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

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Pan-Tribal Struggle against Italian Rule

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The following excerpts are from a book by the historian Lee Cassanelli The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900


In June 1908 Governor Carletti wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

We cannot afford to delay our move inland, since it will be difficult to occupy the river when the rebels who left over two months ago return with guns from the Mullah Muhammad

To give added weight to his pleas for decisive government action, Carletti attached a letter from the sultan of Geledi written earlier that month:

The Biimaal have abandoned their territory and the major part—around 4000—are in voyage to the Mullah. Only the old men, women, and children remain. Even among the Hintire only a few remain…. You must make war without any delay. Don’t remain inactive…. Your enemies won’t obey your orders and say, “We will obey only Shaykh Muhammad Abdullah….”   Hintire, Biimaal, Wacdaan, Jambelul, Daud, and Mobilayn amount to more than 100,000 [ sic  ]. If their messengers return with arms, they will all stand against us and the territory will be lost, since they desire only war

While the letter almost certainly exaggerates the number of Somalis who actually left to contact the mullah in the north, it does give an idea of the extent to which the resistance had become pan-tribal. A united resistance is precisely what the colonials feared.

Therefore, in August 1908, auxiliary soldiers under Italian command marched inland to the Shabeelle. They raised the flag at Bariirey; they fought with valiant Somalis for several hours outside of Mereerey; then their forces marched triumphantly into Afgooye. The colonial occupation of the interior had begun, prompted by the events of the “Year of the Dervishes.”


Page 250 of Lee Cassanelli’s The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900


Written by daud jimale

February 17, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Somali Clans mentioned in The Conquest of Ethiopia

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Meaningful excerpts from the book  Futuh Al-Habasha: The Conquest of Abyssinia (Futuh Al-Habasa) By Sihab ad-Din Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Qader. Brief information by the book provided by Amazon.com:

Sihab ad-Din Ahmad bin ‘Abd al-Qader’s account of the early sixteenth century Jihad, or holywar, in Ethiopia, of Imam Ahmad bin Ibrahim, better known as Ahmad Gran, or the Left handed, is an historical classic. The Yamani author was an eyewitness of several of the battles he describes, and is an invaluable source. His book, which is full of human, and at times tragic, drama, makes a major contribution to our knowledge of a crucially important period in the hisoty of Ethiopia and Horn of Africa.

‘Futuh al-Habasa,’ or ‘Conquest of Abyssinia’ – which undoubtedly reflects the situation as it seemed to its Yamani author at the time of its composition. The forces of Imam Ahmad bin Ibrahim had occupied the greater part of Ethiopia. The resistance of Emperor Lebna Dengel had virtually come to an end, and many Christians had chosen to convert to Islam. The victorious Imam’s regime seemed there to stay.

This was, however, far from the end of the story. The Imam was killed in battle on February 21, 1543, whereupon his army almost immediately disintegrated. Those of his soldiers who could do so made their way back to the East. Not a few Muslim converts reverted to their former faith.

The Futuh thus refers to a relatively short, though crucially important, period in Ethiopia’s long history. The book is nevertheless valuable, in that its author was an eye-witness of many of the events he describes, and writes, as far as we can judge, with a degree of objectivity rare for his time.

Here are some of the quotes from the book, we think are significant:

At this moment the companions of the imam screamed out, saying, ‘The infidels have tricked us; they are after the livestock,’ whereupon the imam split his forces into two divisions: one he entrusted to Garad Ahmusa, composed of the Somali spearmen of the Marraihan, the Gorgorah and the Hawiya; around one-thousand of them from among the most famous spearmen. And from the soldiers bearing shields, the same number.

”He sent (another messenger) to the tribe of Marraihan whose chieftain was Hirabu bin Goita Tedros bin Adam*, and he also sent (messengers) to the outlying Provinces to spur them on to the jihad, for God, and in the way of the Most High God.

