The Death of a Friend – Cali Jaamac Haabiil

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The following poem was recited by Cali Jaamac Haabiil a pastoralist who died in the middle years of the 20th century. He was a prominent spokesman of his clan and a strong opponent of Maxamed Cabdile Xasan with whom he exchanged poetical diatribes. This poem falls firmly within the Baroordiiq (Lamentation) category of Somali oral poetry, with this poem, in particular, being one of the best of examples of this genre.

This poem is unique in the sense that the poet is not lamenting the death of a lover or close family member but instead a close friend who he had relied upon in difficult times. The man in question is believed to have been a man called Xirsi Cilmi Goonle, a prominent member of the same clan who was renowned for his bravery and generosity.

One day while in Berbera news of Xirsi’s death reached Cali, who upon hearing the news became overtaken with grief.  It was said that Cali did not eat or sleep properly for several days until he finally recited the following poem. In the poem he praised Xirsi for the following 6 characteristics;

  • Bravery in battle; in this context ‘camel raiding’ which was a key aspect of Somali pastoral life during that era.
  • The ability to solve disputes; it is said that Xirsi had the ability to appease all parties in a calming and affectionate manner.
  • Hospitality to guests; he prepared a place for them to rest and served them food all the while talking with them in a friendly manner.
  • Entertainment during wedding celebrations: during the rainy season in which people tended to get married, Xirsi would usually be at the forefront of the celebrations riding his horse in order to entertain the guests.
  • Extreme patience with kinsmen; Xirsi was someone who would be patient with his relatives and kin.
  • His was like an ‘Iron fence’ in the way he served as a defensive guard for his relatives protecting them from harm.

After perhaps overemphasising the virtues of Xirsi, it seems that Cali then remembers the tenets of the Islamic faith which state that one should not go overboard in mourning the death of loved ones. He praises God and the Prophet (PBUH) and then acknowledges that all men must die. He then ends with a supplication asking God not to forsake him on the day of judgement when all men will be gathered.


Faaraxow galgaladkaan dhigiyo gama’ la’aantayda
Gogoshaan ku jiifsaday hurdada goodkii igu yaacay
Gasiinkii la ii dhigay waxaan gawska uga daayey

Dad guryii ka yimi baa war baas iila soo galaye
Geeridii Xirsay sheegayeen gacal ha waayeene
Goblamooyin waxay ii wadeen guuldarriyo hooge

Gabbal baa u dumey reerihii geliga Booc yiille
Abidkii rag waa go’i jiree tanise waa gaw’e
Lix hal oo u wada gaar ahaa gocanayaa mooyi

Mid weeye haddii lays galoo geel la kala qaado
Gurmad noqonayaa iyo annagu guuto bixinnaaba
Giiryaalihii fule markuu gelelef rooraayo
Rogaalkuu giraangirin ogaa gocanayaa mooyi

Geb hadday maritidu soo tidhaa goor u nala joogo
Godka lagu janneeyow hadduu goosan la carraabo
Garab saar rag weeyee hadduu gogosha soo qaado

Gasiinkii la soo dhigay haddaad gal iyo daad mooddo
Bakhayl baa gammiima’e intuu gaadhka ka qoslaayo
Godolkuu ku haasaawin jirey gocanayaa mooyi

Gar adkaatay, xaajada gurracan, guurti kala maagtay
Haddii geedka laysugu yimaad golaha waayeelka
Waxay gola fardooddaba haddii la isku soo gaadho

Nin waliba hadduu gees damcoo giijo madixiisa
Wax la wada gorfeeyaba haddii la isu geyn waayo
Gaagaabsayaa iyo isagu gees u hadal yaaba
Guddoonkii la wada raaci jirey gocanayaa mooyi

Gugoo da’ay aroosyada haddii gowda laga saaro
Shir girmidha haddii loo kiciyo gob iyo reer aada
Gammaan naaxay heensaha haddii guudka laga saaro

waa gelin is daawada halkii garangar loo joogey
Gole igu bannaanaa wallee garab la’aaneede
Gunnaduu ka soo toocin jirey gocanayaa mooyi

