The great Somali poet, philosopher and scholar Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame (Hadrawi) passed away on the 18th of August 2022, in Hargeisa, Somaliland. A national funeral was held in Hargeisa, and many Somalis from all parts of Somalia attended to pay their respects for the last time to the great man. The news of his death had brought tears to the eyes of every Somali, whether they met him or not. when you look around and see people of different walks of life commiserating about his death, you would think their own father had passed away. He did not give these people materials for them to love him that much, but he acquired their hearts and minds by being sincere and trustworthy with his beliefs. Somalis and non-Somalis compared him to the great poets, philosophers, and scholars of the world, past and present. However, I think he transcends all, he was an ‘ummah’ in his own right.
Allah SWT when he was describing the personality of prophet Ibrahim said “Indeed, Ibrahim was a comprehensive [ummah] devoutly obedient to Allah, inclining toward truth, and he was not of those who associate others with Allah (Quran, 120:16)”. Allah described prophet Ibrahim as “ummah”, and the word ‘ummah’ in the Quran is used either to describe a nation (more than one person), or someone (like prophet Ibrahim) who is so great that his personality and beliefs are different from the society he lives in, and comprehensive that he can stand independently and single-handedly change the society from bad to good. In other words, someone who is not a follower of the majority of people that agrees on wrong decisions.
Instead, ‘ummah’ is a follower of truth even if the majority of people disagree with them. We can safely describe Hadrawi as being an ‘ummah’ in his own right. Because anyone who observes his life and his literary works, soon understands that Hadrawi was not your everyday person. He was an ‘ummah’ because he prided himself on liberty by refusing to be bought. In the early 1970s, when almost every Somali was clapping in agreement with the communist regime that ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1991, Hadrawi stood up on his own and refused to bow down to oppression. He was an ‘ummah’ when he freely opted to go to prison and suffer or worse, rather than clap for a tyranny. In his latest book ‘Hawaale Warran’ he narrates what happened between him and the military regime, and how after he refused to bow down was arrested and put away in jail without justification whatsoever.
In 1973, Hadrawi wrote a play called ‘Aqoon iyo Afgarad’ ‘Knowledge and Consensus’ which he and his fellow poets Mohamed Gariye and Professor Muse Abdi Elmi presented in Lafoole Institution, located outskirt of Mogadishu. The objective of the play was to advise the Somali people not to seek education outside the country, rather education was available on home soil, and there is no need to waste the nation’s wealth to send students abroad. It is worth mentioning, that at the time, the regime was sending its cadres and the children of revolution leaders to the Soviet Union, Europe and the United States for education and training, in the process, wasting the taxpayers’ hard-earned money. Hadrawi did not like that, hence his play knowledge and consensus’ addressed that. The 1969 revolution leaders, in particular, the country’s president Mohamed Siyad Barre, did not like the play, and he thought it was anti-revolution and embarrasses his decision to spend a huge amount of the nation’s wealth on sending cadres outside the country.
He summoned Hadrawi to Afisyoni, his air force headquarters. Hadrawi said, men from the national guards took him there, and he met the president sitting under a tree. The president opened the conversation with the remarks “Hadrawi, I know you are anti-revolution, but why every poetry you compose are used against us?”. Hadrawi said, “I tried to convince him, and said, we (poets) compose poetry, and then people take it and interpret it to whatever makes sense to them”. Then the president concluded the meeting by saying “ask me whatever you want, but after today, I don’t want to hear any poetry of yours that people are using against us”. Hadrawi replied by saying “whatever Allah decrees is gonna happen”. Hadrawi continued his work and created another play called ‘Tawaawac’. The play naked the misery and the disappointments Somalis inherited from the 1960 independence, and how a handful of military officers have hijacked the nation’s hopes after getting rid of colonisers. He likened this to a scenario where people are fighting over the meat of a slaughtered she-camel that was supposed to be spared for daily milking to feed the kids and the elderly. One of the song’s lyrics that Hadrawi created for this play says:
Weligay cad quudheed
Anna qaadan maayoo
Qalanjadan faraha dheer
Wax la qaybsan maayee
This translated into something like:
I will never accept
An offer with contempt
And I will never share anything
With this long-fingers beauty
Hadrawi said, the president, especially hated these four lines above, because he thought that I was taunting him and making fun of his earlier offer of ‘ask me what you want, but stop composing poetry’. The next thing Hadrawi knew he was snatched from his home in the middle of the night by men from the security services under direct orders from the president. He was arrested without going before a court and thrown in jail at Qansax Dheere, in the Bay region far away from his residence. When asked why they took you all the way to Qansax Dheere, while there are many jails near your residence? He replied they wanted to brainwash me and break me into submission. They said to me you will be released immediately if you ask forgiveness from the father of the revolution (meaning the president). Hadrawi was an ‘ummah’ when replying to this demand. He said to them “know there will be three scenarios with me, I die and go to my grave, I stay in prison, or I acquire my full freedom [without fearing anyone]”. He stayed in prison for five years, and again, as usual, he was an ummah in prison by continuing his struggle against tyranny. By this time, many Somalis woke up to the cries of Hadrawi from their deep asleep and started to see the tyrannical regime for it really was.
