BY Nii Ntreh, 8:00am June 21, 2020,

How Somalia came to have its name

Mogadishu, Somalia. Photo Credit:

In the strictest sense of the political theory, Somalia is one of the few countries in Africa that we may refer to as a ‘nation’. The overwhelming majority of those in that territory share common ancestry and heritage.

To explain further, we can say that a “Somali” is not simply a national of Somalia but also possibly one person who has an ethnic background in Somali-land.

According to Somali tradition, all Somalis share the progenitor Samaale. This mythical father of the Somali nation is often considered the basis for the nomenclature Somali.

However, there are different schools of thought regarding the name of the people. One of the most potent theories holds that Somali was derived from two words in the language of the people: soo maal, which translates into “go and milk”.

The potency of the “go and milk” theory lies within the nearly one millennium of pastoralism practiced by the people. Livestock breeding, especially of cattle and sheep, continues to be a fundamental aspect of modern Somali life.

There is yet another theory that holds the Somali is actually the Arabic word zawamal corrupted. Zawamal means “wealth”, a reference to the people’s livestock.

This presumptive connection between the Somalis and Arabia is part of a belief that has persisted for centuries. There are those who say that the nation of Somalis descended from the Quraysh Banu Hashim clan, specifically Aqiil, a nephew of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

However, scholars dismiss this belief that Somalis descended from the Holy Prophet’s clan. It is often treated as an abstract notion reified by the place of Islam in Somali society.

The people of Somalia have been through a lot since 1960 when the first Somali Republic was formed, with the country struggling to maintain stability over a significant period of time. But in their uniquely shared identity, they retain the opportunity to find common purpose.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 19, 2020


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