BANTU SCHOLAR ENO ON Mohamed Abdulle Hassan
Mohamed Abdulle Hassan: Mad Mullah or Macabre Madness?
Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, given by the Somalis the honourary title ‘Sayid’, but known to the European scholarship as the ‘Mad Mullah’, is another figure of frequent appearance in Somali history: (a) as a leader with exceptional spirit in fighting the British colonialists in northern Somalia, and (b) as a poet with a great talent in oral literature.
According to Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan’s legendary history, the often-promoted version preferred by the Somali ruling elite, he had the ardour and charm as well as leadership potential to put together a large army of nomadic fighters – Dervishes. He engaged the British colonialists in several fierce battles and inflicted them a lot of casualty. He was the only or first African anti-colonialist hero whose troops suffered aerial attacks. Among others, he is reputed for defeating the British-led colonial forces in several confrontations including one in which a British commander was killed.
Sayid Mohamed’s oral poetry regarding the ill-fate of this officer, Mr Richard Corfield, is among the compulsory literature in the school syllabus emphatically recommended for memorization. A few of the verses go as follows:-
* Adaa Koofiloow jiitayoon dunida joogeyne
Adaa jidkii lagugu waday jimic la’aaneede
Jahanama lageeyoow haddaad aakhiro u jahatay.
Oh Corfield, gone you are from this world
Driven through the merciless path thou art
Towards the hereafter you are; destined into its hellfire.
After almost twenty years of disruption and devastation, Sayid Mohamed and his Dervishes were defeated. They ran away in disarray and he died in 1920, after disease and starvation plagued his camp. He was buried unceremoniously, perhaps due to the ugly situation prevailing in his encampment at the time, and possibly a reason behind his erection on a monument in the capital.
The Other Version about Sayid-ka
The hidden version that also shapes the acts and personality of this leader entices our attention in order to treat history with its due balance of truth, regardless of its consequential dissatisfaction in certain quarters. Unlike the known religious leaders, Mohamed Abdulle Hassan’s followers mainly consisted of his own Ogaden sub-clan of the pseudo-nobility of the Darood clan. The method he used to employ to obtain support and followers remained incompatible with Islam because of the tools he applied; in that, Hallett asserts, “He resorted to the most ruthless methods,”47 because “members of the local Muslim establishment were outraged by his attacks…”48 as “…doubtful followers ran the risk of summary execution.”49 In another page about Mohamed Abdulle Hassan’s tyranny, Michael Tidy and Donald Leeming remark, “Muhammad again resorted to military activities against various Somali communities.”50
Among the discredibility in the mainstay of Sayid Mohamed’s theological profession (if it can be called so) is his announcement of being the Mahdi, a statement which no Islamic scholar in his right senses would ever dare say. He kept wandering and attacking communities in order to coerce them into his accompaniment. “The men were flogged until, sworn on the triple divorce oath [“xila-fur” in Somali], they agreed to obey him.”51 (Text in parentheses mine.) In dissonance with the behaviour requisite of an Islamic scholar, the Mad Mullah must have been a chronic liar and a slanderer of the highest proportion by claiming the possession of powers to turn the white infidels’ bullets to water.52
By reading Jardine, one may assume of exaggerations contradictory of this popular Somali character, but a variety of his poetry confirm the kind of heinous policy he engaged and the quality of tyranny he employed. The concealment of this reality about the man’s true life in the social history is an attestment of the military regime’s hypocritical attitude in dealing with the historiography of the country and its people.
To contribute to the thesis of the hidden picture of the Sayid, Professor Abdalla Omar Mansur cites a verse from a great Somali poet, Ali Dhuux, who looted camels and in defence referred that even a man regarded so ‘religious’ as Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan permitted and actually indulged in looting other people’s camels:
* Sayidkii wadaad oo dhan xiray, Waris xalaaleeye
Xaaraan haddu yahay Xula ma qaadeene
Xoolaha kaleetiyo isaga waaba kala xeere
Nin kastoo xadreeyaba wuu u xusual duubaaye
Haddaan xaajiyadu weerareyn xer uma duuleene.
