Sayyid Roba Garbi: His ‘sainthood’, Prophecy and Wisdom in Arsiland (1870s to 1974)

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Ethiopia is a land of diversity both in terms of ethnicity and religious affiliations. Even though Islam studies and Islamic issues now getting some attentions than before by scholars, it is comparatively far below Christianity studies. Many aspects of Muslim lives and Islamic issues need more investigations. Particularly the works of Muslim ‘ulama and saints who contributed a lot to their fellow community and country need more research in order to bring to light their achievements. One of the famous ‘saints’ who lived in the twenty-century Arsiland was Sayyid Roba Garbi. Sayyid Roba was a saint, prophesier, social leader, supporter of the poor, jaalalloo (friend) of Sheikh Hussein and Sof Umar. During his life time he involved in many sensitive socio-cultural dealings and even symbolically in the political sphere including the issue of identity. Like few foresighted individuals, he struggled for the betterment of human-beings particular for the Arsi Oromoo as well as even for animal rights throughout southeastern parts of Ethiopia. His life history is the product of the writer’s Ph. D research fieldwork carried between 2014 and 2015 in Arsiland involving interviews of his family as well as his friends and common people. The writer also observed some places related to his life and also analyzed many chants known as sarmadee and zeekkaraa to reconstruct his life history and contributions. Based on these data and their analysis, the writer concludes that Sayyid Roba Garbi life history epitomized the suffering Arsi Oromoo faced during Naftanga-Gabbar period and also their socio-cultural and religious conditions. Moreover, Sayyid Roba activities such as opening up Sof Umar pilgrimage sites of Hammarra and Hulluqa in Bale, spreading Islam, helping the poor and the needy Arsi Oromoo through material and spiritual activities and giving hopes when no institutions did not care for them during that period had even earned him the title of ‘saint’ from the Arsi Oromoo. The writer also appreciates his ability to command traditional Oromoo knowledge such as storytelling, sayings,anecdotes,usage of diversehymns and its usage in his daily activities which contributed greatly for the survival of Arsi Oromoo indigenous knowledge and development of Oromoo consciousness.


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How to Cite
Hajiadem, T. (2020). Sayyid Roba Garbi: His ‘sainthood’, Prophecy and Wisdom in Arsiland (1870s to 1974). Gadaa Journal, 3(No. 2), 19-38. Retrieved from
Author Biography

Temam , Head of School of History and Heritage Management

Haramaya University