÕIf: ¤q›’: …d ~ M™: µnŸ◊: ÂM±: ¤ [Fol. 100ra] …n²€∫:
fÑŒ: H°³ ~ …Œ˜: €≈¶: Á¶t: ˲: t…mrt: €…m“: ¼Œ:
w…±: °à¶Â: …mp¤: …gÊ€bLr ~ …sŒ: ff‡: fµ’t: €gbr±:
…gÊ€bLr: …Ωn± ~ Â…gÊ€bLr¸: y˜ym: †eŠ…Ω: Èà◊Ô ~ Â˲:
ÕMàt: È°ÕMàt: ¤ws°: e•s°: …ÔÄ∫ ~ ¤Ul³¶: ¡‡: †lUl:
Ây¼wn: r±A: Â◊Ő: ¤UrA°: … [Fol. 100rb] gÊ€bLr ~ ‚yàqd:
°ËwO: °wº° ~ ‚Ñàqr: urŒ°: ÂnU°°: UrAt ~ Ây¶gU:

23
This is possibly a play on words with the name Kaśa, the former name of
Yoh.ann s IV, and the verb täkäśtä “appear.”
e
A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 323

¤UrAt: krsµs ~ ÂÑàqr: ftH: ÂÕd◊ ~ Ây◊t‹Ω: ¤ftM:


†€≈ÝÑn: ÂytƼf: m…Œ¹¶: °‰wѶ: MÛ: †krsµs ~ ÂÎsfr:
ÂÑkbr: A¦Î: ÂnU˜ ~ Âff‡: ÈyºÕr: ÕMà°: …•s°: €…×Ä∫:
yr…d: ÂyÔ¶gÝ ~ § [Fol. 100va] M±: †€sĶ: Œmh•¶: …s‰m: €ydU¶:
€°yŸ¶: s‘: …Ω¶ ~ …sŒ: nM¶: nbl: ¤bLr¶: ÓH¹ ~ €ntΩ˜:
tb‡¶: ¤ws°: ¶≈rkΩ: sΩ: ¿S: …Œ˜: Á¶: zw…±: b…š: ¤ws°:
³©t: {È}°bM†: ¿f: zw…±: ¿: y◊d‘: ¿f: ¿f¸: Ôs•Ä: zw…±:
†€sĶ: ˜b€: ƒy≈»°: …s‰m ~
€ntΩ˜: à¶wkΩ: p¨¶: ¶≈ [Fol. 100vb] ’kΩ ~ ¶ڗΩ: †€b×n:
bÉu: w…± ~ ÂnM¶˜: €uØr¶: †kΩ: ¶Ú’: ¼Pt¶: †kΩ: ¡†:
mU²r ~ €†¤w¹kΩ: ¤…n²€∫: €…m—: fÑŒ ~ ‚t≤ÎÏ: …mº∫ ~
€‰: °◊¶Ï: ‹±: ˜mU: ¡‹: °€ÈzÇ ~ …sŒ: w…±: È{°}à¶Â:
…mp¤: …gÊ€bLr: ‚°€mÕÇ ~ ×eΩ: €ntΩ: …s‰m: ÈbL’:
‚tÓÍÑ: €eÕg: € [Fol. 101ra] ntΩ ~ …Œ˜: ŒÕ€: ¤ÕH: p¨¶: zn±:
b…š: …m‚€ŒÕ¹∫: ‚€H°: ˜A°: ‚¼Œ: qÕ¤°: Ayn ~ …sŒ:
w…±: u“y: nÛU: €l©: …mqd∫: €l©: …mdu–∫: ÈyŒsl:
¾Ñ∫ ~ smeÇ: °€ÈzÇ: Âtlw: du–∫ ~ ¤…n°: ƒy≈»±˜: †‚Ιs:
krsµs: ¼Œz: y¨: ˚rAn: Sls: P‰™t: 24 zw…±: U‰œ: Â≈:
[Fol. 101rb]
mn: ‚‰h: ‚‰: ‚‰h: Åhd: 25 zw…±: b‚l: €l©: €m‰k:
È…n¤†: 1€m‰k ~ †Œmh•n: …s‰m ~ …Œ˜: Á¶: zn±: b…š: È°¼U°:
¤p¨kΩ: …mdu’: °fӐ°: :Â8CÂ?AŒ°: krs²Ñn ~ w…±: zn±:
È°ÕMà: ¤ws°: ³©t: °¶g’: ¤…n²€∫ ~ †˜b€: €rߧ: Â’§©:
ÂΡ: Â’‚Œ»: …s…†kΩ: {¤}…gÊ€bLr: ¶¦ [Fol. 101va] Ï: ŒHŒd ~
¼Œ: ³bÕI: …mº¶: ˜‰m: ‹±: ms†: ¡†: kbr ~ ¤l…Ç: ¤Õ§M:
Âmœt: ¤H¼: nÛU: ¤lÇ: nM¶: €gbr²¼: n‚ms¼ ~ ¹´Mt:
r…˜¶: ¤qd¼ ~ Ân¶U…: ¤’¼°: …mdr: ¤…ÔĶ: …mº¼: p¤: ÚÕ¶ ~
Ânàqd: ˜ÜÔ: qd¼ ~ …sŒ: €n°: w…±: Èà¶Â¼: …gÊ…¶ ~ ¼Œ:
tm‰e: brƒ¶: ws°: m [Fol. 101vb] dr: ÈŒlA ~ ws´³: ÕlŒt: kMÔt:
³¤rh: ¼Œ: brƒ¶: ØHy: ŒAl°: ¼Œ: brƒ¶: Âru: ¼Åkt:
Šˆ° ~ ³nU…: ƒy≈»°: krsµs: €bÕI: †¶: ˜‰Œ: p¤: ff‹Ω:
…†: yt„ÈÉ: ¤¡l¶ ~