…The Sayid, the wise one
Who knows more
than all other men religious in the land
did sanction Waris [camel] by force to take
Xula [camel] he won’t take
Should this act unlawful be
Laws superior camels govern
above other animals all
any preacher religious
camels to acquire desires
though pious pretends he to be
should Hajis ambitious
other men’s camels raided not
I, too, would have done the same.53
The likes of the above verses and other indecent activities of the Sayid in oral literature or in the traditions and the government’s super-humanization of the so-called hero Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, have annoyed a Jareer poet who was alternatively concerned about the top officials’ expropriation of Bantu farms in the riverine areas of Juba and Shabelle. He said:
* Tuugadii Tolkiina Taalaa u dhisteene,
Tacabkeeyi haleeyseen maxaa ka Tireen?54
You erected monuments for (even) the looters among your kinship,
But what is the fate of my expropriated lifeline?
Another poet and a Jareer compatriot responded to him with a clear definition of the situation and the disparity between the Jareer and the Jileec:
* Tuugga reer Tolkiisaa Toowraadaan ka buuxo
Yaa ku Taagsaheey oo Tiir kuu naqahaayo?55
The thug’s kinship dominate the ruling Supreme Revolutionary Council,
You (Jareer) don’t have a center-pole to lean on!
The revisionist scholarship acknowledges the insincerity of the ruling elite. One of such scholars is Mukhtar who wrote: “Historical sites were set up where there were no signs of history. Religious heroes were made up where the practice of Islam has been insignificant”.56 Citing Jama Mohamed, Professor Cassanelli enlightens, “The dervish wars and the dislocation of nomadic groups caused by them left a legacy of mistrust and bitterness which was typically preserved by clan poets in series or “cycles” of poems that kept these rivalries alive.”57 The Somalist scholar, in a further elucidation of the theme, writes, “For example, the mutual suspicion that has characterized relations between Isaq and Darood Somalis for most of this century almost certainly originated in the events of the dervish period.”58 Ascertaining the tyrannical leadership of Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, Dualeh notes, “His religious movement became despotic. He would kill and loot the tribes that would not lend him support. The tribes in British Somaliland, with the support of the British authorities, took up arms against him. He was finally defeated”.59
In southern Somalia, many communities and pious religious personalities and sects (tariqas), particularly the Qadiriyya, know Mohamed Abdulle Hassan and his Dervish henchmen, notwithstanding the lavish decoration and monumentation, as unreligious villains operating under cover of Islam. Mohamed Adulle Hassan assigned a team of his Dervish for the assassination of Sheilk Uwees, one of the most celebrated religious leaders of the Jareer in Somalia in the famous rural town of Biyooleey. After the sad and cold blooded gangland style massacre, the Qadiriyya religious poets composed the following (dhikr) religious song in a couplet:
* Afaraay Ahaayeen Uweesaay dileen
Owliya Allaayaay ka Inkaar-sadeen.60
Four they were who murdered (Sheikh) Uwees
And (as a result) Accumulated curses from all corners of the pious ones of God.
And the righteous of the Reewing, in whose territory the renowned Sheikh Uwees was killed, went in pursuit of the culprits as they recited:
* Ankaaraneegii Abdoow (Abdulle) Hassan Aragteey?
Usii Amuudee Illeey maddii Aragdo.61
Who can tell me the whereabouts of the cursed Abdulle Hassan?
Death will be his fate upon my sight of him.
All these evidences from Somalis and non-Somalis, scholars and non-scholars, expose the quality and character of the man for whose aggrandizement so immaculate a monument was towered into the sky. The dubious military administration under the ideological tutelage of nomadic political doctrine deliberately forged a Sayid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan hero-ization scheme in an agenda to exonerate him and his Dervish militia from the genocide they committed against innocent peoples of diverse Somali communities in the north as well as in the south.
The policy that Mohamed Abdulle Hassan exploited was his people’s desire for wealth in camel and for women because he preached, contrary to the sound teachings of Islam, the lawfulness in misappropriating the wives of the non-compliants to his way of life. Jardine confirms, “The wife of one of our Somali native officers was divorced from her husband by the Mullah and appropriated to his own harem.”62 His despotism disobeyed all Islamic and human boundaries that “Until they promised to obey him, the tribesmen found their property plundered, their women ravished.”63
By means of this coercive principle of raping and appropriating women, married and unmarried, without doubt, many a great number of unpropitious offsprings were conceived. As a result of this otherwise unbecoming sexual avarice, an undesirable lineage contamination (but nobody mentions) must have drastically spread across the sub-clans subjected to this punishment, a reason why the wounds and grudge will never be healed.