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Nur ibn Mujahid ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abdullah al Dhuhi Suha (literally ‘the morning star’), of the Ahl Suhawyan clan of the Somali tribe of Marehan, Darod group, was a notable Emir of Harar in the 16th century. Marrying the Widow of Ahmad Ibn Ibrahim (q.v.), or Gran, he also succeeded him as leader of the Muslim forces of fighting Christian Ethiopia.
Considered the patron saint of Harar, he was called the Sahib al-Fath at-Thani, or Master of the Second Conquest. When Ahmed ibn Ibrahim, the leader of the Muslim expansion into Ethiopia which began in 1527, was killed in 1543, the Muslim forces fell back in confusion upon Harar. Nur, the dead leader’s sister’s son, married Gran’s firebrand widow, Bati del Wanbara (q.v.), and undertook to renew the fortunes of the Muslim city, which had been sacked in 1550. Named Emir in about 1550-51, he spent the next two years reorganizing his forces, and construction the wall which still surrounds the city.
In 1554-55, Nur departed on a Jihad, or Holy War, in the eastern Ethiopian lowlands of Charchar, Arusi, and Hadeya. In 1559, he invaded Fatajar, where he fought against the Ethiopian emperor Galawdewos (q.v.)[reigned 1540-59], and killed him. Nur kept fighting for 12 years untill, according to legend, at Gibe he said “Kaffa!”, or “Enough!”, and returned to Harar. The province is called Kaffa to this day.
During Nur’s absence, Harar witnessed internal power struggles, and the unlucky city was disturbed by encroaching Galla tribes (i.e. Oromo tribes). By 1567, repeated Galla raids had brought famine to the city. Nur left the city in 1568 for a punitive raid against the Galla. On his return he found a plague raging in Harar, and he himself died of typhus.
Contemporaries described Nur as a man of noble conduct, who was just, strong, and highly principled. He was noted for the buildings he erected in Harar, and for protecting its inhabitants from invaders. His tomb stands on a hill surrounded by houses and courtyards, and is popular place of pilgrimage in Harar.
1. R.Basset (editor, Histoire de la conquete de l’Abyssinie (“History of the Conquest of Abyssinia”), Paris, 1897-1901;
2. Dr. E. Cerulli,“Documenti arabi per la storia dell’Ethiopia,” Memoria della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Vol. 4, No. 2, Rome, 1931
3. Dr. E. Cerulli, La lingua e la storia di Harar (“The Language and History of Harar”), Rome, 1936
4. Dr. E. Cerulli,“Gli Emiri di Harar dal secolo XVI alla conquista agiziana”(“The Mirs of Harar From the 16th Century to the Egyptian Conquest”),
5. Dr. E. Cerulli, Rassegna di Studi Ethiopici, Vol. 2, Rome, 1942
6. Hadj Yusuf AbdulRahman (editor), Kitab Rabi’a al-Qulub fi Dhikr Manaqib wa Fada’il Sayyidina as Sheikh Nur Hussein (“The Springtime of Hearts in Memory of the Virtues and Merits of Our Lord the Sheikh Nur Hussein”), Cairo, 1927
7. J. Spencer Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia, London, 1952
8. K. Wndt,“Amharische Geschichte eines Emirs von Harar in XVI Jahrhundert,”(“An Ahmhari History of One of the Emirs of 16th Century of Harar”), Orientalia, Vol. 6, No.¾, Rome, 1937
emir nuur grave