2.2. Translation:
[Fol. 97ra] In the name of God, merciful and clement; We, Muslims of the Arab
country, we write an answer to the letter of question that our brothers, scholars
of Islam of the country of Ethiopia, sent to us. May this greeting reach the
honorable and glorious princes, our beloved illustrious brothers, scholars of
Islam of the countries of Argobba, Wärräbabbo, Yäǧǧu, and Wärrähimäno.
[Fol. 97rb] Your letter reached us during the month of Muharram. And we read
.
it and we understood its words, written in it, in that you tell us that in the land
of Ethiopia the King was revealed: “He changed all faiths and he destroyed

24
The author wants to give the Arabic “tālit(u) talātat(in),” “the third of three”
(Sūra 5: 73), in fidäl. 25 Arabic sentence written in fidäl which corresponds
to: “wa-mā min P ilāh(in) P illā P ilāh(un) wāh.id(un),” “but there is no god except
the one God” (Sūra 5: 73).
324 Stéphane Ancel

the Muslim faith.” And you told us: “Send for us a letter on the persecution
against us to the king of Istanbul.” And after, you told us: “Make clear for
us by which way we can survive against him, [Fol. 97va] because he is a man of
power. And we cannot escape him and his harm, neither engage in a fight with
him.” And then you told us: “Tell for us to the king of Egypt and to the king
of Istanbul that we are oppressed so that they will save us from this darkness
which is the darkness of apostasy. And let them bring us out of the hand of this
oppressor king.” We, by the goodwill of God, we answer you a good response,
because you tell us in [Fol. 97vb] your letter: “Explain to us, according to what
God has revealed to you! Command us! Whether we have to follow him or
if we have to run away from him, or if we have to make war with him.” And
you explained to us each action of the king of Ethiopia thanks to your letter
written in 1297 year of Muhammad. 26
And we say by the love of God and his goodwill: when we read and we
searched in [Fol. 98ra] the book of Philosophy and of Astronomy, and in the book
of the ancient [fathers], and in the book of David and his son Solomon, and
in the book of the Imam, chief of the scholars and sea of knowledge. From
the birth of Christ, in the 1100th year, the 6th month and the 2nd day, in
the storeroom of Harun al-Rashid was found a tabot in silver with a golden
inscription [Fol. 98rb] on it, and its value was 1,160 dirhams. Its length was two
forearms and its span was three fingers. Its width [was one] forearm and the
span [was] one finger. And the history of this tabot [starts] 7,000 years before
the birth of Christ. And the writing found in that tabot [concerns] the family
of Mary and her son, the crucifixion of Christ, his Resurrection, his Ascension
and his Second Coming to the world. [Fol. 98va] And this writing [was written]
in the language of the power of divinity with Hebrew letters. And the number
of its verses was 66 and one half verses. And in conclusion to its verses there is [a
passage] that says, “In end of days, in 1860 after the birth of Christ 27 a man will
come the first part of whose name is [the letter] kaf [in Arabic] which is [the
letter] ka [in G ‘ z]. And he will become king and he will be revealed in the
ee
land of Ethiopia. And when it will be 1870 the year after the birth of Christ, 28
[Fol. 98vb] he will seize all the land of Ethiopia, at the east and at the west, at the

