For the past century, Mohammed Abdulle Hassan has been widely regarded as the progenitor of Somalia’s nationalism, a fierce proto-nationalist and indisputably the father of Somali nationalism. His iconic struggle was solemnised by Siad Barre’s government with an equestrian monument, however, many fail to make an apparent distinction as to why he deserves that grandeur title.
Somali nationalism did exist prior to Mohammed’s ascension, however, it remained a largely cultural, mechanical solidarity. Mohammed managed to revise Somali’s nationalism by injecting political nationalism with cultural. But it is in his last poem (Dardaaran: Last Will) composed in the closing months of 1920 that beautifully epitomises his struggle and ultimately his defeat with a sombre testimonial epistle to the inhabitants of the Somali Peninsula:
Dadow maqal dabuubtaan ku iri, ama dan haw yeelan
Dawo lagama helo gaal haddaad, daawo dhigataane
Waa idhin dagaayaa kufriga, aad u dabcaysaane
Dirhankuu idhin qubahayaad, dib u go’aysaane
Marka hore dabkuu idinka dhigi, dumar sidiisiiye
Marka xigana daabaqadda yuu, idin dareesiine
Marka xiga dalkuu idinku oran, duunya dhaafsade e
Marka xiga dushuu idinka rari, sida dameeraaye
Oh ye Somalis, hear me, hear my call
There never was equity in bargaining with the infidels;
You soften up to the infidels and he is bound to deceive you;
The coins he dispenses so freely now will prove your undoing;
First he will disarm you as though you were defenceless women;
Next, he will commit you to his prison wards;
Next, he will deceive you and rob you of your lands;
And then burden you with onerous loads as though you were donkeys
Ah! But what is the use of this warning
Following his death, the nascent state he built frittered away. The momentum gathered to cement his vision stagnated without any structure to lend its operational permanence, where it ultimately submerged into the clan consciousness of Somali society. Italy, France, Britain, and Ethiopia parcelled amongst themselves the domain of the Somali nation he envisaged until his vision was rekindled with the emergence of the Somali Youth League (SYL) in 1943.
Although his physical presence never left the northern area of Somalia; his political vision’s grip reached virtually all the areas inhabited by the Somali ethnic group. This can be deduced from his communication with the southern Somali clans to Somali Bantus led by their anti-colonial chief, Nasib Bunda. Though the Somali Bantus were not regarded as ethnic Somalis, Mohammed placed a greater emphasis on the Islamic faith that bonded all Somalis. This is evident in the following stanza of one of his famed poems:
Baddan ma aniga masalle ku dhigay oo musliminta aaan walaaleeyn, ma anigaa wada walaaleysiyey
Have I not perhaps placed on this sea a mat for prayer, and have I not perhaps made brothers amongst themselves the Muslims, who were not brothers?
It was not his remarkable skills in rhetoric and provocative poetry that earned him this reputation, but the full exposure of his public life, that fulfilled always with striking passion the essential characteristics of the quintessential Somali at a level hitherto unseen in the land of the Somalis. These qualities, posthumously, forced the later generations of Somali historians and politicians as well as the ordinary people to recognises its importance.
That important acknowledgment was in turn trigged by the mere fact that for the first time – since the 15th century campaigns of the Imam and the Emir (Ahmed Gurey and Nur ibn Mujahid respectively) – a party of armed Somalis were not on a conventional mission to raid and slay other Somalis. This time, this Somali party were organising, planning and implementing a ferocious ideological and physical war campaign, with superb frontline tactics complemented by unparalleled poetic fluency against a foreign enemy – a super power.
At the onset of the liberation campaigns, the primary enemy was Ethiopia which was conducting numerous operations of harassment against Somali nomads. Later, it was the British Empire in Somaliland who became the main objective of the feared Daraawiish party of Mohammed Abdulle Hassan. The Daraawiish’s aims and objectives in this regard were not merely slaying the foreigners but simultaneously liberating the land of the Somalis from the occupiers. It is as a result of this that his party’s campaign was rightfully described as a nationalistic struggle.
Since the collapse of Somali state in 1991 and the subsequent disintegration of Somalia into clan fiefdoms, the concept of Somali nationalism, painfully birthed by Mohammed Abdulle Hassan has been vanquished — reduced to a few.
Here we are, 2015, 24 years since that dreadful day and earnestly praying that perhaps that small few might be all that is needed to rejuvenate a phenomenon – a phenomenon needed to inspire future reconstruction for a fragmented society — that is close to extinction. After all, Mohammed Abdulle Hassan and his party were labelled a confused minority when they commenced that noble endeavour.