The Garhajis (Somali: Garxajis, Arabic: غرحجس‎, Ismail (Garhajis) Shiekh Isaaq ibn Ahmad al-Hashimi) is a Somali clan and the largest sub-clan of the Isaaq.[1] They are the traditional holders of the Isaaq Sultanate since the late 18th century. Its members form a part of the Habar Magaadle confederation. The Garhajis are divided into two major sub-clans, the Habar Yoonis and Eidagalla.[2][3] They are traditionally nomadic pastoralists.


The Garhajis inhabit the western Togdheer, eastern Woqooyi Galbeed, northern Sool and central Sanaag regions of Somaliland. They also inhabit the Degehbur, Wardheer and Aware zones in the Haud region of Ethiopia. They also have a large settlement in Kenya where they are known as a constituent segment of the Isahakia community.[4]


Sheikh Isaaq Bin Ahmed was one of the Arabian scholars that crossed the sea from Arabia to the Horn of Africa to spread Islam around 12th to 13th century. He is said to have been descended from Prophet Mohammed's daughter Fatimah. Hence the Sheikh belonged to the Ashraf or Sada, titles given to the descendants of the prophet. He married two local women in Somalia that left him eight sons, one of them being Ismail (Garhajis). The descendants of those eight sons are the what is known as Isaaq clan today.

Medieval period (Conquest of Abyssinia)

Historically the Garhajis took part in the conquest of Abyssinia and were part of the Adal Sultanate and are mentioned in the book Futuh Al-Habash (Conquest of Abyssinia) as the Habar Magaadle along with the Habar Awal, Arap and Ayub clans. [5]

Shermaarke Ali, governor of Berbera, Zeila and Tajoura (1833-1861)

The Habar yoonis exercised real power over Zeila and its adjacent regions and had established themselves as a coastal power with Shermarke Ali Saleh of the Musa Arreh sub-clan solidifying and consolidating his power in governing Zeila, Berbera and Tadjoura. Shermarke with the help of his clansmen usurped power from the Sharifs of Mukha, bringing back Somali rule to the northern coast. Shermarke secured the trade routes on both land and sea and fought piracy off the coast, even saving the British brig the Mary ann from pirates, which earned him the trust of the British. In 1840 he signed a treaty with the British East India Comapny.[6] The Habar Yoonis also raided Bulahar coast and regularly exacted tribute from the locals[7][8][9][10][11][12]

1870s -1940s (Rayyad Wars)

During this period the Garhajis were fighting an expansionist war against the Daarood clans and gained much new territory in the Haud region. These battles are today known as the Rayyad or Guba Wars. It was a volatile era that gave birth to some of the best known Somali poetry.

In 1877 the Garhajis under the leadership of Sultan Hersi Aman conquered Daroor and subjugated the Haroun sub-clan of the Ogaden, during the battle they captured and subsequently executed their Sultan.[13] The Habar Yoonis then proceeded to expand into Doolo region and took control of watering wells, grazing land and looted thousands of camels from the Cabdille, Makahil, Ali and Haroun sub clans of the Ogaden, forcing them to leave their homeland and flee south to Hiiraan. This particular series of conquests was what initiated the famous chains of poems known as Guba in which Ali Dhuh a Daarood poet laments, and berates the Ogadenis for losing so much land and exchanges heated poems with the Ogaden and Habar Yoonis.[14][15]

Historian Siegbert Uhlig commenting on the Guba poem writes the following-

From a historical point of view Ali dhuhs poem explicitly details the large gains in traditionally Ogaden territory and wells, and the looting of Ogaden camels by the Isaq. He details the scatterring of the Ogaden clan, their forced migration southwards seeking refuge in the feverish river valleys, and even turning to hunting and farming- measures that were again considered very shameful usually only undertaken by slaves and low-caste Somalis and utterly demeaning for the once great pastoral Ogaden clan. The Ogaden, Ali recounts, have been forced to accept refuge with the clans that defeated them, especially the Habr Yunis, and cannot take revenge. The Isaq are portrayed as particularly callous and shameful in the way they parade looted Ogaden camels in front of their previous owners. Even in translation it is a very evocative poem .[14]

