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Al Negash – Ancient mosque in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has reputedly known as a Christian Kingdom hence most literature works widely promote and give a detailed insight for the Christian heritages. However the world’s first Islamic community was established not on the Arabian Peninsula (the land of the prophet’s birth) but in Africa at a place called Negash in the kingdom of Axum (the present day Northern Ethiopia).

Negash is a small village in Wukro 60 km East of Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region. It lies on a high plateau, seven and half thousand feet above sea level, commanding breathtaking view of the surroundings. It got its name from the local Tigrigna word ‘Negash or Negasi’ meaning a king. “Nejashi” is an Arabic variant.

Ethiopia was the first country which received warmly and allowed the migrants of Prophet Mohammed to exercise their faith peacefully. It was a time when many of his followers were in hiding, discriminated by the Quarysh, mercantile rulers and fundamentalists, and barely able to proclaim their beliefs openly in Arabian for the fear of reprisals. “Go to Habesha (Ethiopia)” the Prophet is said to have told them “there is a Christian King there whose kingdom is one of Justice and Truth. Reside there until Allah comes to our aid.”

The first eleven refugees were arrived in the early years of the 7th century followed by more number of Muslims in the second flight (Hejira). The then renowned King of the Axum was Ashama Ibn Abjar, according to Arabic sources. Some give the same name Ashama to King Armah or his father or son. ‘Ashama’ seems to correspond to the original Geez name ‘Ella-Seham’, variant Sahma.

In fact the place is as old as the faith of Islam itself; surprisingly it is the best unknown place of Islamic worship. With its oldest collection of Muslim heritages, alongside the well known historical heritages of Axum, it is a worth to be visited.