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Isaaq

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Isaaq
بني إسحاق
Flag of Somaliland.svgFlag of Djibouti.svgFlag of Ethiopia.svgFlag of Kenya.svgFlag of Yemen.svg
Sheekh Isaaq.jpg
The tomb of Sheikh Ishaaq, the founding father of the Isaaq clan, in Maydh, Sanaag
Regions with significant populations
Somaliland, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Yemen
Languages
Somali
Religion
Islam (Sunni)
Related ethnic groups
Dir, Darod, Hawiye, Rahanweyn, other Somalis

The Isaaq (also Isaq, Ishaak, Isaac) (Somali: Reer Sheekh Isxaaq, Arabic: بني إسحاق, romanizedBanī Isḥāq) is a Somali clan.[1] It is one of the major noble Somali clans in the Horn of Africa, with a large and densely populated traditional territory.[2]

The clan-family traces their lineage to Sheikh Ishaaq bin Ahmed, an Arab Islamic scholar who purportedly traveled to Somaliland in the 12th or 13th century and married into the local Dir clan, though this story is probably legendary.[3]

Overview

Portrait of the noble Sultan Abdillahi Deria, the 5th Grand Sultan of the Isaaq Sultanate
Isaaq warriors on horseback

According to genealogical books and Somali tradition, the Isaaq clan was founded in the 12th or 13th century with the arrival of Sheikh Ishaaq Bin Ahmed (Sheikh Ishaaq) from Arabia.[4][5] He purportedly settled in the coastal town of Maydh in modern-day northeastern Somaliland, where he married into the local Magaadle clan.[6] According to multiple Arabic hagiologies, Sheikh Ishaaq is a descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad,[7] though according to I.M. Lewis this lineage was most likely invented to enhance the clan-family's prestige and to stress its proper Muslim background.[3]

There are also numerous existing hagiologies in Arabic which describe Sheikh Ishaaq's travels, works and overall life in modern Somaliland, as well as his movements in Arabia before his arrival.[8] Besides historical sources, one of the more recent printed biographies of Sheikh Ishaaq is the Amjaad of Sheikh Husseen bin Ahmed Darwiish al-Isaaqi as-Soomaali, which was printed in Aden in 1955.[9]

Sheikh Ishaaq's tomb is in Maydh, and is the scene of frequent pilgrimages.[8] Sheikh Ishaaq's mawlid (birthday) is also celebrated every Thursday with a public reading of his manaaqib (a collection of glorious deeds).[6] His Siyaara or pilgrimage is performed annually both within Somaliland and in the diaspora particularly in the Middle East among Isaaq expatriates.[10]

The dialect of the Somali language that the Isaaq speak has the highest prestige of any other Somali dialect.[11]

Distribution

The Isaaq Sultanate banner derived from an Adal Sultanate flag with the Shahada

The Isaaq have a very wide and densely populated traditional territory. The clan-family makes up 80% of Somaliland's population,[12][13] and lives in all of its six regions (Awdal, Marodi Jeh, Togdheer, Sahil, Sanaag and Sool). The Isaaq have large settlements in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, mainly on the eastern side of Somali Region also known as the Hawd and formerly Reserve Area which is mainly inhabited by the Isaaq sub-clan members. They also have large settlements in Kenya, where the clan makes up a large percentage of the Somali population, and in Djibouti, where the Isaaq is the fourth largest ethnic group after the Issa, the Afar, and the Gadabuursi, accounting for 20% of Djibouti's population.[14][15]

The Isaaq clan-family constitute the largest Somali clan in Somaliland. The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – Hargeisa, Burao, Berbera, Erigavo and Gabiley – are all predominantly Isaaq.[16] They exclusively dominate the Marodi Jeh region, and the Togdheer region, and form a majority of the population inhabiting the western and central areas of Sanaag region, including the regional capital Erigavo.[17] The Isaaq also have a large presence in the western and northern parts of Sool region as well,[18] with Habr Je'lo sub-clan of Isaaq living in the Aynabo district whilst the Habr Yunis subclan of Garhajis lives in the eastern part of Xudun district and the very western part of Las Anod district.[19] They also live in the northeast of the Awdal region, with Saad Muse sub-clan being centered around Lughaya and its environs. A subclan of the Habr Yunis, the Damal Muse, also inhabit the Mudug region of Somalia.[20]

