The Development of Islamic Education System in Ethiopia: Its Features, Relevance And Influence on Muslim Culture With Reference to South Wallo

No Thumbnail Available



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Addis Ababa University


The prime purpose of this study was to understand the development of Islamic education system and its influence on Muslim culture in Ethiopia by taking the case of South Wallo. To achieve this objective, data were collected from South Wallo administrative Zone through the duration of two months of field observation in fiqh, mosque and madrasa schools. Data were also collected using interviews in an extended period of two successive years to understand how Islam (Islamic education) influenced the political, socio-cultural, educational and economic aspects of the people. The interview participants were sixty-four including Sheikhs, religious students, community elders, historians and teachers. Both Muslims and non-Muslims were included in the study. Moreover, data from textual analysis were included through direct quotations from the rich Islamic religious scriptures intertwined throughout the thesis. Data from spontaneous recordings were also included to reflect the views of divergent and current Islamic cultural movements as exhibited during Muslim holidays in 2012. The participants were purposely selected using snowball sampling technique based on their knowledge, roles, concern, responsibility, willingness, and cooperativeness on a particular issue. Since the study was conducted from qualitative research perspective, the data were presented in narrative forms based on the participants’ understanding and interpretation in addition to my own reflective analysis based on the voices of the participants and documentary evidences. The conclusions of my study revealed that (1) Islam has got significant influence on the political aspect of the nation. That is assumed to reach its climax during the expansion and hegemony of the Muslim Sultanates in the sixteenth century particularly during the reign of Imam Ahmed, the Sultanate of Adal and the confrontation with the Christian Kings. The efforts to unify the country religiously resulted in twin failure from either side as attempted by the Imam and Yohannes. Other than such sporadic clashes between Christian rulers and Muslim Sultanates, however, the Christian Muslim encounter has been peaceful. Cognizant of this, the Emperor included an article of religious freedom in the country’s written constitution. The Shari’ah courts were also established and the translation of the Qur’an into Amharic was done by the will of Emperor Haile Silassie I. During the Socialist regime, the discriminatory phrase “Muslims who live in Ethiopia” was changed into full recognition of their citizenship as “Ethiopian Muslims” following an historical Muslims-demonstration at the downfall of the monarch. Following their protest and demands, the three grand Islamic holidays were recognized to be celebrated at national level. Then followed the foundation of the Mejlis in Ethiopia. During the FDRE Government, the federal political administrative system gave impetus for Muslims (just like the rest social groups) to practice and develop their cultural values. Hence, the public appearance of Islamic identities increased more than ever before. Madrasa schools and Islamic publication institutions proliferated. This, however, was not considered as healthy by different stakeholders. There is still unresolved tension between certain Muslim groups (who called themselves Salafis) and the Ethiopian government after the Muslim protests conducted nearly for the last two years confined in mosques before the crackdown by anti-riot police forces. Its influence on socio-cultural aspects of the life of the people especially on personal and family life of Muslims (like dietary, dressing, marriage, spiritual life, mourning practice, conflict resolution and healing practices) is significant. Especially the conflict resolution practice among Muslims in the region is proving how they are influenced by the Islamic values of forgiveness, mercifulness, and peacefulness contrary to their depiction on hate-mongering media. The Sheikhs and the elderly people are able to stop blood feuds and the practice of revenge, a practice that is difficult to enforce even in modern courts. It is fascinating to learn to live peacefully with a person who murdered your father or brother without any sense of revenge in your heart. A lot of lesson can be taken from this for peace education in this conflict torn world. Islamic education also influenced the business practice of many Muslims since they were observed shunning away from selling alcoholic drinks and abstaining from saving in banks with interest rates. A few Pensions owned by certain Muslims were observed demanding any couple to show their marriage certificates which otherwise they could be prohibited from hiring beds. They did so in order not to permit prostitution in their business. That revealed the intra-faith influence. There was also significant interfaith influence particularly through the practice of exogamy, healing tradition, neighborhood relations and cooperation in work and business life. This proved the age old religious coexistence, mutual respect and tolerance in Ethiopia despite sporadic clashes. The collaboration and mutual respect between