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General Structure[edit]

Hello there! As with the request on my talk page, here are a few pointers. I'd say it's a good idea to link this article to others. Is there a section on a Somali law page summarising this? Could each section of this page be broken into further "main pages"? I've not spent much time reading but it looks pretty good. From the references, perhaps we'd like to see some more books - generally internet websites aren't good, because they come and go, and anyone can write them. So page numbers from proper publications would be nice. I tend to put pictures here and there to liven things up (and compensate for my shoddy writing!). But I think this is really interesting. I think I might know an article about this as well - but I'm not sure if it was Ethiopia. I'll come back, but just send me a message if I can help. Cheers, Wikidea 13:41, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Hi wikidea! Thanks for the tips. Structuring would be a good idea and I'd like to start breaking it up into various main pages. I'm waiting for two books (only ones I know of) on the topic. The structure is actually why I'd like your advice seeing as you have law experience. The situation:
Law of Somalia currently links here because I figured since xeer is Somalis traditional legal system and is the mostly widely used it should be most prominent. I'd like to make reference to colonial impact regarding law, which I've put in the history section. Though maybe some other structuring would be more meaningful?
Of course if there's ever a functioning central gov. that can actually enforce its statuary laws we'd have to move the article or something... --A is A (talk) 13:55, 27 June 2009 (UTC)


This article reeks heavily of idealizing this legal system. Quoting specifically "there is never any fighting", leaving out external links that confirm the acceptance of this legal system on the part of the majority while claiming universal acceptance and preference over centralized authority, poetic writing style, etc, well you get the idea. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:58, 29 August 2009 (UTC)

I beg to differ. Nowhere in the article is it indicated that Xeer is Somalia's sole legal system. Indeed, it is made clear throughout that it is the Somali people's customary law, which is indeed the case. The extent to which Xeer is practiced & accepted in Somalia is also sourced, so it doesn't really matter either whether one does or does not agree with this. Middayexpress (talk) 01:25, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

It does seem like the most extreme form idealising a system of law. A law that doesn't seem too different from the blood-feud system of 6th Century Anglo-Saxon England.--IndieStonerKid (talk) 20:56, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Not to knock the blood-feud system of 6th Century Anglo-Saxon England, but Xeer bears absolutely no resemblance to it. Xeer is as this well-sourced article indicates: a veritable system of law first developed in the 7th century by the Somali people, and one that is still widely practised today in that community. In addition to numerous scholarly articles discussing it, there has also been at least one recent high profile book exclusively devoted to it and written by a renowned Dutch legal expert to boot (it was his life's work); so one can be certain it is indeed the real deal. One doesn't have to appreciate Xeer or even believe in its efficacy; only reliable sources matter at the end of the day. Middayexpress (talk) 21:23, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

I agree. This article has been heavily redacted by someone with an interest in romanticizing and idealizing this legal system and making it seem superior to western systems. I am therefore adding the NPOV dispute tag. Please add information on its disadvantages if you are able to do so, and generally balance the article. Kwertii (talk) 07:00, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

That is an opinion, not a fact, much less one you've proven. And I find it difficult to see how this article has been, as you say, "heavily redacted by someone with an interest in romanticizing and idealizing this legal system and making it seem superior to western systems" since all of the sources cited in it except two are by none other than Westerners. Actually, most sources on Xeer period are by Westerners (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). And all of these sources share one thing in common: they are all very enthusiastic about Xeer. Relaying this is not "POV"; it is the view of the sources themselves. Middayexpress (talk) 18:01, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

I read the article before the talk page and decided to make exactly such an neutrality section here, before noticing it already exists. So let me agree with Kwertii above: The article does mention advantages, but is silent on disadvantages. E.g. "A virtue of each person knowing from birth who will be one of his judges, and vice versa, is that an oday knows each person in his extended family intimately and can observe and counsel him before what might seem to be a small problem escalates into a crime." The (rather obvious) disadvantages are not mentioned. PS: No relation to my user name. --Xeeron (talk) 17:37, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

