The Ethnic Origin Of The Somali People And Clan System

Posted by admin on December 15, 2013

Reunification of the Somali       People
Jack L. Davies Appendix 4:
The Somali Ethnic Group and Clan       System <103>
Table of Contents

  • Ethnic Origins of the       Somali People

  • Founding the Somali Ethnic       Group

  • The Clan Structure of the       Somali People

A.4.1 Ethnic Origins of the Somali       People
Almost all of the many different ethnic groups on the Horn of Africa trace       their origins on the male side either

  • as Hamitic people back to Ham,       the second son of Noah or

  • as Semitic people back to Shem,       the first son of Noah.

The Somali people are one of       several Hamitic ethnic groups in East Africa known as Cushites,       descendants of the Kingdom of Cush. Their language is also one of several       related languages referred to as Cushitic languages. As Hamites, they       probably migrated from the Arabian Peninsula sometime earlier. One can       speculate that the Kingdom of Cush was originally founded by Cush, the       first son of Ham, who was the second son of Noah.<104> According to the       elders of the Beja ethnic group in Ethiopia, another Cushitic ethnic group,       they do explicitly claim to be descendents of Cush, the son of Ham, the       son of Noah.<105>
The Kingdom of Cush was formed about 1000 B.C., i.e. about 30 to 40       generations before Christ. It lasted until about 330 A.D, with a lifespan       of about 1300 years or 40 to 50 generations — much longer than that of       any modern nation. Its written language has never been deciphered       completely and therefore there is only scanty knowledge about its history.<106>       Since the language of Egypt at that time has been deciphered, much of what       we know about Cush is due to incidental references to Cush in the history       of Egypt as its neighbor.
The Kingdom of Cush was the immediate neighbor of Egypt to the South, in       what is now the Sudan. Its first capital was in Napata on the Nile River,       but the capital moved from Napata to Meroë around 600 B.C. There was much       trade and interchange of ideas between Egypt and Cush, as well as major       battles between them. Prior to formation of this Kingdom, the Cushitic       people may have been largely dominated by Egypt. During the existence of       this Kingdom, there was a closer balance of power, back-and-forth, whereby       the Kingdom of Cush supplied the Kings who ruled Egypt in its 25’th       Dynasty.<107>
The Kingdom of Cush played a major role in introducing the technology and       production of iron and iron implements in this region. However, the       history of the beginning of the Iron Age is unclear, particularly       concerning whether this technology developed at one location and spread to       other locations or developed spontaneously at several different locations       at about the same time. It appears that the Cushites developed this       technology for producing and using iron themselves, but there is no firm       proof.
The move of their capital from Napata to Meroë was probably due to the       combination of an Egyptian military expedition that occupied Napata and       the better conditions for producing iron at Meroë.
The Kingdom of Cush exchanged ambassadors with Rome and probably provided       elephants and training of elephants for military use in the Roman empire       and by its adversaries. It maintained extensive trade with Arabia to its       East and with Africa to its South. From a high point of about 200 B.C.,       the fortunes of the Kingdom of Cush declined, particularly due to the       growing power of the Auxumites from Auxum (located in the province of       Tigray of modern Ethiopia). Their military defeat of the Cushites around       330 A.D. appears to have marked the end of the Kingdom of Cush.
The origin of the Auxumites appears to have been as Saebean settlers, who       crossed the Red Sea from Southern Arabia around 1000 B.C. and who       intermarried with local African people. Their famous “Queen of Sheba” (sometimes       “Queen of Saba” or “Queen of the South”) went to Jerusalem at the time of       King Solomon.<108,109> According to legend, the Ethiopian monarchy was       founded by Menelik I, who is supposed to be a son of King Solomon and the       Queen of Sheba. Emperor Haile Selasse of Ethiopia claimed to be in the       225’th generation.<110>
Again according to legend, Menelik I is also also supposed to have visited       his father, King Solomon, for one year as a young man for his Bar Mitzvah.       When he returned to Auxum, King Solomon sent a bodyguard with him,       consisting of the eldest sons of the elders. The Falasha Jews of Ethiopia       claim to be descendents of this bodyguard. It is also conceivable that the       larger Hamitic Agaw ethnic group, with whom the Falashas live, could also       have the same descent, since they have been surrounded by the Semitic       Amharas. Judaism< may actually have come to the Horn of Africa during the       reign of King Solomon, where it is still practiced in its pre-Talmudic       form.<111>
The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia has been associated with the Coptic Church       of Egypt some of the time. Christianity was changed and adapted by the       Orthodox Church of Greece and the Roman Catholic Church of Rome as it       spread from Israel to Europe. The same process took place in adapting the       original Christian faith of Israel in the first few hundred years after       Christ to the Horn of Africa. It assimilated some elements of local       religions, the same as the Christian faith assimilated some elements of       European religions as it migrated into Europe. Therefore, the Ethiopian       Orthodox Church today appears from a European perspective to have many       elements of Judaism and local religious components integrated within it.       It is possible that it is closer to the original Christian faith in Israel       at the time of Christ than the Roman Catholic Church.
The Auxumites developed their own written language, Ge’ez, written       differently from their original Saebean language, from left to right and       including diacritical markings. It is still used in Ethiopia today,       particularly in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The inscriptions on many       old monuments are in all three languages: Saebean, Ge’ez, and Greek —       indicating that all 3 languages and alphabets were used at the same time.