north and at the south. And he will rule over it 40 years and 9 months. And
just after this, he will go immediately towards the river G yon which is the
e
river Nile in the Arabic language, he will trample it under his foot and he will
drink its water. And he will reign in the land of Egypt, a real reign. And he
will build parish churches. And he will destroy the mosques [Fol. 99ra] of the
Muslims. And his reign will remain in the land of Egypt for 12 years. And he

26
1880-81 A.D. 27 1867-68 A.D. This is a reference to the date of the death
of King Tewodros II and the beginning of the rise of Kaśa. 28 1877-78 A.D.
This is probably a reference to the date of the Boru Meda council and the official
submission of the Wällo region.
A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 325

will fortify the country by the sole faith in Christ which is the Orthodox one,
which is the one that we found written in the ancient books and in this tabot.
And the tabot was found and in the storehouse of Harun al-Rashid and this
tabot came from the power of God [Fol. 99rb] . Its writing [was] in the Hebrew
language. Since it has remained in the storehouse of Harun Ibn Rashid until
this day, [and then] in the house of the government, in accordance with [what]
the ancestors have said about it, that it may stay in the house of the government
until now. As God instructs, and by these books which were close to us, truly
this is His holy word. And all this, before he reveals the Torah, [Fol. 99va] the
Psalter of David, Gospels and Koran, concerning all things. And furthermore
it is said in the Koran in the chapter of the stars: “in a guarded tablet, they saw
Him and they found Him.” 29
And this man is the king who abolished and removed the Muslim faith if
he was truly like [the one] you describe, the first part of his name is kaf, which
is ka in the other language. And his aspect and the appearance of his face are
together red, and the dimension of his stature [is big as] [Fol. 99vb] four [men] and
his face [is] large. His hairs are curly and look like thread. And he has a nice
sign, when meeting with people who see him. The beauty of his face makes
them joyous. And no part of his body is missing. And a writing [is present]
on the palm of his right hand in India ink 30 [which is the number] 71. And in
the same way, on the palm of his left hand, a writing [is present] in India ink
[which is the number] 70. And the writing [is also] on the scale of the hand.
Look for him very carefully and interrogate [Fol. 100ra] concerning him with a
complete investigation. If this manifestation was true, know that he was sent
from God. Because each creature are servant of God and God institutes them
for what He desired. And this writing is the one written in the palm of his
hands by the power of the word of the High, and he is the righteous, and he
was established by the rule of God. [Fol. 100rb] And he does not desire idle talk
and game. And he does not like what is prohibited neither breaking rules.
And he reigns by rule of Christ. And he likes justice and truth. And he kills
the impious by justice and he accepts the believers and the followers of the Law
of Christ. And he makes be ashamed and he glorifies the great and the small.
And each one who looks at the writing of the palms of his hands trembles and
is terrified. [Fol. 100va] Only, O our brothers, our scholars of Islam inform us and
explain us his real name because we say it in our country “Yoh.anna.” And you,
you will tell us in your letter, [if the one] whose name is Kaśa, 31 if he is the man

