Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

Sayings of the Hawiyya

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The speech of an elder without quotations of proverbs would have little meaning and little value in an assembly of the Hawiyya people. And the quotations often follow one another in succession, giving a pungency, often joking or ironical, to the reasoning, which is thus fortified by the most ancient wisdom of the tribe. The proverbs that follow were collected precisely from the speeches of the Hawiyya a tribal leaders, especially Abgal and Guggundabe, during the discussions of their problems. Thus they have served, and are serving, to show some aspects of the true psychology of the Somalis and to place in an advantageous light some circumstances of the difficult daily life of the tribes and of the spirit of patient courage with which the distresses of that life are faced.

1) “Marriage is the nearby marriage; field is the nearby field.” (Wife and oxen from your countries.)

2) “Take what you know; it will produce for you known things.”
3) “The man whom you have not been able to know in only one day will not be known in a hundred days.” (The man of frank and loyal character manifests himself at the first meeting.)
 4) “The one who fasted for a hundred days, after the fast he ate as the first thing unclean meat.” (Sometimes, after having been patient and worked for a long time in order to obtain something, one commits such an act as to destroy all the work already done.)
5) “Not to talk to each other does not make comrades.”
6) “To one who has nothing, nothing is entrusted; to one who understands nothing, nothing is said.”
7) “Shall I say something to one who understands nothing, or shall I pick up the water of the sea with a spoon?”
8) “The leopard’s cubs are not held on the lap.” (One does not trust a person from whom, because of his precedents, it is possible to fear some injury.)
9) “The funeral and marriage are debts” (because of the heavy expenses that are encountered for the traditional festivities).
10) “One has a hoary head, one has a hoary heart.” (Sometimes wisdom does not correspond to age.)
11)“The caliph does not wait for the age of judgment.”
12) “In counsel the paternal uncle is the strongest, and in counting, the number ten.” (Just as it is not possible to count on the fingers beyond 10, so, after having consulted the paternal uncle, nobody else in the family may be consulted.)
13) “The maternal uncle laments, but does not avenge.” Traditional saying about the juridical customs: the maternal relatives are excluded from the obligation of blood vengeance.
14) “If one knows your fault, it is not to be made known to a thousand. If a thousand know your fault, it is not to be made known to one [other one].” The proverb advises not exposing one’s own faults and one’s own deficiencies; wash the dirty linen at home, we would say.
15) “Old grudge and knobby cane break ribs.” (The most dangerous causes of fights are the angers concealed for a long time.)
16) “The heart of men and the eyes of ants are not seen” (because it is difficult to know the inner thoughts of men).

17) “Soul out of the body and rain of deir   do not come back.” (During the season of deir   it normally rains only once a day.)

18) “King and wife: it is to be observed how they begin.” (From the morning one knows the nice day, we say in a more general sense.)
19) “If you become honey, you will be licked.” It is the Somali correspondent of a very widespread series of proverbs expressing the idea that one who acts with insufficient firmness succumbs to the stronger.
20) “The slanderer needs a hollow place.” (Slander needs some kind of support in order to exercise its pernicious action.)
21) “A question handled standing and a camel loaded standing have to be reloaded many times.” (Thing done in a hurry never turn out well.)
22) “ ‘I will say’ is better than ‘I wanted to say.’ ” (It is preferable to express completely one’s own thoughts on a question than to hide them and then to be sorry for not having spoken in time.)
23) “To tell something that is hearsay is to tell a lie.” (Things that have not been witnessed are not to be referred to.)
24) “To the Imam only his cousin tells the truth.” (Only relatives may speak of the unpleasant truth that others hide either because of adulation or because of fear.)
25) “I ask pardon of the one who will ask pardon of me.” (We all may find ourselves in situations of asking for pardon, because we all may make mistakes.)
26) “Only one finger does not wash the face.” (Unity is strength.)
27) “A man does not know the advice, the people know the advice.” (The voice of the people /is/ the voice of God.)
28) “As long as there is the bellows, the iron does not cool.” (As long as the causes of a controversy or the people who are interested in provoking it are not eliminated, it cannot be said to be ended.)
29) “Lie that runs does not reach the truth.” (A lie has short legs.)
30) “One should not lose his head over something lost.” (When a misfortune is irremediable, it is better to be resigned than to make one’s own situation worse with useless acts.)
31) “The hearts of men are pieces of wood that, by being rubbed, make light.” (What is missed by only one is not missed by two who consult each other, just as a spark arises from rubbing two pieces of wood.)
32) “One does not become ‘sheikh’ in five days.” (Long experience is worth more than a hasty impression.)
33) “The cat in its house has the canine teeth of the lion.”
34) “If it is obtained by you or obtained for you, thanks be to God!” (It is the same if a favor is obtained directly or obtained for others through the intercession of a friend.)
35)  “One who talks alone and one who aims at the ground do not make mistakes.” (It is necessary to hear the two bells /the two sides of the question/, we would say.)
36) “Of two four-year-old boys, one living alone with his mother is stronger.”
37) “To a great man belongs patience, to a small one, his portion.” (It is not right that an old person be disputed, even for his rights.)
38) “The bold wife will end by asking: ‘Escort me (to him)!’ ” (All rebels end by asking an intercessor for submission.)

