Baardheere Jihad (1830's/1840's) and the subsequent Geledi wars of expansion (1846 - 1878)

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"Not all believers in Somalia subscribed to the interpretation of Islam propagated by the saints and adopted by such prominent leaders as the shaykh of Mereerey and the sultan of Geledi. The accommodation of Sufi Islam within the existing framework of Somali society produced for some Muslim purists a rather too comfortable conformity. In their eyes, the values of Islam were being distorted by the continued reliance on Somali xeer, by the anthropomorphic tendencies of the saint cults, and by the residue of pagan and magical practices that persisted despite the Somalis’ voiced adherence to the Faith of the Prophet.

The tensions between these divergent interpretations of Islam—together with many other stresses in nineteenth-century Somali society—were strikingly revealed by the circumstances surrounding the Baardheere jihad (holy war), an event still vividly remembered in southern Somali historical traditions. This nineteenth-century attempt at radical reform was inspired by a group of Somali shaykhs who founded the Jubba River jamaaca (religious settlement) which eventually became the town of Baardheere. From its modest beginnings in 1819 as a retreat for fewer than one hundred pious believers, the jamaaca grew steadily in numbers and influence. It drew adherents from a great many Somali clans; at its peak in about 1840 the movement probably counted twenty thousand supporters.

Although there exist many local traditions surrounding the military aspects of the jihad, its origins remain somewhat obscure. Baardheere itself was founded in 1819 by Shaykh Ibrahim Hassan Jeberow, a native of Dafeed, who had been refused permission to establish a reformist religious community in his home district. Dafeed sources claim that Shaykh Ibrahim was affiliated with the Ahmediya Order which developed out of the reformist teachings of Sayyid Ahmed ibn Idris al-Fasi (1760-1837) at Mecca. The religious zeal of the community, its militant emphasis on augmenting the number of its adherents, and the concentration of authority in the hands of its head shaykhs clearly fit J. S. Trimingham’s characterization of the Ahmediya Order’s branches elsewhere in Northeast Africa.

The Qadiriya brotherhood is known to have had some followers at Baraawe as early as the eighteenth century; but it is not generally believed by Somalis to have penetrated the southern interior before the efforts of Shaykh Uways Muhammad al-Barawi (1847-1909) in the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

The Qadiriya, moreover, had a reputation in Somalia of being a teaching order, emphasizing liturgical and mystical instruction rather than radical social reform. Finally, several early European explorers identified the Baardheere Muslims as Wahhabis, a militant fundamentalist sect that conquered much of the Arabian peninsula in the early years of the nineteenth century.

However, despite the known sympathies of the Ahmediya’s founder with Wahhabi ideas, and the known presence of Wahhabi reformers on the island of Socotra about 1800, there is no concrete evidence that Wahhabi zealots ever reached the Somali interior. It is possible that Baardheere was from the beginning an independent religious congregation with no specific tariiqa (order) affiliation, or one which incorporated radical Muslims from different tariiqas, as Massimo Colucci suggests.

In sum, there is not a consensus on Baardheere’s religious antecedents. The question merits further investigation, since Baardheere produced the only jihad in modern Somali history apart from the famous anticolonial holy war of Sayyid Muhammad Abdullah Hassan (d. 1921), which was directed largely against foreign infidels.

The Baardheere Muslims aimed their reforms at their Somali neighbors. As part of their plan to purify Islamic practice, the reformers had outlawed the use of tobacco, abolished popular dancing and excessive social intercourse between the sexes, and instructed the women of Baardheere to wear the veil. They also prohibited the ivory trade through their district, because they considered the elephant one of the unclean animals

Some of my Somali sources suggested that the reformers were opposed to the numerous local cults of saint worship; but these sources could not identify any tombs that had been destroyed (as happened, for example, during the Wahhabi occupation of Socotra). Other informants mentioned that the qiil (local interpretation of Shari’atic law) of Baardheere countenanced divorce and inheritance practices that ran counter to the prevailing Shafi’ite tradition that had begun to penetrate the country.

Again, there may exist Arabic texts that would shed some light on the nature of the religious controversy; to date, none has been found.

