Islam in Somali History Fact and Fiction revisited ,the Arab actor.
By Rashid Abdirahman Jama
 Aug 7, 2008

Mohammed Haji Mukhtar in his essay (published in The Somali Invention, biscally a southern onslaught on 'northern' Islamic culture and origin ) on the above title at length presented the Southern Islamic roots real or imagined in his contention to prove that the southern sedentary ethnic groups in southern Somalia claims a longer and glorious Islamic culture Then their counterparts in 'northern Somalia' as he puts it. The quotations of Ibn Khaldun's diatribe against the nomads steers the entire coarse of the essay. Dr Mukhtar's sedentary southern Somali cultural chavusnim is prety obvious from the begining of essay. Although one expect from a Professor of a university to be objective Dr Mukhtar himself failes to put aside his culural bias.

Througout his seventeen page essay the author pursue the presentation of the southern case much more in detailes without giving due balance to the northern parts of Somalia, quoting selectively from various medieval Islamic geographers such as Yaqut Ibn Abudllah Al-Hamawi ((1179-1229) ( a former Byzantine slave) , Al-Masudi (871-957), Ibn said Al-Maghribi (1213-1286), also Dr Mukhtar mentions in famouse southern Sufi Ulama such as Sheik Aways Al-Baraawi failing to mention Al-Barawi himslef a southern went as far as Zayla north to aquire the blessing of the northern Sufi Sheik Abdirahamn Al-Zayli (d 1883) claiming upon visiting the later's tomb in Zayla that in a dream the famous Sufi saint of Zayla blessed him and accorded him the sufi colak. The overall driving objective is to argue that the southern case has merit while the so called 'northern Somalis' case is much more in the league of fables and myth, without any scholarly examination of historical evidence, the author just simply brushes off the northern case and exalt the urban Banaadari culture be it Islamic or ethnicity.

In the collection of essays of various studies all of it on southern 'Somalis' the authors of the book The Somali Invention all argue the case of the south in both Islam and ethnicity, few quotes here and there of northern history in particular of the ancient city state Zeila is mentioned where some medieval Arab geographers mentioned the city, Dr Mukhtar findes i imprtant to quote Al-Masudi who refernce to the people of Zayla in the 9th century as native and black somehow important while making Mogdisho's foreign origin appearnt in contrast.

Dr Mukhtar driving the southern historical asecndency over what he calls 'northern Somalis' lumping together both Daarood and Isaaq nomads argues that the north during the early years of Islam offered no material wealth to the migrating Arabs due to the north's arid and nomadic nature as though the Muslim missionaries or prosecuted Islamic minorities were concerned with economics/worldly interest rather then personnel/religious salvation. Its a bizarre line of argument since Mogadishu didn't fare better as a city of farmers nor the Arab/Persian adopted farming as an economical means , both south and north the migrant Muslim were costal traders.

Dr Mukhtar to lessen the northern case of both origin and faith chose intentionally to ignore the early Islamic sultanate of the north , be it Ifat, Adal and the Qurayshite sultanate of Shawa ended 1280 A.D (from the house of the of Mukhsumites) . Dr Hersi and Dr Mukhtar argued that since 'few' Arabs lived in the north then the south according to their line of argument , the northern Arab origin is dubious since they received less Arab influence then the south 'the group who claims decent from Arab ancestor had the least signs of Arab habitations in the whole of Somali coast'. Its not known nor clear on what evidence this general statement relies on, but then again the end justifies the means for both authors. One wonders then how the entire north was Islamaized if it needed and entire communities of Muslims to do the job of conversion.

One must balance the history of Zayla and Mogdisho when discussing the early years of Islam in Somalia , but such a balance is nonexistent in Dr Mukhtar's essay, the extensive history of Zayla and its early local sultanate and its later history under the former rulers of Ifat who claim Arab origin with some merit is ignored and the founding of Mogadishu by Arab/Persian migrant is over emphasized. One striking measurement of prejudice against the northern case is , not for once Dr Mukhtar did mention Al-Maqrizi's (1364-1442) history of the Islamic sultanate in the northern Muslims sultanate of Ifat and Adal much well organized Muslim mini-states then anything that took place in the south. Dr Mukhtar also completely failed to mention the northern based sultanates war with Christian Ethiopia till 1540's and the migrations of thousands of Muslim from as far as Morocco to participate in the Jihad , among them many Ashraf Arabs who some minor Somali clans in eastern Ethiopia claim decent from till today.

