Unhappy masses and the challenge of political Islam in the Horn of Africa

Certain sources believe that Somalia is the breeding ground for fundamentalist Islamic cells. The author of this article flatly rejects this assumption on the basis of the disorganization and individualism of Somali society. He claims the chief Somali ideal is ‘looking after number one’. He says that the first Muslims who came to Somalia did so before the flight to Medina. They were given sanctuary by the king of Axum, which led the Prophet Muhammad to pronounce that Abyssinia should never be subject to the ‘jihad’. Cogently, the Ge’ez word for king (‘neguz’) and the Cushitic word for God (‘Waaq’) in Oromo and Somali both occur in the Koran. Many of these seventy Muslims must have returned to Arabia but it is known from the works of Ibn Battuta that Somalia was Muslim in the 14th century. The vast majority of Somalis are Sunni who follow the Shafi’i school of law and the Qaadiriya, the Ahmadiya, and the Saalihiya Sufi brotherhoods are also to be found there. The one and only time Islam ever played a part in an uprising was in the period 1898-1920 when Sayyid Muhammad led an uprising against Britain, Ethiopia, and Italy. Unfortunately, while it did cost the lives of a few hundred infidels, it degenerated into a civil war which cost the lives of millions of Somalis. The author agrees that Somali individualism has produced a fine crop of messianic characters but the sheer schismatic character of the Somali personality has always militated against their achieving any success. He concludes his article with a few pertinent comments on what is wrong with modern Islam. [ASC Leiden abstract]

Title: Unhappy masses and the challenge of political Islam in the Horn of Africa
Author: Samatar, Said S.
Year: 2002
Periodical: Horn of Africa
Volume: 20
Pages: 1-10
Language: English
Geographic term: Somalia
Abstract: Certain sources believe that Somalia is the breeding ground for fundamentalist Islamic cells. The author of this article flatly rejects this assumption on the basis of the disorganization and individualism of Somali society. He claims the chief Somali ideal is ‘looking after number one’. He says that the first Muslims who came to Somalia did so before the flight to Medina. They were given sanctuary by the king of Axum, which led the Prophet Muhammad to pronounce that Abyssinia should never be subject to the ‘jihad’. Cogently, the Ge’ez word for king (‘neguz’) and the Cushitic word for God (‘Waaq’) in Oromo and Somali both occur in the Koran. Many of these seventy Muslims must have returned to Arabia but it is known from the works of Ibn Battuta that Somalia was Muslim in the 14th century. The vast majority of Somalis are Sunni who follow the Shafi’i school of law and the Qaadiriya, the Ahmadiya, and the Saalihiya Sufi brotherhoods are also to be found there. The one and only time Islam ever played a part in an uprising was in the period 1898-1920 when Sayyid Muhammad led an uprising against Britain, Ethiopia, and Italy. Unfortunately, while it did cost the lives of a few hundred infidels, it degenerated into a civil war which cost the lives of millions of Somalis. The author agrees that Somali individualism has produced a fine crop of messianic characters but the sheer schismatic character of the Somali personality has always militated against their achieving any success. He concludes his article with a few pertinent comments on what is wrong with modern Islam. [ASC Leiden abstract]