Union of Islamic Courts Post-Mortem

By now, you’ve probably heard plenty about the peace and stability brought by the UIC during their six months of rule.  Sure enough, order always looks better than chaos at the start.  But where was the UIC heading from there?  Bashir Goth supplies some Somali perspective.

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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  1. Abang Zain, that’s a great opinion piece. I was really expecting for something to that effect being written.

    Though I agree with the writer’s abhorrence of UIC’s power abuse, I don’t think it was appropriate to put UIC in such a bad light, particularly at this particular dire time. My heart is with them against the Ethiopians and Americans (well, not including you of course :D).

    And oh, you might want to take a peek at my humble piece on the Qadiriyya in Somalia here – http://kakiblog.com/2007/01/06/kembara-sufi-sub-sahara-vi-2/

  2. I might want to add what little I know of Somalian sufi history.

    There are some differences between north and south Somalia, namely that the north were ruled by the British while the south by Italians.

    The north were pretty much nomads and are rather harsh and tribal. The south are relatively well off with their trade commerce and agriculture.

    At the turn of the 20th century, there was somewhat of a conflict between these two poles. Being a Muslim, back then, was synonymous with affiliation to a tariqah – where the north was dominated by the Salihiyya, the south dominated by the Qadiriyya.

    So how it played out was that the Salihiyya had wahhabi influences and frequently attacked the sufi practises of the Qadiriyya until the climax where the venerable Qadiriyya leader Shaykh Uways was murdered by Salihiyya members.

    The UIC that we see today basically come from the north, perhaps inheriting the violent ways of their ancestors, the Salihiyya.

    But bear in mind this is not entirely true because the more spiritual Salihiyyas actually left all that violence and made a politcal merger with the Qadiriyya and a few other sufi orders to form the Ahli Sunnah wal Jamaah movement – they were basically uniting under the Shafii mazhab.

    I am guessing that the UIC today were, maybe only a little bit, carrying on the extreme Salihiyya approach. Also note in the article that Bin Gregory linked had mentioned the moderate and pacifist way of the Qadiriyya in Somalia.

    Hopefully the traditionalist Qadiris rise up in the midst of this turbulence to put things back in order – even more so in Mogadishu.

    I would be glad if anyone can point out the mistakes in this comment I’m making or add some additional information.

  3. Thanks Imran. I left a comment on your peice at kakiblog – it’s a useful summary. A question: by the north, do you mean Somaliland, or the northern part of what is Somalia now? It’s a shame more attention isn’t being paid to Somaliland which is slowly reorganizing itself from the ground up. Instead it is as though whoever comes out on top in Mogadishu will just swallow them up. I used to follow Inside Somaliland though the site’s been defunct since the middle of last year.

    As an aside, a very good Somali friend in Detroit, an older man, was fluent and literate in four languages: English, Arabic, his tribal language, and Italian! Amazing.

  4. Thank you for visiting, Shafi Said. I certainly don’t mean to suggest every Somali thinks like Goth. But he is Somali, is he not? I meant to also include this interview with Salim Lone, but I think most American Muslims can already see and agree with the points Lone is making about American involvement in the situation. Are there any news outlets or websites you would recommend for good coverage of the situation?

    Not to drift off topic, but my favorite point in Lone’s interview is actually about Iraq and Saddam’s hanging where he says:

    But even if it had been a fair trial, he should not have been hanged, because the only purpose in life is not to punish those who have done terrible things, but to try to work for reconciliation. If a trial had been fair, it would have appealed also to Sunnis and Kurds and Shias, not just to the Shias in this particular case, to see what terrible things Saddam did. That is what we needed. We needed a fair trial in which these things would come out, so that Sunnis would see how brutal Saddam was toward Sunnis, as well.

