You are on page 1of 24

The Gadabuursi Somali Script Author(s): I. M.

Lewis Source: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 21, No. 1/3 (1958), pp. 134-156 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of School of Oriental and African Studies Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/610496 Accessed: 28/01/2009 21:30
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=cup. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

School of Oriental and African Studies and Cambridge University Press are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

http://www.jstor.org

THE GADABUURSI

SOMALI SCRIPT

By I. M. LEWIS T the moment, both in the British Protectorateand in Somalia,the adoption of a standard orthographyfor the Somali language is fiercely debated.1 In discussion of the merits of the various scripts proposed,technical problems of orthographyhave to some extent been lost sight of. Nationalistic arguments have favoured 'Somali writing' ('Ismaaniya) while religious or Pan-Islamic argumentshave supported an Arabic script. This article 9 discusses an orthography invented some 20 years ago by a well-known Gadabuursi sheikh, Sheikh 'Abduratmaan Sh. Nuur, the present Government Q -tiof Borama District 8 in the west of the British Protectorate. The script has not, as far as I am aware, been previously described in the literature on Somaliland.4 I publish it here with no intention of attempting to contribute to the already abundant confusion in the choice of a standard orthography for Somali. Sh. 'Abdurahmaan's script is of considerable linguistic and ethnologicalinterest, since it seems, after 'Ismaaniya, to be the second non-Arabic Somali orthography to be invented in Somaliland.6 The problems involved in devising a script for Somali and the Sheikh's achievement can best be appreciatedif we review briefly the history of attempts to write Somali, in Somaliland. We are not concernedwith studies made by professionalEuropeanphilologists.
1 The dispute over the adoption of an orthographymay be studied from the numerousarticles on the subject which have appearedover the past few years in British Somalilandin the periodical dela Somaliaand morerecently in Somaliad'Oggi. WarSomali Sidihi, and in Somalia in II Corriere A brave, if unwise, attempt to solve the problem was made in March 1957 by the Governmentof Somalia which launched WargeyskaSomaliyed, a newspaper printed entirely in a phonetically accurate but simple transcription of Somali in roman characters. The publication of this journal, using roman charactersas a medium for Somali, raised such a storm of popular protestespecially from the advocates of 'Ismaaniya-that it had to be withdrawnfrom publication after a few numbershad appeared. 2 I spent a little under two years, during 1955-7, mainly in the British Protectorate, as Fellow in Social Anthropology of the Colonial Social Science Research Council, London, to whose generosity I am greatly indebted for financingmy research. 3 Place-names in this article are normally spelt according to general Administrative usage in the Protectorate. In writing other Somali words Andrzejewski's transcription as used in Bell, 1953, and Andrzejewski and Galaal, 1956, is followed. Proper names of persons although of Arabic origin in many cases are represented in this orthography with their Somali pronunciation. The Somali pronunciation of other Arabic expressions used is also indicated. 4 The expression ' Somaliland ' is used here to denote all the Somali countries, and not simply the British Protectorate. 5 Several attempts appear to have been made by Somalis, with in many cases European encouragement-governmental or missionary-to write Somali in roman characters. Such scripts-other than the conventional systems used by officials for writing personal and placenames in roman characters-have acquired little or no general currency. Adaptations of roman characters to represent Somali sounds are, of course, not inventions in the sense that the Gadabuursi and cIsmaaniya scripts are.

THE

GADABUURSI

SOMALI SCRIPT

135

I. Arabic Scripts The introductionof Arabic into northern Somalilandis generallyattributed to Sheikh Yuusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn (or Aw Barkhadle,as he is popularly known) of ashrdf descent, said to have come to Somaliland as a proselytizer of Islam in the thirteenth century.l The Sharif advancedthe teaching of Arabic to Somalis by devising a Somali nomenclature for the Arabic vowels, fatha, kasra, and damma, as shown. Alif with fatha is called in Somali alif la kordabey(-) 2; alif with kasra is in Somali alif la hoosdabey(1)3; and alif with dammais in Somali alif la godey (t).4 This Somali nomenclaturefor the vocalization of the Arabic consonants is taught to this day in private Qur'anic schools throughout the country. The system attributed to Sharif Yuusuf enabled his Somali pupils to learn to read and write Arabic. There is no early record, however, as far as is known, of any Arab having adapted Arabic script as a vehicle for writing Somali. But it is not unreasonableto suppose that Somalis with a knowledge of Arabic have for many centuries written a sometimes ungrammaticalArabic containing many Somali words as they still do to-day. Apart from the small proportionof the population who have learnt Arabic in Governmentschools,ability to write in Arabicis generallylimited to wadaads,5 sheikhs, and businessmen or merchants, who have learnt in private Qur'anic schools. Most children have at one time or another spent some time, if only a few months, learning by heart under a sheikh or teacher (macallin) some chapters from the Qur'an. But although the standard of Islamic instruction, including Arabic, is often quite high amongst those who have spent years at such schools, the proportion of the population who can write as well as read Arabic is relatively small. This can be appreciatedfrom the fact that a man can enjoy the title of sheikh without being able to write much Arabic and with only a very limited ability to read the language. Anyone who devotes his life to religion is a wadaad, however slight his acquaintance with Arabic. Many men who practise as wadaads, presiding over local religious ceremonies (all the sacrifices,Rabbibari,6 Friday Prayers-if the congregation in a district is to warrant their observance, dhikrs (in Somali pronunciation sufficiently large dikri-ga),siyaaros, and the mawliids of saints, and all other religiousoccasions) and acting as unofficial local qad.s, know only sufficient Arabic to read from
1 The Sharff's tomb which is the scene of an annual pilgrimage (siyaaro-da)mainly for the clans of the Ishaaq clan-family is situated some 20 miles to the north-east of Hargeisa. See Webber, 1956. For an indication of the Sharif's role in Somali tradition, see Lewis, 1956, 153. I hope to discuss the Sharlf more fully elsewhere. 2 Lit.' alif (which) is surmounted'. 3 Lit. alif (which)is undercut '. 4 Lit.' alif (which) is hollowed-out '. 5 Wadaadis a Somali synonym for the Ar. sheikh, but in Somaliland the word sheikh often denotes a slightly higher status in religion than does wadaad. 6 Literally, ' begging, or beseeching, God'. Other expressions are also used, as e.g. AUaahbari, and in Hawiye dialect the probably pre-Islamic compounds Waaq da:il and Waaq dacin, from Waaq, one of the pre-Islamic Cushitic names of God.