The history of the descendants of the Kingdom of Cush is very scanty after       the collapse of their Kingdom around 330 A.D. due to the growing power of       Auxum. Apparently some of the Cushites migrated Southwards along the Horn       of Africa, into the areas of modern Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and       Northern Kenya by 1000 A.D. Along the way, they intermarried with original       African settlers. Others migrated Westward to Lake Tschad, where they       brought their technology for making iron and iron implements. The dynamics       of these migrations are unclear, but probably include forced migration due       to conflicts with neighbors and the search for better grounds when fleeing       droughts. It is also possible that these migrations took place much       earlier.
Today, most of these Cushitic ethnic groups still have strong Caucasian       features, often including straight hair more rather than the kinky hair       that is more typical of Africans with whom they intermarried. Some groups       of Cushites even have rather light-colored skins and some have rich green       or blue eyes.
The Somali Coast was referred to as the Land of Punt by ancient Egyptian       and Greek sailors, but it is quite likely that it was not occupied by the       Somali people at that time. Rather, there appears to have been a long       process of Cushites interacting and intermarrying with African Bantu       farmers while gradually driving them Southwards around the Horn of Africa       into Kenya. This process was complicated by Arabian traders establishing       trade along the whole coast of East Africa, with settlements and       interactions with local people along the coast. Even before Christ, there       were significant settlements of not only Arabs, but also Indian and       Malysian traders along the coast, intermarrying and introducing their       cultural influences.
Arabian traders from Southern Arabia, today’s Oman, introduced the Islamic       religion along the coast and it spread inwards, displacing Christianity       and other older local religions. This process started within the lifetime       of Mohamed, the Prophet. However, the Islamic religion in East Africa       retained strong elements of the older local religions, including the       earlier Christianity.
As one example of this phenomenon, the circumcision of women plays an important role in most of the older religions of this region. (The partial       or complete removal of the clitoris in a semi-religious ceremony.) Although circumcision of women is not mentioned in the Koran, it has been       retained as a key and mandatory element of the Islamic faith as practiced       today in most of East Africa, even though it is not practiced by Islamic       people in most other Islamic countries. This same example also applies to       the earlier Christian religion, since many Christian ethnic groups in this       region also practice circumcision of women, as well as of men. In fact the       practice of polygamy along the rules of Islam is common even among members       of Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths, that were introduced much later.       Similarities among religions have contributed to a high level of tolerance       for different religions as well as a large number of conversions       back-and-forth within the lifespan of individuals in some cases.<112>
A.4.2 Founding the Somali Ethnic Group
There were many Arab settlers along the Coast of East Africa, who       intermarried with local people and had cultural influence in this region.       A very small number of Arab settlers founded the current Somali ethnic       group about 1200 A.D. At that time, it appears that the territory which is       now the Republic of Somaliland, the former British Somaliland, was       occupied primarily by the Oramo ethnic group. They are a Cushitic ethnic       group that makes up about 40% of the population of Ethiopia today —       sometimes called the Galla, although they themselves do not like the name       of Galla. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the Somali and       Oramo languages are both distinct Cushitic languages that are more similar       to each other than to other nearby Cushitic languages, such as of the       Afars (Danakils) living today as neighbors both in Djibouti (40% of the       population) and in the Danakil Desert of Eastern Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The following Somali legend concerning its foundations seems to be       reasonably substantiated by the available evidence.<113,113a>
Darod landed first at Heis, about 10 miles (16 km) West of Mait on the       Northern Coast of the Republic of Somaliland. Isaq probably landed later       at Mait, where there is still a stone memorial at his grave. They married       local women, developed a traditional clan structure based upon descendants       on the male side, and gradually spread out, particularly into the South,       including Eastern Ethiopia, the former Italian Somalia, and Northern       Kenya. They either assimilated local people by marrying their women or       drove them back so that they made up well over 90% of the population in       their territory. When Somalis and Oramos meet each other as strangers on a       street today, they are usually unable to distinguish whether the other       person is a Somali or an Oramo, unless they are wearing traditional       clothing or begin to speak in their own native language.
There are also hypotheses that the Oramos were primarily herders of cattle,       which were susceptible to the frequent minor and major droughts. The       Arabian influence on the Somalis placed a higher emphasis upon camels,       sheep, and goats — which were better suited for this environment.       Whenever the Oramos moved out of dry rangelands during periods of drought,       the Somalis pushed them back toward Ethiopia, with their better mixture of       livestock.<114>
This simple version is complicated by the fact that some Somali clans were       founded by at least two earlier settlers, Ram Nag and Samarone. They       probably were Arabs who landed at or near Zeila, next to the border with       Djibouti. Therefore, Darod and Isaq are not the oldest forefathers of the       Somali ethnic group and not all of the Somali ethnic group derive directly       from them. Yet, they are considered to be the cultural heros or fathers       who brought their relatives together within the clan structure that now       defines the Somali ethnic group. Most Somalis also claim to be direct       descendents of the Prophet Mohamed (founder of the Islamic religion), who       is their religious hero.
Darod married a daughter of Dir Irrir, a great grandson of Ram Nag.       Therefore, all of the descendents of Ram Nag became relatives of the       descendents of Darod — as in-laws on the side of his wife.
These early relationships are illustrated in Figure A-4-1, including the       foundations of a few of the Somali clans and groups of clans.

