|-||Middle ages||14th century|
|-||Early modern||17th century|
|Today part of|| Somalia
The Ajuuraan state or Ajuuraan sultanate (Somali: Saldanadda Ajuuraan, Arabic: سلطنة أجوران) was a Somali Muslim empire that ruled over large parts of the Horn of Africa in the Middle Ages. Through a strong centralized administration and an aggressive military stance towards invaders, the Ajuuraan Empire successfully resisted an Oromo invasion from the west and a Portuguese incursion from the east during the Gaal Madow and the Ajuuraan-Portuguese wars. Trading routes dating from the ancient and early medieval periods of Somali maritime enterprise were strengthened or re-established, and foreign trade and commerce in the coastal provinces flourished with ships sailing to and coming from a many kingdoms and empires in East Asia, South Asia, Europe, the Near East, North Africa and East Africa.
The empire left an extensive architectural legacy, being the major medieval Somali power engaged in castle and fortress building, with many of the hundreds of ruined fortifications dotting the landscapes of Somalia today attributed to Ajuuraan engineers. and includes many of the pillar tomb fields, necropolises and ruined cities built in that era. During the Ajuuraan period many regions and peoples in East Africa converted to Islam because of the theocratic nature of the government. The royal family, the House of Gareen, expanded its territories and established its hegemonic rule through a skillful combination of warfare, trade linkages and alliances.
As an hydraulic empire, the Ajuuraan Empire monopolized the water resources of the Shabelle and Jubba rivers. Through hydraulic engineering, it also constructed many of the limestone wells and cisterns of the state that are still operative and in use today. The rulers developed new systems for agriculture and taxation, which continued to be used in parts of the Horn of Africa as late as the 19th century. The tyrannical rule of the later Ajuuraan rulers caused multiple rebellions to break out in the empire, and at the end of the 17th century, the Ajuuraan state disintegrated into several successor kingdoms and states, the most prominent being the Geledi Sultanate.
House of Gareen
|The House of Gareen
The House of Gareen was the ruling house and family of the Ajuuraan Empire whose origin lies in the Gareen Kingdom that ruled the Ogaden in the 13th century. With the migration of Somalis from the Northern Somali peninsula to the Southern Somali peninsula, this wave brought new cultural and religious orders that influenced the administrative structure of the dynasty, a system of governance which began to evolve into an Islamic government. Through their genealogical Baraka, which came from the saint Balad (who was known to have come from outside the Gareen Kingdom), the Gareen rulers claimed supremacy and religious legitimacy over other groups in the Horn of Africa. Balad's ancestors are said to have come from the northwestern Somali city of Berbera.
Instead of using the traditional Somali titles for rulers like Boqor or Sultan, the Gareen rulers held the title of Imam. In the Ajuuraan State, these leaders were the highest authority and counted multiple Sultans, Emirs and Kings as clients or vassals. The Gareen rulers had seasonal palaces in Mareeg, Qaallafo and Merca, which they would periodically visit to practice primae noctis. Other important cities in the empire were Mogadishu and Barawa. State religion was Islam and thus law was based on sharia.
Nomadic citizens and farming communities
Through their control of the region's wells, the Gareen rulers effectively held a monopoly over their nomadic subjects. Large wells made out of limestone were constructed throughout the state, which attracted Somali and Borana nomads with their livestock. The centralized regulations of the wells made it easier for the nomads to settle disputes by taking their queries to government officials who would act as mediators. Long distance caravan trade, a long-time practice in the Horn of Africa, continued unchanged in Ajuuraan times. Today, numerous ruined and abandoned towns throughout the interior of Somalia and the Horn of Africa are evidence of a once-booming inland trade network dating from the medieval period.
With the centralized supervision of the Ajuuraan Empire, farms in the Jubba valley, the Shabelle valley and Afgooye increased their productivity. A system of irrigation ditches known as Kelliyo fed directly from the Shabelle and Jubba rivers into the plantations where sorghum, maize, beans, grain and cotton were grown during the gu and xagaa seasons of the Somali calendar. This irrigation system was supported by numerous dikes and dams. To determine the average size of a farm, a land measurement system was also invented with moos, taraab and guldeed being the terms used.
