The injustice of the Abgal Imam
In the annals of the Benaadir, the three hundred years from 1500-1800 is viewed as a dark time of troubles. From the Benaadiri perspective it was also a time that was survived only through the piety of a few individuals whose spiritual strength preserved the social fabric in the face of tyranny and agression. This is especially true in the traditions of Mogadishu where such evils were held in check only through the efforts of righteous individuals. By the late nineteenth century, as we shall see, the Abgal of Shangani had become productive citizens. Oral traditions contend, however, that this was not always the case. During the first years of pastoral occupation, Abgal rule was characterized by innumerable injustices. The practise of forcing all new brides in the town to spend the first seven days of marriage in bed, The good Muslims of Mogadishu were outaged by such evil but were too oppressed to resist. One pious man named Abu Ahmad Ala’ al-Din decided to take action. The father of the seven daughters, he swore an oath not to allow any of them to submit to such immoral humiliation. Instead, when he married off the first of his offspring, he and his daughter plotted to foil the lecherous Imam. Abu Ahmad and his daughter let it be known publicly that she had been wed. When new of the union reached the Abgal Imam, he sent a slave to the house demanding the ruler’s rights. Instead, Abu Ahmad beat the slave and sent him back to his master. Incensed, the Imam decided to go to the recalcitrant father’s house personally to punish him and take the bride to his bed. When he entered the house, however, Abu Ahmad and his kinsmen ambushed the ruler and killed him. This sparked a spontaneous uprising and the Abgal were expelled from the city. Abu Ahmad then gathered the elders of the town and instructed them to build a wall so that the pastoralists might never again settle in the town unimpended. While the Abgal were eventually allowed to reuturn and even regained much of their political power, so the story continues, they never again attempted to terrorize the townspeople or act in ways contrary to the laws of God. *
* Interview, Amina Shaykh Ali Nuur, Octover 6, 1994. As Cassanelli has pointed out, this is a common trope in the oral lore of the Benaadir. The fall of the Ajuran 300 years earlier is attributed to a similar display of royal hubris. Cassanelli, Shaping of Somali soceity, pp.109-112.
Scott Reese “Holy men and social discourse in Colonial Benaadir”