136

I. M. LEWIS

the religious books 1 which they have learnt by heart. Of course everyone, whether he be a wadaador sheikh, or ordinary member of the public,2prays in Arabic. But although only a small fraction of the total Somali population can write Arabic a considerable religious literature which must comprise several thousand poems (qasidas)in praise of the Prophet and the saints has been producedin Arabic, or a mixture of Arabicand Somali,3by Somali sheikhs and wadaads. Some of these qasidas(in Somali pronouncedqasiida) have been written in good Arabic by Somali sheikhs with an excellent knowledge of the language acquiredlocally from especially learned teachers or studied in travel abroad in Arabia, Egypt, and the Sudan. Indeed there is a much richerliterature in Arabic, mainly of Sufistic works, than is generally realized outside Somaliland. It is hoped to indicate something of the range and quality of this Somali literatureat a later date.4 With respect to knowledge of Arabic the population may be divided into three classes, those who know a little,6 those who can read and write a little, and those who are expert in both reading and writing. The last are a small but increasingminority. The middle group have given rise in religionand trade to a type of writing which is known, not inappropriately,as ' wadaad'swriting ' (or 'wadaad's Arabic '). This is an ungrammaticalArabic containing some Somali words, the proportion of Somali naturally varying with the context. The calligraphyis usually also inexpert and often obscure. ' Wadaad'swriting' is used by merchants,in business, in letter-writing,in the writing of petitions,6
1 The most commonly studied religious works are standard authorities on the Sharica, mainly of the Shafi'ite school to which the majority of Somali adhere, with, of course, the Qur'an and various compilationsofbadiths. The Sufi Dervish Orders(Qaadiriya,Ahmadiya-Rahmaaniya, Ahmadiya-Saalihiya, and Ahmadiya-Dandaraawiya, to name the principal tariqas) provide in their literature, hagiologies (manaaqibs), poetry (qasiidas),etc., a rich source of reading material for the student of religion. Outside the tariqas, strictly, but associated with them are the hagiologies and poems composed in honour of Somali clan and lineage ancestors, transmuted in Somali Islam into Siufisaints. For Somali Sufism see Cerulli, 1923, and Lewis, 1956. It is hoped shortly to publish a more up-to-date appraisal of Sufism in Somaliland. 2Men are traditionally divided by profession into those who are warriors (waranlek)and those who devote their lives primarily, whatever subsidiary occupation they may pursue, to religion (wadaad). 3 Text I, below, p. 144, is a good example of a Somali qasiida. 4 Few works by Somali writers have been published but there are many original manuscripts, some of which one hopes may some day be printed in Mogadishu. Sayyid Mahammad Abdilleh Hassan (b. 1864, d. 1920, the celebrated 'Mad Mullah '), for example, has left a considerable al-mubdraka number of MSS. Some of the better known published works are the majmuCat ibn of Sh. CAbdallah Yuusuf al-Qalanqooli (of the Qaadiriya), Cairo, 1918-19 (see Cerulli, 1923, 22-5); the majmiuat al-qasd'id collected by the same author, Cairo, 1949, very popular amongst members of the Qaadariya Order in Somaliland; and Sh. 'Abdurahmaan az-Zeilaci's Arabic grammar,fath al-latif, Cairo, 1938. An interesting secular work is mentioned below. 5 This group comprises, of course, the majority of the population since everyone knows the Muslim prayers in Arabic (the daily prayers) and a few Arabic words. 6 Broken English is also frequently used in petition writing. Both it and obscure wadaad's writing have the great merit, where the writer wishes (and no doubt frequently involuntarily) of enabling the petition to be couched in legal ambiguity so that the meaning of finer points of detail is seldom clear. This provides the writer with talking points should dispute arise concerningthe meaning of the petition.

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

137

and in the writing of qasidas by wadaads whence its name is derived. The principalobscuritiesin this writing are due to the lack of a standardconvention for representing Somali words and failure to mark the Arabic short vowels. These are difficultiesinherent in the differencesbetween the Arabic and Somali alphabets, quite apart from the additional errors in grammar. Those of the younger generation who have learnt correct Arabic in Government schools usually find 'wadaad's writing' difficult if not impossible to read.
Somali contains 22 consonants:

