The Sufi Disintegration Phase

When Al-Shabaab exhumed the graves of the Sufi scholars in their Polytheism Eradication Campaign, all the people here in Mogadishu expected, in addition to the usual public outcries, an all-out war between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa’a (ASWJ). Radio stations were abuzz with debates, coffee shops were alive with the silent Somali murmurs, animated discussions filled the public gatherings and the vociferous Sufi supporters protested as much as they could. But when the campaign swept through Somalia, leaving no stone unturned in its quest, and the Sufis, except for their spokesman vehemently expressing his sorrow on the airwaves and some demonstrations outside Somalia, silently bewailed their loss, the public noticed something slightly disconcerting. Was this all ASWJ could do? Or was there something more to come? The answer was a painful let-down for SWJ supporters. Nothing happened; not the much expected boldness in words and deeds, not the gathering of forces and not even the slightest of movement towards reclaiming their lost honour and saving the reputation of their saints.

Though it has been known fro quite some time here, as the well-versed politicians and coffee-shop pundits are quick to point out, that the Sufi elegance is slowly becoming out of fashion, it has now come to the realisation that soon they will no longer be able to survive. Made up of Sufis who claim mystical communication with their saints, unsuitable alliance of clan militia groups and political opportunists, ASWJ has now entered a phase of gradual disintegration. And there are many reasons for this. Some of which are:


1 – Spiritually:

The destruction of their scholars’ graves by Al-shabaab greatly demoralised the Sufis. Public outcries were loud, demonstrations were held and songs of war were sung. But all that amounted to nothing! Unable to even defend their revered Saints from the Al-Shabaab axe, the Sufis simply succumbed to the sullenness of their fate and sombrely empathised with the solitude of their saints. Among those saints whose bones are now dispersed miles away from their graves include:

Name: Sheikh Aweys Al-Qadiri
Location: Biyooley district – Bakool

Al-Qadiri was perhaps the most revered saint thought to have lived in Somalia. He led the Qadiriyyah sect and was killed in Biyooley by one of the Daraawish forces when the delegation of Sayyid Mohamamd Abdulle Hassan reached the Italian Somaliland in early 1900. Thousands of people visited him every year and there were special state-run coaches that that transported people from the cities to the Sheikh’s grave during the Siyad Barre era. Hordes of people travelled from as far as Puntland and Somaliland to make their annual pilgrimage to Biyooley. During the civil war, when death increased, people camped by his grave and turned to him for salvation and blessings, saying:

‘Bankii Biyoolaan Barakaysaneynaa’
‘we are going to the Biyoole resting place for blessing’

His grave was exhumed in 2009 by Hizbul Islam.

Name: Sheikh Aw-Cismaan
Location: Marka, Lower Shabeelle

‘Marka Caddey mininka Aw-Cismaan, ninkii mooda munaafiq waaye’ is a very a famous saying in Somalia that perhaps every Somali knows. In English, it translates: ‘Marka Caddey [refers to the city of Marka or could be ‘beautiful Marka’]; the dwelling of Aw-Cismaan, he who passes it by [without entering] is a hypocrite.’

That was the common belief of the people and Aw-Cismaan was a prominent Sufi scholar who allegedly saved Marka from being swept away by the sea. It was believed that through his powers, Sheikh Aw-Cismaan held the sea with his foot and protected the town from being flooded. Ceremonies were held and camels were slaughtered in his name; it was the only time the light-skinned Marka girls were allowed to go out and bathe in the sea during the day for the consummation of their marriage to the Sheikh that night, as an elderly Marka man told me.

Name: Sheikh Muxidiin Celi
Location: Mogadishu

When Sheikh Muhidin’s bones were being removed from his grave in an old sack the people who believed he possessed indefinite powers anxiously waited for a miracle to happen. Fearing the evil consequences of the digging, a steady line of apprehensive residents evacuated their houses and moved as far away from the tomb as possible. I stood by as hammers pounded the concrete of his tomb and local journalists recorded the event, all expecting something to happen. But the only thing they witnessed were bones and dust fill the sack.

Sheikh Muxidin was believed to be one of the four people who, apparently, laid the earth flat and he was also responsible for holding back earthquakes from Somalia. Such beliefs were so widespread that gossip of ‘we will be swept under the ocean’ and ‘earthquakes will soon bury us under the ground’ soon filled the city. According to his biography, written by his student Sheikh Ali Mu’min, the Sheikh has never been seen praying in over forty years. It is also claimed that he comes to earth every night in his human form and saves people from calamities.

Name: Biyamaalow
Location: Hawlwadaag, Mogadishu

Biyamaalow was another great Sufi saint thought to be a source of salvation for those who came to his grave. It was a common custom that whenever people went to visit the tomb of Biyamaalow they would enter prostrating. Beside his tomb was a pile of sand, perfumed every morning and night so that whoever came there left with a handful of the fragrant sand of the saint. Women who could not bear children went to his grave and implored him of his favours and intercession. Today a pile of rubble is the only thing that indicates the existence of Biyamaalow and every now and then one or two people come to the grave only to etch the pitiful remains of the saint in their memory.

The above are the major Sufi scholars exhumed in an Al-Shabaab sweep. Other Saints dug out from their graves include: Sheikh Ali Mu’min, Sheikh Abdi Liiban, Sheikh Ali Abdulle, Sheikh Adan Dheere and Sheikh Nuur Osman.

To be Continued…

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