Clans of Somalia Between 1250-1800


During the middle ages, Somalia, also known as the Horn of Africa regions, was an important commerce center popularly referred to the punt land by the Egyptians. The major empires involved in this trade were Ajuran, Warsangali, Geledi, and Adal sultanates, with each being a subgroup of a particular clan. Somalia descends from one father, but they are divided into clans and lineages. The Somali’s consist of six major tribes that are either pastoralists or agriculturalists. The Dir, Isaaq, Daarod, and Hawiye clans are predominantly pastoralists. On the other hand, the Rahanwayn and Digil families are agriculturists. Historically, Somalis have portrayed a fierce independence and refusal to submit to authority, a strong consciousness of one’s family, and multiple conflicts between clans and sub-clans. Although Somalis share a common religion, language, and religion, there have been reports of endless conflicts in this state. The justification of this study is to give an overview of the clans of Somalia between 1250-1800, which include Daarod, Hawiye, Dir, Isaaq and Rahanwayn.

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The Dir Clan

The Dir clan, mostly lived in the central, northeastern, and the southern parts of Somalia and Djibouti. It is the oldest, numerous and most widespread clan in Somalia. The major sub-clans comprising the Dir clan are Dadabuursi, Bimal, Akisho, Surre, Gadabuursi and Gurgura people. Dir sired four sons, Mandaluug, Madahweyn, Mahe, and Madoobe however, other sources confirm that he had a fifth son called Qaldho (Mukhtar and Castagno 18). The Dir clan lived by the Muslim faith. In the 14th century, the Dir clan was the most powerful kingdom. However, a conflict erupted during this period over a dispute on payments of annual tributes and taxes in the international trade routes connecting the Ethiopian and Somalia hinterlands (Mukhtar and Castagno 20). Despite the relationship that existed between the Christian Ethiopians and the Muslims in Harar, Zeila and Haud, the conflicts and many rivalries left the Dir people destroyed. Due to these conflicts, many of the Dir groups fled to Somalia’s west, east, and south areas. Evidently, this devastating blow destroyed the Dir kingdom, and they have never recovered from this defeat.

The Hawiye Clan

Hawiye family lives in the southern and central parts of Somalia, the northeastern province of Kenya, and the Ogaden (Jenkins 1). The Hawiyes often trace their origin to the 13th Century under their ancestor Irir Samaale. Hawiye clan is the largest Somali group, which mostly dominates Mogadishu. Due to the constant movement of this rural community, the Hawiye people mostly inhabit the fertile land between Kismayo and Barawa in southern Somalia. Hence, some of the Hawiye sub-clans that live near the riverside areas are agriculturalists, while most are pastoralists. In the middle age, the Hawiye people traded in slaves, ambergris, cattle skin, and ivory. Some of the major sub-clans comprising the Hawiye clan are Baadicade, Harti, Wabudhan, Wa’esli, Waadan, amongst others. The Hawiye people significantly influenced the Somali dynasty in the period between the 13th and 17th century, especially the Ajurans sultanates (Jimale 1). They were aggressive militias against invaders. Moreover, they are regarded with great importance due to their architectural legacy. Due to the hierarchy observed in this tribe, there have been reports that it has constantly produced excellent leaders in the Somali’s political arena. Some of the great occupations awarded to the Hawiye people include presidential candidates, prime ministers, ambassadors, and productive ministers in the Somali government. Indeed, the present day President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, belongs to this clan.

The Darod Clan

Darod clan dates back to the 10th century, founded by their ancestor Abdirahman bin Isma’il al-jabarti. Darod, in the Somali language, means an enclosed compound by walls, woods, trees, and fences. Most of these populations inhabit the Gedo region, Kismayo, Ogaden, and Kenyan northeastern region (Jenkins 1). Darod clan is also regarded as the largest occupants in Somalia today. The Darods are said to have produced many nobilities over the centuries, especially sultans. Some of the powerful sultanates from this clan were Warsangali, Marjeeteen, and Hobyo, which significantly influenced Somalia’s economic and political stands.

