Name Change: From Somaliland Republic to Awdal Republic

By Ibrahim Hassan Gagale

The international community often confuses Somaliland with Puntland and Jubbaland. Puntland and Jubbaland are two provinces of Somalia while Somaliland is an independent country. To clear that confusion, Somaliland people need to adopt the name of their republic from their ancient name, which is famous both in Islamic history as well as in world history. This name is Awdal, the ancient name of the Islamic kingdom or Islamic Sultanate at Zeila (1415-1577). Most countries derive their names from their ancient names or places.

So, Somaliland Republic would be Awdal Republic while Awdal Region can still retain its regional name or even choose another name.

Islam was introduced to the Horn region early on from the Arabian peninsula, shortly after the hijra. Zeila’s two-mihrab Masjid al-Qiblatayn dates to about the 7th century, and is the oldest mosque in Africa. In the late 9th century, Al-Yaqubi wrote that Muslims were living along the northern Somali Coast (Red Sea Coast). The polity (system of government) was governed by local Somali dynasties established by the Adelites (people of Awdal Kingdom). The history of Adal (also Awdal, Adl, or Adel) from this founding period forth would be characterized by a succession of battles with neighbouring Abyssinia.

The Kingdom of Adal (also Awdal, Adl, or Adel) was centered around Zeila, its capital. It was the first Somali Muslim Sultanate or Kingdom at Zeila. It was established by the local Somali tribes in the early 9th century. Zeila attracted merchants from around the world, contributing to the wealth of the city. Zeila is an ancient city and it was one of the earliest cities in the world to embrace Islam.

The Adal Sultanate, or Kingdom of Adal (also known Awdal, Adl, or Adel) was a Muslim Somali kingdom and sultanate located in the Horn of Africa. It was founded by Sabr ad-Din II after the fall of the Sultanate of Ifat. The kingdom flourished from around 1415 to 1577. The sultanate and state were established by the local inhabitants of Zeila. At its height, the polity controlled most of the territory in the Horn region immediately east of the Ethiopian Empire (Abyssinia). The Adal Empire maintained a robust commercial and political relationship with the Ottoman Empire.

This history indicates that Somaliland was one of the earliest places, if not the first, where Islam was introduced to Africa. It was Zeila, the capital of Awdal Kingdom or Sultanate. Somaliland people should be proud of the fact that their country was the first place that embraced Islam in Africa and then spread it to the continent of Africa. So, there is no better name than Awdal Republic to name Somaliland. The people of Awdal Republic are Awdelites (Jamhuuriyadda Awdal ama dalka Awdal, Reer Awdal).

Ibrahim Hassan Gagale
August 10, 2019


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Somaliland Monitor editorial board


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