The State collected tribute from the farmers in the form of harvested products like durra, sorghum and bun, and from the nomads, cattle, camels and goats. The collecting of tribute was done by a wazir. Luxury goods imported from foreign lands were also presented as gifts to the Gareen rulers by the coastal sultans of the state.
A political device that was implemented by the Gareen rulers in their realm was ius primae noctis, which enabled them to create marriages that enforced their hegemonic rule over all the important groups of the empire. The rulers would also claim a large portion of the bride's wealth, which at the time was 100 camels.
Urban and maritime centers
The sultanates and republics of Merca, Mogadishu, Barawa, and their respective ports became profitable trade outlets for commodities originating from the interior of the State. The farming communities of the hinterland brought their products to the coastal cities, where they were sold to local merchants who maintained a lucrative foreign commerce with ships sailing to and coming from Arabia, India, Venetia,Persia, Egypt, Portugal, and as far away as China. Vasco Da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses of four or five storeys high and big palaces in its centre and many mosques with cylindrical minarets. In the 16th century, Duarte Barbosa noted that many ships from the Kingdom of Cambaya sailed to Mogadishu with cloths and spices for which they in return received gold, wax and ivory. Barbaso also highlighted the abundance of meat, wheat, barley, horses, and fruit on the coastal markets, which generated enormous wealth for the merchants. Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria), together with Merca and Barawa also served as transit stops for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa. Jewish merchants from the Hormuz also brought their Indian textile and fruit to the Somali coast in exchange for grain and wood.
Trading relations were established with Malacca in the 15th century, with cloth, ambergris and porcelain being the main commodities of the trade. In addition, giraffes, zebras and incense were exported to the Ming Empire of China, making Somali merchants leaders in the commerce between Asia and Africa and influencing the Chinese language with the Somali language in the process. Hindu merchants from Surat and Southeast African merchants from Pate seeking to bypass both the Portuguese blockade and Omani interference used the Somali ports of Merca and Barawa (which were out of the two powers' jurisdiction) to conduct their trade in safety and without interference.
With several centers of global trade in its domain situated along the busiest trade routes of the medieval world, the Ajuuraan Empire and its clients were active participants in the East African gold trade and the silk road commerce.
Trading coins from several Asian kingdoms and empires have been found in Somalia, while Mogadishan coins have also been found in parts of the Middle East. Trading routes dating from the ancient and early medieval periods of Somali maritime enterprise were strengthened or re-established, and foreign trade and commerce in the coastal provinces flourished with ships sailing to and coming from a myriad of kingdoms and empires in East Asia, South Asia, Europe, the Near East, North Africa and East Africa. The merchants of the Ajuuraan Empire through the use of commercial vessels, compasses, multiple port cities, light houses and other technology did brisk business with traders from the following states:
|Trading countries in Asia||Imports||Exports|
|1||Ming Empire||celadon wares, currency||horses, exotic animals, ivory|
|2||Mughal Empire||cloth, spices||gold, wax, wood|
|3||Malacca Kingdom||ambergris and porcelain||cloth, gold|
|4||Maldive Islands||cowries||musk, sheep|
|5||Kingdom of Jaffna||cinnamon, currency||cloth|
|Trading countries in the Near East|
|6||Ottoman Empire||muskets, cannons||textiles|
|7||Safavid Persian Empire||textiles, fruit||grain, wood|
|Trading countries in Europe|
|Trading countries in Africa|
|11||Mamluke Egyptian Empire||–||cloth|
|15||Gonderine Empire||gold, cattle||cloth|
The Ajuuraans facilitated a rich culture with various forms of Somali culture such as architecture, astronomy, festivals, art evolving and flourishing during this period. The Somali martial art Istunka was born during their reign. Carving, known in Somali as qoris, was practiced in the coastal cities of the empire. Many wealthy urbanites in the medieval period regularly employed the finest wood and marble carvers in Somalia to work on their interiors and houses. The carvings on the mihrabs and pillars of ancient Somali mosques are some of the oldest on the continent. Artistic carving was considered the province of men similar to how the Somali textile industry was mainly a women's business. Amongst the nomads, carving, especially woodwork, was widespread and could be found on the most basic objects such as spoons, combs and bowls, but it also included more complex structures such as the portable nomadic house, the aqal.
