Syncretism of Waaqeffannaa and Islam among the Arsi Oromoo of Ethiopia

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Temam Haji Adem


The Arsi are one of the largest subgroups of the Oromoo, the largest single ethnic group inhabiting parts of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. The Arsi Oromoo originally were believed to be the followers of traditional indigenous religion known as Waaqeffanna but gradually at least since the eleventh-century some clans of Arsi Oromoo were in touch with Islam. In due course of time what social scientists called a syncretistic religious and cultural feature exhibiting both Oromoo and Islamic religions and cultures have start to emerge. This phenomenon was not discussed by many Ethiopian and foreign scholars. Based on the syncretic cultural approach established by U. Braukamper, this article discusses some of the major features of Islam and Waaqeffannaa and the syncretic features evolved between Oromoo and Islamic religions later among the Arsi Oromoo. However, after the Islamization of Arsi Oromoo the basic Oromoo cultural remains relatively intact. This phenomenon makes Orommumma, Oromoo-ness rather than Islam the inspiring ideology for common good with the other Oromoo groups. Based on the historical accounts and the fieldwork the writer finally underscores that the syncretized nature of religions and cultures evolved between Waaqeffanna, the traditional Oromoo religion and Islam enabled the Arsi Oromoo to unite as a collective cultural group to withstand Menelik invasion for about a decade and also contributed to the survival of Oromoo culture and identity among Arsi Oromoo. This paper also forwarded the idea that the common value shared between Waaqeffanna and Islam among the Arsi Oromoo of Ethiopia called for more investigations about a common source of their origin and later on about their diffusions throughout the Horn of Africa since the immemorial period.

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How to Cite
Haji, T. (2019). Syncretism of Waaqeffannaa and Islam among the Arsi Oromoo of Ethiopia. Gadaa Journal, 2(2), 1-20. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Temam Haji Adem, Haramaya University

Temam Haji Adem (PhD)
Haramaya University
Department of History and Heritage Management