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The point is that whether these traditions date to one particular point in time or represent the conflation of memories of movements at different times, they are relevant to a group’s perception of self, and inform their actions.

Over the centuries of relative separation, town polity developed differently from that of the agro-pastoralist and nomadic pastoralist clans.

Different wards within the enclave are the primary residence of a particular lineages.

Within the town polity the lineages took on different roles and performed different functions – what might be called ‘ordered action’, the process by which a society is kept in being.

Banaadiri lineages are parallel, free-standing descent lines that do not meet at a legendary common apical ancestor (among the nomadic clans this ancestor is known as Samaal).

The descent pattern of Banaadiri groups does not therefore fit within what is often referred to in the academic literature as the ‘total genealogy’ model that is held to underpin Somali society overall (see Lewis 1957 & 1995).


Banaadiri founding traditions, as already noted, are similarly of eight- to ten-hundred years depth before lineage lines leap across to Arabian soil, to continue their ascent to eminent Arab pedigrees.One of Mogadishu’s more famous pupils of the nineteenth century was Sheikh Zayla’i who was eventually to have a religious order named after him.So also, it may surprise some to learn of the large number of holy men from the Banaadir who were key in spreading Islam to the interior, travelling the countryside teaching the Koran and Arabic, and establishing religious settlements.Origin stories tell how a people’s culture came into being, and none of the legends of origin for any of the Somali groups that we have referred to pre-date Islam (though elements in the folk literature may do so).


Andalthough this part of the world was clearly peopled before the beginning of the second millennium, we are not here concerned with what is or is not confirmed history, but with the history that the people construct – for this is a social fact that affects their way of life, and colours their world view.There were procedures, too, for incorporating newer members into the town polity, whether incomers from the interior or non-Somalis from overseas (Arab and Indian traders, for example), who might settle there and who wished to subscribe to the urban order. Among these, the names of Sheikh Sufi from Mogadishu, Sheikh Ali Maye and Sheikh Aw Osman from Marka, and Sheikh Qasim Al-Baraawi will have resonance for Somali society overall.


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