Irir Samaale

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Irir Samaale (var. Irir Samali) is the oldest common ancestor of several Somali clans and their respective sub-clans.[1]


Samaale is generally regarded as the source of the ethnonym Somali. The name "Somali" is, in turn, held to be derived from the words soo and maal, which together mean "go and milk" -- a reference to the ubiquitous pastoralism of the Somali people. Another plausible etymology proposes that the term Somali is derived from the Arabic for "wealthy" (dhawamaal), again referring to Somali riches in livestock.[1]


According to traditions recorded in Shariif 'Aydaruus Shariif 'Ali's Bughyat al-amaal fii taariikh as-Soomaal (1955), the patriarch Samaale arrived in northern Somalia from Yemen during the 9th century and subsequently founded the eponymous Somali ethnic group.[1]

Most Somalis trace their origins to Samaale:[1]

The Darod have separate agnatic (paternal) traditions of descent through Abdirahman bin Isma'il al-Jabarti (Sheikh Darod), who is said to have arrived at a later date from the Arabian peninsula, in the 10th or 11th centuries.[2] Sheikh Darod is, in turn, asserted to have married a woman from the Dir, thus establishing matrilateral ties with the Samaale main stem.[1]

Although often recognized as a sub-clan of the Dir, the Isaaq clan claims paternal descent from one Shaykh Ishaq ibn Ahmad al-Hashimi (Sheikh Isaaq).[3][4]

Despite being ethnic Somalis, the Rahanweyn (Digil and Mirifle) clan traces descent from a male ancestor called Sab. Both Samaale and Sab are supposed to have ultimately descended from a common lineage originating in Arabia.[1]

Historical publications[edit]

  • Bughyaat al-amaal fii taariikh as-Soomaal, published in Mogadishu, Shariif 'Aydaruus Shariif 'Ali

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, I. M.; Said Samatar (1999). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster. pp. 11–13. ISBN 3-8258-3084-5. 
  2. ^ I.M. Lewis, A Modern History of the Somali, fourth edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2002), p. 22
  3. ^ Rima Berns McGown, Muslims in the diaspora, (University of Toronto Press: 1999), pp. 27–28
  4. ^ I.M. Lewis, A Modern History of the Somali, fourth edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2002), p. 22