      Figure A-4-1: The Foundations of the Somali Ethnic Group
The Somali people, as in most ethnic groups of this region, only use given       first names and no family name, as is customary in Europe. For better       identification, each individual states the names of his or her father,       grandfather, etc. to an optional number of levels after their own given       name. This is often confusing for us, since we often call a Somali with       the name of X Y Z simply Mr. Z. However, this is improper, since Y, the       name of his father, is more important than Z, the name of his grandfather.       Women also have a given name plus the names of their father, grandfather,       etc. Therefore, married women do not take on any of the names of their       husband when they marry. Sometimes, the given name is replaced by a       nickname. When a clan is based upon a man who is better known by his       nickname that his given name, then the clan may bear the nickname, rather       than the given name of the founder. The word “Sheikh” is usually used as a       title, rather than as a name. It can be included as appropriate in the       list of given names that a person uses.
Many Somali men have memorized the names of all of their male ancestors       back to these origins, usually about 25 or more generations back, which       does agree with the alleged origin about 800 years ago, since 800 / 25 =       32 as the average age of fathers when each son was born. This leads to the       unusual situation where each Somali knows his own individual heritage in       great detail and depth, but very little about the overall big historical       picture — the exact opposite of Europeans who know their big historical       picture much better but do not know their own individual heritages in       nearly this depth or detail. When the first modern census is taken, using       computers for processing the data, it should be possible to put together a       fairly accurate genealogy of the Somali ethnic group, going back about 25       generations to its foundations.
Some experts challenge at least parts of this legend for the creation of       the Somali ethnic group. As examples, some people believe that

  • Isaq was a later descendent of       Dir Irrir Zumali,

  • there was a son with the name       of Esi between Irrir and Dir,

  • Madoba< was a son of Dir       instead of Irrir, and

  • the Gadabursi group of clans       are also descendents of Dir Irrir Zumali rather than a separate Arab       settler by the name of Samarone.

There also appear to be a       small number of descendents from at least 8 brothers of Zumali Ram Nag.       They are not shown in Figure A-4-1, which is only a simplification to see       the overall structure. As one example, one brother was Meyle Zumali Ram       Nag and the Hawadle clan was formed about 3 generations later by a       grandson or great-grandson. Many members of the Hawadle clan live in       Mogadishu and they have played an important role as mediators in the       conflict in Mogadishu between the supporters of Ali Mahdi and General       Aidid.
It may not be so important for us to solve the uncertainties of the       origins of the various Somali groups of clans. Rather, it is more       important for us to understand the relationships of clans within the major       groups of clans — in order to understand the current political situation       in Somalia. When the first modern census is taken, it should be possible       to resolve the uncertainties at the top of this clan structure.
There is no clear proof as to where the name “Somali” comes. Some people       claim that it comes from the two words “so”, meaning “go”, and “mal       meaning the verb “milk”. Whenever a visitor visited a family of Somalis,       the first words that he usually heard were “so mal”, meaning to go fetch       some milk to treat the guests.<115> However, the focal point of the       discussion above is upon the role of Zumali Ram Nag as the key father of       the Somali people. Therefore, we suspect that the name “Somali” comes from       the name “Zumali”, with a slightly different spelling and pronunciation.       The Somalis themselves sometimes spell the name “Zumali” as “Samaale” and       sometimes refer to him as Sheikh Cushman. There is also an Arabic word       with similar pronunciation, meaning “wealthy”. The Somalis sometimes       divide themselves into the Somaale (usually nomads) and Saab (usually       settlers between the 2 rivers).
We should also at least note that there are a large number of small clans       who do not appear to fit into this structure at all, but are more-or-less       considered to belong to the Somali< ethnic group today. Some of them
* live in specific locations, closely associated with other clans, such as       the possibly pre-Somali Hinjinleh and Magdleh clans, that live together       with the Dhulbahante clan,

  • the Turyer< clan, who also       live together with the Dhulbahante clan,

  • descendents of Turkish, Arabic,       and Portuguese settlers, who live mainly in Mogadishu and Merca, or

  • the Zeilawi< clan, which is a       mixed race from the ancient city of Zeila; or

* are uniformly distributed       throughout all of the Somali people, such as the pre-Somali Midgan clans       (Musa Derieh and Madiban< who are usually hunters< or leather workers,

  • the Yibir clan, especially       among the Majerteen clan, who are sorcerers, and

  • the pre-Somali Tomal clan, who       are usually blacksmiths.

Whenever a son is born, a       member of the Yibir clan comes. If the family does not pay the Yibir with       an animal or otherwise mistreat him, they believe that their son will not       grow up to be normal.