    (My emphasis)


  5. Assalamu Alaikum

    Since Imran asked for clarification, I hope I can shed some light on this. The fighting in Somalia has nothing whatsoever to do with Sufism, tariqas or even religion. Somalia has been plagued by internecine fighting along tribal lines for close to two decades and the UIC situation is just another facet of the problem. As far as I know, as a Somali Canadian, the tariqas have been all but dead to the majority of Somalis for a number of reasons, the main one being that the previous dictatorship clamped down on any overt religious activity, including the tariqas. Also, a lot of Somalis went to Saudi to become religious scholars, and they brought back some interesting attitudes to religion in their luggage. Also, unfortunately, contrary to both Imran’s comments and Bashir Goth’s article, the Qadiriyyah tariqa was not a benign vessel of peace and spirituality in Somalia. One of the reasons Sufism declined in Somalia was because of the highly questionable and irreligious things a lot of so-called Sufi sheikhs did in the name of that particular path to God. There was a lot of abuse by Sufi leaders, like money-grabbing for offering prayers, and that sort of thing. I am not an anti-Sufi, so please don’t take this the wrong way. I am just finding out that a lot practicing Sufis in Somalia just went underground to avoid problems, like my grandmothers who can’t even mention something as beautiful as the Burdah to my mum who thinks it’s plain shirk. Hope that helps.

    As for the article by Bashir Goth, it’s a good perspective for the most part, but why does he have to say things like: “it’s time to throw off the Arab head rags…shave off the beards”. Most Somalis are quite religious (in so far as the external practices are concerned) and head coverings like the Kufi and ‘imamah (the white turban) are considered classic signs of dignity and emulation of the Sunnah. It’s a distortion to associate traditional Somali religious and cultural practices with the “shabby dressed Islamists” and their political agenda. The UIC was definitely not the Taliban, they may have started to act like them, but I doubt most Somalis would have put up with that kind of nonsense for long. The only reason the UIC came to power was because people wanted them to establish some control and modicum of peace, unlike the Taliban who propelled themselves through force of arms.

    BTW, brother bin Gregory this is a cool blog. I’ve been reading for a while now, and thought I’d say thank you.

  6. wa alaykum salam! What I really love about keeping a blog is how you can touch on a topic and out of nowhere friendly knowledgable people will show up and share their expertise. Thank you very much Umm Medina.

  7. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    In my personal experience Wahhabism and Wahhabi ideas are pretty widespread (although certainly not universal) among Somalis. I have personally had three separate encounters in which I approached women for marriage and found out, after communicating them for a while, that they had such ideas but did not (openly) idenfity as Wahhabi or Salafi. For example, two sisters I spoke with quite recently said they could not live with me if I had Ash’ari aqida or followed a madhhab. So it does not surprise me that a movement which tries to “establish Islam” there does so on the way many Somalis practise Islam nowadays. Qays Arthur a few months ago linked an article about the ICU in which it appeared that they were not following a traditional madhhab, so it was very worrying. I suspect, though, that the response from Ethiopia would have been the same whatever the colour of the ICU.

  8. Yusuf, you are right. I didn’t know I had Wahabi or Salafi inclinations until my revert husband flat out pointed it to me. And then I discovered more traditional interpretations of Islam because of that. And that’s pretty much the case with most Somalis under 30 I would say, unfortunately.

    Traditionally though most Somalis are Shafi’ even though they don’t know it. And I didn’t know either until I started studying a madhab seriously (and I picked Shafi’ because it was so close to what I already knew). But it took my mom some time to understand why following a madhab is so important. I guess her attitude changed once I went to a Deen Intensive and she saw that I was committed to my deen. BTW, Ashari aqeeda texts, following a proper madhab, being part of a legitimate tariqa were a core part of my grandparents’ religious education but all that disappeared in my parents generation.

    Most young Somalis have no clue how much of our religious tradition has been lost over the past 40 years. You have to understand, people just don’t fathom how much this is all part of their heritage. I am sorry about your experiences, though.

  9. Thanks for the comment, Umm Medina.

    Hmm.. For a moment, i thought “Medina” was to signify wahhabism. Evidently not.

    It is definitely true that sufism is no longer a significant factor in east african politics as compared to Senegal on the west side.

    It is also true that many Qadiri leaders were corrupt. The Salihiyya at that time correctly pointed out this.hypocrisy, though it was too bad they made a blanket statement towards the saint Shaykh Uways and his disciples.

    I have nothing against Umm Medina, just to clarify a bit that my earlier comment was only meant as a brief account of the parallel between Salihiyya and the UIC in terms of geography and approach.

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