Dynamics of the Cult of Sheik Hussein of Bale, Ethiopia: Its Course and Curse of the Extremists, a Historical Perspective

  • Kefyalew Tessema Semu
Keywords: Sheik Hussein, cult, dynamics, pilgrimage, extremism


This article explores historical dynamics, values and emerging threats to the cult of Sheik Hussein of Bale. Oral, archival and secondary sources have been collected and crosschecked in the interpretation. Sheik Hussein, an Islamic wali who lived about 800 years ago at a sanctuary named after him known as Dirre Sheik Hussein, is the icon of Bale. His connection to the blood line of Prophet Mohammed, as well as his spiritual graces and deeds in the Isalmization of Bale were factors behind his fame, which led to his veneration as a saint while already he was alive and fully transformed into a cult, after his death. The cult, which evolved from the pre-Islamic muudaa tradition of the Oromo, consists of pilgrimages, baaroo and rituals at his shrine twice a year. It has immense potential for tourism that fascinates even the pilgrims, involving tour of scenic landscapes, famous shrines and singing in honor of the saint and Allah. However, due to the proliferation of extremist teachings of the Salafists and Wahabbists, attacks on pilgrims and marginalization of adherents have been strengthening. Even the extremists vow to destroy the shrine. There were problems arising from lack of viable conservation schemes and ample studies that jeopardized the heritage constraining its registration as Permanent World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Thus, building the capacity of the darga, community based conservation of the shrine and promoting tolerance embedded in the cult are required to sustain the heritage calling for a lookout.

Key words: Sheik Hussein, cult, dynamics, pilgrimage, extremism


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487