39) “The cow and its calf are separated by the war.” (Events dissolve the closest bonds.)

40) “That only you know and that others know together with you are not equally good.” (It is always better that for an event there are witnesses that can be named in possible contestations.)
41) “For one 60 years old seek one who curbs his mouth” (because old people do not always succeed in controlling themselves).
42) “Did you build a hut or did you pay the blood price?” (Because of the high price of the construction of a hut in the zone of the ‘black land.’)
43) “The hawk has a reputation for digging,” and any offense of that kind (even if not committed by it) is imputed to it.
44) “The cubs of the leopard have a spotted coat.” (Like father like son.)
45) “Do not put your trust in me! Do not die for me! money said” (because of the difficulties that are encountered later through the collection of the credits).
46) “May your neighbor not be sent to you as a spy!” (He is always the best informed about your acts.)
47) “One who is born in justice does not refuse justice.” (Noblesse oblige.)
48) “Hit with one hand, pay with the other one!” (Everybody must bear the consequences of his acts.)
49) “Whoever has been burned with fire thinks that the ashes may also be burning.”
50)  “The stagnant water is stirred by the running water.”

51) “O great God! who may gain you? The one who prays to me may gain me. O land of the Lord, who may gain you? The one who perseveres may gain me. O man! who may gain you? The one who gives me something may gain me.”

52) “The question that arose among your relatives breaks your heart” and you run to participate in it.
53) “If one takes a drum, he wants to play for a dance.”
54)  “The molars of the thief and the virile member of the lustful man: the one who introduces them must pay [the sum owed].” (Whereas for blood vengeance there is the solidarity of the tribe, the thief and the lustful one answer individually.)
55) “ ‘Alas!’ is not a name; it is the lament of a sorrowful person.” (It is not enough to lament; it is necessary to specify persons and things about which there is a complaint.)
56) “One who runs after women is not told: Rule a people!”
57) “A stolen she-camel does not produce lawful camels.” (Like father, like son.)

58) “One who has killed a dig-dig. The dwarf antelope ( digdig  ) is captured with a noose by the hunters. ) with a snare cuts a [another] snare.”

59) “The dig-dig that likes life does not enter the mosque of the hunters.” (The weak one should never trust the strong ones!)
60) “One with lower intelligence is told: Recite your generations!” (Because the freed and the low castes have an inferior mentality.)
61) “Whoever enters a bovine enclosure at night: if he milked a cow, he milked it, if he did not milk it, he milked it.” (Do not put yourself in such situations as to be — though innocent — accused by the circumstances.)
62) “I carry a vessel of milk and leave from an enclosure of sheasses: I am a milkmaid of she-asses.” It is a variation of the preceding proverb: men judge from external circumstances.
63) “The one who has lighted the fire becomes warm there!” (One who has provoked a question should think of how to resolve it!)
64) “Slaughter the heifer so that the ox will give up hope!” (Because when one slaughters the heifer, from which one expects to have milk, it is clear that the ox will not be spared.)

65)  “In times of famine children are not made to vomit in front of the crowd” (because it is not known what they may vomit, since in difficult times everything becomes lawful).

66) “The camel of Mahay has many witnesses.” Mahay is a well much frequented by the Mantan; thus the proverb is quoted for well-known facts; we would say, lippis et tonsoribus / an abbreviated form of a saying to the effect that “the whole world knows it”/.
67) “When the nobles come, people have goat eyes.” (They become timid on account of respect.)
68) “The pot in which something is cooked is in trouble; the one who cooks is impatient. The one who handles a question is in trouble; the one for whom it is handled is impatient.”
69) “The one who does not get tired has wealth; the one who does not despair has a family.”
70) “To the one who says ‘ker’ to you answer ‘kir’  !” That is: repay him in kind! Answer tit for tat!

71) “When one is at war, one does not say to the coward: ‘Advise us!’ When one is at war, one does not say to the hero: ‘Advise us!’ When one is at war, one says to a man who has judgment: ‘Advise us!’ ” (Both fear and boldness may be bad advisers.)

72)  “One who has not poured water on my neck can not shave me” (that is, in order to obtain something it is necessary to flatter those from whom one expects the favors).

73) “The one who has enough milk does not stretch it with water” (whereas the poor man, by his condition, is forced to have recourse to all the expedients).
74) “The one because of whom one sleeps does not sleep.” (When, although one promises it, one does nothing in favor of someone, the one deceived must move and act by himself.)
75) “The one who surpasses you in eloquence will divide with you the inheritance from your father.”
76)  “What is not expected and an arrow make you scream from pain.”
77)  “The tree out of which one 20 years old has made a hut for himself, the one 60 years old will spend the midday there.”
78)  “Desire and the shadow behind are not to be reached.”
79)  “The one who respected you by a span it is best to respect by an arm.”
80)  “The people that says: ‘A chief is to be elected, and subchiefs are to be chosen!’ is a people who has a good harvest of durra” (otherwise they would not think about political fights).

