Awach/Inayach (Shrines)

 

Of the foremost issues in the long history of Harar that contributes to the city to be named “center of Islamic religion”, its numerous shrines is the remarkable one. “Awachs” (Inyach for women) are holy sites that are established in accolade of former saints who are known for honorable deedso throughout their life time based on the Islamic religion. These shrines may be abodes of the saints where they had taught or mausoleums. Signs for places, on which shrines are to be built, may be natural things as trees, rocks and rivers, or manmade signs as tombs - “kubies” or “gelma”.

Harari shrines were built in the names of those who did miracles and enabled other to do miracles, who were Sheiks during their life time and became saints after their death, who had spilled their blood and sacrificed their lives defending their people, as well as for respected and amiable leaders who did great deeds.30 Moreover, shrines might be built for Sufi fathers who have never been in Harar or even Ethiopia and appeared in dreams for servants of Allah. Accordingly, there are saints for whom “Mekams” (memorials built on sacred places) were built.

In spite of difficulties to know the exact number of saints for whom shrines were built in the long history of Harar, currently, there are 438 shrines that are registered by the Harari Culture, Heritages and Tourism Bureau. Among these shrines, 259 are identified inside the Jugal wall and this makes Harar a city of saints having lots of shrines in very small area.

The shrines of Harar have their own religious and social significance: they serve as schools of Islam, places for praying and zikri rituals, rest places for those who are of old ages and have no one to look after, as well as centers of traditional medicine. Furthermore, in relation with their number and strategic prevalence in Harar and its surroundings, shrines serve as defense centers from enemies, centers of Islamic teachings creating social networks related with those rituals performed in them, and in confirmation of the continuation of saints who inspire the people socially and culturally.

Shrines (Awachs/Inyachs) have a “Murid” who performs the religious teaching, the administration work and other activities. Murids are mainly devotees who have bloodline with saints for whom shrines were built in their names, and who continue the system which handed down from generation to generation. The shrines in this regard serve as burial places and funerals of those families took place there. Some known shrines are listed below as examples:

Aw Abadir: This shrine is found inside the Jugal wall near Suktati Beri. It is named after Emir Omar Alrida (Sheik Abadir) who came from Hijaz (Saudi Arabia) and served Harar as governor and religious father. During the time, he had put the foundation of Harar winning wars against non believers of the surrounding areas.34 Aw Abadir has a special place in the history of Hraris, and ziyara rituals are performed in extraordinary considerations where the shrine has been established with his name. The main reason for this is that he had been leader and father who had reestablished Harari with unity and greatness. He formed modern administration and leaders, defended Harar against enemies, expanded Islamic teachings, formed strong social fabrics and disseminate traditional medicine.35 Sheik Abadir is a saint who had a great name not only in Harar but also throughout Ethiopia. Adherents of Islamic religion come in great numbers from all over the country to this shirine.

Aw Sofi Yahiya: This shrine is found on the road to Koremi in the direction to Jigjiga. Aw Sofi was father who founded the first Quran school (Quran Gey) with Sheik Abadir and he is given a significant part in the history of Harar. The education system that Aw Sofi established are still dominant in Harar. The “Quran Geys” he founded were widespread in short period of time and had played significant roles in creating a strong society that understood the Islamic doctrine. The schools he had founded had begun compiling and printing manuscripts and were known for the art of bookbinding. For Aw Sofi who did great achievements in these and other issues related with public administration, a shrine is named after him.

Aw Berkhedle: Is located in western Harar at a distance of 9km from Fedis road. This shrine is a memorial for Muhiyeadin Yusuf Al Ahewan (Aw Berkhedle) who was amid those followers who came with Sheik Abadir and he ruled Harar from 1038-1065. Aw Berkhedle is the saint who had taught the Islamic education to Hararis in their mother tongues using Arabic characters to read and write; he had spent much of his life time performing religious activities. The shrine that is named after him encompasses age old drums, Galma for men and women, and in the vicinity there is a mosque with ancient compiled manuscripts (kitabs). Moreover, rituals like Ashura, Sefer and Mewlud are celebrated in Aw Berkhedle shrine.36

Aw Mensur Mosque: Aw Abdulkadir Jeylan: This shrine is found on the road that leads to Jigjiga, in the south-eastern direction of Jugal, at a distance of 15km from Harar. It was built in commemoration of the great Islam scholar Abdulkadir Jeylan (1077-1166 G.C.) who had taught “Din” in North and East Africa. Abdulkadir Jeylan has a special place in the teaching of Islamic doctrine, hence, he is given the name “the leader of the followers of Allah”. This religious scholar is internationally acknowledged and remembered for his good persona; and shrines were built in his name in different parts of Ethiopia.

The shrine of Abdulkadir Jeylan has a wide yard surrounded by a fence and there are a mosque, three graves, a gelma, a room for Quran education and about ten traditional houses (Gey Gar) inside it. In this shrine, ziyaras are performed throughout the year and holidays like Arafa, Ashura and Mewlid are celebrated. During the events, zikri rituals and traditional dance (chef-chef) that is accompanied by drum and kabal are the frequent. In addition, this shrine is one of those places where porridge feeding of hyenas takes place during Ashura.

Emir Nur: It is located inside the Jugal wall, on the road behind Jugal Hospital that leads from Feres Megala to Argo Beri. This shrine has a kubi and consists of burial places of mugahids, kadies and alimos (including that of Dil Wonbera) who had sacrificed their lives in battles during the period of the Emir. It is a memorial for Emir Nur who served Harar from 1551-1559 and who built the Jugal wall. The 43rd Emir in the history of Harar is called by Hararis “the second hero” (sahibel fethu asesani) that defeated the troops of King Gelawdios.

Ay Abida: Shrines in memorial of women saints are among those evidences in the History of Harar which confirm that the Harari were concerned with moral rather than gender. Ay Abida is a particular title of the mother of “Wolich” and is conferred to women who are knowledgeable in Islamic education and put their knowledge into practice.38 There are shrines in memorial of Ay Abida in different parts of the Harari region, and one is found near Asum Beri of the Jugal wall. The shrine of Ay Abida,a place where women perform “ziyara”, has its own social roles. In particular, they perform “zikri” at the night of “Bedri” preparing traditional foods and beverages.

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City of Hareri

In the last two and half decades of self-administration, Harari People’s Regional State has exerted every effort to maintain, develop and promote the culture, language and heritage of its people.

H.E. Ato Murad Abdulhadi  

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