Muslim Countries of the World: Somalia

Flag of Somalia
Flag of Somalia

Somalia (Federal Republic of Somalia) is a state in East Africa, on the shores of the Indian Ocean’s Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, protruding in the form of a cape opposite the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Somalia is a state in which Islam is accepted as the official religion. The proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, the cradle of Islam and the place where the Prophet delivered his sermon, determined the Islamization of the country during the Prophet’s lifetime. It was then, through his companions, that the message of the One God came to this land and firmly established in it for the next 14 centuries.

Islam in Somalia was a means of identifying the Somali people, separating them from neighbouring Christian Ethiopia. Islam has always played an important role in the life of the country. Somali Muslims have always adhered to the Asharite kalam (philosophical school) and the Shafii madhhab fiqh (Islamic law). Recently, however, the Hanbalist madhhab (stricter and more literal observance of Sharia norms) has gained popularity.

Sufism and dervishes played a special role in Somalia. Until the end of the 19th century, independent sultanates existed within the country’s territory, which participated in many local wars in eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, until in 1856 Somalia was captured by the British and turned into a colony under the name of British Somaliland. In 1899, the Somali dervish Mohammed bin Hasan, under the banner of Islam, raised an uprising against the British and soon created the Dervish State, which lasted until 1920, when it was defeated by Britain.

In 1960, Somalia gained independence, and in 1969, Mohammed Siad Barre came to power in Somalia, who remained President of the state for more than 20 years, until 1991. Siad Barre decided to build socialism in Somalia, however, socialism on the basis of Islam. He stated that “Marx and Muhammad do not contradict each other.” Siad Barre significantly ‘liberalized’ Islamic institutions and law in the country (for example, he gave women equal inheritance rights with men). However, Siad Barre categorically did not allow the participation of Muslim leaders in the political life of the country and did not accept any objections to the construction of socialism. As a result, discontent was ripening in the country, including among Muslim leaders.

In 1991, the Siad Barre regime was overthrown, and the state entered a period of strife, which has been largely reconciled to date. In 2012, in the capital of the country, Mogadishu, the Constitutional Assembly was held, which proclaimed the creation of a federal state from the newly formed autonomous territories of the country.

At the moment, the Muslims of Somalia are headed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs of each of the autonomous territories. At the same time, government officials tend to be prominent figures in Islamic organizations, such as Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, an influential organization from 1996 to 2006, who was elected President of the country in 2009.

Sufi tariqas are widespread in Somalia (Qadiriyya, Idrisiyya, Salikhiyya). The general attitude towards Islamic norms is distinguished by liberalism, in particular, towards women who lead an active social life, hold positions of doctors and teachers, have access to education and are not obliged to wear a hijab or headscarf. This policy leads to an increase in internal piety, whereby Somali women wear a headscarf or hijab not out of duress, but out of inner conviction.