*: (160) Goita or Goyta, the Tegrenya for ‘master’ or ‘lord’, Francesco da Bassano, Vocabolario tigray-italiano, col.883, seems to have been sometimes used as a title and sometimes as a personal name.

The imam accepted his excuse, and then said to him: ‘But no good will come to you from just wishing (that things will improve). Thereupon Hirabu appointed his nephew to command the Marraihan and they rallied around the imam -ninety cavalry and more than seven-hundred footsoldiers- with Hirabu bringing up the rear. The imam went back to his city of Harar, taking the tribe of Marraihan with him.”

”Then Hirabu the chieftain of the Somali tribe of Marraihan, killed one of the equerries of the sultan ‘Umar Din when he was in Nageb. The imam heard about what Hirabu had done, and he said to the Sultan ‘Umar Din, ‘This Somali has acted treacherously towards you and killed your equerry.’ So the imam, and the sultan with him, prepared himself for an expedition and set out and arrived at the country of the Somalis, as far as Kidad. Hirabu. meantime, had fled and was hiding in his own country.The imam asked the sultan, ‘What shall we do now? I am going to send for him to hand over the horses, and to pay the blood-money. If he does so, then all is well: if he does not, then I shall go against him, while you go back to your country.’ So the imam sent to Hirabu to hand over the horses, and to pay the blood-money to some sharifs of the family of Ba’ Alawi, the Husainites, may God bless us through their means.”
”The army camped around the city (Harar; my own barracks), with each tribe being kept apart from the others. The tribe of the Marraihan was, however, wavering. Their chieftain was a man fond of intrigue and procrastination. Extremely wily, he loved double-dealing and swindles. The imam organised some of his soldiers and went to the Marraihan and confronted Hirabu and his tribe and said to him: ‘Why are you lagging behind in coming on the jihad? Hirabu complained about his plight, and excused himself on the grounds of his poverty-stricken state.

”A tribe called Girri then came to the imam. A dispute had arisen between them and their companions in another tribe called the Marraihan whose emir was called Hirabu, so the imam Ahmed sent a message to Hirabu emir of the Somalis, to make peace between them.”

”Now, having finished this, let us return to the earlier narrative, and look at what happened during the Somali campaign.When news of the imam’s leaving for the outlying provinces of Abyssinia reached them, a certain person, by name Hirabu, a chief of one of the Somali tribes called Marraihan, had arrived half-way along the route to the country of Harar. After verifying the departure of the imam to the land of Abbyssinia, he doubled back and returned to his own country.”
”He also sent (a messenger) to the tribe of Girri which was the tribe whose leader and chieftain was Mattan bin Utman bin Kaled, the Somali, his brother-in-law*
* 158) may also mean ‘the imam’s son-in-law’ See supra note 32. We know that the imam was only twenty-one when he defeated the patrician Degalhan (see p.27 supra) and that Mattan married his sister Fardusa (see p.44 infra).

Written by daud jimale

June 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Credentials of Hawiye

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The following references are from “Kenya’s past; an introduction to historical method in Africa” by Thomas T. Spear about the early migration of Hawiye clans in Southern Somalia,

The following is a reference from the “Scottish geographical magazine, volume 2; volume 1886” by Scottish geographical society, about the border between the Karanle Somali (Hawiye clan) and the Galla in the far west of Harar,

The following is a short reference is from “The modern history of Ethiopia and the horn of Africa” by Harold G. Marcus about the natural hostility between the Hawiye and the Adones,

The following is a reference from “Camel milk production & marketing in Yaq Bariweyne, southern Somalia” by Urs Herren, about the increasing pressure by Hawiye clans on the native Galla population,

The following is a short reference from “African Minorities in the New World” by Toyin Falola about the nature of slavery in Southern Somalia,

The following are references from “First footsteps in East Africa” by Richard Burton, in the late 19th century, about the antiquity of the Hawiye tribe and the kazi of Zeila,

The Hawiyah are doubtless of ancient and pagan origin; they call all Somal except themselves Hashiyah, and thus claim to be equivalent to the rest of the nation. Some attempt, as usual, to establish a holy origin, deriving themselves like the Shaykhash from the Caliph Abubekr: the antiquity, and consequently the Pagan origin of the Hawiyah are proved by its present widely scattered state; it is a powerful tribe in the Mijjarthayn country, and yet is found in the hills of Harar.