The populations of five major cities in SomalilandHargeisa, Burao,[21] Berbera, Erigavo and Gabiley – are predominantly Isaaq.[22][23]

An illustration depicting a Somali woman of the Isaaq clan published in Bilder-Atlas in 1870

History

The Isaaq clan played a prominent role in the Ethiopian-Adal War (1529–1543, referred to as the "Conquest of Abyssinia") in the army of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi,[24] I. M. Lewis noted that only the Habr Magadle division (Ayoub, Garhajis, Habr Awal and Arap) of the Isaaq were mentioned in chronicles of that war written by Shihab Al-Din Ahmad Al-Gizany known as Futuh Al Habash.[25]

Eidagale (right) and Habr Awal (left) Chiefs photographed in Hargeisa, Somaliland

I. M. Lewis states:[26]

The Marrehan and the Habr Magadle [Magādi] also play a very prominent role (...) The text refers to two Ahmads's with the nickname 'Left-handed'. One is regularly presented as 'Ahmad Guray, the Somali' (...) identified as Ahmad Guray Xuseyn, chief of the Habr Magadle. Another reference, however, appears to link the Habr Magadle with the Marrehan. The other Ahmad is simply referred to as 'Imam Ahmad' or simply the 'Imam'.This Ahmad is not qualified by the adjective Somali (...) The two Ahmad's have been conflated into one figure, the heroic Ahmed Guray (...)

Dervish Commander Haji Sudi on the left with his brother-in-law Duale Idris (1892)

Long after the collapse of the Adal Sultanate, the Isaaq established successor states, the Isaaq Sultanate and the Habr Yunis Sultanate. These two Sultanates possessed some of the organs and trappings of a traditional integrated state: a functioning bureaucracy, regular taxation in the form of livestock, as well as an army (chiefly consisting of mounted light cavalry).[27][28][29][30] These sultanates also maintained written records of their activities, which still exist.[31]

The Isaaq clan also played a major role in the Dervish movement, with Sultan Nur Aman of the Habr Yunis being fundamental in the inception of the movement. Sultan Nur was the principle agitator that rallied the dervish behind his anti-French Catholic Mission campaign that would become the cause of the dervish uprise.[32] Haji Sudi of the Habr Je'lo was the highest ranking Dervish after Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, he died valiantly defending the Taleh fort during the RAF bombing campaign.[33][34][35] The Isaaq sub-clans that were highly known for joining the Dervish movement were from the eastern Habr Yunis and Habr Je'lo sub-clans. These two sub-clans were able to purchase advanced weapons and successfully resist both British Empire and Ethiopian Empire for many years.[36]

The Isaaq clan along with other northern Somali tribes were under British Somaliland protectorate administration from 1884 to 1960. On gaining independence, the Somaliland protectorate decided to form a union with Italian Somalia. The Isaaq clan spearheaded the greater Somalia quest from 1960 to 1991.

The Isaaq played a massive role to push for unification and independence. They selected to join the Trust Territory of Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. During the civilian government from 1960 to 1969, they held dominant positions. Jama Mohamed Ghalib (1960-4) and Ahmed Mohamed Obsiye (1964-6), both belonging to the Isaaq clan, served as the president of the National Assembly, while a notable Isaaq member named Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal served as the Prime Minister of Somalia from 1967-9. Furthermore, when English became one of the official languages, the ministries of Foreign Trade, Foreign Affairs, Education, and Information were mainly held by the Isaaq members. They were still powerful in the early years of the military dictatorship (1969–91). However, from the late 1970s, Marehan became politically powerful under the leadership of the military dictator Siad Barre. The Isaaq began to face political and economic marginalization and in response, they organized the Somali National Movement to over his regime. Thus Somali Civil War began and this struggle movement forced the Isaaq clan to become a victim to a genocidal campaign by Siad Barre's troops (which also included armed Somali refugees from Ethiopia); the death toll has been estimated to be between 50,000 and 200,000. After the collapse of the Somali Democratic Republic in 1991 the Isaaq-dominated Somaliland declared independence from Somalia as a separate nation.[37][38]