Gardarrada sokeeyaha rag baa gees biciid u lehe
Gudcurkiyo caddadu waa walaal kalase guul roone
Gaadiid Ia dhaanshuu ahaa gibil ma diidaane
Guraduu na wada saari jirey gocanayaa mooyi

Alla wuxuu golxaalow ahaa gedefka reeraaye
Magaciisu waa gudubsanaa gaaliyo Islaame
Galbeed iyo Baraa laga yiqiin gololkii dheeraaye
Gaashaan biruu noo ahaa gocanayaa mooyi

Adduunyadatan laga guurayo ee gebegebaa taagan
Ee laga galbaday meesha iyo geeridii Maxamed (NNKH)
Anuun baa gubtanyoonaya oo geesigii tebaye

Gartaa u noqday Eebbow ma jiro garangar waartaaye
Allahayow wax badan baan gefaye Adigu hay goynin
Oo geesta Nebigii i mari maanta lays gurayo.


O Faarax, as I tossed from side to side, deserted by sleep,

Black-headed vipers thronged into the bed where I was lying

And my teeth forsook the food that had been laid before me.

May they be bereft of kin, those messengers of Xirsi’s death!

Those women who brought me the news of disaster and despair!

The sun has now set on the family that dwelt in the plain of Booc.

Men have always died, I know,

But grievous has been the blow this death has dealt me.

Six thoughts I have concerning him –

Am I brooding too much over them? I do not know.

The first is that when bands of men fought hand to hand,

with each side seizing camels from the other

Then sending me to rescue them again,

Or when a raiding party we had mustered

Rode long and hard and came at last to battle

While quaking cowards scurried to and fro –

How skilful were his tactics,

How he dodged and weaved and closed around the foe!

Am I brooding too much over this? I do not know.

In a perplexing case about a convoluted matter

When the arbitrators were all of them a variance,

And the elders gathered under the council tree,

All differed in their opinions, their heads unyielding, stiff,

And even after much debating, no consensus could be reached

It was he, a softly-spoken man, who would make a speech of wonder

And all would fall in with his judgement.

Am I brooding too much over this? I do not know.

If he was with us when, of a sudden, guests arrived –

May he be blessed in his grave with the joys of Paradise! –

He would seek to lessen our burden as hosts

And would, that very afternoon,

Take some of the visitors into his own household,

Where he himself would bring the bedding mats for them,

Carrying the load on his shoulder as is men’s way.

The food spread out for them was plentiful,

As plentiful, it seemed, as water of torrent or pool.

His talk was ever free and friendly –

Not for him the miser’s grimace, that bares one molar in a laugh.

Am I brooding too much over this? I do not know.

The spring rains are falling, wedding-drums have sounded

And meetings of importance have been called

By noble men and lineages of consequence.

It is a time when pacts of mutual aid are made

By men who sit around in circles.

But since I have been left without his support

I declare such places are empty now for me –

empty too, the encampment from which he would come riding.

Am I brooding too much over this? I do not know.

A pitch-dark night cannot be compared in usefulness

To one that is lit by a bright full moon.

Even though one night is a sibling to the other.

Just so are there some men who are hard as oryx horn

In their unjust treatment of their kin.

But he was as meek as is the camel

That fetched water and does not shun

The skin on which the load is put.

He would offer them, too, the shaded seat

That lies atop the camel-pack.

Am I brooding too much over this? I do not know

By God, this man with his shoulders like an arch

Was truly a fence to guard the family encampments.

His fame had spread to unbelievers and Muslims alike

And he was renowned from West to East.

Tall and fine of stature, he was an iron shield to protect us.

Am I brooding too much over this? I do not know.

I know that men have to leave this world, –

Which anyway is in its final stage –

Men have been leaving it, indeed

From the day of Muhammad’s (PBUH) death until this hour,

And yet I have been burning with resentment

Over the loss of this magnificent man.

I accept your will, O God, that is forever just.

There are no folk living who will not die

And I have greatly erred through my rebellious grief.

Do not cut me off, O God, but set me at the side of the Prophet

On that day when all people will be gathered in.

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