7 f, q, k, , m, n, w, y6; the eight Arabic consonants j, i, ,, ^,I, ~, do not occur in pure northern Somali.8 In Somali there are ten vowels: five short and five long; a, i, u, o, e, and aa, ii, uu, oo, ee.9 From the point of view of writing Somali in Arabic characters the first requirement is for two symbols to represent Somali ( and g, the latter being a separate sound fromj. Thereis no standardconvention in' wadaad'swriting' and Somali dis variously written, , J, and J1. Somalig is usually written ,. The voiced dental plosive d is usually written z, and the Somali s which correspondsto the Arabic 'y, and should be written thus is sometimes in ' wadad's writing' written ,p, as e.g. in Soomaali written sometimes, Jl^,. Arabic lacks symbols for the Somali vowels e, ee, and o, oo, although these can be representedapproximately by other combinations in Arabic. Since, however, ' wadaad'swriting' usually omits the short vowels it is extremely difficult to read unless the meaning is clearfrom the context which is by no meansalwaysthe case. When in addition to this the writing contains both Somali and Arabicwordsand is ungrammatical the difficultyof readingit can easily be appreciated. The followingletter 10may serve as an illustration:
1 The glottal stop. 2 The Arabic ;. 3 The voiced post-alveolar plosive. 4 The voiced dental plosive, correspondingto the Arabic .. Moreno, 1955, 8, includes also a, a Somalization of the Arabic i. But this sound seems very rare in northern Somali. s Correctlythe Arabic ,. Andrzejewski introduces an additional consonant y, which he describes as 'acoustically similar to y but less tense and darker ', Andrzejewskiand Galaal, 1956, 2. 7 The is sometimes in eastern Somaliland q pronounced as the Arabic . a There are slight dialectal differencesin the speech of the cIise clan in the west, the central Ishaaq, and the Daarood in the east, and again between the Daarood and the Hawiye (all of whom are collectively ' Samaale', see Lewis, 1955, 15) but these are slight compared with the differences between these as a whole and the Banaadir and Rahanweyn dialects of southern Somalia; cf. Andrzejewski and Galaal, loc. cit., 1. See also Moreno, loc. cit., passim. 9 Both Armstrong, 1934, and Andrzejewski, 1955, 568, distinguish two values for each of the ten vowels according as the vowel is articulated with or without 'fronting'. o1 The original, written in pencil, could not be reproducedand the block has accordingly been made from a carefully traced copy.

',1 b, t,2 j,

4,8g,

a, kh, h, d,4 r, s,6 sh, ',

138

I. M. LEWIS

o'

6

J,

CJp

0

5,:jp,

Lq_

4S '

uc csW>> -

-J

(^^-

cA\

_s^LJl
cjS
. >i;u6

-6^jL ^ 1
>cr ^l,

4;

^)1

L

1

^v

1

1 cAinabo, a small town in the east of the Protectorate.

Buraco, a large town in the east of the Protectorate. Habar Jaclo, a large Ishaaq clan in the east and centre of the Protectorate. 4 Somalifariin-ta' message '. English' rations ', Somalizedto raahin-ka. Somali reer-ka 'nomadic family, household, family, people'. 7 Somalimaa-ka ' family'.

2

THE GADABUUR8I 80MALI SCRIPT

139

An advance in the application of the Arabic script to represent Somali was made by the famous Qaadiriyasaint, Sh. Uwais ibn Mahammad al-Baraawi, of the Tunni Golgaal clan, who died at Biyoley in southern Somalia in 1919.1 Sh. Uwais is the founder of the Uwaisiiya branch of the Qaadiriya.tarqa to which the majority of those who follow this Orderin southernSomaliabelong.' The Sheikh has written many well-known works some of which are published in the two collections compiled by Sh. 'Abdallah ibn Yuusuf al-Qalanqooli mentioned above. Sh. Uwais applied to the Digil 8 dialect of southern Somalia the Arabic transcriptionadopted by the Swahili-speakingAmarani of Brava 4 in writing their dialect, Bravanese. In this orthographythe Somali dis written otherwise J,, and the g 4, as in Persian. The hamzais written internally as as in Arabic. The vowel points are always inserted. The Somali vowels e and o are written ay and aw. One of the Sheikh's best known qasidasis published by Professor M. M. Morenowith a phonetic transcriptionand translation, and it is not necessaryto illustrate the script here.5 Some 20 years ago in the British Protectorate, Sheikh Mahammad'Abdi
Makaahiil,6 following his predecessor, Sh. Ibraahim 'Abdallah Mayal in his

attempts to standardize' wadaad'swriting' published a most interesting little book, ' The institution of modern correspondencein the Somali language '. This comparatively unknown work consists of an introduction in which the suitability of the Arabic script for writing Somali is urged and a standard orthography proposed. The author then illustrates his script with examples of Somali letters, sentences, and proverbs. Sh. Mahammadrepresents the Somali Qby l, and the g by a barredkaf ~. The Sheikhrecognizesthe difficulty in representingthe Somali vowels e and o. He states that in Somali a and i cannot always be distinguished and represents vowel sounds intermediate between a and i by the joint use offatha and kasra. Thus he writes Eebbahay ' my God9 eJ 'l and erer' height' j5. The problemof writing the vowel o is attacked, somewhat picturesquely,by using the symbol o- for dammawhen it is' awkwardto pronounce'. Thus talo' advice' is written J:. Recently Muuse Haaji Ismaa'iil Galaal (Habar Ja'lo, Ishaaq), following in the wake of his predecessorsin the Protectorate,has proposeda more radical alteration of Arabic to representSomali.8 Here the q and g are representedby
1 For the Tunni of southern Somalia, see Lewis, 1955, 32 and passim. For further informamentioned above and Cerulli, 1923, 12, tion concerningthe Sheikh see the majmuaat al-mubdraka 22. In northern Somaliland, on the other hand, most of the Qaadiriya follow the teaching of Sh. 'Abdurahmaanaz-Zeilaci. 8 For the Digil see Lewis, 1955, 31 if., and for their dialect, Moreno, 1955, 327 ff. 6 Moreno,loc. cit., 364-7. ? See Lewis, op. cit., 42 ff. e Of the Ishaaq, Habar Awal clan. l?;3l. il JaluJI zL;SI 7 Published in Bombay, A.H. 1345, as 4.JLWJIWI 8 Galaal, 1954. In his original article, Muuse Galaal used , to represent Somali j, but has since decided, more logically, to use this letter for Somali g. 1 1

140

I. M. LEWIS

and y respectively, and an entirely original set of symbols for the Somali vowels are introduced. The new vowel signs are a J, i 9 , u J, e o ., and the long vowels ee X and oo f. The long vowels aa and ii are represented by the Arabic I and 5. The glottal stop is written as in Arabic. The sign v' is added to any final new symbol. Examples of the use of the script are given in MuuseGalaal's article. This development by a Somali trained in phonetics may be consideredas the most accurateArabic script yet devised for Somali.

