Imam Ahmed Gurey

Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, known in Somali as Gurey, was Imam and General of the Adal Sultanate in Somalia who invaded Ethiopia and defeated several Ethiopian emperors. He was born in 1507 near Zeila in Somalia (then part of the Adal Sultanate.

He married Bati del Wambara daughter of Mahfuz, governor of Zeila. When Mahfuz was killed returning from a campaign against the Ethiopians in 1517, the Adal sultanate lapsed into anarchy for several years, until Imam Ahmad took control.

He embarked on a conquest which brought three-quarters of Ethiopia under the power of the Muslim Sultanate of Adal during the Ethiopian-Adal War 1529-43. In retaliation for an attack on Adal by the Ethiopians, Imam Ahmad invaded Ethiopia in 1529. He campaigned in Ethiopia in 1531, breaking Emperor Lebna Dengel’s ability to resist in the Battle of Amba Sel. When the Imam entered the province of Tigray, he defeated an Ethiopian army there.

The Ethiopians were forced to ask for help from the Portuguese, who landed at the port of Massawa in 1541. Imam Ahmed attacked them and was wounded. The Muslims suffered losses but managed to reform and were reinforced by fresh troops. The Imam sent to his fellow Muslims for help and got 2,000 musketeers from Arabia, and artillery and 900 special forces from the Ottomans. Imam Ahmad attacked the Portuguese camp and killed all but 140 of their troops.

In 1543 in the Battle of Wayna Daga Imam Ahmad was killed and his wife went back to Harar, where she rallied his followers. She married his nephew Nur ibn Mujahid on condition that he would avenge Imam Ahmad’s defeat.

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