29
Only the first part of the quotation (“in a guarded tablet”) corresponds to
the Sūra al-Burūj (“the Zodiac signs”) 85: 22, where the Arabic text reads fı̄
lūh.in mah.fūz.in. 30 India ink is a black ink. It can be also the translation of
Indigo colour (a type of blue ink). 31 The name of King Yoh.ann s before his
e
coronation was Kaśa M rša.
e
326 Stéphane Ancel

in the tabot who is called kaf, which is ka, [however if] kaf comes first or at last
place [in his name], this is, O our brothers, the man of faith of Islam.
And you sent to us your letter. [Fol. 100vb] And it is full of speeches of madmen.
And we, we abbreviated for you the story and we revealed to you the word
of mystery. And we have let you know complete understanding concerning
it. Do not flee from him, but serve him and hear his voice and obey to him
because he is the one who was sent by God, and do not treat him unjustly.
On the contrary, you, Muslim of the country of Ethiopia, you are donkeys.
[Fol. 101ra] If really this man would have come and arrived to us, we would not

have treated him unjustly, not for one hour and not for a split second, because
he is the chosen king, no one before and after him looks like him. 32 Listen
to him, and obey him, and follow him. Concerning the faith of Jesus Christ,
in this way it is said in the Koran: “śal sśälasut” 33 which is the Trinity, and
e
“ma [Fol. 101rb] m n ilah ila ilah wah d” which means “there is no god except
e e
one God.” 34 O scholars of Islam, if really this is the man who appeared to you
after the end of 1860 year of Christ, he is the one who is described in the tabot
and the one who was announced. O people of Argobba, Wärräbabbo, Yäǧǧu
and Wärrähimäno, I ask you in [the name of] God and his prophet [Fol. 101va]
Muhammad, greet him for us with honorable words. And declare to him in
the morning and in the evening: “Hail to you, King!” And tell him: “We are
your servants and we pay respect to you.” “And we lower our head before you.
And by the intermediary of [the earth] on our face, we give you blessing from
the earth. And we like to prostrate ourselves before you.” “Because you are the
one sent by our Lord so that you fill up the light in the land [Fol. 101vb] that is
full darkness and impiety. And you shine like the light of the sun during the
day and the light of the moon and stars during the night.” And bring up the
faith of Christ and bring peace for us, all of those who obey our words.

3. A Text Justifying Yoh.ann s IV’s Policy against the Muslims in Wällo


e
This is not the first time that a prophecy referred to Yoh.ann s IV and his e
rule. Since prophecies in Ethiopia were often used for political and religious
purposes, particularly during the reign of Tewodros II or Menelik II, 35 the
reign of Yoh.ann s did not represent an exception. According to Massaia,
e
Yoh.ann s appointed Tewoflos as abbot of Däbrä Libanos monastery because,
e
before his coronation as king of kings, Tewofelos, a hermit at that time, had
prophesied to him that he would reign over all Ethiopia. 36 But for the present
text, the prophecy was not supposed to have been produced in a Christian
but in a Muslim context. And as far as I know, Ethiopian Christian written

32
Reference to 2 Kings 18:5. 33 Partial quotation of Koran, 5: 73. 34 Partial
quotation of Koran, 5: 73. 35 Müller, 2014: 492-494. 36 Massaia, 1930:
51-52, footnote 1; Dege, 2010: 937.
Figure 2. First page of the “letter sent to Ethiopian Muslims,” fol. 97r.
© Ethio-Spare
328 Stéphane Ancel