      Figure A-4-2: Two Chains Leading into the Somali Ethnic Group
Figure A-4-2 illustrates the two larger chains that define the Somali       ethnic group. One is from the Hamitic Kingdom of Cush and the the other is       from Semitic Arab settlers. They merged together to create the Somali       ethnic group. Genetically and culturally, the older Cushitic chain is the       dominant force. The Somali language comes from this chain. In terms of       clan structure and religion, the more recent chain from about 4 Arab       settlers may be the dominant force. However, the Islamic religion was       present before these clans originated and both the clan structure and       other traditions are very similar to those of the Oramo ethnic group that       lived there earlier.
There is a very new genetic technique, based upon comparing the DNA       molecules in human mitichondria, that enables geneticists to estimate the       number of generations back when two people had a common mother. Using this       technique, it should now be possible, as an example, to determine how       closely the different Cushitic ethnic groups are related to each other.       This technique may be very useful in closing the gap from about 330 AD       until about 1200 AD, where we know very little about how the Cushitic       people evolved.<116>
Concerning religion, these 4 Arab settlers, as well as others in the       region at that time, were Sunni Moslems belonging to the Kadirieh sect.       Practically all Somalis are Moslems today. Around the end of the last       century, the Sudanese Mohamed Salih founded the Salihiya sect. There may       be parallels between the role of this sect in Islam and the reformist       roles of Martin Luther and John Calvin in Christianity. The Somali, Sayid       Mohamed Abdullah Hassan, known in Great Britain as the “Mad Mullah” for       fighting against British colonialism, was converted to this sect in Mecca       by Mohamed Salih and then brought this reformist Islamic sect to Somalia       in 1895, where it has many followers today.<117>
However, the nomadic culture of the Cushites evolved in this region over a       much longer period of time, in equilibrium with the local ecology.       Therefore, the cultural and economic patterns were dominated by this       historical background. The Somali people kept their original Cushitic       language, although Arabic became their defacto written language for       religious matters.
Since the Somali language was not a written language until about 1972, the       Somali people developed an “oral tradition and “oral history”. They       preserved legends and history as both narratives and poems that they       passed down from generation to generation orally. Particularly the poems,       which are memorized word-for-word, transfer historical information from       one generation to the next with a minimal loss or distortion of       information. With the introduction of the new option of writing in their       own language, there was much literary activity after 1972. Part of this       activity consisted of documenting the existing oral history, part       consisted of creatively modifying this history in new forms, and part       consisted of glorification of the socialist revolution of General Barre,       with some parallels to art under Mao in China.<118>
Most of this oral history only goes back to the origins of the Somali       ethnic group, about 800 years ago. One could propose the hypothesis that       the introduction of the Islamic religion even earlier placed a greater       emphasis upon history after the arrival of Islam than the culture and       history within the framework of other earlier religions. This hypothesis       is based upon the more recent experience, where the conversion of Black       Africa to Christianity by missionaries in the last 2 centuries was       accompanied by Christian schools that taught European history while       neglecting or de-emphasizing traditional local history.
A.4.3 The Clan Structure of the Somali People
Many of the ethnic groups of Northeastern Africa and Arabia have clan       structures, where membership in a clan is based upon having the same male       ancestors. They are family trees of male descendants, that generally do       not consider the roles of women, unless a man has more than one wife and       there is a distinction between his sons by different wives. Much of the       early chapters of the Christian Holy Bible is devoted to documenting such       early Jewish clan structures.
However, this does not mean that women have no importance in such male       hierarchies. Rather, there are subtle roles for women, that differ in the       clan structures from one ethnic group to another ethnic group. As one       example, there are exogan ethnic groups, such as the Hadjerai, who are       farmers in the mountains of Tschad. Among the Hadjerais, it is forbidden       for a man to marry a woman from his own clan. He may marry several women,       but the process is complex. He has to serve practically as the slave of       each father-in-law for several years as was also practiced by the Jewish       people in ancient times.<119> Therefore most men have only one wife.       Although his wife joins him in living among his clan, she remains a member       of her original clan and does not join the clan of her husband — and her       children.<120>
Among the Somali clans, a man is free to marry a member of his own clan or       subclan, a member of any other clan or subclan, or a non-Somali. As       Moslems, Somali men are allowed to be married up to a maximum of 4 wives       at one time, but economic conditions seldom allow them to have more than 1       or 2 wives at one time. When a man dies, a brother sometimes marries the       widow as a part of assuring social security within the extended family.
Intermarriage among clans and subclans also has important political       functions. When a small group from one clan moves into a territory       dominated by another clan, it is prudent for their men to marry women from       the larger clan, and vice versa, in order achieve peaceful relations.       There are many similarities to the way that the royal families in Europe       intermarried for several hundred years, more out of political reasons than       simple love.
The importance of a given clan or subclan depends more upon the size of       the clan or subclan and its wealth, usually measured by the number of       animals that it owns, rather than the age of the clan or position of the       founding father in the Somali family hierarchy. Small clans may       effectively merge with larger clans for survival and small clans also       often live for long periods of time interspersed within a larger clan, as       if they were members of that clan.
Figure A-4-1 above illustrated the top of the hierarchy of the Somali       ethnic group, including some of the earliest clans or groups of clans. The       Somali ethnic group can be divided into 3 major groups of clans:

  1. the clans founded from       descendents of Ram Nag,

  2. the clans founded by a small       number of other Arab settlers,

  3. the clans founded by original       inhabitants, who do not derive on the male side from Arab settlers who       arrived about 1200 AD.

For the clans founded by Ram       Nag, it appears to be reasonably certain that Ram Nag was an Arab settler       and that his wife was a local Oramo woman. Going down the family tree from       Ram Nag, his son Zumali Ram Nag and one of his several grandsons, Irrir       Zumali Ram Nag, played a major role in defining the Somali clan structure.       Figure A-4-3 illustrates the structure of the clans founded by the 9 sons       of Zumali, but not yet going into detail for the descendents of Irrir       Zumali. One of these clans, the Hawadle, has played a significant role in       the fighting in Mogadishu between the factions of General Aidiid and Ali       Mahdi, since they have been one of the several neutral clans in the middle       who have stopped some fighting between these two factions.

      Figure A-4-3: The Somaale People, Defined by Zumali Ram Nag
Figure A-4-1 above already illustrates the next level below, for the clans       founded by descendents of Irrir. There is still some confusion concerning

  • whether Dir is a son of Irrir,       or a grandson with Esi in between, and

  • whether Madoba was a son of       Irrir or a son of Dir.

Figure A-4-4 shows the       structure of the clans founded by descendents of Dir. There is also some       dispute here concerning whether Isaq, the founder of the Isaq group of       clans was a descendent of Dir or not. The alleged position of Isaq in this       hierachy under Dir is shown in Figure A-4-4. However, there is some       evidence that Isaq was an Arab settler who landed on the Somali coast       sometime after Darod landed there.

