This is a very interesting and informative book on the beginnings and expansion of the Islamist group Al-Itixaad Al-Islaamii. This book provides an eyewitness account of how the group started, ideological differences within the group and some of the challenges they faced.
The author provides insights on how members of Al-Itixaad viewed the older generation of Somali Ulema. The following points are some the differences between the old guard and the new generation that came to the forefront in the 80’s and 90’s. Ironically this new breed of Ulema came to the forefront just as the Somali state was about to disintegrate.
- The Ulema of old were largely educated within Somalia, while the new generation of Ulema were educated abroad in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt.
- The older Ulema were proponents of one of the Sufi orders (Qaadiriya, Saalixiya, Axmediya). The new generation are opposed to Sufism in totality
- The older scholars used to gain ‘Ujro’ payments for their religious services. The new generation is opposed to receiving money for religious services.
- The older scholars staunchly followed the Shafi’i Madhab, The new generation of scholars either followed the evidences (The La-madhab Salafist movement) or they leaned towards the Hambali Madhab.
- The older scholars believed in working alongside the ruling authorities. The newer generation believes that any ruler who does not rule by Islaam is illegitimate.
- Older Ulema believed in visiting the graves and seeking ‘Barakah’ from them’ The newer generation of Ulema believe that this was tantamount to polytheism (shirk).
- The previous Ulema believed in the celebration of the Mawlid (birthday of the Prophet (pbuh) and the recitation of the Burdhah and Manaqib. The new generation believed these actions to be innovations in the religion.
- The previous Ulema were limited in their religious knowledge while the new Ulema had a much broader understanding of religion.( This could be seen as a bias held by the author)
According to the book this new generation of Ulema further split into two ideological camps that are characterized as follows:
Group 1– believed that they should mix and live with the people. They believed that the best way to fix any errors in the conduct of the Somali masses was through displaying a good example. If the people were given the opportunity to see the errors of their ways and as a result, they would repent from their sins. This group largely viewed the Somali masses as sinful Muslims who could be slowly cultivated.
Group 2– Believed that the Somali masses had reached a critical point with regards to their sins and the Ciqaab (punishment) of Allah was imminent. This group believed that immediate intervention was needed in order to move people away from a path of destruction.They believed that it was compulsory to act, even if this involved physically changing things themselves through the implementation of Jihad if necessary.
Another Interesting point highlighted in the book were the conditions to become a member of Al-Itixaad Al-Islaami:
- Must be a male.
- Must be someone who is known to be committed to the religion.
- Must be someone who is not younger than a particular age that is a secret of the organization.
- Must be someone whose origin is known in terms of family origin, friends and place of learning.
- Someone who is free from the evils of tribalism.
- Must be someone who does not smoke or consume qanat.
- Must be someone who is trustworthy and who is capable of keeping the secrets of the organization.
We managed to pick up this book from the Hargeisa Book fair but you can pick up the book from the Redsea press website. Most Somali bookshops should also have a copy.