Sa'ad ad-Din II

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Sa'ad ad-Din
سعد الدين زنكي
Sultan of the Sultanate of Ifat
Reign c. 1400
Predecessor Haqq ad-Din II
Successor Sabr ad-Din II
Born Zeila
Full name
Sa'ad ad-Din II
Dynasty Walashma dynasty
Religion Islam

Sa'ad ad-Din II (Arabic: سعد الدين زنكي‎) (ruled circa 1400) was a Somali Sultan of the Ifat Sultanate. He was the brother of Haqq ad-Din II, and the father of Mansur ad-Din, Sabr ad-Din II and Badlay ibn Sa'ad ad-Din. The historian Richard Pankhurst describes him as "the last great ruler of Ifat."[1][2]


Sa'ad ad-Din II was born at the court of Emperor Newaya Krestos.[3] He continued the revolt against the Ethiopian Emperors, and the Gadla Marqorewos records that he "easily destroyed" an army of Emperor Dawit I.[4] The Egyptian encyclopedist Ahmad al-Qalqashandi (died 1418) also praises Sa'ad ad-Din's victories against the Ethiopians.[5] Pankhurst adds that Sa'ad ad-Din also fought against the kingdom of the Hadiya and a pastoral people called the Zalan, both of whom were Ethiopian allies.[6] However, as Taddesse Tamrat notes, these successes were short-lived, and in response to the growing Muslim power in the region Emperor Dawit I strengthened the Ethiopian defenses along the border and established his court at Tilq in Fatagar.

Despite these steps, Sa'ad ad-Din's practice of making quick raids into Ethiopian territory presented a difficult challenge to the Ethiopian Emperor, and it was not until the sultan was pursued deep into Adal territory that the Ethiopians got purchase on the problem. After a battle between Sa'ad ad-Din and the Ethiopian general Barwa, in which the Ifat army was defeated and "no less than 400 elders, each of whom carried an iron bar as his insignia of office" were killed, Sa'ad ad-Din with his remaining supporters were chased to Zeila in modern Somalia.[6] There, the Emperor besieged Zeila, finally capturing the city and killing Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din.


With Sa'ad ad-Din's death, the Walashma dynasty adopted the title of "kings of Adal".[7] His ten sons took refuge in Yemen at the court of King Ahmad bin al-Ashraf.[8]

There is some disagreement over the year when Sa'ad ad-Din was killed. The historian Al-Maqrizi, confirmed by Ethiopian sources, states that it was in 1403, at the hands of Emperor Dawit I. However the Walashma chronicle gives the date as 1415, which Professor Enrico Cerulli has argued in its defense.[9]


Sa'ad ad-Din's tomb stood as a hallowed site for centuries in Zeila. It was visited by Richard Burton the explorer in 1854, who described it as "a mound of rough stones surrounding an upright pole" near the cemetery, decorated with "the remains of votive banquets, broken stones, dried garbage, and stones blackened by the fire" showing how he was "properly venerated" as the current favorite saint of Zeila.[10] Trimingham notes that at the time he wrote his book (circa 1950), the tomb had been destroyed by the encroaching sea.[11]

Additionally, the Saad ad-Din Islands in Somalia, off the coast of Zeila, are named in Sa'ad ad-Din's honour.

See also


  1. ^ Richard Pankhurst, The Ethiopian Borderlands (Lawrenceville: Red Sea Press, 1997), p. 50.
  2. ^ Asafa Jalata, State Crises, Globalisation, And National Movements In North-east Africa page 3-4
  3. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, Church and State in Ethiopia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 147.
  4. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, p. 151
  5. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, p. 152.
  6. ^ a b Pankhurst, Borderlands, p. 51
  7. ^ J. Spencer Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia (Oxford: Geoffrey Cumberlege for the University Press, 1952), p. 74 n.7.
  8. ^ Trimingham, p. 74.
  9. ^ Taddesse Tamrat, p. 149 n.3.
  10. ^ Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856; edited with additional material by Gordon Waterfield (New York: Praeger, 1966), p. 75.
  11. ^ Trimingham, p. 250.
Preceded by
Haqq ad-Din II
Walashma dynasty Succeeded by
Sabr ad-Din II
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