Figure       A-4-4: The Foundations of the Dir Group of Clans

      Figure A-4-5: The Foundations of the Hawiye Group of Clans
Figure A-4-5 illustrates the hierarchy of the clans founded by Hawiye       Irrir Zumali Ram Nag, now known as the Hawiye group of clans.<121>
The Hawiye group of clans is a large and complex group of clans, where it       is necessary to understand relationships among subclans as well as clans.<122>
Two of the several major clans in the Hawiye group of clans are the Habar       Gedir clan and the Abgal clan, where each clan has several major subclans.       General Mohamed Farah Hassan (`Aidid’) comes from the Saad subclan of the       Habar Gedir clan and Ali Mahdi comes from the Harti subclan of the Abgal       clan. In the fighting in Mogadishu, the personal loyalties of the       respective subclans to General `Aidid’ and Ali Mahdi respectively have       been as important than personal loyalties of these two clans. Therefore,       the “clan bases” for personal loyalty and support for these two leaders       has been relatively small, probably representing less than 1% of the       Somali people. (In the Index, you will see that we have listed over 60       different Somali clans, which is far from being complete, and in this case,       we are talking about 2 subclans from the approximately dozen subclans of       these two clans!) It is extremely misleading when reporters visit       Mogadishu for a few days and then report that the fighting there is       primarily a clan conflict between the Habar Gedir and Abgal clans and even       exaggerating further that these two clans are “the” two major clans in       Somalia!
There are also other major related clans and subclans that make up a       substantial part of the population in Mogadishu. They include the Hintire       subclan of the Abgal clan, the Murasade clan, the Gugundhabe clan, and the       Sheikh Gendershe subclan of the Sheikhal clan — all belonging to the       Hawiye group of clans. There are also the Hawadle clan, that are       descendants of Meyle Zumali Ram Nag and do not belong to any of the major       groups of clans.
It should also be noted that these individual Hawiye clans are also spread       out very widely geographically. As one example, the Qudubi subclan of the       Sheikkal clan lives primarily in the Republic of Somaliland, over 1000 km       away from the Sheihk Gendershe subclan of the same clan that lives mainly       in Mogadishu. Most of the Habar Gedir clan, of General Aidid, live near       Galkayo in the Muduq Region, about 600 km from Mogadishu. In fact, most of       the members of the Saad subclan (General Aidid) of the Habar Gedir clan       and of the Harti subclan (Ali Mahdi) of the Abgal clan do not live in       Mogadishu.
There are claims that Abgal, the founder of the Abgal clan, had 8 sons and       1 daughter, and that this daughter married Habar Gedir. Therefore, she is       supposed to be the matriarch of all members of the Saad subclan (General       `Aidid’). Therefore, the members of the Abgal clan consider themselves to       be clan uncles of the Saad subclan. This would imply that the two subclans       of General `Aidid’ and Ali Mahdi are very closely related in the clan       structure. However, the chart of Figure A-4-5 shows several generations of       difference between Habar Gedir and Abgal, which may challenge either these       claims or the details of this chart. In any event, they have had no       previous history of fighting each other.

      Figure A-4-6: The Foundations of the Isa Group of Clans
Figure A-4-6 illustrates the hierarchy of clans founded by Isa Madoba       Irrir Zumali Ram Nag, now known as the Isa group of clans. As noted       earlier, there is uncertainty as to whether Madoba was a son of Irrir or       Dir. There are also 3 other clans that live together with the Isa group of       clans, even though they were founded by 3 different men, of unknown       origins, probably Arab settlers (Urweina, Wardikh, and Horone). Since most       of the Isa group of clans did not live in British Somaliland, this chart       is probably tentative and incomplete.
Usually, only the sons of a man are listed that led to the formation of       clans under them.<123>

      Figure A-4-7: The Foundations of the Isaq Group of Clans
Figure A-4-7 illustrates the hierarchy of clans founded by Isaq, now known       as the Isaq group of clans. Each of the 6 major clans has a complex       structure of subclans. The chain of subclans down to the Esa Musa subclan       are shown as an example, since this subclan was involved in fighting at       Burao and Berbera during 1992.

      Figure A-4-8: The Foundations of the Darod Group of Clans       Figure A-4-8 illustrates the hierarchy of clans founded by Darod and a       daughter of Dir Irrir Zumali Ram Nag, now known as the Darod group of       clans. The Aurtoble clan is a relatively small clan that lives       interspersed with the larger Majerteen clan — even though they are quite       far apart in this family tree. However, the Majerteen, Dhulbahante, and       Warsangeli clans live as neighbors, which is not surprising, due to their       close relations. The are often referred to as the “Harti group of clans”,       since they have Harti as a common ancestor.

      Figure A-4-9: The Foundations of the Gadabursi Group of Clans
Figure A-4-9 shows the foundations of the Gadabursi group of clans,       founded by Samarone. One peculiarity of this particular group of clans is       that the Habar Affan clan is composed of the descendents of 3 descendents       of Samarone, plus the descendents of 4 other men of unknown origin, most       likely also Arab settlers (Hebjirreh, Jibrain, Ali Ganun, and Gobo). As       noted earlier, there is a dispute concerning whether the Gadabursi were       founded by Samarone, an Arab settler, or by Ahmed, a grandson of Dir.

Figure       A-4-10: The Structure of the Saab Group of Clans

The Somalis sometimes think of       the Somali people as being divided primarily between the Samaale,       descendents of Zumali Ram Nag, and the Saab. The Samaale are primarily       nomads who are widely scattered in the region and the Saab are settled       farmers, living mainly between the two rivers of Juba and Shebelle in the       former Italian Somalia. We have not yet been able to trace the origins of       the Saab group of clans and we do not know whether they are organized       internally with the same structures as the other Somalia clans. Figure       A-4-10 shows the structural relationships among some of the main clans in       this group. The names “Siyed” and “Sagal” in the Somali language mean “8”       and “9” respectively, for the two groups of 8 and 9 clans in the Rahanweyn       group of clans.
The Rahanweyn clan or group of clans is important for understanding the       situation in Somalia today since they are the predominant clan living in       and around Baidoa. Since their SDM liberation movement essentially split       the two Marehan/Darod groups of supporters of General Barre after he fled       Mogadishu in January 1991, they have been special targets for genocide and       oppression by the military forces of General Barre since January 1991.       This is the reason why there have been so many former farmers and their       families starving to death in Baidoa. These victims were almost entirely       members of the Rahanweyn clan who suffered deliberate oppression by the       military forces of General Barre.

