Malik Ambar (1550 – ?)
One of the most famous among the Indo-Africans was the celebrated Malik Ambar (1550-1626). Malik Ambar, whose original name was Shambu was born around 1550 in Harar, Ethiopia. After his arrival in India, he was able to raise a formidable army and achieve great power in the west Indian realm of Ahmadnagar.
Ambar was a brilliant diplomat, tactician, and administrator. In 1590, Ambar broke away from Bijapur and built an independent mercenary army of over 1500 African, Arab and local Dakani men.
He eventually joined the state of Ahmadnagar and later imprisoned King Murtaza II, naming himself regent minister. Ambar promoted minorities of various ethnic groups to key positions and implemented financial, educational and agricultural reforms. Ferista, a contemporary Arab historian, praised Ambar:
“…he appears to have been the most enlightened financier of whom we read in Indian history.”
Ambar also organized a 60,000 horse army and successfully beat back the Moguls for the next 20 years. The Moguls could not conquer Dakan until after his death.
In the 16th century, there were many other powerful Habishi in the political scene of India. Chingiz Khan, the prime minister to Nizam mul-Mulk Bani, King of Ahmadnagar in 1575, was of African origin.
After the king’s death, the king’s son Murtaza I led a successful revolt with several Habshis against his mother’s claim to power. In 1595, during the reign of Murtaza II, the prime minister Abhangar Khan was also a Habashi.
Today, the Habshi communities have been diminished due to widespread intermarriage with other Muslims, but their influence is undeniably imprinted on the faces of the people there today, as well as the local architecture.
The men mentioned above are just a few of the Abysinnian, Habasi, Ethiopian, and Dravidian rulers, leaders, and wise men that shaped today’s India.
Their existence should reinforce the fact that MORE RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE DONE, so that we have the irrefutable proof of what we already knew; that the African man and woman brought the light of civilization to the world.