I'm glad you agree, but Wikipedia does not function according to popular vote. If the article is perhaps silent on any disadvantages of Xeer, it is probably because the sources themselves overwhelmingly are. They tend to follow a pattern of first describing the Law and placing it in a Somali historical context, and then, for whatever reason, focusing on its advantages. While any disadvantages of Xeer may be apparent to you, they apparently weren't to the reliable sources on the topic, including the single most comprehensive study on the Law. The closest the sources themselves come to criticism are the following:
  • [1]"Individual rights are sometimes sacrificed in the name of stability. And even with xeer in use, bursts of fighting and crime occur, particularly in the turbulent Mogadishu. By and large, though, people say that xeer is a law that people respect, a justice system strong enough to hold together communities that have been fragmented by the upheaval of recent years."
  • [2]"While the details of the system leave some things to be desired – equal rights for women and greater alienability of property outside of the clan, for starters – it is based on core principles which are admirable and reasonable:
1. The law is separate from politics and religion
2. The law has a built-in method for its development
3. There is a plurality of jurisdictions and norms
4. Government personnel must abide by the law
5. The law originates in the reason and conscience of the community
6. Judges are specialists, each with his own method of analyzing the Law"
So even when the sources appear to level criticism at Xeer, they are quick to point out that any disadvantages it confers are far outweighed by its advantages. Whatever the case, I've added the passages above to accommodate your concerns. Middayexpress (talk) 06:33, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
You are correct that whatever I think is obvious is irrelevant, as long as there are no sources saying so. This is why I didn't add anything. However, the whole article lacks in-line citations. Only very few statements are sources. E.g. the section I quoted is entirely without in-line citations. Especially when the article includes valuations, proper sourcing is needed. --Xeeron (talk) 14:16, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
Just so it's clear, I did not create this article nor am I its principal contributor. Another editor did and is. In-line citations are also not always required when references are cited in the Reference section, which is indeed the case. If they were always required, every sentence of every article on Wikipedia would have a footnote after it, which obviously is not the case. For 23,846 bytes, this article also does indeed already have quite a few footnotes. Most of the value judgements also appear to be contained in the quotes, all of which are footnoted. Middayexpress (talk) 20:46, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

The writing-style is that of a plea for Xeer.

"In the words of a local Somali living in Garowe", what is the significance of one random Somali saying this? I could also quote myself saying some random stuff but there's no significance in it. Plus it implies as if this Somali speaks for all Somalis. "Most Somalis, progressive and conservative alike, still support this system" source? "This clearly shows (...)" again: it sounds as a plea for Xeer. "Because property rights requires compensation, rather than punishment", not objective. " It is a good example of how customary law works within a stateless society" although I agree it has no place in wikipedia. "Law and, consequently crime, are defined in terms of property rights" it may as well be attributed to social-anarchist possesion, it is unfounded.—Preceding unsigned comment added by Goti123 (talkcontribs) 10:42, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Yes, you could quote yourself stating random stuff and it would indeed be irrelevant. That is because a) you have (presumably) not had any first hand experience with Xeer (as the late Dutch legal expert Michael van Notten, for example, had), and b) that random stuff would just be coming from you, not from a reliable source on the subject. That quote you complain about, on the other hand, is from someone who actually lives by Xeer, and was not selected randomly but rather was taken from a reliable reference specifically on the legal system. Ergo, it is indeed relevant or the author of that paper on Xeer never would have felt the need to mention it. I am also sorry if you feel that asserting the fact that, under Xeer, "property rights requires compensation, rather than punishment" and that "law and, consequently crime, are defined in terms of property rights" are not objective, but that is indeed the case. Xeer is a compensatory legal system, not a punitive one; when someone wrongs another, the offending party is not imprisoned but rather must pay the victim's close relations to try and make up in some way for the loss and thus keep the peace. This too is already explained in the article, and is sourced to a reliable reference on the matter. Wikipedia functions according to reliable sources, not whether or not one personally believes a legal system is "good" or "bad" (refer to the opening sentence of WP:VER). Middayexpress (talk) 20:11, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Local acceptance[edit]