Groups of Clans Population Camels Sheep Goats Cattle
People %
Isa 55,000 8.6% 125,000 225,000 225,000 30,000
Gadabursi 300,000 29.0% 60,000 100,000 300,000 60,000
Isaq 420,000 35.6% 710,000 1,390,000 720,000 108,100
  Habar Awal Saad Musa 100,000 15.6% 125,000 370,000 130,000 100,000
  Habar Awal Esa Musa 30,000 4.7% 15,000 100,000 200,000 5,000
  Arab 20,000 3.1% 50,000 80,000 30,000  
  Eidegalla 40,000 6.2% 100,000 170,000 50,000  
  Habar Yunis (Burao) 90,000 14.1% 220,000 370,000 110,000  
  Habar Yunis (other) 40,000 6.2% 50,000 100,000 100,000 2,000
  Habar Tojala Mohd Abokr 60,000 9.4% 150,000 200,000 100,000 1,000
  Habar Tojala Mohd Abokr           and Omr 40,000 6.2% 40,000 200,000 200,000 100
Darod 120,000 18.8% 265,000 440,000 200,000 25,000
  Dhulbahante 100,000 15.6% 240,000 370,000 130,000 20,000
  Warsengeli 20,000 3.1% 25,000 70,000 70,000 5,000


640,000 100% 1,200,000 2,335,000 1,645,000 223,100

      Figure A-4-11: Estimates for the Size of the Population and their       Livestock Herds within the former British Somaliland as of 1944
Figure A-4-11 shows the relative sizes of the major clans within the       former British Somaliland as of 1944. These relative sizes give at least a       first estimate for the current relative sizes of the major clans in the       Republic of Somaliland today. However, the total size of the population       has grown substantially since then, to a little less than 3 million, and a       few hundred thousand Isaqs were killed during the program of genocide       against them in the early 1980’s and the war-of-liberation that resulted       from this genocide — which probably implies that they now have a slightly       smaller relative size compared to the non-Isaq clans who suffered much       fewer casualties during the war-of-liberation.
Figure A-4-12 shows the locations of some clans and their liberation       movements as of 1991.

      Figure A-4-12: The Geographical Distribution of Major Liberation Movements       and Some Somali Clans in 1991
Footnotes for Appendix 4

103. This Appendix           is copied from Chapter 1 of “Somaligate:  The Decision to           Suppress Democracy in Somalia”, Abdulkarim Ahmed Guleid and Jack L.           Davies, Davies Consulting GmbH.  Somali readers are invited to send           corrections and additions to the author.
104.  Genesis           10:1-8 in the Holy Bible. 
105.  “African Ark”,           Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, Collins Harvill, London, 1990, pp 80           and “Islam in Ethiopia”, J. S. Trimingham, London, 1952.
106. “Africans and           Their History”, Joseph E. Harris, New American Library, 1972, pages 36           and 42-45.
107. See “The City           of Meroe:  John Garstan’s Excavations in the Sudan”, by           Lázió Török, Kegan Paul International, 1992, London for more details           about the Kingdom of Cush.
108. See 1 Kings           10:1-13 
109. See also the           Holy Qur’an, Chapter 27, Verses 23 – 45 
110. Assuming an           average of 25 years per generation, 25 x 225 = approximately 5,625           years; i.e., approximately 3,600 B.C., which is earlier than some           historians claim that the Sabeans migrated to the Horn-of-Africa.
111. “African Ark”,           Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, Collins Harvill, London, 1990, pp 10,           17, 49-52
112. “Hadiya Bauern           in Ethiopia”, Museum für Völkerkunde in Frankfurt, 1979, pages 23 –            26.
113. See “A           General Survey of the Somaliland Protectorate: 1944 – 1950“,           by John A. Hunt, prepared as the final report on “An Economic Survey           and Reconnaissance of the British Somaliland Protectorate 1944-1950”           under the Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme D.484, and published           in 1951.  This “legend”           is summarized on pages 150-151 and the structure of the Somali clans           derived from these two founders is presented in detail in                     Table 21 on pages 125-150.
113a Note: This           reference with hyperlink was added after the publication of this book           in 1996: “Historical           Aspects of Genealogies in Northern Somali Social Structure (1)”,            I. M. Lewis, Reprinted from Journal of African History, Ill I (1962)           pp. 35 – 48 – This is an excellent analysis of the reliability of           Somali genealogies as passed down orally in documenting actual history.
114. “African Ark”,           Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, Collins Harvill, London, 1990, pp 176.
115. “Ursachen der           Arbeitslosigkeit, Inflation und Marktspaltung und ihre Auswirkungen           auf die Somalische Wirtschaft”, Mohamed Noor, Kyrill Method Verlag,           1991, pp 8.
116.  “The Recent           African Genesis of Humans:  Genetic studies reveal that           an African woman of 200,000 years ago was our common ancestor”, Allan           C. Wilson and Rebecca L. Cann, Scientific American, April 1992.
117. See “Socialist           Somalia:  Rhetoric & Reality”, Ahmed I. Samatar,           Institute for African Alternatives and Zed Books Ltd, 1988, pages            26-28
118. “Rise of           Written Somali Literature, B. W. Andrzejewski, the manuscript for a           speech given on 16 August 1975 at the Somali Institute of Development           Administration and Management, under the auspices of the Academy of           Culture.
119. As an example,           Jacob agreed to serve Laban for 7 years in order to marry Laban’s           daughter, Rachel — Genesis 29:18>
120. See “Sudan:           Landschaft, Mensche, Kulturen zwischen Niger und Nil” by Peter Fuchs,           Verlag Anton Schroll & Co, 1977, pp 107
121. We do not know           the original source of the detailed document that we used for           constructing this chart — probably from a member of the Hawiye group           of clans.
122. “A Summary of           the Political Situation in the Republic of Somaliland and the Former           Italian Somaliland”, Abdulkarim Ahmed Guleid and Jack L. Davies,           Davies Consulting GmbH, 9 March 1992, pp 7-8.
123.  This chart, as           most of the charts of clan structures was derived from the detailed           lists of descendents of the founders, 25 pages long, from “A General           Survey of the Somaliland Protectorate:  1944 – 1950” by           John A. Hunt.  Exceptions are the charts for the Dir, Hawiye, and Saab           groups of clans, which did not live in British Somaliland at that time           and were therefore not included in his lists, other than just their           founders.

