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Malik Ambar: Legacy of an Ethiopian Ruler in India
Among the tens of thousands of men, women, and children captured in Africa and sold into slavery in the Middle East and India was an Ethiopian of fierce determination: Malik Ambar. Born Chapu in 1548 in Harar, where the Ethiopian highlands meet the dessert stretching to the Red Sea, Ambar (as he was later called) was stripped of his family, his name, and forever taken from his homeland. Nevertheless, half a century later, and halfway around the world, he had transformed himself into a king-maker in India’s Deccan, leading the most powerful military force against Mughal rule.
The Ethiopian’s contributions to the making of the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean world are only just beginning to be more widely known, even as pioneering scholars from Jogindra Chowdhuri and Radhey Shyem to Richard Pankhurst and Richard Eaton have been helping to illuminate aspects of the Ethiopian Diaspora for decades. Malik Ambar — along with Bilalibn Rabah (Islam’s first muezzin) and Bava Ghor (a merchant and Sufi mystic) — serves as an exemplar of contributions by Ethiopians to the societies, economies, and cultures of the Arabian Peninsula, southern Iraq and Iran, the Indian subcontinent, and beyond.