An Archaeological Survey of Islamic Shrines in Jimma Zone, South western Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Islamic shrines are a sanctuary devoted to Muslim saints and used for ritual practices. As defined by Braukamper.U (2002), shrine is any man made sanctuary (sometimes associated with natural objects) devoted to a Muslim saint (wali). The custom of venerating saints and visiting their shrines is a common phenomena found in the Muslim world (Ishihara 2009). In Ethiopia, the presences of several shrines are typical proofs of the existence of a deep rooted tradition of venerating saints among the Muslim people. Islamic shrines in Ethiopia are not only a religious place, but are also important depositors of the pre-Islamic cultures of the indigenous communities (Trimingham 1965; Hussein 1994; Braukamper 2002; Kassaye 2009). Hence, Islamic shrines are important heritages used to understand cultural changes and continuities of the past and the present. However, due to the past socio-political and historical marginalization of Islam in Ethiopia, Islamic shrines have been studied very little. The previous researches conducted on Islamic shrines have been geographically and thematically limited. Consequently, shrines in the historically prominent Muslim lands (the five Gibe states) of the present day Jimma zone remained unstudied. Therefore, this paper presents archaeological survey research conducted on the Islamic shrine sites of Jimma zone. The study identified and documented two Islamic shrines namely; shrines of Sadeqiyo and Abba Arabu, located in Sokoru district and around Jimma town respectively. The shrines, being located near the former economic and administrative sites; have great significance to understand the history of Islamic relation with the past political and economic scenario of the area. In addition to this, the pre-Islamic Oromo cultural and ritual traditions are well preserved in the two shrines of Jimma zone. Albeit scholars such as Terje Ostebo (2009) claimed the ‘Islamaization of the pre-Islamic Oromo cultures’, the ritual performances conducted at the shrines of Arabu and Sadeqiyo, clearly indicates the ‘Oromization of Islamic religion’. Moreover, the shrines have actual and potential economic, scholastic, and cultural significances. Despite this fact, the shrines are presently endangered from deliberate anthropogenic actions as well as natural factors



Islamic Shrines