Hadrawi was an ‘ummah’ when the civil war happened in 1988-1991 by manifestly telling the struggle leaders ‘do not replace tyranny with another. He was an ‘ummah’ after the civil war in his ‘Peace Spring’ in 2003, when he travelled on the ground from Hargeisa to Kismayo, stopping in every town between them, literally hundreds of villages.
He was an ‘ummah’ by his devouted love of literature and writing. He comprised a whole poem about the importance of writing, he said:
Qalinkaa wax suureeya
Kugu sima halkaad doonto
Saaxiib kal furan weeye
Sunto fara ku hayntiisa
Weligaa ha si deynin.
Sisin iyo ku beer muufo
lyo laanta saytuunka
Ku gotomi sungaan waarta
Iyo nabadda seeskeeda
Samo iyo ku doon heedhe
The pen that can imagine for you
And can take you where you want
It is a friend with open heart
Regularly, keep it in your hands
And never let it go
Plant it among sesame and bread
And the branches of olive
And use it to spread in the world
peace, equality and justice
In these short lines, he was an ‘ummah’, the material of philosophy ‘abstraction’ he uses here to emphasise how important is to use writing to seek peace, prosperity, justice and equality, which is nothing short of genius. He was trying to kill one stone with the two old enemies of the human race: poverty and ignorance.
Equally important, he was an ‘ummah’ when he praised the Somali women for their beauty and bravery. He was a great admirer of the Somali women, although depicting their true nature without exaggeration or embellishments. In his poem ‘Horn of Africa Girls’, he said about the Somali women:
Hablo weerar geli kara,
Hablo geela dhicin kara,
Hablo geesi dili kara,
Gobannimona hanan kara,
Hablo talada goyn kara,
Garta madal ka niqi kara,
Garashana iskaga mida,
Quruxdana ka wada goba;
Geyi kale ma joogaan.
Girls that can go to war
Girls that can defend the camel
Girls that can acquire honour
Girls that can make decisions,
And publicly express their opinion,
And equally have high intellects
Girls that all blessed with beauty
Except, in our region,
Can they be found in anywhere else?
The examples of the great man are many, and it is impossible to mention them all in this short article. I would advise any admire to go to his works, and they will find an encyclopedia of knowledge, that will take them a lifetime to study.
Lastly, but not least, he was an ‘ummah’ by leaving instructions on how he wished to be treated after his death. He wrote a poem called ‘will’, in which he advised people to treat his death like any other, he said.
Qofka ii duceeyoow
Rabbigay ku darajee
Qofka iga ducaystoow
After many passages of the poem, he pleaded with people that they should not make a fuss about his death and funeral. His grave should not be built but should be left like other graves. People should not make a shrine of his grave, nor should they over-grieve or celebrate his life. In the last few lines, he prays for those who pray for him.
Finally, you lived as an ‘ummah’ and died as an ‘ummah’, there is nothing left to say but goodbye to our beloved teacher, philosopher, poet and role model. Your body might have departed this world, but your ideas and the knowledge you left for us and humanity, are eternal. I am sure people of the other side and angels are welcoming you with roses and open arms—they are congratulating you as you have accomplished your mission here on earth, advised your people and fought bravery in the way of Allah seeking justice, and freedom and equality for all. May Allah shower you with His Forgiveness and Mercy, light up your grave, and may He elevate your status and grant you Jannatul-Firdaus. May Allah resurrect you with the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth and the martyrs.
“And whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom Allah has bestowed favour of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. And excellent are those as companions (Quran 69:4)”.
“Verily we belong to Allah and verily to him do we return”.