Mercantilism

Historically (and presently to a degree), the wider Isaaq clan were relatively more disposed to trade than their tribal counterparts due in part to their centuries old trade links with the Arabian Peninsula. In view of this imbalance in mercantile experience, other major Somali clans tended to resort to tribal slang terms such as "iidoor", an enviable pejorative roughly meaning trader/exchanger:

Somalis bandied about numerous stereotypes of clan behavior that mirrored these emerging social inequalities. The pejorative slang terms iidoor or kabadhe iidoora (loosely meaning "exchange") reflect Somali disdain for the go-between, the person who amasses wealth through persistence and mercantile skills without firm commitments to anyone else. As the Isaaq became more international and cosmopolitan, their commercial success and achievement ideology aroused suspicion and jealousy, notably among rural Darod who disliked Isaaq self-confidence and made them the target of stereotypes.[39]

This was not lost on the sole president and dictator of the Somali Democratic Republic (1969–1991), Siad Barre, who disliked the Isaaq clan due to their financial independence, thus making it harder to control them:

Siyaad had a deep and personal dislike for the clan. The real reasons can only be guessed at, but in part it was due to his inability to control them. As accomplished business operatives, they had built a society that was not dependant on government largesse. The Isaaq had traditional trade relationships with the nations of the Arabian Peninsula that continued despite the attempts of the government to center all economic activity in Mogadishu. Siyaad did what he could, however, and Isaaq traders were forced to make the long trip to Mogadishu for permits and licenses.[40]

Nevertheless, in the 1970s and 1980s, nearly all of the livestock exports went out through the port of Berbera via Isaaq livestock traders, with the towns of Burao and Yirowe in the interior being home to the largest livestock markets in the Horn of Africa.[41][42][43] The entire livestock exports accounted to upwards of 90% of the Somali Republic's entire export figures in a given year, and Berbera's exports alone provided over 75% of the nation's recorded foreign currency income at the time.[44][45]

Clan tree

Sultan Abdurahman Deria of the Habr Awal Isaaq in London 1955

In the Isaaq clan-family, component clans are divided into two uterine divisions, as shown in the genealogy. The first division is between those lineages descended from sons of Sheikh Ishaaq by a Harari woman – the Habr Habuusheed – and those descended from sons of Sheikh Ishaaq by a Somali woman of the Magaadle sub-clan of the Dir – the Habr Magaadle. Indeed, most of the largest clans of the clan-family are in fact uterine alliances hence the matronymic "Habr" which in archaic Somali means "mother".[46] This is illustrated in the following clan structure.[47]

Warriors of the Habr Awal clan

A. Habr Magaadle

B. Habr Habuusheed

Dualeh Abdi of the Musa Abokor Habr Je'lo tribe photographed in 1890

One tradition maintains that Sheikh Ishaaq had twin sons: Muhammad (Arap), and Ismail (Garhajis).[48][49]

There is clear agreement on the clan and sub-clan structures that has not changed for a long time. The oldest recorded genealogy of a Somali in Western literature was by Sir Richard Burton in the mid–19th century regarding his Isaaq (Habr Yunis) host and the governor of Zeila, Sharmarke Ali Saleh[50]

The following listing is taken from the World Bank's Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics from 2005 and the United Kingdom's Home Office publication, Somalia Assessment 2001.[51][52]