56 Responses to “The Ethnic Origin Of The Somali People And Clan System”

  1. Anonymous said

    I dont liked

  2. Anonymous said

    It is pure ignorance when someone writes something that they have zero knoweldge about it. All i am going to say is research research research by the way it is not sheikal, they are called FIQI OMAR and have nothing to do with hawiye, seriously are you blind hawiye do not even ressemble to FIQI OMAR who are very distinguished people, very defined features, get your facts straight before writting something with no base “that is an advice”, hawiye do not even look anything like FIQI OMAR clan.

  3. yubaay said

    This cannot be right as the author is linking the Somali race to the fake and ill-conceived story of HAM and SHAM, shown in the bible (the old testimony). Here is how it goes – Prophet NOHA had two WHITE sons, HAM and SHAM. So, HAM neglected his father who was in need of help at the time and because of that his father cursed him and then he turned BLACK man. So they imply that all black people in the world had originated from HAM therefore we all cursed by god. Therefore, I cannot accept that the author of this article to base or relate my Somali origin to a fake Christian bible story.

  4. fake come on my mom laughed at this

  5. Dir said

    lol the artical is questionable, Very i mean but 1 thing thats right is ” 2 people from Hawiye caln destroyed a whole Nation ” well done

  6. mohamed said

    This is very wrong.the researcher heavily relied on one source of information and this can’t be acceptable.


    this is totally annoying…you have summerised the population of Daarod as 120000 not includind ortoble ,ogaden,marexaan, and many other clans….this is bull shit……..i think you took this information from isaq somali thats y they are many as indicated by your data…do alot of research ,,,,,you have tried

  8. Anonymous said

    this is the biggest lie I have ever read. I don’t think anyone will beleive this. The auther is trying to say all somalis are related. But we all know that is not true. And he really underestimated the Darood population. I think they are more than that Wersengali 20,000 that is a lie. And even the Isaaqs he don’t know the difference between tolgeclo (ahmed sheikh isaaq) and harar jeclo (ibraan, sanboor and musa sheikh isaaq). And come one 100,000 for Habar Jeclo, which is the biggest Isaaq clan by far.

  9. Mansour said

    This is realy sad. This author is probably educated in the west and sounds has no knowledge on Somali tribes or he is not being honest. Either way this is laughing matter. My mother smiles how this auther is lost.

  10. nasro said

    What is so funny is the author misspell theoo Ajuuraan clan whoo rule the horn of Africa for sixteen hundreed and fought the gaalo madoow isn,t that sad.

  11. Ayman said


    Estimates for the Size of the Population and their Livestock Herds within the former British Somaliland as of 1944

    The statistic about the population was taken at the time of British Colonial rule in the British Somaliland in 1940’s. Darood who lives under British in that part are Dulbahante, Warsengeli e.t.c not all Darood lives in the british Somaliland which excludes Ogaden, Majeertein, Mareehan e.t.c.

  12. mustafa said

    this so anoying and untrue tale

  13. Sheekh said

    This article shows that the Hawiye clan is the absolut majority of the Somali People.

  14. abdi said

    the problem is his it’s our parents, every somali mother son has been brain washed by the stories of numerical greatness of his/her clan. no one was ever told any weakness of what so ever about this clans.. so no matter what, evry one’s clan must be super human… that’s why somalis are where they ley to day…

  15. hassan abasaini said

    whoever accumulated this lineage of Somali clans has been given incorrect, unbalanced information in every aspect because of information providers, the very bad monsoon winds and cyclones of the civil war was affected. And buy nature these people claim superiority since they settled in the horns. Another very important point to mention always they shift their ancestry blood relation from one sect to another for preserving interest only. It appears they do not have actual true lineage.

  16. Jerry said

    Make faux leaves from gold craft paper to add metallic accents to the wreath.
    I have come out with 10 holiday gifts ideas that
    can help you in selecting your gifts. You can also order a personalized T-shirt or take him to a trip on hot-air balloon or
    dinner at a fine place.

  17. Adam said

    This is absolutely right

  18. Omar said

    Good effort but unfortunately unreliable. Too much details given shows how erroneous the facts are. Ram Nag?!, Number of goats, Ali Mahdi & Aidid (unnecessary), quoting books written by people who don’t understand much about Somali lineage, etc. DNA test filtered through oral Somali history; can give the indication of the most recent common ancestors.

  19. ubah said

    I’m more interested in the bibliography /references referred to these facts…

  20. Abdullahi said

    good to see it .

