The Genesis of the Somali Dervish movement

The Dervish ideal was a nationalistic cause that sought to integrate Somalis and unite Somali territories into a single centralized administration.

Although this nationalist struggle had both its foibles and major victories, its credit and underlying “worthy causes” should not be dismissed away without a lucid understanding of its context. The Dervishes were practically indispenable in the early campaigns to liberate Somalia from both the Anglo-Ethiopian and the Anglo-Italian conspiracies by which our lands were surreptitiously divided and transferred.

There are several books which discuss the relationship between Warsangeli and the Dervish ideals of a united Somali state. Among them are two books authored by Faarax MJ Cawl, including Garbaduubkii gumeysiga or the "Shackles of Colonialism" and "Ignorance is the enemy Of love." Andrzejewski, in his review of the latter book, writes,

"The plot unfolds against the background of Somali national history in the first quarter of this century, when members of a Muslim Brotherhood, who called themselves “Dervishes”, were fighting against the foreign powers which had partitioned the Somali territories, and against those of their compatriots who had accepted colonial rule. The struggle was led by Maxamed Cabdule Xasan (1898-1921), who was a Muslim revivalist reformed as well as a nationalist leader"

Connections Between the Somali Dervish movement and Warsangeli sultanates

As usually presented by contemporary historians, the Warsangeli initially supported the Dervishes from 1899 until 1905. Later, the Warsangeli splintered into several strong factions, only one-third of which supported the reign of Sultan Mohamoud Ali Shire, who took over the sultanate from his ailing father and powerful Garad, Ali Shirreh. He was a Dervish himself but later turned against Sayid Mohammed because:

"The two could not see eye to eye on many political, religious and social issues, and the Sultan fiercely defended the independence of his Sultanate against the incursions of the Dervish Movement."

According to files concerning the Sultan referred to in Ray Beachey's book The Warrior Mullah, the three major fronts of the Dervishes were the

  1. Forces that concentrated with Sayid, Dhulbahente
  2. Warsangeli, and
  3. Ogaden (mainly Bahgeri) -- All from 1899-1905 -- the Dervishes had successive victories during these periods.

The Dervish movement also had a great deal of influence in central (Mudug) and southern Somalia (Jubaland). The joint resistance by the Aulihan (Ogaden) and the Marehan challenged the Italian and British administrations in Jubaland and Mudug.

Sultan Mohamoud Ali Shirreh

The Sultan was indeed an amazing authority figure and a lot of people believed him to be some type of a saint. He survived many battles including the battle in which the Dervishes seized control of Las Qorey. He was said to have marched through the Dervish legion while wearing a white turban--in disguise, according to oral testimonies. The English at the time described him as a "Man of unusual influence", "A man of mercurial image" and "A man of unusual strength". [1]

The Warsangeli were divided into three groups: The army of the Sultanate in Sanaag, Dervishes with strong bases in Badhan and Buraan, and the army of Gerad Dhahar in the Bari region. The Warsangeli sultanate had had no authority over all the clans of Warsangeli. The man whom the English colony conspired to deport to Mombasa was Dhahar but he escaped and returned as a hero.[2]

Therefore, The largest three army units of the Dervishes were divided into three major sections.


The largest unit assigned to Jidali and Xiis all the way to Burco. They were given those areas. Maarre is an etymology that stands for "those equipped with rifles"(Dhulbahante, mostly Mohamoud Gard,,and part of Warsenge;li Reer saalax .)


The second largest unit. This etymology stands for those with many eyes or "vigilant ones. They were assigned to Badhan, Laasqorey, Ceelaayo, Qaw and Boosaaso. They were 95% Warsangeli, mostly Dubeys, Bihi door, Reer saalax & Garabsare.


Garbo is the third largest unit. Mostly Bahgeri, Farah Garad,(Adan Madoobe) Subclan if HabarJeclo and other clans. The etymology suggests "shoulders" or the backs of pack animals. They carried heavy equipment and large amount of booty. They were assigned to the Ethiopian border and Berbera.

The Indhabaddan unit succeeded once in capturing the above towns but was defeated by the Sultan of Warsangeli and Boqor Cisman army with the help of Italy and Britain. Without the colonial support, they would not have been defeated. The interest of those sultanates was all about securing their dominion from any outside and direct rule, so they were content with the indirect rule of the colony. This Sayid opposed. [3]


  1. Pastoral Democracy by I.M Lewis
  2. Ray Beachey's book. Ps. Beachey notes that a Warsangeli man escaped deportation to Mombasa who became a hero after he returned from escape. I figured it was Mohamoud Jarig as he was the commander chief of Gaadh haye army"
  3. Cawl, 1973, Ignorance is the Enemy of Love

See also

External links

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.