In the mid-1830s, the Baardheere movement entered a militant phase, first under Shaykh Ali Duure and Shaykh Abiker Aden Dhurow then under the renowned Sherif Abdirahman and Sherif Ibrahim. The decision to expand the jihad was probably aided by the reformers’ alliance with large numbers of migrating nomads that had recently arrived in the vicinity. Expeditions of armed warriors fanned out through the Doy pasturelands southeast of Baardheere and overran farming settlements just east of Baydhabo. Shaykh Abiker also led expeditions against the Warday (Oromo) west of the Jubba and attacked the trading town of Luuq on the river to the north. In 1840, the reformers reached Baraawe and sacked it, forcing its inhabitants to submit to the new regulations. This event is significant in that Baraawe was a noted center of Sufi learning; both Ahmed Yusuf of the Gobroon and Shaykh Madow Ma’allin of the Hintire had studied there.

The dramatic success of the jihadists ultimately provoked a concerted response from the clans of the interriver area. The focal point of the ensuing counteroffensive was Yusuf Muhammad, the sultan of Geledi and a direct descendant of that Gobroon shaykh whom tradition remembers as having united the Geledi and driven out the Silcis. In sannad Arbaca Baardheere (the “Wednesday year of Baardheere”—1843), Yusuf set out from Afgooye with an army of warriors from the Geledi and its allied clans. Swinging in a great arc through Dafeed and Baydhabo, his expedition gathered men from virtually every clan along its route.

It is said that an army of forty thousand arrived and camped before the walls of Baardheere. After a siege which lasted several days, Yusuf’s forces stormed the town and burned it to the ground. Its inhabitants fled or were killed; there were so many huts in Baardheere, said one informant, that the fires remained warm for a month. With the deaths of Sherif Abdirahman and Sherif Ibrahim in battle, the one notable instance of jihad in southern Somalia came to a swift end.

First of all, that the jihad originated in Baardheere proves that contemporary currents of Islamic reform reached far into the Somali interior. The founder of the Baardheere jamaaca —Ibrahim Hassan Jeberow—came from Daafeed, a district located only forty miles from the religious centers of Muqdisho and Marka. On the other hand, his successors as heads of the community came from Saramaan, Molimad, and Hakaba, all well upcountry. There is evidence that Ibrahim Hassan himself had made the pilgrimage to Mecca before founding Baardheere, but his successors may not have—their names do not contain the title “Haji” which virtually all Somali pilgrims insert.

From this we can infer that ideas of radical reform were being propagated in Somalia itself.

The massive opposition to the reform movement can have several explanations. Many Somalis who may have been unmoved by the religious message of Baardheere were clearly alarmed by the threat it posed to the ivory trade. The missionary Ludwig Krapf noted the importance of this factor in his observations on the neighboring Galla country in the 1850s.

In the 1890s the merchants of Luuq who had been victimized by the reformers’ army and had later joined Sultan Yusuf’s expedition still bitterly recalled the ivory prohibition.

Indeed, one of Yusuf’s first measures as he sought to restore tranquility to the area after his assault on Baardheere was the revitalization of the ivory trade to Baraawe.

It is also conceivable that there was a “regional” factor involved in the intense resistance to the jihad . Although most of the leaders in the Baardheere movement were members of southern Somali clans, there is evidence to suggest that many of their followers were nomads from various Daarood clans and subclans that had recently arrived from the north. Oral traditions do point to an increase in fighting between local clans and northern immigrants in the early 1800s.

Moreover, traditions of those Daarood now living in Jubaland speak of their mid-nineteenth-century migrations across the Jubba River, which would have placed them in the vicinity of Baardheere precisely during the epoch of the jihad’s expansion.

The nomadic Daarood, whose faith was not linked to the local cults of the interriver area, were natural allies of the puritanical reformers, particularly when they could cash in on the booty derived from the holy war. If these northern nomads did in fact participate in the jihad, it would explain why the reformers enjoyed their greatest success in the Doy and its peripheral villages; for the Doy pastureland had always been something of a no-man’s-land attractive to pastoral immigrants from the more arid central Horn. Daarood participation would also explain the vigor of the southerners’ response under Yusuf Muhammad whose claimed descent from Muhammad Digil, the recognized ancestor of most southern Somali clans, provided a focus of southern identity against the Daarood.

