Wadaad writing, also known as wadaad Arabic, is the traditional Somali
adaptation of written Arabic, as well as the
Arabic script as
historically used to transcribe the Somali language. Originally, it
referred to an ungrammatical Arabic featuring some words in Somali,
with the proportion of Somali vocabulary terms varying depending on
the context. Alongside standard Arabic, wadaad writing was used by
Somali religious men (wadaado) to record xeer (customary law)
petitions and to write qasidas. It was also used by merchants
for business and letter writing. Over the years, various Somali
scholars improved and altered the use of the
Arabic script for
conveying Somali. This culminated in the 1950s with the Galal
alphabet, which substantially modified letter values and introduced
new letters for vowels.
2 Sample Somali Arabic alphabet
3 See also
Sample historical text in wadaad writing.
Arabic script was introduced to
Somalia in the 13th century by
Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn
Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn (colloquially referred to as Aw
Barkhadle or the "Blessed Father"), a man described as "the most
outstanding saint in northern Somalia." Of Somali descent, he
sought to advance the teaching of the Qur'an. Al-Kawneyn devised a
Somali nomenclature for the Arabic vowels, which enabled his pupils to
read and write in Arabic. Shiekh Abi-Bakr Al Alawi, a Harari
historian, states in his book that that
Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn
Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn was
of native and local
Dir (clan) extraction..
Though various Somali wadaads and scholars had used the Arabic script
to write in Somali for centuries, it would not be until the 19th
century when the
Sheikh Uways al-Barawi of the Tuuni
clan would improve the application of the
Arabic script to represent
Somali. He applied it to the Maay dialect of southern Somalia, which
at the time was the closest to standardizing Somali with the Arabic
script. Al-Barawi modeled his alphabet after the Arabic transcription
adopted by the Amrani of
Barawa (Brava) to write their Swahili
Wadaad writing was often unintelligible to Somali pupils who learned
standard Arabic in government-run schools. During the 1930s in the
British Somaliland protectorate, Mahammad 'Abdi Makaahiil
attempted to standardize the orthography in his book The Institution
of Modern Correspondence in the Somali language. Following in the
footsteps of Sh. Ibraahim 'Abdallah Mayal, Makaahiil therein
championed the use of the
Arabic script for writing Somali, showing
examples of this usage through proverbs, letters and sentences.
In the 1950s, the Somali linguist
Musa Haji Ismail Galal (1917–1980)
introduced a more radical alteration of Arabic to represent Somali.
Galal came up with an entirely new set of symbols for the Somali
vowels. Lewis (1958) considered this to be the most accurate Arabic
alphabet to have been devised for the Somali language.
Sample Somali Arabic alphabet
Wadaad writing, as applied to Somali, was not a single alphabet, but
rather a number of local conventions which frequently shared some
letter values but differed in others. The following Somali Arabic
alphabet is fairly representative; unlike several others, vowel
letters are restricted to the Arabic script, though the use of the
maddah diacritic for long ii and uu is innovative. (The sorting order
of the table is phonetic.)[when and where is this from? how
widespread was it?]
^ a b Lewis, I.M. (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism
and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. LIT
Verlag Münster. p. 175. ISBN 3825830845.
^ a b c Lewis, p.139-140
^ Lewis, p.136
^ a b Singh, p.59
^ Abdullahi, p.13
^ a b Lewis, p.135
^ Lewis, I.M. (1998). Saints and Somalis: Popular Islam in a
Clan-based Society. The Red Sea Press. p. 102.
^ Laitin, p.85
^ Quath, Faati (1957). Islam Walbaasha Cabra Taarikh [Islam and
Abyssinia throughout history] (in Arabic). Cairo,Egypt.
^ a b Lewis, p.139
^ Martin, p.163
^ Lewis, p.137
^ Labahn (1982)
Abdullahi, Mohamed Diriye (2001). Culture and customs of Somalia.
Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-31333-2.
David D., Laitin (1977). Politics, language, and thought: the Somali
experience. University of Chicago Press.
Lewis, I.M (1958). "The Gadabuursi Somali Script". Bulletin of the
School of Oriental and African Studies. SOAS. 21: 134–56.
doi:10.1017/S0041977X00063278. Retrieved 2009-09-04.
B. G., Martin (2003). Muslim Brotherhoods in Nineteenth-Century
Africa. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-53451-8.
Nagendra Kr., Singh (2002). International encyclopaedia of Islamic
dynasties, Volume 43. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD.
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