Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mohammed Abdullah Hassan

Somalia is in the news a lot today and, drifting through Wikipedia, I wanted to read more about this country. We have a new addition to the brave heroes who rejected the occupation and colonisation of Muslim countries: Mohammad Abdullah Hassan. Here is an extract from the entry on the man so that he would not be forgotten:

Religious Mission

In 1895, Hassan returned to Berbera which was then considered by the British merely as 'Aden's butcher's shop', since they were interested only in getting regular supplies of meat from Somalia through this port for their British India outpost of Aden.
Taking advantage of British complacency and arrogance, Emperor Menelek II of Ethiopia asked Ras Makonnen, the Governor of his newly conquered Hararghe Province, to send armed bands to plunder and occupy Ogaden politically. The British withdrew from this area of their territory in Somalia.
In Berbera, Hassan could not succeed in spreading the teaching of the Saalihiya order due to the hostility of the local Qadiriyyah inhabitants who did not like him criticising their eating khat and gorging on the fat of sheep's tail and for following their traditional Qadiriyyah order. In 1897, he left Berbera to be with his Dulbahante kinsmen. On the way, at a place called Daymoole, he met some Somalis who were being looked after by a Catholic Mission. When he asked them about their tribe and parents, the Somali orphans replied that they belonged to the "clan of the (Catholic) Fathers." This reply shook his conscience, for he felt that the "Christian Overlordship in his country was tantamount to the destruction of his people's faith."
In 1899, an unfortunate event took place. Some soldiers of the British armed forces met Hassan and sold him an official gun. When questioned about the loss of the gun, they told their superiors that Hassan had stolen the gun from them. On 29 March 1899, the British Vice Consul wrote a very insulting and stern letter to him asking him to return the gun immediately, which someone in Hassan's camp had reported stolen. This enraged Hassan and he sent a very brief and curt reply refuting the allegation.
While Hassan had really been against the Ethiopian imperialist plunderers of Somalia, this small incident made him clash with the British. The British and Ethiopian Emperor Menelek II joined together to crush the Dervish movement of Hassan and some antagonistic Somalis also cooperated with Menelek II against him.

Armed Struggle

In several of his poems and speeches, Hassan emphasized that the British infidels "have destroyed our religion and made our children their children" and that the Christian Ethiopians in league with the British were bent upon plundering the political and religious freedom of the Somali nation. He soon emerged as "a champion of his country's political and religious freedom, defending it against all Christian invaders." He issued a religious ordinance that any Somali national who did not accept the goal of unity of Somalia and would not fight under his leadership would be considered as kafir or gaal. He acquired weapons from Turkey, Sudan, and other Islamic and/or Arabian countries. He appointed his ministers and advisers in charges of different areas or sectors of Somalia. He gave a clarion call for Somali unity and independence.
Hassan organized his follower-warriors. His 'Dervish' movement had essentially a military character and the Dervish state was fashioned on the model of a Saalihiya brotherhood. It had rigid hierarchy and rigid centralization.
Though Hassan threatened to drive the Christians into the sea, he committed the first attack by launching his first major military offensive with his 1500 Dervish equipped with 20 modem rifles on the British soldiers stationed in the region.
Hassan sent one of his men to Yemen in disguise for reconnaissance activities to report the new aeroplanes preparedness for attack. He sent his emissaries all over the country appealing for Somali people to join his movement and many responded to him enthusiastically.

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