Whether or not commercial and regional factors bore on the eventual outcome of the jihad, it is clear that factors of a political-religious nature militated against Baardheere’s success. Because saint worship and the mystical arts had become embedded in the existing political culture of the region, the reformers’ attacks on these practices were in essence attacks on the existing political order. Divining, tacdaar (involving on occasion frenzied dancing and chanting), and the veneration of clan ancestors were all elements of popular culture. As has been seen, they were important in politics as well as in spiritual affairs. By shunning these practices, the Baardheerans were challenging the sources and symbols of local political authority.

Then, too, Baardheere presented a contrasting model of religio-political leadership. Spiritual authority was clearly not inheritable in Baardheere: the head shaykhs of the community came from five different clans during its twenty-four-year existence. On at least one occasion, an anticipated successor was deemed unworthy to succeed.

In contrast, Sufi-oriented saints and lineage heads enjoyed their positions of authority largely because of their inherited baraka and prestigious patrilines. A system like Baardheere’s where leadership was, ideally, based on religious merit and personal zeal for reform was clearly unacceptable to the local wielders of authority.

Moreover, the internal hierarchy of command in Baardheere is evidence that the reformers sought to create a centralized administrative structure by imposing religious taxes and by appointing khaliifas to the regions they conquered. This centralized structure was in direct contrast to the narrower, tomb-centered spheres of influence that local saints had carved out. Baardheere’s independent and central religious authority also challenged the very basis of the authority of men like Yusuf Muhammad—that is, an authority deriving not only from a religiously gifted lineage, but also from a series of carefully guarded and locally efficacious “secrets” represented by the “books” of the family.

Thus it is scarcely surprising that Sultan Yusuf perceived the Baardheere movement as a challange to his regional political supremacy. That he was able to mobilize the number of warriors he did attests to the widespread support he enjoyed in the interriver area. We can surmise that most clan leaders and local wadaaddo (religious specialists) shared his determination to defend the local variant of Islamic political culture against the radical transformation sought by Baardheere. It is no coincidence that, apart from the districts around Baardheere, the only active support for the jihad came from certain elements in the coastal towns. Urbanized Arabs and Somalis were less committed to the practices and premises of the hinterland tradition and hence presumably were more open to appeals for radical reform.

In the guise of a rivalry between two religious leaders—the shaykh of Baardheere and the sultan of Geledi—the Baardheere wars can be seen to represent the conflict between two views of politics and two political systems. The theocracy envisioned by the reformers was Page: 143 incompatible with a system of politics based on clanship, lineage baraka, and local religious cults. According to one informant, Shaykh Ibrahim of Baardheere had offered the Geledi sultan some religious books and had tried to make a sameen (gift of peace) with him based on a common Islamic bond; but Yusuf consulted his own books before marching to Baardheere, and he defeated the reformers with an army drawn from the components of a traditional clan alliance.

Without pushing the analogy too far, the Baardheere polity recalled the religious ideology and theocratic structure of the Ajuraan period, whereas the Geledi confederation represented a religio-political tradition whose roots lay in the post-Ajuraan milieu. In the end, the latter tradition prevailed. Its victory was a mark of the success of the marriage between popular Islam and Somali political culture.

In concluding this chapter, I want to compare three descriptions of the fall of Baardheere. The first was obtained from the shaykhs of a revived (but no longer militant) Baardheere community in 1891 by the Italian explorer Ugo Ferrandi.

It is essentially the same account told to I. M. Lewis during his brief visit to Baardheere in the 1950s.

The conquerors entered, plundered everything, and set fire to the town. And, thus, for twenty years Baardheere remained deserted. The people of Buur Hakaba and Baydhabo feared the constant magic of the Baardheere diviner, who always foretold when an army was coming to attack the Iberay [“the robed ones,” as the reformers were known by the upcountry people]. The people went to Afgooye to find one of the Gobroon practitioners. This man they brought to the Buur, and he told them to place some red earth on their camels’ backs and to sit backward on their camels. When the diviner of Baardheere saw the camels, he said, “Those men are still in the region of the red earth [near the Buur] and they are riding in the other direction.” In this way the Iberay were deceived and defeated.

Part of the secret of the Geledi was to travel on Wednesdays. Commanding the river Jubba near Baardheere was a man called Aw Bahar Aftiin Ali Nurow, who could control the crocodiles of the river. [The name Bahar signifies a member of the group of fisher-ferrymen who are believed to have special powers over river crocodiles.] Yusuf Muhammad called on one of his own bahar, Yusuf Osman Baddey, who drove the crocodiles away and permitted the army to cross the river. [For this reason, some informants remembered the war as “Baardheere of the two Yusufs.”