Overly dependent on unsubstantiated statements by western historians Dr. Mukhtar went as far as claiming that the northern ancestors ( Daarod and Isaaq) never existed historically, such a statement requires more then a rhetorical parroting of European claim , in any scholars discourse Dr Mukhtar and his western mentors would have been required to substantiate their oversweeping statements regarding the northern Somali origin, but then it became the culture of the western researchers to quote their own ignorance again and again without studying the Somali origin and its Arab theme. From Richard Burton in 1854 to I.M.Lewis of the present and in between western studies merely injected their own theory and superimposed it on the Somalis, then the following generations passed on these baseless studies on so much that it become the sole references when studding the Somalis.

Western Somali scholarship from its origin always depended on their own English/Italian sources , many often quoted theories have emerged all advancing a singular origin of all Somali clans , be it the Arab/Persians in the southern coast, the intervivrin Digile/Mirifle communities and the four large Somali clans (Dir, Isaq, Daarood , and Hawiye). Fictional Biblical terms as Hemetic/Semitic and Kushtic were used by Western scholars to classify Africans, such a term is early referred to when the subject is European , no scholar with sound mind would refer to the Vikings as the Biblical Jepehet son of Noah , but in the African case its the norm to apply Cush the son of Noah to Africans.Somali student of Western educational institutions such as Dr Hersi and Dr Mukhtar continue their masters term and theories and merely regurgitate the old colonial theory of a one single origin of all Somali clans, the same old tired theories linguistics/ethnically theories.

The earliest mention of Islam in Zayla was in the 9th century less then 3 century of the birth of Islam, Al-Masudi, Al-Hamawi, and other geographer mentioned the arrival of Islam on the ease Africa coast to both black Berbers and the southern Zinji coast. In his Aquiline book ( the descendant of the prophet Mohammed's young uncle Uqeel Ibn Abu Talib) the author places several early Aquiline settlers in Zaylac around the ninth century A.D, for instance the author mentions , Ahmed Ibn Husein Ibn Ali Al-Jabarti, Ahmed Ibn Omar Al-Zayli and most importantly he mentions the suffix sheik Ismail Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Abdisamad Al-Uqeeyli Al-Zayli who is considered a Sufi saint in Yemen, the father of Daarood(Abdirahman) the man most modern Darood claim have descended from, not only that the authors also mentions Dawud as one of the sons of Sheik Ismail Al-Jabarti. But the highly educated graduate of Azhar Dr Mukhtar just brushes off the well known historical existence of Dawud/Daarood ancestor as a product of northern nomadic imagination. The author of the Aquiline also mentions the presence of Qurayshities sub-clans such as Banu Shamas and Banu Abdimanaaf in 9th century Zayla.

Its not coincidence that an entire sections of the Uqeeli Hashamites in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other middle east countries are named after Zayla due to their later migrations to Arabia after the end of Ifat/Zayla sultanate, in the same manner that some decedent of the House of Mohammed such as the Ba'alwi (al-Ahdal) branch is named after their city of origin in Baraawi Somalia.furthermore historians such as Abdirahman Al-Jabarti 1753-1825) History of Egypt: 'Aja'ib al-Athar fi 'l-Tarajim wa'l-Akhbar, according to his own writings al-Jabarti traces, his origin to the 'seventh-degree grandfather,' Abdirahman bin Isma'il al-Jabarti, who was the earliest member of his family known to him.Abd al-Rahman was from the al-Jabarti region in Zeila.

Dr Mukhtar according to the bibliography of his essay cites Sharif Aydarus Ali Aydarus Al-Barawi (d 1347 A.H) the a fore mentioned author wrote his book titled 'Bughyat Al-Amaal Fi Taarikh Al Soomaal ', the first book of history on Somalia and an early account of Islam and Arab migration to southern Somalia. Also the author wrote a short book on the origin and history of the ancestor of the Isaaq clan , in his short book (Thamratul Mushtaaq Fi Manaaqib al Sayid Isxaaq 1947.) Aydarus Al-Barawi a southern Ashraf of Yemeni origin detailed the life and times of Sheekh Isxaaq Ibn Ahmed Al-Alawi (d 560 A.H) both in his early life in Yemen in the 12 century and his later migration to Zayla where he eventually died after fathering the modern eight Isaaq sub-clans and the other four Yemeni Isxaaqis. Its ironic that he man Dr Mukhtar relies on contradicts his entire thesis of denying the Arab origin of the Isaaq nation, one must ask how could it be possible that such mistake was rather accidental from Dr Mukhtar's part and not deliberate.