3,

II. Non-Arabic Scripts 1. 'Ismaaniya The well-known 'Ismaaniya (Osmaniya)or 'Somali writing' was invented about 1920 by 'Ismaan Yuusuf Kenadiid, brother of 'Ali Yuusuf (Daarood, Sultan of Obbia in Somalia. The script was noticed by Marcello Majeerteen),1 Orano, and later by Dr. Cerulli.2 It has been widely publicized, by Dr. M. Maino who has given the fullest descriptions,3and by 'Ismaan Yuusuf's son, Yaasiin (the well-known authority on Somali language and literature) in Somalia. The orthography is little known and virtually never used in the British Protectorate 4 although it is widely known and quite often used in Somalia. Even in Somalia, however, its currency falls short of that of the different varieties of 'wadaad's Arabic' writing. Phonetically 'Ismaaniya is highly accurate.s Thereare new symbols for each of the 22 Somali consonants except the glottal stop, which can be representedby hamza. In practice it is usually omitted. The ten vowels, five long and five short, are representedby eight new symbols and the consonantsfor y (ii) and w (uu). There are also ten numerals.6 The most striking feature of the script is, of course, that in contrast to Arabic it is written from left to right. With the exception of the glottal stop (if used) the symbols bear little or no resemblanceto any Arabic characters. In contrast to the strict phonetic character of the letters, 'Ismaaniya has certain definite etymological or quasi-etymologicalfeatures.7 Thus the article is usually written separately from the noun which it qualifies, as in geed ka 'the tree', aqal kiisa 'his house', etc. Vowel mutations which occur in speech on the addition of certain suffixes8 are not always phonetically repre1 For the Somali Daarood clan-family, see Lewis, 1955, 18 ff. 2 E. Cerulli, ' Tentativo indigeno di formare un alfabeto somalo ', OrienteModerno,xir, 4, 3 Maino, 1951,1953. 1932,212-13. 4 Some emphasis has been given to 'Ismaaniya, regarded as a national Somali script by the Somali Youth League political party. The script is sometimes used, symbolically, as much as practically, in S.Y.L. proceedings in the Protectorate. 5 See Maino, 1953, 26 ff., and Moreno, 1955, 290 ff. 6 For alphabet see n. 3 on next page. 7 cf. Maino,loc. cit., 26 ff. 8 See Bell, 1953, 7 ff.

THE GADABUUJRSISOMALI SCRIPT

141

sented. Some writers of 'Ismaaniya write etymologically,aabbehii for aabbihii 'the father ', magaalo da for magaalada' the town '. Similarlyan apostrophe is inserted in cIsmaaniyato denote an absent consonant in a suffix mutation as e.g. maga"a for maga'a 'the name', where the masculine article has been changed to ain in agreement with the final ain of the unqualified noun.' Similarly 'Ismaaniya writes geel'a for geela 'the camels'. The modification of the feminine article ta when attached to a final I to sha is written etymologically, as in (uiul sha for the pronunciation(utusha ' the charcoal'; ul sha for usha 'the stick', etc.2 The mutations which occur with the final consonants of verb stems in the third person feminine and second person
2

1 See Bell, loc. cit., 12. See Bell, loc. cit., 8. 3 The alphabet is:

b
-

t

j

c

g

t1i

Kh

0o
d

7
r

b4
s sbh

v
f
X GD

h

q
q

k
k

I
I

m

TO

z

n

y
y

h
Q i u
Ih7nU
W.t 00 0

I
e

QQ

Ui

ee

The numerals are:

5

&
2

6
4

5 5
0 O

6

7

C&

U
9

142

I. M. LEWIS

of the reflexiveconjugationare written etymologically,e.g. (aladtay for alattay 'you are/she is born', etc. These features are generally absent in the Gadabuursiscript as written by its inventor, Sheikh 'Abdurahmaan,although he sometimes writes the article suffix separately from the noun which it qualifies.1 2. The Gadabuursi Orthography This script was devised in about 1933 by Sheikh 'AbdurahmaanSheikh clan.2 Sh. 'AbdurahNuur of the chieflylineage (ReerUgaas) of the Gadabuursi maan's father, Sh. Nuur, is a well-knownfigureand was for many years Government Q-aI of BoramaDistrict in the west of the Protectorate. After some years as a teacher of religion in the Education Department, Sh. 'Abdurahmaan succeeded-his father as Qd-i at Borama and holds this post at present. He is a learnedman with a wide knowledgeof the history of his clan.3 The script is known and used only by a small circle of the Sheikh's associates in Borama and outside the Gadabuursicountry very few people have heard of it. Unlike 'Ismaaniyathe scripthas not beentakenup seriouslybyanyprotagonistof written himselfregardhis invention as a contribuSomali. Nor does Sh. 'Abdurahmaan for a nationalorthography Somali. For these reasons tion to the problemof finding and the few modificationswhich would the script has languishedin obscurity make it phonetically as accurate as 'Ismaaniya have failed to be introduced.4 could The script has no character for the glottal stop (although hamrza are 21 consonants: be employed as in 'Ismaaniya) and there

b

t

j

4

$

h

t1
kh h

T
d

53
r s

6
sh

7

' f

i

7

I
K

r
t

n
m

n 1, y 1 See the examples below. a The Gadabuursi clan inhabit the west of the British Protectorate and the northern part of the Harar province of Ethiopia. See Lewis, 1955, 25. 8 He has written in Arabic some MSS on Gadabuursihistory. 4 My attention was first drawn to the script by my friend Mr. J. Gethin, H.M. Consul, Mogadishu. I studied the script with its inventor, Sh. cAbdurahmaan,while on a visit to the Gadabuursiof Borama District.