The Habar Yoonis advance into Ogaden territory was eventually halted by the intervention of the British protectrate authorities with assistance from the Ethiopian Empire, who considered the Ogaden their subjects and whos safety was their priority. In one incident the Habar Yoonis looted 1330 camels from the Ogaden, but were pressured by the British and the Ethiopians to return the camels to their previous owners. The Habar Yoonis obliged and promised to desist in their raids, but despite their promise they continued to successfully raid the Ogadens unhindered up until the British ceded the Haud to Ethiopia.[16]

Dervish period

The Garhajis clan played a prominent role in the inception of the Dervish movement and its subsequent struggle against the British Empire. Among the prominent members of the Dervish was the Sultan of the Habar Yoonis, Nur Ahmed Aman , whos letter to Mohammed Abdullah Hassan initiated the Dervish rebillion.

The incident that sparked the Dervish rebellion and the 21 years disturbance according to the consul-general James Hayes Sadler was either spread or as he alleged was concocted by Sultan Nur of the Habr Yunis. The incident in question was that of a group of Somali children that were converted to Christianity and adopted by the French Catholic Mission at Berbera in 1899. Whether Sultan Nur experienced the incident first hand or whether he was told of it is not clear but what is known is that he propagated the incident in the Tariqa at Kob Fardod in June 1899 precipitating the religious rebellion that later morphed into the Somali Dervish.[17]

Sultan Nur leading his Dervish clansmen participated in numerous battles against the British. These confrontations took pace at Samala, Ferdidin , Erigo , Daratoleh and Gumburu. Due to being a high ranking Dervish, Sultan Nur's capture was of upmost importance to the British.

Before dispatching forces to face the Dervish at Samala Consul-General Hayes Salder made the following instructions to the overall commander of the forces Eric John Eagles Swayne:

"In the unlikely event of the: Mullah offering to surrender, in his case and that of the Following: Haji Sudi, Deria Arale, Deria Gure Only an unconditional surrender should be accepted no guarantee of any kind to future treatment been given. Sultan Nur the , sultan of the Habr Yunis, may be guaranteed his life." J. Hayes-Sadler, His Britannic Majesty's Consul-General, Somali Coast Protectorate. Aden April 11, 1901."[18]

Despite confronting Nur in many battles the British failed in their mission to capture him. Gabriel Ferrand, the Vice-Council of France following these events observed that "Neither the Mahdi nor his chief advisor Ahmed Warsama, better known under the name Haji Sudi, nor the Sultan Nur, leader of the Habr Younis clan were killed or captured. The optimism of Colonel Sadler and Lieutenant-Colonel Swayne in the latest reports relating to military operations is inexplicable." [19]

Taleh forts and tombs of dervish Somaliland 1930

The last intelligence report mention of Sultan Nur in the Italian archives was in 1907.[20] After the death of sultan Nur 1907/1908 in the dervish camp at Taleh his son Dolal sultan Nur ascended the sultanate in the dervish camp.[21]

Sultan Nur was buried by his dervish in a large domed tomb in Taleh before the later forts were built and his tomb predated the later dervish forts. His white tomb in the dervish capital is a testimony to his contribution to the movement. Few dervish founders are commemorated in Taleh numbering four mullahs [22].

MacFadyen a British geologist and the only scholar to study the structures of Taleh fort, mentioned the handful of tombs constructed by the dervish for their leaders described the tombs in 1931 in his article Macfayden only identified Sultan Nur's tomb by name out of the 4 dervish entombed in Taleh:

"South of the main cave-well is the considerable tomb of Abdullah Hasan senior, well plastered inside and out; it is now said to be empty. Adjoining this on the west is a walled garden with massive gateway and guard-house; the rest of the wall is not more than 5 feet high and plastered. There are still odd bushes and signs of cultivation to be seen, but the comparatively deep well in the middle is dry. To the east lies a row of four tombs. The most northerly is that of one Soldan Nur of the Habr Yunis tribe; the next two, neither being plastered. and the first with the top left unfinished, are those of Hawiya notables whose names my Somalis did not know. The most southerly tomb is that of a man of the Habr Jaalo tribe. The isolated tomb still farther east is that of 'AbdullahHasan's mother. All the tombs are provided with narrow but very massive wooden doors, swinging about vertical extensions from top and base of one side." [23]