The empire left an extensive architectural legacy, being the major medieval Somali power engaged in castle and fortress building, with many of the hundreds of ruined fortifications dotting the landscapes of Somalia today attributed to Ajuuraan engineers, and includes many of the pillar tomb fields, necropolises and ruined cities built in that era.
The late 15th and 17th centuries saw the arrival of Muslim families from Arabia, Persia, India and Spain to the Ajuuraan Empire, the majority of whom settled in the coastal provinces. Some migrated because of the instability in their respective regions, as was the case with the Hadhrami families from the Yemen and the Muslims from Spain fleeing the Inquisition. Others came to conduct business or for religious purposes. Due to their strong tradition in religious learning, the new Muslim communities also enjoyed high status among the Somali ruling elite and commoners, and were frequently employed as religious advisers or received administrative positions, or served in the Ajuuraan army as soldiers and commanders.
The Ajuuraan Empire had a standing army with which the Gareen imams and the governors ruled and protected their subjects. The bulk of the army consisted of mamluke soldiers, who did not have any loyalties to the traditional Somali clan system, thereby making them more reliable. The soldiers were recruited from the inter-riverine area; other recruits came from the surrounding nomadic region. Arab, Persian and Turkish mercenaries were at times employed as well.
In the early Ajuuraan period, the army's weapons consisted of traditional Somali weapons such as swords, daggers, spears, and bows. With the import of firearms from the Ottoman Empire through the Muzzaffar port of Mogadishu, the army began acquiring muskets and cannons. Horses used for military purposes were also raised in the interior, and numerous stone fortifications were erected to provide shelter for the army in the coastal districts. In each province, the soldiers were under the supervision of a military commander known as an emir, and the coastal areas and the Indian ocean trade were protected by a navy.
The European Age of discovery brought Europe's then superpower the Portuguese empire to the coast of East Africa, which at the time enjoyed a flourishing trade with foreign nations. The wealthy southeastern city-states of Kilwa, Mombasa, Malindi, Pate and Lamu were all systematically sacked and plundered by the Portuguese. Tristão da Cunha then set his eyes on Ajuuraan territory, where the battle of Barawa was fought. After a long period of engagement, the Portuguese soldiers burned the city and looted it. However, fierce resistance by the local population and soldiers resulted in the Portuguese's failure to permanently occupy the city, and the inhabitants who had fled to the interior would eventually return and rebuild the city. After Barawa, Tristão would set sail for Mogadishu, which was the richest city on the East African coast. But word had spread of what had happened in Barawa, and a large troop mobilization had taken place. Many horsemen, soldiers and battleships in defense positions were now guarding the city. Nevertheless, Tristão still opted to storm and attempt to conquer the city, although every officer and soldier in his army opposed this, fearing certain defeat if they were to engage their opponents in battle. Tristão heeded their advice and sailed for Socotra instead.
Over the next several decades Somali-Portuguese tensions would remain high and the increased contact between Somali sailors and Ottoman corsairs worried the Portuguese who sent a punitive expedition against Mogadishu under João de Sepúlveda, which was unsuccessful. Ottoman-Somali cooperation against the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean reached a high point in the 1580s when Ajuuraan clients of the Somali coastal cities began to sympathize with the Arabs and Swahilis under Portuguese rule and sent an envoy to the Turkish corsair Mir Ali Bey for a joint expedition against the Portuguese. He agreed and was joined by a Somali fleet, which began attacking Portuguese colonies in Southeast Africa.
The Somali-Ottoman offensive managed to drive out the Portuguese from several important cities such as Pate, Mombasa and Kilwa. However, the Portuguese governor sent envoys to Portuguese India requesting a large Portuguese fleet. This request was answered and it reversed the previous offensive of the Muslims into one of defense. The Portuguese armada managed to re-take most of the lost cities and began punishing their leaders, but they refrained from attacking Mogadishu. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries successive Somali Sultans defied the Portuguese economic monopoly in the Indian Ocean by employing a new coinage which followed the Ottoman pattern, thus proclaiming an attitude of economic independence in regard to the Portuguese.