The Darods established the biggest sultanates in Somali land in the 13th century (Briggs 10). At the peak of its power, they conquered Sanaag regions, Bari, and the Maakhir Coast. Moreover, Abdallah al-Hassan Muhamed, popularly referred to “Mad Mullah” by the Britons, fought against the Italian, British, and Ethiopian forces during the 18th Century invasion. Darod, the son of Sheikh Sufi, is believed to have originated from Arabia and a descendant of Banu Hashim. In fact, Darod clan had five male children, namely Ahmed, Muhamed, Hussien, Yousuf, Eissa bin Abdirahman. The sub-groups composing this lineage are Marehan, Yuusuf, Harti, Ogaden, and Sade, among others (Briggs 12). In present day Somalia, some of the top dignitaries produced by the Harods include Ambassadors, prime ministers, parliamentarians, ministers, presidents, governors, renowned scholars, and secretary generals, among others.

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The Rahanweyn Clan

Rahanweyn family comprises of two major sub-clans of the Mirifle and Digil. It is the earliest origins of Somaliland people. This agricultural-based family contains about 20% of the Somalia population, and they make up the highest population of the southern people (Jenkins 1). The primary language spoken by these people is Maay, thus, on most occasions they are referred to as Maay people. The Rahaweyns mostly resided in the Horn of Africa regions. The Digil sub-clan mostly comprised coastal people and farmers, while the Mirifles were nomadic pastoralists. Their highly occupied areas included Mogadishu, Lower Shebelle, and upper Juba. In addition, the Rahaweyns are found in the Somali regions of northeastern Kenya and Ethiopia. In earlier centuries, the Rahanweyn people maintained their trade activities with the Arabs, Swahilis, and Persians in the coastal area, although they still preserved their nomadic lifestyle (Jenkins 1). The Rahanweyn clan, up to date, observes its nomadic cultures of rearing camels, goats, and cattle in the more fertile areas. However, with time, the modifications have been made to accumulate farming on the lower Jubba, thus enabling them to grow sorghum. In this setup, men are responsible for herding and protecting their families and cattle while women indulged in milking family nurturing and food preparation. Polygamy was fully accepted, but the head of the household, who is the man, initiated divorce. The Rahanweyn people were strict Muslims and lived according to the Muslim faith. Several lineages are attached to the Rahaweyns, including the Digil, Mirifle, Sideed, Maatay, Dubdheere, and Duubo. Significant nobilities from this clan includes ministers, speakers of the national assembly, professors, and spokespersons of the Al-Shabaab militia.

The Isaaq Clan

The Isaaq clan is the predominant population in Somalia. The major cities of Somali land occupied by Isaaq clan include Burao, Hargeisa, Berbera, Erigavo, and Gabiley. However, the main areas that Isaaq families lived are in the Northwestern regions of Somaliland and the Somali regions of Ethiopia. The Isaaqs was founded between the 12th and 13th century by Ishaq Shaykh ibn Ahmed al-Hashimi from Arabia. According to tradition, the Isaaqs were viewed as descendants of the Agnatic Arabians and Dir clans. The three major sub-clans of the Isaaqs are Habr Awal, Toljallo, and Garhadjis. Indeed, the Isaaqs sons were Habar Habuusheed and Habar Magaadle. Some of the major isaaq sub-clans include Haber Awal, Habr Garhadjis, and Habr Jaalo, among others. The Isaaq clan is associated with lending a hand to the Britain during the scramble and partitioning of Africa in 1839. The clan leaders signed treaties with the British authorities allowing them to have a safe passage via the Somaliland coastline with a promise that they would be supplied with enough meat in their British colony of Aden. (Mukhtar and Margaret Castagno 50) Some of the dignitaries from this lineage include sportsmen, ministers, prime ministers, poets, teachers, philosophers, among others.

The Somali people descend from the same father and share similar histories, religions, and cultures. However, even in ancient days they were still divided along ethnic backgrounds. Each clan has repeatedly fought to retain its superiority over the other, and thus multiple cases of crashes and conflicts have dominated the Somali people. Nevertheless, each clan had, in the past, impacted Somali land in either religion or economic grounds. Other clans have remained adamant of political rivalry. However, Somali has barely had a moment of peace in all its generations.


Works Cited

Briggs, Philip. Somaliland: With Addis Ababa & Eastern Ethiopia. Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks, England: Bradt Travel Guides, 2012. Print.

Jenkins Boyd Orville. People Profile: The Digil-Rahawiin (Digil-Mirifle) People of Somalia. Somaliland Net. 15 Aug 2014. Web 7 Dec. 2015.

Jimale Daud. Explorations in History and Society: Overview of the Ajuran Empire. WordPress.

29 Apr. 2009. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. of Form

Mukhtar, Mohamed H, and Margaret Castagno. Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2003. Web.

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