The following is a reference from “Rulers, guns and money; the global arms trade in the age of imperialism” by Jonathan A.Grant, about the Hawiye clan in the Ogaden taking up arms against Menelik,


The following is a reference from “Futuh-al Habasha ‘the conquest of Abysinnia” by Sihab ad-Din, about the role of Hawiya clans in Imam Ahmed Gurey’s campaign against Abysinnia,

At this moment the companions of the imam screamed out, saying, ‘The infidels have tricked us; they are after the livestock,’ whereupon the imam split his forces into two divisions: one he entrusted to Garad Ahmusa, composed of the Somali spearmen of the Marraihan, the Gorgorah and the Hawiya; around one-thousand of them from among the most famous spearmen. And from the soldiers bearing shields, the same number.

 The following is a reference from “Symposium Leo Frobenius: perspectives des études africaines” by Social Science, about the settlement of Hawiye by the 12th century,

The following is a reference from the “Journal of historical society of Nigeria, volume 3” by the historical society of Nigeria, about the reaction of Hawiyya political and religious dissidents after the death of the Imam Yahya ibn Hussein, the leader of the Zaidite state in Yemen in the 15th century,


The following is a reference from the “The cambridge history of Africa, from c.1050 to c.1600” edited by Roland Anthony Oliver. Under the chapter headed as “ISLAM IN ETHIOPIA AND THE HORN”, it mentions the Hawiye as coastal settlers,

Mogadishu, the Jami, was also apparently built in that century, according to the inscription on the tower gate, which bears the date 1238. The other two old mosques, Arba’ Rukun and Fakhr al-Din, also belong to the same period. Perhaps the most important development at that time was the first establishment of the first sultanate of Mogadishu by Abu Bakr b.Fakhr al-Din, sometimes before 1629. Mogadishu had certainly acquired it’s prominent position on the Benadir coast by that time, and al-Dimashqi (1256-1327) described it as a leading commercial port, where merchants from Arabia, Persia and India came regularly and did business with the local traders, who also seem to have established vital communications with the interior of the Horn. The two other important towns on the Benadir coast, Brava and Merca, had also taken shape in about the same period. Cerulli reports an Arabic inscription from Brava, commemorating the death of a Muslim resident in 1104/05, which certainly indicates the existence of a highly developed Muslim community there in the eleventh century. Merca was also an important settlement in the same period. Al-Idrisi (1100-62) gives a fairly accurate description of its location in his geographical treatise written in about 1150. It was a coastal town and two stages away from it in the interior there was a river of which the river valley produced much corn. This was certainly the Webe Shebele, to which al-Idrisi also seems to make another reference when he locates fifty villages of the Hawiya along the bank of an unnamed river. The Hawiya still form one of the most important tribes of the Somali, and at the time when al-Idrisi was writing his book they occupied the coastal area between Ras Hafun and Merca, as well as the lower basin of the Webe Shebele. Al-Idrisi’s mention of the Hawiya is the first documentary reference to a specific Somali group in the Horn, and it constitutes a very important testimony to the early Somali occupancy of the whole region. Later Arab writers also make references to the Hawiya in connection with both Merca and the lower valley of the Webe Shebele. Ibn Sa’id (1214-74), for instance, considered Merca to be the capital of the Hawiya, who lived in fifty villages on the bank of a river which he called ‘the nile of Mogadishu’, a clear reference to the Webe Shebele. Yaqut, another thirteenth century Arab geographer, also mentions Merca, which he says belongs to the “Black Berbers”.

The following is a reference from “Proceedings of the Royal Geographical society of London, volume 6” by the Royal Geographical society, about the country of the Hawiye.