81)  “May God not send us camels that eat the grass ‘ isil   and 337   indulgent rulers.” (The actual food of the camels is provided by the leaves of the acacia trees. The camel that eats by bending the head to the ground in order to look for grass instead of holding it high to eat from the branches is like an indulgent ruler.)

82) “From the one from whom one cannot obtain ‘Stand up!’ one may obtain ‘Lie down!’ ” (It is better to adapt the orders to the powers of the one who must follow them.)
83) “Thirsty ears understand: Drink!” (whatever else is said).
84) “For the viper [the appellation] small is not suitable” (because it is poisonous even if small).
85) “Many words do not become the Koran.”
86)  “By his eye he is seen, with his stick he is hit.” ( Ex ore tuo   / from your speaking/.)
87)  “The country of the hemia sufferers, O God, do not indicate to others to our cost!” (Because there one with moderate health might be taken for an athlete.)
88) “I did not come to the sea to joke.” (From the distant woodland the Bedouin has arrived at the shore: thus he has a serious reason for such a trip.)
89) “The man of many purposes, the woman of many men, the camel of many capers. gälgälinyo are the movements that the camel makes, once unloaded, placing itself with its back on the ground and turning from one side to the other. ), they differ in nothing.”
90) “If the ‘salam ‘alaykum’   was not bad, neither will the “alaykum es-salam   be bad.” (To a cordial salutation, a cordial response.)
91)  “Your brother about whom you have spoken ill is not far from you.” (You will find him again and always nearby. Thus abstain from speaking ill of him!)
92) “The butchering is only one; but that of a she-camel is a thing apart.” (All are equal in the affection of the family; but somebody may be the preferred one, just as the she-camel is among the livestock.)
93) “The hunger because of which you killed a lamb is at the door” (you did not delay it much).
94) “He who has a tribe does not have sadness.”
95)  “I lost a donkey: ‘drink some oil!’ he told me” (for advice beside the purpose).
96) “Knowing your blood, gather together your kindness.” (Noblesse oblige.)
97) “The children cry near their mother and look in the eyes of the father” (from whom they expect material favors).

98)  “Games of the young and fence of fields: the one that you conduct there may make you leave it.” (Just as if you take a young friend of yours to the dance, he may take away your favorite girl, so if you introduce a stranger into your field, he may appropriate it.)

99) “The she-camel that likes the food walks in front of the herd” (it knows that it is better to run before the others in order to procure for itself the good pasture).
100) “Two who are at war do not give each other gifts of milk.”
101)  “Cows and women know the man” (because they always have him near).
102) “The people, the one who governs it and the thief know it.”
103) “At night wild animals are all wild animals are all wild animals; by day they spend the midday under different trees.”
104)  “The talkative woman and the mare that runs a little make the people come down.”
105) “That it gives birth, that it produces a female, and that it dies is the worst luck for a she-camel.”
106) “O young man, before observing your saying, your giving, and your striking, I shall not raise for you the trill of happiness.” (I wait for your ordeals.)
107) “One who likes to dance and one who has the soil irrigated do not agree.”
108) “Expected wound does not cause fear.”
109) “To one who complains of the piece of dig-dig meat is shown the tracks of the animal.” (If the dwarf antelope killed is so small, the meat to share will certainly be little.)
110)  “Two collectors of fruit do not agree.”
111) “The impatient woman does not have a marriage portion and her husband does not give testimony.” (The woman who does not know how to wait will not find a husband, since she offers herself too obviously. And if she finds one, her husband, harassed by her impatience, is too nervous to become a reliable witness.)
112) “If one loads a donkey, it is not believed that his father had camels.” (The poor one is not thought to have been rich in the past.)
113) “One lives on news and food.” (To keep up-to-date about what is happening is as important as food.)
114) “If a piece of iron is broken, it is broken by the blacksmith” (and, if a question arises, one goes to the leader, who may settle it).

115) “You are not called woman if you have not first divided the polenta in a time of famine, and your modesty and your patience have been seen.”

 116) “The one who refuses the land, where is he to be buried?” (And one who does not want to accept the discipline of his tribe, where will he find help?)

117) “One who has his father living does not become a lord.”
118) “O people, know your leaders! O leaders, know your robe!” (To the respect of the people corresponds the restraint of the leaders.)
119) “Burned hut does not care about other huts.”
120) “The first question to be decided is food; and the second one is again food.”
121) “Although the grave hides, the tree does not hide.” (Only death frees one from the obligations for blood revenge.)
122)  “Because of the grudge that is felt against the crocodile, blows are given to the water of the river.
References; Enrico Cerulli “How a Hawiye tribe use to live”

Written by hawiye1

May 26, 2009 at 11:17 pm

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