Thursday, April 26, 2012

When Himyar Ruled the Banaadir

When Himyar Ruled the Banaadir

Muqdisho is a very old city, older than most people even realize.  The first dynasty to rule Muqdisho was the Tubba’ dynasty of the Himyar kingdom, with the king “Ascad Karb“.  Ascad Karb is most likely As’ad Abu-Karib ibn Malik-karib, a king of Yemen who ruled between 418 and 433 CE and a convert to Judaism by Yathrib’s Jewish community following a military campaign there, this dates the foundation of the old town of Xamar Weyne to roughly 420-430 CE.

The area of Banaadir (the traditional region including Muqdisho, Baraawe, Marka and other coastal cities) is described in the Greek document the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (written around the year 460 CE) as part of “Azania“, a region subject to Charibael of the Homerites (who can be identified with ‘Amir Sharahbil Ya’fir ibn As’ad Abu Karib, the son of the aforementioned king), so the Muqdisho tradition is backed up with documentary evidence.  Sharahbil was a Christian, as was his branch of the Tubba’ family, and the religious differences in the country of Himyar would seal the doom of the nation.

Himyar was in this time the strongest state in Arabia, and they would remain a strong state for nearly a century, but on the death of ‘Amir Sharahbil’s son Ma’adi’Karib Yan’um ibn Sharahbil in 516, Himyar faced religious turmoil as Christians and Jews fought murderous battles.  A Jewish zealot and member of the Tubba’ dynasty named Yusuf Asar Yathar (better known as Dhu Nuways) seized the throne in 518 attacked and butchered the Christians of Najran (the martyrs of Najran are mentioned in the Qu’ran in Surat al-Buruj).  The slaughter shocked the Christian nations of the time, and the Christian Emperor of Aksum, Negusa Negast Kaleb Ella Atzbeha invaded Himyar in 522 and conquered their lands in Yemen in 525.  Other lands under the Tubba’ dynasty were not conquered and fought a long resistance against the kingdom of Aksum.

One member of the Tubba’ dynasty, Sharah’il Ya’abul (known as “Dhu Yazan“) petitioned the king of the Sassanid dynasty of Iran to help him drive the Aksumites from Yemen, and Shahenshah Khosrau was only too happy to oblige.  An Iranian army under General Vahriz invaded Yemen in 577 and were victorious, but the Himyarites were only successful in replacing one occupier with another, as the Sassanids ruled in all but name.    His son Sayf Abu Murrah ibn Dhu Yazan would succeed him in 587 but he was murdered by the Sassanids in 608 and Yemen was annexed into the Sassanid Empire.

It is possible that a branch of the Tubba’ dynasty then established itself in Muqdisho.  There are mentions of Shingani being founded by a “Shingan ibn Hami ibn Ma’adi-Karib”, who could have been either the aforementioned Ma’adi-Karib or another Ma’adi-Karib who was another son of Sharahbil.

Islam arrived in Muqdisho shortly after the Hijra, and became a city within the Ummayad Caliphate 77 years after the Hijra or 696 CE, thus definitively bringing to a close the Himyar Era.

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