THE GADABUURBI SOMALI SCRIPT

143

The seven vowels are:

T
a

H
e

I
i

I
ii

C
u

Cc
tuu

oo 00

In contrast to 'Ismaaniya the consonants y and w are not used as vowels and there is no except in diphthongs. Short o is normally written as u (C) differentiation between a and aa, and e and ee. These failings could very easily be remedied with only slight modifications in the script. As with 'Ismaaniya the script is written from left to right and the article suffixes are sometimes separated from their nouns. But the other etymological features of 'Ismaaniyaare lackingand in this respect the script is potentially phonetically more accurate than 'Ismaaniya. None of these Somali orthographies take account of tone (which is not always important) 1 but they could easily be written with tone marks where necessary. Six texts written by Sh. 'Abdurahmaan are publishedhere with transliterations(in italics) and phonetically more accurate transcriptions (in roman type). Fairly literal English translations accompany the texts.2
1 For the problem of tone in Somali, see Andrzejewski, 1956. Mr. Muuse Galaal and Mr. Yuusuf Maygaag have very kindly advised me in the writing of this article and in the transcription and translation of the texts. I wish to thank also Mr. F. J. Raine of the Education Department, British Somaliland, for his expert help in the preparationof scripts and texts for the printers.
2

1 1 *

144

I. M. LEWIS TEXT I

A Qasiida in praise of the Prophet

QT 7THIT. JTUTf 3TfTJC 3TTflC tJI 1CSTJTY T15T STJ3Q JTrD71n JT31TTU ST ]1J31 XCfC-TI UTJliHUI ITSTJT. GCIOT-TI OIJT JIJT3TJ. JII'LL3T F3iC IT JCC TfTiJHU )TJIICC K]Cf TTT , 7TTTTTJ ICC IT71ID) "iTTCC IT ITlJnT 'TOIUTJJ. ICYTU-JCC -5CC CfI 7CJTU6TUT UCICUTYT). 'TTTYiTJJTUT ICC IU 13 7DICU JOTUTTU.) -I-31IC 7C611 TUIM IFJTT JTFTiT nIUOTY. ITT UIU TIT TYI T-T13T D))TITJ1'iCCIT . C OTSIIU O)FCCC iQIu MYTT XC3cFr inT
AND TRANSCRIPTION TRANSLITERATION

Ya nabiyi salatu wa salamu caleka Ya nebiyi salaatu, wa salaamu 'aleyka QasiidanqorayayRabowa iga qalocin Qasiidaanqorayaaye,Rabbow hayga qalloo'in Quruh-diinabigeniya qiyasi karaya Quruhdiinebigeenii,yaa qiyaasi karaaya Qorja-dii timihiisa jigta logu qiyasay

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

145

Qurcadii timihiisa, cegtaa loogu qiyaasay Qurai dad argtenbuu qariyuuka 'adaday Qorrahdaadaragteen buu, qariyuu ka 'addaaday Haduu qafilora'o qamamkuu haiinayay Hadduu qaafilo raa'o, qamaamkuuha4inaayay Quri-gii qutanshana quyan buu nuqunayay Qorigiiqotonshaana,qoyaan buu noqonaayay muu olanayno Nin hadayis qabtanaqolthun Nin hadday is qabtaanna, qawlhun muu ocannayno Qalbigigiisiyulabtaqushkiiba laga mayiay Qalbigiisiyolaabtana, qushkii baa laga may4ay Qdad kiisa nin joga qalbiguuka arkayay Qadaadkiisanin jooga, qalbiguu ka arkaayay Qusulkiisu ma (afin ioluhuu yara qawin Qosolkiisuma qaafin, 4oolluhuu yara qaawin
TRANSLATION1

All hail Prophet, may blessing and peace be upon Thee. May the qasida I write flow smoothly, Master. The beauty of our Prophet, who can gauge ? His waving hair, reaches to His ears. He eclipsed the sun, and shines more brightly. The caravanHe accompanied,travelledundershade-givingclouds.2 The dead stick which He sets upright, becomesgreen 3 (with life). If He quarrelledwith a man, He would not insult him. His heart and breast, are pure from all evil and uncleanness. The man who stands behind him, He sees in his heart.4 When He laughed He never exposed, more than His canine teeth.5
In these translations I have tried to adhere as closely as possible to the literal meaning within the requirements of reasonably intelligible English. This is probably most difficult in a qasiida although it is difficult also in Somali secular poetry because of the use of imagery and metaphor. This qasiida was written by Sh. Ismaciil Farah (d. c. 1910) of the Habar Awal clan (Reer Ahmad). For the Habar Awal clan, see Lewis, 1955, 23 ff. The qasiida is well-known in the Protectorate. 2 When the Prophet went with a caravan he caused clouds to shade its journey. 3 Qoyaan,lit.' wet' as opposed to qori' dry, dead wood '. The phrase refersto the miraculous life-giving power of the Prophet. 4 This sentence means simply that through his miraculouspower, the Prophet would be aware of the presence of someone standing behind him. s This sentence refers to Wadit describing the Prophet's demeanour when he smiled which has set a style of propriety in expressing pleasure or mirth. This religious tradition is probably associated with the common Somali idea that a man who opens his mouth wide when he smiles or laughs is not to be trusted. The following words have the Arabic correspondencesshown: nebi Ar. n-b-y; salaat Ar. s-l--t; salaam Ar. s-l--m; caleybaAr. C-l-y-k; qasiida Ar. q-s-y-d-t; Rabbi Ar. r-b; qiyaasi Ar. q-y-'-s; qaaflo Ar. q-'-f-l-t; qamaam Ar. g-m-'-m; qawl (in the compound qawl2un) Ar. q-w-l; qalbigii Ar. q-l-b.

146

L M. LEWIS

TEXT II

A letter from Borama

3HFT7 QTFTrIl PHIFT TU YC3HU. 3TTTUTSCT UTJTT. II QCIfTT. fHf

YCYTr ODJ3TQJ QHUT QTITL FlfTY YT7CUTY 7T-lUTQCC

T. QTJ 33 mlI) TFTJJI UT CTOTY.
QTY DYTUT U3 30 TIJ3CJT<q. IT QCVC JIfIT,QTFTF qCCrHT JT TY TJIH3T.. JIFH UCCJ JD TnT.
TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSCRIPTION

Sela' Seyla' Walal kii an je'la, Husen. Salamad. Walaal kii an je'laa, Huseen. Salaamad. Anagu wa nabad. Rer kii wuhu yal Doobo. Annagu waa nabad. Reer kii wutiu yaal Doobo. Awr kii wenawaha 'unay libah. 'Ali na wuu yimid. Awr kii weyna waha 'unay libaah. 'Ali na wuu yimid. Alabti way na soo ga4ay. Noo soo dir subag.