Though some sections of the Garhajis supported the Dervish movement at the time of its inception, like many other Dervish allied clans they became disillusioned with the movement towards the end. After the Bombing campaign of the Taleh fort and the Dervish retreat into Ethiopia, Tribal Chief Haji Mohammad Bullaleh (Haji the Hyena) who hailed from the Segulleh Ainanshe clan of the Habar Yoonis, commanded a 3000 strong army that consisted of Habar Yoonis, Habar Jeclo and Dhulbahante warriors and pursued the fleeing Dervishes. They attacked Muhammad Abdallah Hassan and his army in the Ogaden region and swiftly defeated them, causing Muhammad to flee to the town of Imi. Haji and his army looted 60,000 livestock and 700 rifles from the dervishes, which dealt a severe blow to them economically, a blow from which they did not recover. [24] The Garhajis, especially the Habar Yoonis, had a hand in the birth and the eventual demise of the Dervish state.

Somali civil war and the Somali National Movement

The Somali National Movement (SNM) was a 1980s–1990s rebel group. The SNM was organized in London, England, on April 6, 1981 by Hasan Adan Wadadid a Habar Yoonis clan member and a former Somali diplomat and he stated that the group's purpose was to overthrow the Siaad Barre regime.[25] The SNM gathered its main base of support from members of the Isaaq clan, who formed and supported the movement in response to years of systematic discrimination by the Siaad Barre government.

Members of the Garhajis clan made up a significant portion of the leadership and soldiers of the SNM. Garhajis Commanders carried out many successful operations that led to the decisive victory of the group and to the downfall of the Siad Barre regime.

Such operations included the Birjeex raid led by Colonel Ibrahim Kodbur ( Eidagale) and Operation Mandheera led by Mohamed Hashi Diriye lixle (Habar Yoonis) where they successfully freed hundreds of Isaaq political prisoners whose executions were imminent.[26].

Under the leadership of Abdirahman Ahmed Ali Tuur (Habar Yoonis) the SNM carried out a successful invasion of Northern Somalia overthrowing the Communist regime and establishing the democratic state of Somaliland. Abdirahman was sworn in as Somaliland's first president.

List of Garhajis SNM leaders.[27]

  • Abdirahman Tuur
  • Mohamed Hashi Lihle
  • Ibarhim Koodbur
  • Mohamed Ali
  • Haragwaafi
  • Madah-diin
  • Wiyilfurato
  • Omar Aseyr
  • Abdulkadir Koosaar
  • Ahmed Mire
  • Dhancade
  • General Hassan Kayd

Sultanate of the Habar Yoonis

Nur Ahmed Aman
Sultan Nur seated in the middle 1896
Predecessor Hersi Aman
Born Aden (Yemen)
Died 1907/1908
Taleh, Somaliland
Religion Sufi Islam

The Habar Yoonis Sultanate is traditionally held by the Sugulleh Ainanshe sub clan.[28]

Sugulleh Ainanshe was the first Sultan of the Habar Yoonis. Of his descendants were Sultan Nur a founding member of the Dervish movement and King Xirsi Amaan the warrior Sultan who ruthlessly waged war on the Ogaden and expanded Habar Yoonis territory in Haud.

Sultan Nur was the great grand son of the first Habr Yunis Sultan Deria Segulleh circa (1780–1859). He spent much of his early life before his sultanate as a religious Sufi pupil in Hahi and Berato Ahmadiya tariqa under its head mullah Mohomed Arab.[29] According to the wife of sultan Nur an Aden (Yemen) born Somali, Nur couldn't not read or write but he could converse in Arabic.[30]

Nur became a sultan after the death of his uncle Sultan Hersi Aman (1825–1879)[31] in an intertribal fight. Sultan Hersi the chief of the Habr Yunis clan since the mid 1850s was killed in an inter civil war with the sage Haji Guled around 1879 his uncle.