In the mid-17th century, the Oromo Nation began expanding from its homeland around Lake Abaya in southern Ethiopia towards the southern Somali coast at the time when the Ajuuraan Empire was at the height of its power. The Gareen rulers conducted several military expeditions known as the Gaal Madow wars against the Oromo warriors, Islamizing those that were captured. The Ajuuraan empire's military supremacy forced the Oromo conquerors to reverse their migrations towards the Christian Solomonids and the Muslim Adalites, devastating the two warring empires in the process.
Decline and successor states
The Ajuuraan Empire slowly declined in power at the end of the 17th century, which paved the way for the ascendance of new Somali powers. The most prominent setbacks against the state were the dethronement of the Muzzaffar clients in Mogadishu and other coastal cities by the Hawiye Hiraab King, and the defeat of the Silcis Kingdom by a former Ajuuraan general, Ibrahim Adeer, in the interior of the state who then established the Gobroon dynasty. Taxation and the practice of primae noctis were the main catalysts for the revolts against Ajuuraan rulers. The loss of port cities and fertile farms meant that much needed sources of revenue were lost to the rebels.
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Somalia|
- I.M. Lewis, A modern history of Somalia: nation and state in the Horn of Africa, 2nd edition, revised, illustrated, (Westview Press: 1988), p.24.
- Virginia Luling, Somali Sultanate: the Geledi city-state over 150 years, p. 17
- Luc Cambrézy, Populations réfugiées: de l'exil au retour, p.316
- Mohamed Haji Mukhtar, "The Emergence and Role of Political Parties in the Inter- River Region of Somalia from 1947–1960, Ufahamu: Volume 17, p.98
- Shaping of Somali Society pg 101
- Horn and Crescent: Cultural Change and Traditional Islam on the East African Coast, 800–1900 (African Studies) by Pouwels Randall L – pg 15
- Lee V. Cassanelli, The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900, (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1982), p.102.
- Mohamed Haji Muktar, Historical Dictionary of Somalia,The Scarecrow Press 2003, p.35
- Lee Cassanelli pg.149
- Journal of African History pg.50 by John Donnelly Fage and Roland Anthony Oliver
- Da Gama's First Voyage pg.88
- East Africa and its Invaders pg.38
- Gujarat and the Trade of East Africa pg.35
- The return of Cosmopolitan Capital:Globalization, the State and War pg.22
- The Arabian Seas: The Indian Ocean World of the Seventeenth Century By R. J. Barendse
- Gujarat and the Trade of East Africa pg.30
- Chinese Porcelain Marks from Coastal Sites in Kenya: aspects of trade in the Indian Ocean, XIV-XIX centuries. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1978 pg 2
- East Africa and its Invaders pg.37
- Gujarat and the Trade of East Africa pg.45
- Culture and customs of Somalia By Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi pg 97
- Somali Sultanate pg18
- The origins and development of Mogadishu pg. 34 by Ahmed Dueleh Jama
- Somali Sultanate -Virginia Luling pg18
- Lee Cassanelli pg.90
- Lee Cassanelli pg.104
- Portuguese Rule and Spanish crown in S.A pg.29
- Lee Cassanelli pg.92
- Portuguese Rule and Spanish crown in S.A pg.25
- Maritime Discovery: A History of Nautical Exploration from the Earliest Times pg 198
- The History of the Portuguese, During the Reign of Emmanuel pg.287
- Tanzania notes and records: the journal of the Tanzania Society pg 76
- The Portuguese period in East Africa – Page 112
- Portuguese rule and Spanish crown in South Africa, 1581–1640 – Page 25
- Four centuries of Swahili verse: a literary history and anthology – Page 11
- COINS FROM MOGADISHU, c. 1300 to c. 1700 by G. S. P. Freeman-Grenville pg 36
- Lee Cassanelli pg.114
- Cerulli, Somalia 1: 65–67
- I.M. Lewis, The modern history of Somaliland: from nation to state, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 1965), p. 37