Stereotypes among the Isaaq clans go a long way to explaining each clan's role in Somaliland.[53][54] In one exemplified folklore tale, Sheikh Ishaaq's three eldest sons split their father's inheritance among themselves.[53] Garhajis receives his imama, a symbol of leadership; Awal receives the sheikh's wealth; and Ahmed (Tolja'ele) inherits his sword.[53] The story is intended to depict the Garhajis' alleged proclivity for politics, the Habr Awal's mercantile prowess, and the Habr Je'lo's bellicosity.[53]

To strengthen these clan stereotypes, historical anecdotes have been used: The Habar Yonis allegedly dominated positions as interpreters for the British during the colonial period, and thus acquired pretensions to intellectual and political superiority; Habr Awal dominance of the trade via Djibouti and Berbera is practically uncontested; and Habr Je’lo military prowess is cited in accounts of previous conflicts.[53]

Notable figures

Hadraawi, notable contemporary Somali poet

Royalty and rulers

Abdullahi Qarshe, Somali musician, poet and playwright; known as the "Father of Somali music"

Politicians

Sir Mo Farah, British long-distance runner and the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history

Poets

  • Hadrawi, poet and philosopher; author of Halkaraan; also known as the "Somali Shakespeare"
  • Salaan Carrabey – legendary poet
  • Farah Nur, a famous warrior, poet and sultan of the Arap subclan[56]
  • Elmi Boodhari, famous Somali poet hailing from the Ciidagale sub-division of Garxajis and pioneer in the genre of Somali love poems also known as the King of Romance.
  • Mohamed Hashi Dhamac (Gaarriye), legendary Somali poet and political activist
  • Abdillahi Suldaan Mohammed Timacade, known as 'Timacade', a famous poet during the pre- and post-colonial periods
  • Kite Fiqi – legendary Habr Je'lo warrior and poet
  • Hussein Hasan – famous poet and warrior
  • Yusuf Shaacir - well-known Somali poet
  • Aden Ahmed Dube of the Isaaq, Habr-Yonis tribe, great poems aroused envy in Raage Ugaz, and infrequently, bloody wars and irreconcilable enmity.
  • Mohammed Liban from the Isaaq tribe of Habr Awal, was an eloquent and witty improviser, and even better known under the name of Mohammed Liban Giader.[57]
  • Aden Ahmed Dube "Gabay Xoog" circa 1821 –1916, poet.[58][59]
  • Abdiwaasa' Hasan Ali Araale Guleid, wellknown poet
  • Abdi Iidan Farah, 20th century Somali poet who wrote about Somali independence and camels
Rageh Omaar, British-Somali journalist and writer

Economists

Military leaders and personnel

Musa Haji Ismail Galal, Somali linguist and historian who reformed the Somali Wadaad script and immensely contributed to the creation of the Somali Latin script

Writers and musicians

Scholars

Mohamed Farah Dalmar Yusuf "Mohamed Ali", Somali military commander and revolutionary known for his leadership within Western Somali Liberation Front, Afraad and later the Somali National Movement

Religious leaders and scholars

Entrepreneurs

Abdirashid Duale, Somali entrepreneur and the CEO of Dahabshiil, an international funds transfer company

Activists

  • Edna Adan Ismail, first female Foreign Minister of Somaliland, has been called "The Muslim Mother Teresa" for her charity work and activism for women and girls
  • Michael Mariano – legendary Somali politician, lawyer and key figure in independence struggle and Somali Youth League
  • Farah Omar – anti-colonial ideologue and founder of the first Somali Association
  • Hassan Isse Jama, one of the founding fathers of the SNM in London, former deputy chairman of SNM, first vice president of Somaliland.[64]
  • Hassan Adan Wadadid- One of the original founders of the Somali National Movement and served as the movement's first Vice-Chairman.
  • Hanan Ibrahim, gender activist and first Somali British to be awarded Member of British Empire (MBE) for community work in UK
  • Nimco Ali, British social activist
  • Magid Magid – Somali-British activist and politician who served as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield from May 2018 to May 2019
Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud "Silanyo", 4th president of Somaliland as well as longest serving SNM chairman

Athletes

Journalists

Other

References

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