sources concerning the reign of Yoh.ann s do not make any reference to this
e
prophecy. The only reference to a Muslim prophecy concerning Yoh.ann s’s e
rule came from a Christian milieu in Tigray and was reported by Dr. Orlowska
in 2003. 37 An ecclesiastic in Mäqälä mentioned to her orally such a prophecy
but no details are given. Did the ecclesiastic interviewed by Dr. Orlowska
refer to our text? This is difficult to say even if we can imagine that there
are not many Muslim prophecies concerning Yoh.ann s known by ecclesiastics
e
in Tigray. However, this is the first time that we get the written version of a
Muslim prophecy concerning the monarch.
This text clearly aims at justifying Yoh.ann s’ policy in Wällo. It does not
e
deal with other Muslim communities of Ethiopia, like those of Gondär or of
Negäš in Tigray. The “letter” is addressed to Muslims living in “Argobba,
Wärräbabbo, Yäǧǧu, and Wärrähimäno countries.” The term Argobba refers
here to an area and an ethnic group located in the north of Šäwa and in
Wällo. Yäǧǧu corresponded to a region located at the north of Wällo and
was known to have been the core of powerful Oromo princes who controled
Gondär during the zämänä mäsafent during the first half of the 19th century.
Wärräbabbo and Wärrähimäno correspond both to the name of a clan and of
a region of Wällo. Wärrähimäno was the region ruled by ’imām Mäh.ammäd
‘Ali, baptized after the council of Boru Meda as Mika‘el Ali, and Wärräbabbo
was the region ruled by ’imām Amäde Libän “Abba Waṫäw,” baptized at the
same time as Haylä Maryam. The references of the consequences of the council
of Boru Meda in 1878 are obvious in the text: Muslims from Wällo complain of
the persecution organized by Yoh.ann s in a letter sent in 1880-1881, a few years
e
after the council. The text was probably written after that date and before the
death of Yoh.ann s in 1889. The persecution against Muslims occurred at that
e
time. The beginning of the rebellion against Yoh.ann s’s policies in Argobba,
e
Wärräbabbo, and Wärrähimäno, organized by Shaykh Talha (c. 1853-1936),
himself born in Argobba, can be dated to 1879-1880. 38 It seems clear that our
text refers to this rebellion. The prophecy came out exactly at the right moment
for asking the rebels to submit and to convert to Christianity.
Information given in the text concerning its origin has to be contested,
particularly the idea that it was really a letter, written in Arabic and sent by
Muslims. The first problem posed by this text is its form. The document
is given to the reader without any explanation: this is supposed to be a copy
of a translation of an original letter. We actually know many examples of
letters copied in manuscripts. But usually, such documents are copied (and
if necessary translated) in a secondary hand on the protective folios, or in the
margins of the manuscript. Also, these copies of letters are written in a single

37 38
Orlowska, 2006: 66. Hussein Ahmed, 1989: 17-20.
A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 329

column. Here, our document is treated by the scribe like a real text, part of
the collection he copied: he wrote it in two columns, he created rubrics with
important names and he prepared, for his manuscript, enough parchment
to include the text in a proper way. The second problem is the language of
the text. It is supposed to be a letter written by Arab people sent to their
coreligionists in Ethiopia, hence written in the Arabic language. Why was
it translated into G ’ z and not into Amharic as is usual in such cases? The
ee
language used here definitively posed a problem and a quick analysis permits
us to question the existence of an Arabic Vorlage of this text, as well as the
foreign/Muslim authorship.
The text presented here provides clues that it is a translation from Arabic,
but probably too many clues. The author wrote in fidäl the Arabic word
barr, meaning “land” (fol. 97ra). He gives also the Arabic version in fidäl of
a quotation from the Kuran (Sūra 5: 73). The text reads: “Ma men ilah ila
ilah wah d which means there is no god except one God” (fol. 101ra-rb). A
e
Muslim does not need the translation of this sentence. Why is the Arabic
version presented here while the first quotation from the Kuran (Sūra 85: 22),
earlier in the text (in fol. 99va), was directly translated into G ‘ z? It is clear
ee
that the author wants to highlight the Arabic “origin” and “character” of his
text. Besides, he wants to give the Arabic tālit talātat, “the third of three” (Sūra
5: 73), in fidäl. But he makes a mistake in writing śal sśälasut. If śal s can be
e e
seen as the transliteration of the Arabic tālit, śälasut is not an Arabic word
(nor is it G ‘ z) and does not correspond to the Arabic word talātat. Possibly,
ee
talātat looks close to the G ‘ z śal st. One should wonder if the author did not
ee e
“over-Arabize” this word in order to highlight that he is quoting an Arabic
sentence.
If the text presents many clues of a pseudo-Arabic Vorlage, on the contrary
it gives very little information concerning the pseudo-authors of the letter
and their country. “Muslims of Arab countries” is the only element given
by the pseudo-authors by way of identification. This is extremely vague and
it is extremely unusual for a letter written during that period. Besides, the
pseudo-authors of the letter treat the Kuran in a biased way in order to justify
Christianity from the Kuran. Sūra 5: 73 is not quoted completely and that
of course changes its meaning. This sūra actually reads “They have certainly
disbelieved who say, ‘Allah is the third of three.’ And there is no god except
one God. And if they do not desist from what they are saying, there will surely
afflict the disbelievers among them a painful punishment.” The authors chose
the sūra which condemns the Christian faith in order to justify it! It is highly
improbable that any Muslim could be convinced by such an argument.
So we are here in the presence of a text meant to serve as propaganda. For
the moment, it is impossible to say if the witness presented here is a copy or an
autograph. But this text was probably written in a Christian monastic milieu
330 Stéphane Ancel

