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Warsangeli Dervish

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The Warsangeli Dervish idea was a religious cause whose primary goal was to return the authority of Islamic way of life and unite Somali territories under one single centralized administration, while the Sultan Mohamoud Ali Shirreh controlled most of Sanaag the Dervish had a strong bases in Badhan and Buraan.[1] According to the 3rd line of the Sayid's Haddaan waayey poem, the Darawiish sought to establish the Ciid and Nugaal Valley under one single centralized administration.[2][3]

Genesis of the Somali Dervish movement[edit]

Although the Somali religious struggle had had its share of foibles and major victories, the context of its underlying “worthy causes” should not be dismissed away without a lucid understanding. The Dervishes were practically indispensable in the early campaigns to liberate regions they considered their land in British Somaliland. The dervishes hardly bothered with Anglo-Italian occupations of Somali regions outside of the dervish domain. [4]

There are several books which discuss the political relationship, which had continued between 1899 -1905 after the Warsangeli embraced the Dervish rebellion temporarily. 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[edit]

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: [5] [6]

"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." [7]

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, Dhulbahante
  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[edit]

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 Khorey. [5] 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".[8]

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.[9][10]

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. [11] They were given those areas. Maarre is an etymology that stands for "those equipped with rifles"(Dhulbahante, mostly Mohamoud Gard, and part of Warsengeli Nuux Cumar, Reer Garaad Bahogayslabe & Reer saalax.)[6]


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. [12]


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.[13]


  1. David Motadel (2014). Islam and the European Empires. Oxford University Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-0-19-966831-1. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  2. Diiwaanka gabayadii, 1856-1921 - Maxamad Cabdulle Xasan · 1999 , PAGE 26
  3. Roland Oliver (1975). The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 6. ISBN 9780521228039. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  4. The Warrior Mullah - The Horn Aflame, 1892-1920.
  5. 5.0 5.1 John P Slight. British and Somali Views of Muhammad Abdullah Hassans Jihad 1899-1920. p. 12. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  6. 6.0 6.1 Margaret Laurence (2003). Heart of a stranger. University of Alberta Press. p. 42. ISBN 9780888644077. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  7. Margaret Laurence (2003). Heart of a stranger. University of Alberta Press. p. 41. ISBN 9780888644077. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  8. Pastoral Democracy by I.M Lewis
  9. 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"
  10. John P Slight. British and Somali Views of Muhammad Abdullah Hassans Jihad 1899-1920. p. 13. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  11. The Arab Bulletin (1986). Bulletin of the Arab Bureau in Cairo 1916-1919. p. 81. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  12. The Warrior Mullah - The Horn Aflame, 1892-1920. p119
  13. Cawl, 1973, Ignorance is the Enemy of Love

See also[edit]

  • Mohamoud Ali Shire

External links[edit]

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