Western Somali specialist can be dismissed in making their wild unsubstantiated argument against an Arab case for Isaaq and Daarood due to the fact of the limitation of their research based both in language (only English) and their early concocted theories about the Origin of Isaaq and Daarood, but an Azhar graduate and a Middle East specialist Dr Mukhtar have an access to all Arab historical documents regarding Sheik Isxaq and Daarood, his case is more of scholars prejudice rather then simple ignorance.
The earliest records mentioning the genealogy and life of

Sheikh Isxaaq Ibn Ahmed in modern Somalia were known as far as the 523 A.H 1127/1128 A.D, almost eight centuries ago, Mohammed Hassan Al- Basri in a short biography written some times during his return to Damascus from the horn of Africa wrote about the journey of Sheikh Isxaaq from Mukha to Zayla, in his manuscript titled ' Al-Asjad Al-Mandum Li-Taariikh Wal-Uluum' presently housed in the Al-Dahiriya historical library of Demescus, Al-Basri detailed the life of sheik Isxaaq both in Yemen/Zayla and later Mait where he eventually settled with his tow wives and children and where presently his tomb is located. Again the southern Dr choose to ignore the established historical evidence and continue to dwell in his Banaadiri/Southern fantasy.

There are over six books mentioning either sheik Isxaaq or one of his ancestors to claim all these documentation are fantasies manufactured on behalf of the Isaaq clan during the 12th century by Arab historians is far fetched non sense, yet both Western and Somali specialist continue without examining these sources to rely on Richard Burton a man of yesterday filled with his white British supremacy claiming to have laid his small foot on Zayla before all other foreigners despite the fact he just arrived in 1854 and I.M.Lewis who for half a century studied Somalis but never looked far beyond his anthropological thesis. The western Somali specialist suffer from a tunnel vision, often instead of making an impartial candid study of Somalis and judge the simple historical record and keep their ideas to themselves instead choose to reaffirm their already pre-conceived idea and stamp it on the Somal. The days of Cushite/Hemetic and Afro-Asiatic labels are numbered and Dr Mukhtar and his likes are dangerous in one aspect and that is their suffix Dr/Proff/Historians qualifies their rubbish to be taught in universities and self perpetuate itself.

The scope of my short essay is not an account of early Islam in Somalia nor is it a comparative study of Zayla and Mogadishu, its a simple awakening call for so called Somali specialist to cease the old speculative theories on the origin of some Somali clans and concede the historical record and unique history of every clan, there was no such a thing as 'Somalis' during early Islamic times , there was only a group of Black Berber as Ibn Batuta himself a white Berber referred to them, tribes living in modern horn of Africa each had their own historical arrival be from across Arabia or from central Ethiopia highland , each should be studied separately and this over all inclusive term 'Somali' should be avoided , no modern Somali clan considered himself 'Somali' as late as one century ago, the Dir were Dir and Isaaq were decendent of Isaaq and Daarood of their Daarood ancestor. The southern collusion can't discredit the medival Arabic manuscripts and literature almost a thousand (Al-Basri) years old regarding the history of Sharif Isxaaq Ibn Axmed Al'awali with few pages written in western institutions financed to perpetuate the Europeans theories on the origin of the so called Somalis collectivly, its well established fact that shiekh Isxaaq and the Isaaq people have a legitmate case of their origin judging the flimsy opinions by somali students and their Western masters versues the well documented history of sheikh Isxaaq through the Arab literature.

By Rashid Abdirahman Jama

1- Al-Dur Al Muntakhab Fi Alaqab Wal-asab (12 century manuscript) by unkown author.
2-Al Casjad Al-Manduum Li-Taariikh Wal-culuum (12 century manuscript) by
- Maxamed Xasan Al-Basri , 50 pages. Location, Al-Maktaba al-Daahiriya
Suuq al Xamiidiya , Dimashq Suriya.
3- Al-Casjad Al Manduum by Sharif Axmed Maxamed Qaasim Al Gheribaani Yemen A Hashimi historian of Yemen (1910).
4- Thamrat Al-Mushtaaq Fi Manaaqib/Nasab al-Sheekh/Sayid Isxaaq by
Sharif Aydarus Sharif Ali Al-Aydarus 1947. (d 1347 H.A.)
Also the author of Bughyat Al-Amaal Fi-Taariikh Al Soomaal.Possile location
Madbacat Cabaadi Wa-Abnaauh, Yemen, San'a.
5- Adhwaa Calaa Taariikh Al-Soomaal by Shariif Maxamed Caydarus (1932-1999)
The ex-mayor of Maqudisho during the last elecion in Somalia 1968.
6-Kitaab Fatx Al-Baab Fi Al-Ansaab Wal-Alaqaab by Cabdialmacalim Ibn Yuusuf
known as 'Baabin Sayidih'.