during the end of Yoh.ann s’s reign. At first it echoes eschatological discourse
e
in prophesying catastrophes and wars and in using standardized periodization
of time (10 years, 40 years), but without being in itself an eschatological text.
There is no reference, for instance, to the 1,000 years or to the resurrection
of the dead. But still, the similarities with another text, the fekkare iyäsus, are
clear. As in that book, a prophecy announces the rising of a king who will
rule Ethiopia for 40 years strengthening Christian faith. The fact that fekkare
iyäsus was used by Tewodros II to legitimate his power can explain this clear
reference in our text: Yoh.ann s needed a prophecy to legitimate his own power
e
since his predecessor had had one.
Secondly, it seems that the author of the text was particularly influenced by
E
nbaqom work, the Anqäs.ä amin. The author describes the physical aspect of
the future king of Ethiopia. And according to him, numbers are written on
the palm of his hands: 71 on the palm of his right hand, and 70 on the palm
of his left hand (fols. 99vb). The number 71 is clearly a reference to the work
E
of nbaqom concerning the interpretation of the fawātih. present in Sūra 2: 1.
Knowing that the numerical value of the Arabic letters of the fawātih., alif, lām
E
and mı̄m, is 71, nbaqom created a verbal form whose letters have the same
numerical value: sebb h.o “I’ll praise you” and tried in this way to prove that
e e
the Koran praised the Gospels in that sūra. 39 The presence of the number 71
on the palm of the right hand of the king means most probably “I’ll praise you
(the Gospel).” In the same way, the number 70 is also most probably a reference
E
to the same work. According to nbaqom, the fawātih., yā and sı̄n, present in
Sūra 36: 1 correspond to the name of Jesus. 40 But nbaqom did not give any
E
numerical value to these fawātih.. Nevertheless, the standard numerical values
of these two letters yā and sı̄n are respectively 10 and 60, which yields 70 in
total. It seems to be clear that according to the author of the letter, 70 means
the name of Jesus.
E
Apparently there is a third reference to the work of nbaqom. The author
of the letter gives the name of the king in Arabic: Yoh.anna. According
E
to nbaqom, Yoh.anna was the name given to John the Baptist in the
Arab tradition concerning the relations of the Christian monk Bah.ı̄rā and
Muhammad, despite the fact that the Islamic tradition usually gives the name
E
as Yah.yā. nbaqom explained this contradiction simply by saying that “Yah.yā,
son of Zachary was called at that time Yoh.anna.” 41 The author of our text
wanted to continue to lay stress on the Arabic character of the text so he gives
E
an Arabic equivalent of Yoh.ann s (Yoh.anna) found in nbaqom’s work. In
e
fact, a Christian audience in Ethiopia probably would have been unable to
identify Yah.yā as Yoh.ann s. e

39 40
Van Donzel, 1969: 63, 172-175. Van Donzel, 1969: 72-73, 186-187.
41
Van Donzel, 1969: 148, 214-215.
A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 331