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

147

Alaabtii way na soo gaa4ay. Noo soo dir subag. Hooyanaway timid. Walal ka Guuledwuhu Hooyana way timid. Walaal kaa Guuleedwuhu tagay Hargesa. tegay Hargeysa. Nuur Bile Nuur Bile Boorama Boorama
TRANSLATION

Zeila.1 beloved brother, Huseen. Peace. My I am well,2the reer3 is at Doobo.4 The big burden camel has been eaten by a lion. 'Ali has come. The goods have been received by us. Send us (some) ghee. Ourmotherhas come. Your 5brotherGuuleedhas gone to Hargeisa.6 Nuur Bile, Borama.7
1 The ancient but now deserted town, at various times capital of the Muslim state of Awdal (ninth/tenth-sixteenth centuries), on the north-west coast of the British Protectorate. Wellknown place-names are here spelt as in common administrative usage in the Protectorate. 2 Lit. ' it is peace ', meaning above all spiritual equilibrium, not simply the absence of war. A rather perfunctory greeting, as here, the writer would be somewhat disturbed by the loss of the camel. 3 Here, the nomadic hamlet, comprising a man's hut, sheep and goats, and possibly some milch camels and cattle, with his wife and children (by her) and probably a few families of close kin with their huts and stock. Each wife normally has one hut. The word reer is also used in other more general senses, as e.g. to mean ' people ', but this is its basic meaning. For a general introduction to the structure of nomadic Somali society see my The Somali lineage systemand the total genealogy (duplicated), Hargeisa, Somaliland Protectorate, 1957. 4 A village in the west of the Protectorate. 5 The article -kaa indicates that the person spoken of is more directly related to the recipient of the letter than to the sender. This possibly refersto the recipient and sender being of different mothers (Som. kala hooyo). 6 The capital of the British Protectorate, of recent foundation and with no traditions of any considerable antiquity. 7 The administrative centre of Borama District in the west of the Protectorate, home of author of our script. Sh. CAbdurahmaan

148

I. M. LEWIS

TEXT III

A Gabayby Ugaas Nuur

QTT .Y10 iT3 UCCf C HJD UIUITTfTU TJT 3HY6TY. ITqTU TYCtH

PIOIC CUD UIU T3UTU YTTTf i7TYTU C 31TTYTY.
nTTT5TI YTYTTT IT C TCr7TT HY nlTYTU YH6T. UIUTTC3TUTYJT 1 nITTU TCfTCCf nTFTJ 31ITY. C 3DJIJTU TTQTfIT 5323HU 1HITTT C TTT6CQ

TT ITU 01TY JIU C ICrICC 3 TTSTFIT3T)D.
TIIU. TITU 13TO3U LU ITIU ITiTTTYTU 31YTY.
TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSCRIPTION

Wadayici Ugas Nuur Waha yi4i Ugaas Nuur Eboownin ii daran mahandartahurese7shay. Eebbow nin ii daran mahaan daarta hore seehshay. Jiilku nin unoo doonanmaian hadalu siidayay. Ji4ku nin anu doonayn mahaan hadal u sii daayay. Ma dagdagey iajadamahanrag u dulqadyeshay. Ma degdeg ey hajada mahaan rag u dulqaad yeeshay. Nin ii daqsanayamaTanmalabdurduursiiyay. Nin ii daaqsanayaamahaan malab durduursiiyay. Goortan en dawarkau roogoo keladau dadshu. Goortaandawaarkau rogo een heeladda u daadsho. Dabin kan u iigay kulkuudagalkasoo saroo. Dabin kaan u 'igay kolkuu degelka soo saaro. Isagoon dikniin qabinmahankaga dayan siiyay. Isagaan digniin qabin mahaan kaga dayaan siiyay.

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

149

TRANSLATION

As Ugaas Nuur said,l Oh God! 2 How often have I made a man hostile to me sleep in the front part of the house.3 How often have I allowed a man against whom my flesh turned to continue speaking. I am not hasty in dispute,4how often have I shown forbearance.5 How often have I given a second helping of honey 6 to the man who only waited to hurt me. When I turn the sewing machine and scatter the seeds of treachery (or trickery).7 The trap 8 which I have preparedfor him (my enemy) when he sets his chest 9 on top of it. How often have I caught him unawares.10
1 Lit. ' What Ugaas Nuur said'. Ugaas Nuur Ugaas Roobleh, Sultan (Ugaas) of the Gadabuursi clan, is said to have died about 1898. 2 Eebbeis an ancient and still-used Somali name for God. 3 This rhetorical continuative emphasized in the arrangement of the words is continued throughout the gabay. For information on Somali folk-literature and poetry see Kirk, 1905, 170 ff., Maino, 1953, 44 ff., and Laurence, 1954, 5 ff. ' Lit. ' in the matter '. 5 Lit. 'yielded patiently to people (rag)'. 6 Metaphor for any kind, or sweet, action as rendered here by the speaker to his enemy. 7 The speaker sows a scheme of treachery to catch his enemy. From his brooding will come the seeds of the plan which will secure his enemy's downfall. Daadi 'to scatter' is used of feeding grain to poultry. 8 A trap for wild animals and game. 9 Degel-kausually means an old camp-site, deserted, but sometimes returned to; here it has the less common meaning of chest associated with the idea of bringing near. The whole theme of the poem is that the speaker bides his time waiting only until the time is ripe to strike his enemy. The proud nomad does not forget an insult although he may appear to do so. 10 The construction here is involved. The speaker gave his enemy dayaan (lit. ' the crashing sound of a blow') with some unstated object implied in the use of kaga. The first three words mean 'without him taking warning'.