  21. adnaanbile said

    this author builds apropoganda and writed this post on his dream so it is wrong

  22. HUSSEIN said

    if this information was not taken from the somali elders in form of interview or written books by the somali authors it is definitely wrong.but we advise the writer to do more research consulting the concerned people (all somali tribes and clans)

  23. Anonymous said


  24. Bikko Horo said

    Bikko Horo AkA Mustafa Douale…

    This somewhat interesting, I see how some people are upset about the researcher`s result, but until today I notice vast Somalians that cannot interconnect themselves back to one root, this show that the majority of Somalis derives from Oromo, and by the way, as far as history and Abrahimcal faith`s concern, Noah had 4 kids, Ham, Sham & Haafid (Japhet). The Hawiya, Dir, Rahanweyn is a straight descendant of Oromo. Most Oromo historian can very well tell you the coming of Darood and Ishaaq.

  25. Garxajis Boy said

    waxani wax saxa maaha waana keliya wax aad mooday xaqiiqdana ka fog abti, caadifad yarna way ku haysa ee yarayso isaaq garxajis ba u badan, hawiyana abgaal, daaroodna harti (majeerten), iska ilaali sheeka reeraysiga

  26. Anonymous said


  27. Anonymous said


  28. Anonymous said

    I take me hat off 4 u 👏🏻

  29. Anonymous said

    nothing is 100% but the writer did a good job. l’am satisfied with his outcome.this is probably the most accurate description of somali people yet

  30. Omar said

    Honestly this guy sounds worse than the guy who wrote this in 1896 smh

    People back then had such an evil mindset.

  31. somaal said

    The guy who wrote this was just woke up and he does not know nothing his own background Somali people originally came from two different fathers and both fathers are Arabia but what these guys are confused is mother of children afterward were cush because they marriage orama lady and that is how they become different rest of oroma people so tell the im a person who can count my great grand fathers upto101 back where they come from and they were arab guys.
    so spmalis were one family in reality from arab father and cush mother.

  32. Anonymous said

    Frankly, i never thought to read such amount of nonsense in one day. Starting from the origin moving to territorial and regional structures not to mention paranoiac illusions, not to mentions numerouse mistakes in the tripal architecture.
    I’m not somali or even colored, but i must admit that you did worse than you think or wish.

  33. Anonymous said


  34. Abdi said

    hahahaha….. this is just a JOKE. The author is just trying to be funny. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT BEFORE YOU START WRITTING THIS GARBAGE.

  35. Zaki said

    Who ever made this must of been drunk very very drunk .
    Isaaq family are not from ram or sham whateva u want to call them . isaaq family originate from our phophet Mohamed may peace be upon him .

  36. Abdo said

    Isaaq are not from the prophets family (this is comming from a person who is isaaq)

  37. somalie said

    Hi I am new and i need to know more about my county and clan but i don’t now i need help
    The thing that I now is the name of my clan I don’t know how to write it but it’s sound like this ismail Yoonis or ismail yusuf and i know my dad is from Mogadishu
    Pls help me ❤

  38. Anonymous said


  39. Anonymous said

    qabyaalad somali ma fiicno just leave it

  40. j said

    aba haa wass ,habrata boof keda waa una

  41. Mohamed said

    Lool this was a good piece of work here. *pat ur shoulder* Id would advise you to do some more research, i cracked up when you labeled darod as only dulbahante and warsangli and how the darod people have the least camel population. It was pretty weird, ur prolly got this information from a isaaq person. (Not being triblist or anything guys) Whoever did this piece needs to work better but I appreciate the effort.

  42. Anonymous said

    this is thru wheter u like or not

  43. Whyoucare said

    LOL! Gadabursi has population of 300,000! crazy shit

  44. mahlal'iil said


  45. Anonymous said

    It’s great history of Somalia people, I’m Tabou we live in south Libya , north Chad , east Niger and Sudan we look very similar to Somalia ,Ethiopia, Rowand and Kennya and our ancestors came from Kush kingdom and now we are making a research about our brothers in the mentioned countries, so I need a help to find the connection between us , the language or the ethnicity

  46. Geedi said

    Hooyadaa beenta ka was Gudabiirsay baad tahay beenaale ah waxan aad malmaluuqday yaa kaa aqrisanaya?
    Orod ka aqriso buuga IM LUWIS
    tiradii Gudabiirsay waxa ay ahayd 45,000
    Xagee baad isaga qoratay 300.000?
    Dadka ma sidaada ayaad jaahil moodaysaa
    Ciise ayaa idinkaa badnaa
    Ciise muuse ayaad ingar ka badnaydeen

  47. Hussein said

    This man has made abig error by writing all false stories from the descendants of the Somali.Maybe he interviewed mad men who gave him illogical story which contracts to the truth

  48. Anonymous said

    This article is in accurate and utter nonsense in multiple ways.

  49. Anonymous said


  50. Anonymous said

    Pure garbage somalia predates white mans bible/stories while germanic tribes lived barbaric we were civilized and traded with the known world (google silkroad)

  51. Anonymous said

    The author is from Iceland so it makes sense why hes so dumb the pig fat must have gotten to hes head

  52. This nonsense was wrote by habar dugaag (AKA) Habar Gidr they’re the only one’s trying to come up with new somali map claiming people who are not hawiye won’t make your stupid dream come true. But hey who am I to judge?! Keep dreaming Alshabaab tribe

  53. Soomaali said

    What is to like or not to like? The fact remains that you could structure your own clans so SOMEONE else has done it for YOU.

  54. its the rtruth

  55. Anonymous said

    i am very happy to read this artcle i learned how tribes of somalia are described

  56. Anonymous said

    That is a lie big one,there is no evidence or history

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