To succeed in the battle, the Geledi made some tacdaar with a plant called saleelimo [which grows along the Jubba]. They also brought three haan [woven baskets] filled with bees which they sent to attack the army of Baardheere. They attacked from all sides and thus Baardheere was destroyed.

It is possible that these three versions of the siege of Baardheere represent merely specific prejudices and perspectives; the first, that of the vanquished and the second and third, that of the victors. In light of what has been said previously, it is not unusual that the Geledi and their allies would attribute their success to the superior tacdaar of the Gobroon shaykhs. Nor would one expect that the conquered Baardheerans would view their loss as the result of inferior spiritual reserves; hence the first version deals with the defeat in strictly military terms.

However, the striking contrast between the two versions—which, after all, proclaim the same result—compels the question: Are we not perhaps dealing here with two strains of religious thought, or, to quote Trimingham, two “modes of spiritual outlook”?

That of Baardheere is more scholarly, pragmatic, and “international”; that of the Geledi more popular, mystically oriented, and parochial.

While we cannot be certain, we might surmise that the Baardheere jihadists viewed the struggle in classical Islamic terms, as one of “corruption versus reform.” Indeed, a few years after the fall of Baardheere, a jihadist sympathizer wrote to the people of Baraawe urging them to throw off their allegiance to the Geledi sultan:

Now certainly our dead will go to Paradise while theirs will go to Hell, according to God’s words: They will be afflicted by the same sorrows as you, but you will be able to hope from God that which they will not be allowed to hope. . . . If you follow the sectarian crowd of the unbeliever Yusuf [of Geledi], there will no longer be bonds between our families. . . . Greet for us your learned ones, who fear God, those whom he does not turn from the true way and who do not join with the sect of that ravenous son of an ass.

The appeal is made in the language of Muslim reform and urges a return to the true way. One cannot imagine the Gobroon shaykhs talking in those terms.

My Geledi informants readily acknowledged that their Sultan Yusuf was accused by the Baardheere shaykh of being the leader of a pack of infidels. However, for the Geledi, who considered themselves Muslims, the choice was not between religious self-reform or moral stagnation. Islam was not at stake in the war; but the prestige of their sultan and their sultan’s tacdaar was. We might conjecture that the Geledi saw the struggle as a contest between rival Islamic “practitioners,” between two repositories of mystical power.

Whereas religious writings from the period—if indeed they exist—would no doubt shed more light on the causes of the war, the evidence from oral traditions provides us with a unique grass-roots perspective. It suggests, I think, that there existed in nineteenth-century southern Somalia at least two distinct strains of Islamic thought and practice. One, informed by currents of reform in the Islamic scriptural tradition, directed its adherents actively to promote administrative, legal, and liturgical change in the wider society. The other, more influenced by the tradition of the saints, saw Islam within the framework of local social relations, that is, as a resource in the constant struggle for material and spiritual security.

For the reformers of Baardheere, the only way to salvation was to follow Quranic imperatives more rigorously. But to their opponents, salvation lay in following the saint, or the sultan, with the most demonstrably powerful baraka and karaamo. In saying this, we need not assume that one strain of Islam was more pure than another. Rather it is to recognize that there was not a single Somali idea system but several, as the variant traditions tempt us to suggest. The circumstances of the Baardheere jihad reveal, among other things, the diverse social forms that Islamic culture could generate and the radically different views that Somali Muslims could hold of their world."

The following account of the Baardheere jihad relies on the testimonies of a number of informants, most importantly Laashin Abiker Osman of Afgooye, Shaykh Yusuf Muhyeddin of Mereerey, Mustafa Shaykh Hassan of Baydhabo, and Ma’allin Abdullahi Abdirahman Aden of Tagal Molimad; on an unpublished manuscript containing notes and excerpts from the diary of the Italian explorer and administrator Ugo Ferrandi, “Prima spedizione Ferrandi in Somalia” (no. 777 in the National Museum Library, Muqdisho); and on the following published works: Ugo Ferrandi, “Gli scek di Bardera,” Bollettino della Società africana italiana 11 (1892): 5-7; William Christopher, “Extract from a Journal by Lieut. William Christopher,” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society 14 (1844): 90-93; Guillain, Documents 3: 35-39; Ludwig Krapf, Reisen in Ost Afrika (Korntal, 1858), pp. 206-7; Otto Kersten, ed., Baron Carl Claus von der Decken’s Reisen in Ost Afrika in den Jahren 1862 bis 1865, vol. 2 (Leipzig, 1871), pp. 317-19; and I. M. Lewis, “La Communità (‘Giamia’) di Bardera sulle rive del Giuba,” Somalia d’Oggi, vol. 2, no. 1 (1957), pp. 36-37.