The ascent of Nur to the sultanate caused a decade long civil war when his relative ( great uncle) Awad sultan Deria declared himself a rival sultan in 1881.[32] Drake Brockman a medical doctor in Somaliland protectorate and the author of British Somaliland narrated the long conflict caused by Nur's ascent to the sultanate in his book[33]

Drake Brockman summarizing Nur's story as the following in 1911"

Deriyeh, the head of the Rer Segulleh, was universally proclaimed Sultan by the rest of the Habr Yunis tribe, and was really the first of the Habr Yunis Sultans, although his father, Segulleh, had tried to pose as such. Sultan Deriyeh lived to a great age, and had no less than eighteen sons, of whom the first two were borne to him by a woman of the Makahil section of the Habr Awal tribe, and the elder of these, Aman by name, joining with his brother, formed the Ba Maka-hil, while his remaining sixteen stepbrothers formed the Baha Deriyeh.

Aman had ten sons, the eldest of whom was Ahmed, who died before his father, who himself died before his old father, the aged Sultan Deriyeh. Now, as soon as Sultan Deriyeh died there was trouble as to his successor. The Ba Makahil claimed that Ismail and Hirsi, of their section, were entitled to the honour ; but the Rer Segulleh and some of the Baha Deriyeh, said, " No, as several of the late Sultan's sons are still living, one of them should be their Sultan before any of the grandsons"; so they invited Awid Deriyeh to be their representative. In the meantime, Ismail was killed fighting with the Ogaden and Hirsi by the Baha Segulleh

Clan tree

A summarized clan family tree of the major Garhajis subclan of Habar Yonis is presented below. [34]

  • Sheikh Isaaq Bin Ahmed Al Hashimi (Sheikh Isaaq)
    • Habar Habuusheed
      • Ahmed (Tol-Ja’lo)
      • Muuse (Habar Jeclo)
      • Ibrahiim (Sanbuur)
      • Muhammad (‘Ibraan)
    • Habar Magaadle
      • Abdirahman (Habar Awal)
      • Ayub
      • Muhammad (Arap)
      • Ismail (Garhajis)
        • Said Ismail (Habar Yonis)
          • Ali Said
          • Arreh Said
            • Ishak Arreh
              • Abdillahi Ishak
              • Kassim Ishak
            • Musa Arreh
              • Hassan Musa
            • Ismail Arreh
              • Sa'ad Yunis
              • Musa Ismail
              • Abdallah Ismail
                • Idris (idrays)
                • Musa Abdallah
                • Omar Abdallah (The Omar Abdallah are the royal sub-clan of the Habar Yoonis and the hereditary Sultanate is currently held by them) [35][36]
                  • Adan Omar
                    • Hersi Osman
                      • Said Hersi
                        • Rer Warsama (Waraba)
                        • Rer Weid
                      • Abdi Hersi
                      • Ainanshe Hersi
                        • Rer Ainanshe
                        • Rer Sugulleh
        • Daud Ismail (Eidagalla) (The Eidagalla sub-clan are divided into the following sections)[37]
          • Abokor Musa
          • Rer Yunis Abdurahman
          • Ba delo
          • Gashanbur
          • Damal Yera
          • Rer Esa


Genetic analysis carried out on males of the Garhajis clan has shown that they belong to the T1a1a2b2 sub-clade of Haplogroup T-M184 which has its origins in the Middle east. Their most closest paternal relatives are members of the Isaaq clan, Dir clan and outside of Africa the Al Faraj (Bani Malik) tribe of Kuwait.[38][39]

Notable People

  • Abdullahi Qarshe, Somali musician, poet and playwright; known as the "Father of Somali music"
  • Faysal Ali Warabe, Chairman of the For Justice and Development party of Somaliland.
  • Ismail Mahmud Hurre, foreign minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia from mid-2006 to early 2007