VOL. XXI.

PART 1.

11

150

I. M. LEWIS TEXT IV

A Geeraarby 'Ali Bu'ul

7Trl GHITS, J7Cr QCYCYjI/ qCTCJIHT 113 CrTTYTJ TrI153 93TIJTTHTT IYC qCtIT QHUqTJSH3T IC qTrFI iTfTQT L1 TJCC qTFT.13 IC i1TfTIN fT TTSCCfqCTGCTTDJ

qCFTcCIC

'

lOUTUTUT

q.3O HUIT ITJTYJTJ

nT Tf 3D3TU QCTJTJ q3DTU;3.fU I1TrT CHFTF JC IJT 33 IJCC nT qCCt JHIDOITT-)J TC613TI1D nTFTTSTT-IT qCCT-IlJCCIT 7TTTTTJ T nfT ?T.r CJTYFTT3D

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

151

AND TRANSCRIPTION TRANSLITERATION

Gerar,'Ali Bu'ul, wuhuyi1i, Geeraar,'Ali Bu'ul, wuiu yi4i, Bulahargudubked iyoo Bullahar gudubkeediyo Almis goodyadeeda iyu Almis goodiyadeedaiyo Gubkawen Hargesaiyu Gobka weyne Hargeysa iyo Galihii Haraw ayuu Galihii Haraw ayuu Galabis ku marayh Galabisku maraayeh Ma daruurgudgudayoo Ma daruurgudgudaayoo Gulahuku hifna nana Golohuuku hi4naana Goohwen kabahyay ba Gooh weyn baa ka bahaayaye Ma ar goosanwatayoo Ma aar goosan wataayoo 'idla Goobangoobin Gabangoobbi'idla Iyuu gelal soo tu iya Ayuu geelal soo tu'yaaye Ma gub reroofdayoo Ma gob reeroQa'daayoo Hal garad ka dushiisa iyoo Hal garaadkadushiisa iyo Guudka buu ka 'adad'y Guudkabuu ka 'adaaday A ma galool ubailayoo E ma galool ubahlaayoo

152

I. M. LEWIS

TRANSLATION1

Geeraar,'Ali Bu'ul, what he said, Bulhar 2 and beside it, and the country of Almis,3 And Hargeisa with its great gob tree,4 and the valley of Harawa,5in an evening he compassed, Is he the speeding rain-cloud? 6 From the place 7 he was tethered, a great noise came forth, Is he the leader of a pride of lions ? 8 In the lonely camp (of the raiders), he (brings) the (stolen) camels to kneel,9 Is he (like) the noblemen10laying waste the camps ? The long hairs of his tail, and mane are pure white,1' Is he the acacia tree in flower ? 12
1In this poem the poet praises his horse. Very many geeraarhave such a theme. A small town, formerly more important and prosperous than it is to-day, to the west of Berbera in the Protectorate. 3 A mountain in the west of the Protectorate. 4 The gob (Zizyphousmauritiana) is one of the largest and most noble of the common trees in the Protectorate. Its fruit is relished by man and beast and its shade is much sought after. 6 A place in the Gadabuursi country to the west of the Protectorate. G* udgude-hais a swiftly moving night rain-cloud. The word is related to gud 'to travel by night '. 7 Gole-ha' a place where men (and certainly formerly horses) gather'; a meeting-place. s Aar-ka 'the male lion ', gool-sha ' the lioness ' ' 9 Gabangoobi-da a flat area or plain', here deserted, and the retreat of the raiders whose presence is implied. Lit. 'he kneels (tui) the camels'. The horse is here praised for its part in stock-looting. Its prowess and stamina enable the rider to capture many camels and bring them back to camp to.unload. 10 Gobmeans 'noble, of aristocratic birth or lineage ', as opposed to gun (lit. 'the bottom') meaning of common, undistinguished, birth. The word gob is applied to anyone, with the general exception of the despised leather-workers, smiths, etc. (the Midgaans, Tumaals, Yibirs, etc.) whose actions conform to the Somali conception of noble conduct. Reer means here ' nomadic hamlet ', as in Text II, p. 147, n. 3, above. 11 Hal 'one (of anything) ', here denotes a single strand of hair. 12 Galool,the acacia tree, Acacia bussei, bursts into a cascade of light feathery yellow flowers at the beginning of spring with the coming of the rains. The image here is not only of the colour of the flower but contains also the implication that its blooming heralds the long-awaited spring rains. The galool also flowers again later in the year.
2

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

153

TEXT V

Fragmentof a Gabayby UgaasNuur

In1TIT iCJTJTTC QTtTJ OISJT 61fl nHr TJDfITIH. J]CUT TJ13ITY 0133C CJTT FH3TIH IYTJ IT TQJ TJT 13 IITI 7ITFT OTI7YH IC ITFT5)UH.
TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSCRIPTION

mel ilmaha wahay digta arooriyahe Gurayadu ilmaha wahay 4igtaa meel arooryahe Gorayadu Shimbirtuna arooskay(istu iyay ubadka gesaye Shimbirtunaarooskayqisto ayay ubadka geysaaye lyakaba 'qala is lafiye awr ku kalaroone. Iyakaba 'aqlays 4aafiyaye awr ku kala roone.
TRANSLATION1