By Lee V.Cassanelli

-Buur Hakaba











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Keep the convo civil guys and stick to the bloody topic.

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Renewers of the Age: Holy Men and Social Discourse in Colonial Benaadir
By Scott Steven Reese - Shiekh Abdullahi AL Qutbi a member of the Qadriyya school of thought

Shaykh Abd Al-Rahman bin Ahmad al-Zayla'i - another member of the same school of thought

Shaykh Uways bin Muhammad al-Baraawe AUN- the most influential sheikh of the south same school of thought

@Canuck also created a thread in regards to Two 14th century Hanafi scholars

@maestro @fardowsa @crudetruth

Keep the convo civil guys and stick to the bloody topic.
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Did Sheikh Hassan Barsane adhere to the Ahmediyya group?
No he (aun) was Salihiyah politically speaking, the same school of thought that belonged to the Dervish who were ideologically opposed to the Qadiriya school of thought, the ideological war was intense that a salixiyah fanatic killed Shiekh Uways al barawe aun.

Shiekh Hassan barsane was more noble than the Sayyidka however. - thread on Shiekh barsane aun

Shiekh Abdullahi al qutbi a contemporary of Uways al barawe and from the same school of though branded the Salihiyah as 'heretics' (he also attacked wahhabis, Kharijis, Mu’tazilis and Ibn Taymiyyah). here's a thread I made on the forgotten theologian.
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Galkacyo iyo Calula dhexdood
All of these tariqas were good at fighting other Somali muslim. For hundreds of years they bordered the Orma, Warday and Boran and only made tiny forays into those territories. If they wanted Jihad they should have went to war with the pagans. Darod show up and in 30 years the border is at Isiolo. What a joke!

Prince of Lasanod

Eid trim pending
All of these tariqas were good at fighting other Somali muslim. For hundreds of years they bordered the Orma, Warday and Boran and only made tiny forays into those territories. If they wanted Jihad they should have went to war with the pagans. Darod show up and in 30 years the border is at Isiolo. What a joke!
These people have divided Somalis along tariqa lines even though we are already divided along clan lines, they directly go against the principles of Islam which was sent to mankind to unite Somalis and not to divide ourselves into sects. They were fighting each other when the colonists were drawing the maps. So useless.
There was a lot of activity in the Somali horn just prior to the arrival of the west (France, Italy & Britain) in the early to mid (perhaps late in some cases?) 19th century.

In the north, we have garxajis/hy merchant and leader, Haji sharmarke, forcibly taking control of Zeila with the use of canon + support from hy/gx musketeers and even a contemporary report from Richard Burton clearly shows that he was more influential/powerful than the sultan of Harar (who was actually intimidated by sharmarke) and he had plans to take control of the prosperous/busy port of Berbera.

The Hartis, Ogaden, and marehan are traveling south to the fertile lands and the declining successor states of the ajuuraan are trying to rebound with some success (apart from getting karbashed by biimaal and other groups:icon lol:).

Moving on, the Omani Zanzibari dynasty only had nominal control of (the already declining) city-state of xamar and parts of the interior for a few decades in the latter half of the 19th century but this allowed great religious leaders, such as the Somali Tunni Uways Al-Barawi (AUN), to spread the deen to the Zanzibari controlled Swahili coast and he was even invited to the Omani court.

And with all that said, I've barely even scratched the surface such as the centralised Majerteen/Warsangeli sultanates.

How would the Somali horn look like if the western imperialists never arrived to our lands and gave the Abyssinians an unfair advantage over us?

Obviously the somali clans wouldn't subscribe to nationalism immediately (which is a modern concept in itself) but would there have been more wars over strategic lands and/or would there have been alliances between the various factions in specific parts of the Somali horn?
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