Historically, in Somalia men were categorized either as “wadaad” (religious) or “waranle” (a warrior). Wadaads mostly stayed above the fray of Somalia’s prevalent tribal conflicts. They transcended tribe and region, pursued religious
learning and teaching, and performed various other religious and social functions such matrimonial services and quran schools. For they sought neither riches nor power they built no discernable organizational structure or highierachy. They often complemented tribal elders in keeping the peace among the clans and the lid on violence. As a non-warrior, the Wadaad carried only the Quran, the ubo or buraashad (a water jar) and a small dagger, not for protection, but as utensil to be used for the next meal of mutton or lamb that maybe donated by a hosting family. Among the Wadaads, there has always been a great diversity; there were the “Timo Wayne” with their bushy, middle-parted hair trademark, ever drifting from one community to another; then there are the dedicated “Xer” or students who study under a prominent sheikh for years; the ubiquitous “Macalin Quran” or the Quran teacher under whose gaze nearly every Somali kid learns to recite the Quran in his/her formative years; and even the average “mohamed-Somali” who simply prays five times a day can be considered a Wadaad. Diverse schools of thought also exist among the Wadaadis; the Qaadiriya, Salaxiya, Ahmedia and others, each with its own nuanced preferences, justifications and reasoning for some slightly different from the next school of thought. Until recently, Sufis were a small subset of the overall Wadaads considered most liberal or outlandish in some of its religious activity. Nowadays, Sufi is used to describe anyone who doesn’t fall under the spell of the newly imported Wahabism. Yet, with seemingly so many differences among the Sufis, albeit no significant theological differences, there has never been religion based violence in Somali history – that’s until recently. At times of distress,Sufis typically retreated to their Kitabs for explanation and guidance.
The emergence of an armed Sufi religious group in Somalia, Ahlu Sunna, is a sign of the times. A sign of how desperate and distorted the situation has became in Somalia, and it is this desperation that transformed these traditional, moderate, non-violent sufis into a full-fledged armed militia. The old days of Sufis turning the other cheek when attacked or mistreated is behind us. The Buraashad has now been replaced or perhaps complemented by AK-47, thanks to the extremist groups like Al-Shabab and its elk. For two decades, since the collapse of the central government, the Sufis kept a low profile, kept to themselves, had taken no part in Somali’s carnage and focused on their familiar territory of worshiping. Despite persecution by successive fanatical religious groups, from Al-Itihad in the 1990’s to today’s Al-shabaab, the sufis maintained their composure, resisted the urge to retaliate and remained faithful to their non-violent ways. For years, they saw the creeping fanaticism of Al-Shabaab and its foreign ideology underpinned by distorted interpretation of Islam that extol self-destructive extremism, hate, and total and absolute submission to them (not to God). Yet the Sufis, true to their tradition of non-violence, continued to turn the other cheek despite increasing attacks directed at them to the pointed where they were no longer safe, even inside their mosques.
THE STRAW THA BROKE THE CAMEL’S BACK
Sufis has a tradition of honoring their religious figures. Throughout Somalia, when a well known religious figure with a large following dies it is common for his disciples to build a shrine and an adjacent masjid in his honor (in fact, this is true for much of the Muslim world, save Saudi Arabia). It’s sort of memorial with the masjid as spiritual anchor. In a sense, the shrine and the mosque institutionalize the sheikh’s work by providing a permanent site that ensures the work of religious learning will continue. In the country side, one may often come across a “Dahar”, a structure without walls designed to provide shade for travelers, next to a grave. The Dahar is a donation for public use in honor of a deceased parent (a beloved father or mother) by a family, in essence a foundation. This practice can come in many forms. For example, some families instead dig a water-well and donate it to the public. For some unfathomable reason, the adherents of the newly imported ideology and imposed on us by Al-Shabaab find such a practice abhorrent and its practitioners deserving of beheading. Even more shocking, this extends to the Mowliid, the yearly memorial in honor of Prophet Mohamed, in which, typically, the Prophet’s life and examples are talked and explored. The praising of Prophet Mohamed and honoring him has become the grounds for tossing a live grenade in mosques full of worshipers! Faced with murderous attacks, in their own mosques and centers of learning, the destruction of toms of their revered teachers by Al-shabaab and their ideological brethren, the Sufis were compelled to face the stark reality of either abandoning their religious beliefs or standing up for themselves, and for the Somali people whose culture and history has also being systematically erased by the fanatics. The Sufis has done what no organized group of significance has in a generation – stand up for their rights and that of others, and opposed evil.
..more..AHLU-SUNNA – The New Kid In The Block