If this text was written in an ecclesiastic milieu, one can wonder why such
a text should be produced at that time. The first problem is the author’s
expected audience. Even if the text seems to be giving arguments to convince
the Muslims of Wällo to convert to Christianity and to submit to the rule of
Yoh.ann s, they were most probably not the audience expected by the author:
e
the text is written in G ‘ z, it was found in a monastery of Tigray and it
ee
seems not to have been distributed in Wällo. Does this text, then, aim at
justifying Yoh.ann s’s policy in Amhara-Tigray society? This is the most
e
probable hypothesis. But immediately after proposing such a hypothesis, a
huge problem arises: why did Yoh.ann s’s followers need to justify his policy
e
in Wällo among the Amhara-Tigray society? Apparently, the legitimacy
of the king’s power and his policy toward Muslims in Wällo had to be
defended and this text, with all the others present in the manuscript, was
produced to convince people of the necessity to convert Muslims living in
Ethiopia: the “Oromo literary cycle” reminds them of the errors made by
L bnä D ng l and the danger of the Oromo people, the Anqäs.ä amin reminds
e e e
them of the superiority of Christianity over Islam and finally, the text presented
here explains that, even in Muslim countries, the population recognized the
superiority of Yoh.ann s and his political aims.
e
As we can see, this text raises many questions concerning the establishment
and the aims of the ideological apparatus during the reign of Yoh.ann s IV. Ap-
e
parently his policy towards Muslims was not only the “natural” consequences
of the royal ideology followed at that time. His policy in Wällo had to be
justified. The text edited and translated here gives elements concerning an
ideological apparatus engaged for that purpose.

Thanks:
The author would like to express his gratitude to Prof. Alessandro Bausi
(Hamburg University) and to Prof. Orin Gensler (Addis Ababa University)
for helping him during the research for this article.

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A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity 333

Abstract
This paper presents the edition of a short G ‘ z text dealing with a
ee
Muslim prophecy concerning king of kings Yoh.ann s IV (1872-1889).
e
This text, written probably between 1881 and 1889, is supposed to be a
letter written by Muslim authorities from abroad to Muslims living in
the Wällo region. According to the pseudo-author, Yoh.ann s is thee
chosen king of God, announced by a prophecy; thus Muslims from
Wällo should submit immediately to the Christian monarch. This
text has very specific characteristics and its analysis shows that it was a
document produced in a Christian Orthodox milieu in order to justify
the harsh policy directed against Muslims in Ethiopia at that time.
This way the text raises questions concerning the ideological apparatus
elaborated and developed at the court of Yoh.ann s IV.
e

Keywords: Yohannes IV, religion, Islam, Wällo, prophecy, manuscript,


G ‘ z text, propaganda
ee

Résumé
Une prophétie musulmane justifiant la conversion des musulmans
éthiopiens au christianisme sous le règne de Yoh.ann s IV. Un texte issu
e
d’un manuscrit du Tigré oriental – Cet article présente l’édition d’un
court texte en G ‘ z qui traite d’une prophétie musulmane concernant
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le Roi des Rois Yoh.ann s IV (1872-1889). Ce texte, probablement
e
rédigé entre 1881 et 1889, se présente comme une lettre écrite par les
autorités musulmanes étrangères à l’attention des musulmans résidant
dans la région du Wällo. Selon l’auteur de ce texte, Yoh.ann s est le
e
roi élu de Dieu, annoncé par une prophétie ; de fait, les musulmans
du Wällo doivent se soumettre au monarque chrétien. Ce texte a des
caractéristiques bien spécifiques dont l’analyse montre qu’il s’agit d’un
document produit dans un milieu chrétien orthodoxe afin de justifier
la politique agressive menée à l’encontre des musulmans éthiopiens à
cette époque. Le texte soulève ainsi des questions concernant l’appareil
idéologique élaboré à la cour de Yoh.ann s IV.
e

Mots-clefs : Yohannes IV, religion, Islam, Wällo, prophétie, manuscrit,


texte en G ‘ z, propagande
ee