The ostrich puts her child in the unshelteredplain. But the bird 2 builds a large bridal house 3 to put her children in. Their brains are not in keeping with the differencein their sizes.4
1 This fragment comes from a well-known gabay by Ugaas Nuur, see Text III, p. 149, n. 1. 2 The Somali divide the feathered vertebrates into two main classes. Birds of prey are known collectively as had-ka. Other (non-carnivorous)birds are called shimbir-tausually translated in English as 'bird'. This is only partly correct as birds of prey are not shimbir. The ostrich belongs to neither class and is not considered as a bird. It is grouped with all game animals (ugaa(-.da) and is hunted, less frequently now than formerly, for its excellent fat used for making ghee. The antithesis is here between the great ostrich which shows less ingenuity in the care of its young than any small nesting bird. 8 Aroos-kais the house built for the bridal couple by the parents of the girl in return for the bride-price(yarad-ka)paid by the husband and his kin. It also means bridegroom,or marriage. The aroos is in fact the newly constructed, abundantly equipped, especially adorned, house, built for the bride and her husband before the wedding and which they will probably occupy for the rest of their lives. In the interior it is the collapsible mat and skin-covered hut (aqal), built on a frame of boughs lashed together, of the nomads. 4 Caqlays from the Ar. C-q-1 plus contracted is. Awr, literally 'male burden camel', is used metaphorically here as a unit of large size. This is quite a common metaphorical use. These three lines have assumed almost the currency of a proverb to the effect that bulk and brawn are not the same as ingenuity.

154

I. M. LEWIS TEXT VI

A letterfrom Borama

QTrTr-ITJ 7TFl

3HrT7

ICr QTUTJTT. TTY TH61T'6T T7IYC TTU 3DTlf ITJC fTnTQ13 1 IJC IYC fHf ZD71TT qTlftTITT YCQTFT6T IIUTQCC qCCITJ. ICUQTY IUT JflilT. TOCCO QT FT CflTY. 33 TI U3) OQTT.I TUINC IfTU TTUJM. QTYTU 3TYTU UTJTT qTrFJ3.
3CqTF T7TI. tf3TnlT.
TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSCRIPTION

Sela' Walal-kay'Ali. Seyla' Walaalkay 'Ali ii Wa nabad. Kulkadheshidwaraqdan soo dir Waa nabad. Kolkaad heshid waraaqdanii soo dir kabuiyu ma'awisiyu koofiyad garbagala. iyu kabo iyo ma'awis iyo koofiyad iyo garbagale. Rer kiina wuu guuray. WalashaHufun way timid. Reerkiina wuu guuray. WalaashaaHufun way timid. Haduuwkiina wa la tumay. Noo soo dir waraq. Hacuu4kiina waa la tumay. Noo soo dir waraaq. Anigu wahan iman sahan dambe. Nabadgalyoo. Anigu wahan iman sahan dambe. Nabad gelyo. Boorama. Sugal CAbdi, Sugaal 'Abdi, Boorama.

THE GADABUURSI SOMALI SCRIPT

155

TRANSLATION Zeila. My brother 'Ali, We are well. When you have received this letter 1 send me shoes, and a lungi,2and a hat,3 and a shirt.4 The family 5 has moved. Your sister, Hufun, has come. The sorghum has been thrashed.6 Send us a letter. I shall come the day after to-morrow.7 Good-bye. Sugaal 'Abdi, Borama.
REFERENCES

Andrzejewski, B. W., 'The problem of vowel representation in the Isaaq dialect of Somali ', BSOAS, xvII, 3, 1955, 567-80. - 'Accentual patterns in verbal forms in the Isaaq dialect of Somali', BSOAS, xvIII, 1, 1956, 103-29. (ed.), Hikmad Soomaali, by Muuse Haaji Ismaa'iil Galaal (SOAS. Annotated African Texts, Iv: Somali), London, Cape Town, O.U.P., 1956. Armstrong, L. E., 'The phonetic structure of Somali', MSOS, xxxvII, 3, 1934, 116-61. Bell, C. R. V., The Somali language,London, Longmans,1953. Corulli, E., 'Note sul movimento musulmano nella Somalia', RSO, x, 1, 1923, 1-36. Galaal, M. H. I., 'Arabic script for Somali', Islamic Quarterly,I, 2, 1954, 114-18. Kirk, J. W. C., A grammar theSomali language,Cambridge, of University Press, 1905. Laurence,Margaret,A treefor poverty,Nairobi, Eagle Press for the Somaliland Protectorate, 1954. Lewis, I. M., Peoples of the Horn of Africa (EthnographicSurvey of Africa: North Eastern Africa, Part I), London, International African Institute, 1955.
1 Waraaqdan, cf. Ar. w-r-q-t.

cf. Ar. m-<-w-z. 3 cf. Ar. k-w-f-y-t. ' Garbagale-ha shirt ', from gal ' to enter ' and garbo' shoulders ', the garment the shoulders enter. 5 For the meaning of the word reersee Text II, p. 147, n. 3. 6 The sorghum (haa4uui-ka) is grown in the Protectorate only in significant quantities in Hargeisa and Borama, Districts in the west of the country, and is harvested between September and December according to the year. There is generally only one main crop each year. Much of the crop is brought into the markets of towns like Hargeisa by trade truck and sold if a good price is offered very shortly after it has been cut and thrashed in the fields. The money thus obtained provides ready cash for the purchase of necessities such as clothes and cooking utensils. At this time of year, unless the harvest has been disastrous, people are normally contented and happy, and during and immediately after the harvest the marriageseason of the cultivators in the west of the Protectorate is in full swing. 7 Sahan dambe 'the day after to-morrow' is Gadabuursi dialect. In the centre and east of the Protectorate the expression is saa dambe.
2

1 2

THE GADABUUBSI SOMALI SCRIPT

156

Lewis, I. M., 'Sufism in Somaliland: a study in tribal Islam', BSOAS, xvii, 3, 1955, 581-602; xviI, 1, 1956, 145-60. Maino,M., ' L'alfabeto " osmania" in Somalia', RSE, x, 1951, 108-21. La lingua somalastrumento Alessandria,1953. d'insegnamento professionale, Moreno,M. M., II somalodella Somalia, Roma, Istituto Poligraficodello Stato, 1955. Webber,J. M., ' Contrastin Somaliland,Part n, festival', Corona,June 1956, 211-13.