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  2. ^ "Ethnographic Survey of Africa , p.24". 
  3. ^ "I.M Lewis, Blood and Bone, p. 108". 
  4. ^ "Violent deeds live on: landmines in Somalia and Somaliland, p. 63". 
  5. ^ "مخطوطات > بهجة الزمان > الصفحة رقم 16". makhtota.ksu.edu.sa. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  6. ^ "Paths Without Glory: Richard Francis Burton in Africa". 
  7. ^ Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland: Betrayal and Redemption 1899-1921 p. 149-150.
  8. ^ The Visit of Frederick Forbes to the Somali Coast in 1833 R Bridges. Int J Afr Hist Stud 19 (4), 679-691. 1986.
  9. ^ Travels In Southern Abyssinia Through The Country Of Adal To The Kingdom Of Shoa. by Charles Johnston, Volume 1. 1844
  10. ^ First footsteps in East Africa : or, An exploration of Harar by Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890; Burton, Isabel, Lady, Published 1894
  11. ^ Marston, Thomas E. Britain's Imperial Role In the Red Sea Area, 1800-1878. Hamden: Conn., Shoe String Press, 1961.
  12. ^ "American University foreign studies, 1993, Somalia a country study, p. 10". 
  13. ^ The unknown horn of Africa by James, F. L. (Frank Linsly) 1851-1890; Thrupp, James Godfrey. p. 264.
  14. ^ a b Proceedings of the XVth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies Hamburg (2003), p. 215.
  15. ^ "Dictionary of African Biography. 1St- Ed.; 1970 , p.171". 
  16. ^ "Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland ,p.149". 
  17. ^ F.O.78/5031,Sayyid Mohamad To The Aidagalla, Enclosed Sadler To Salisbury. 69, 20 August 1899.
  18. ^ Official History of the Operations in Somaliland. 1901–1904 Vol. I p. 54
  19. ^ Les Çomâlis. .Ferrand, Gabriel,1903. p. 268.
  20. ^ Ferro e fuoco in Somalia, con lettera introduttiva di Emilio de Bono. Francesco Saverio Caroselli. pp.105-106
  21. ^ British SomaliLand by Ralph E Drake Brockman .1012. p. 82
  22. ^ Taleh by W. A. MacFadyen, The Geographical Journal Vol. 78, No. 2 (Aug., 1931), pp. 125–128.
  23. ^ Taleh by W. A. MacFadyen, The Geographical Journal Vol. 78, No. 2 (Aug., 1931), pp. 125–128.
  24. ^ "Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland, p. 209". 
  25. ^ Helen Chapin Metz, Somalia: a country study, Volume 550, Issues 86-993, (The Division: 1993), p.xxviii.
  26. ^ MGoth (13 January 2018). "The Rebirth of Somaliland;Operation Birjeex (SNM Rescue Unit)-Part 7". 
  27. ^ Forberg, Ekkehard; Terlinden, Ulf (13 April 1999). "Small Arms in Somaliland: Their Role and Diffusion". BITS – via Google Books. 
  28. ^ "A grammar of the Somali language, p. 141". 
  29. ^ Somalia e Benadir.p.426-427
  30. ^ Under the flag : and Somali coast stories by Walsh, Langton Prendergast. P.257-258
  31. ^ G. A. Haggenmacher's Reise Im Somali-lande, 1874: Mit Einer Originalkarte By Gustav Adolf Haggenmacher. Pp.10-12
  32. ^ The Unknown Horn of Africa By Frank Linsly James pp.55-56
  33. ^ British Somaliland By Drake Brockman.1912.
  34. ^ "A grammer of the Somali Language , p.140". 
  35. ^ "A grammer of the Somali Language , p.141". 
  36. ^ "A grammer of the Somali Language , p.141". 
  37. ^ "A grammer of the Somali Language , p.140". 
  38. ^ "Family Tree DNA - Somali DNA project- See Kits #224910, #413795". www.familytreedna.com. 
  39. ^ "Family Tree DNA - The Y-DNA Haplogroup T (former K2) Project - See Kits #224910, #202976, #413795, #300440". www.familytreedna.com.