Eleventh abbot of the monastery of Debre Libanos in Shewa, Ethiopia. According to oral tradition, Enbaqom was originally a Muslim merchant from Yemen. Sometime early in the sixteenth century, he settled in Ethiopia and undertook a careful study of Islam and its literature, and this resulted in his conversion to Christianity. He was christened with the name Enbaqom (Habakkuk) in the Debre Libanos monastery, where he later served as abbot.
Enbaqom’s conversion only a few years before the revolt (1526 - 1543) of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi (“Ahmad Gran”), who sought to establish Islamic rule in place of the Christian rule of Ethiopia. Strengthened by the Ottoman Turks with soldiery and modern weaponry previously unknown in Ethiopia, Ahmed crushed almost every contingent of the royal army sent against him. Emperor Lebna Dengal (1508 - 1540) died while fleeing before one of Ahmad’s attacks. Ahmad’s assaults were characterized by systematic destruction of churches and monasteries - the repositories of the kingdom’s literary wealth - in every part of the country. Their faith shaken to the roots, Christians were forced to choose between conversion to Islam or death. Their teachers were not prepared to challenge the Islamic faith because their knowledge did not go beyond the polemics recorded in hagiographic sources. Enbaqom, however, with his Muslim background and careful study, was in admirable position to meet their needs, and his presence was seen as providential. While Ahmad did all he could to capture and execute him, Enbaqom moved from place to place comforting the faithful. For close to forty years he was abbot of the monastery of Debre Libanos and held the rank of echege, the highest ecclesiastical rank after the metropolitanate. In addition to composing the Gate of Faith (in Ethiopic, or Ge’ez), Enbaqom is remembered as having translated Chrysostom’s commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews and the Indian story Barlaam and Josaphat. He is commemorated each spring in the Ethiopian calendar.
Enrico Cerulli, “Gli Abbati di Dabra Libanos, capi del monachismo etiopico, secondo la ‘lista rimata’ (sec. XIV - XVIII),” Orientalia 13 (1944): 137 - 182 (see especially pp. 150 - 152); Lanfraco Ricci, “Le Vite di Enbaqom e di Yohannes, Abbati di Dabra Libanos di Scioa,” Ressagna di Studi Etiopici 13 (1954): 91 - 120, and 14 (1959): 69 - 107; E. J. Van Donzel, Enbaqom Anqasa Amin (La Porte de la Foi) (1969).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.