Quote: In the words of a program officer at a local non-governmental organization:“Xeer is accepted by the people. You cannot deny that. It is a strange culture, the Somali culture. But there is a beauty to it. All agreements are reached and all disputes are resolved through consensus. There is no fighting. There is never any fighting. ”

What about the civil war that went on in Somalia? I think this quote should be deleted because it is not the truth. Even when the civil war might have been caused by a disruption of the Xeer system. Die bibi (talk) 20:48, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

The civil war is going on in areas of Somalia (primarily the south) where Xeer is actually not practised. This is not out of volition, but rather because religious insurgents in those regions have imposed a rather idiosyncratic & sometimes brutal fundamentalist interpretation of Shari'a law. Xeer is the traditional Law of the Somali people and has been for centuries, so there is naturally considerable local acceptance. For the rest, please refer to the opening paragraph of WP:VER. Middayexpress (talk) 08:07, 4 April 2010 (UTC)
The relationship of the widely known civil war to Xeer is important, and should be covered by this entry. (talk) 04:15, 23 July 2011 (UTC)

Legal system[edit]

I'm thinking that this article is heavily NPOV. It smacks of anarcho-capitalist phraseology like "Law and, consequently crime, are defined in terms of property rights.". I suggest a full or partial rewrite of some sort. — Melab±1 21:46, 6 December 2013 (UTC)

That is the nature of xeer. It is a compensatory rather than punitive law system. The late legal specialist Michael van Notten (who actually lived under xeer-administered areas) explains this in detail in his work on the subject, which is the main treatise on this customary law [3]. Middayexpress (talk) 22:35, 6 December 2013 (UTC)
I'm skeptical. It just smells too much like a soapbox. That said, the nature of Xeer as restitutive instead of retributive is orthogonal to my criticism. — Melab±1 04:51, 15 April 2014 (UTC)
Xeer is, though, defined in terms of property rights; this isn't anarcho-capitalism [4]. Middayexpress (talk) 17:22, 15 April 2014 (UTC)
The document you linked to says nothing of the sort. This article really needs to be cleaned up. — Melab±1 05:14, 16 April 2014 (UTC)
Sure it does ("Somali customary law, known as xeer Soomaali, comprises a set of unwritten conventions and procedures that are passed down orally through generations. These define reciprocal rights and obligations between kin and clans, covering domestic matters, social welfare, political relations, property rights and the management of natural resources"). Middayexpress (talk) 16:13, 16 April 2014 (UTC)


Currently the opening paragraph is terrible. Some of the sources are just broken links, and one-sided rubbish sources like (quoted several times) are used to present a minority opinion as a majority one. The *second paragraph* literally begins with "According to one report". I propose replacing the lede with an accurate description of the topic with proper encyclopedic references. (talk) 11:19, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

The "according to" is standard attribution. It's unclear what exactly you have against the author Spencer Heath |MacCallum (the paper's not from the RKBA; the link is just stored on their servers [5]). MacCallum is one of the main Western authorities on xeer. He edited and published The Law of the Somalis by the attorney Michael van Notten; this the largest, first-hand legal treatise on xeer. For the rest, I've fixed the links. Middayexpress (talk) 19:05, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
No, that won't do. The sources are still biased, broken links remain, and it's not acceptable to cite the opinion of a single scholar in the lede which should be the most neutral and well-rounded part of the article. Although I'm not familiar with the work of MacCallum myself, I find it telling that _all_ the sources on *his* Wikipedia page are various libertarian think tanks and websites. This is far from proper encyclopedic practice. Please do not remove the POV template until we have reliable sources adequately representing the mainstream academic viewpoint. (talk) 15:27, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
Actually, it's perfectly acceptable and indeed expected to cite the most prominent authorities on xeer. This page certainly does that via Spencer MacCallum and especially the late Michael Van Notten. It's not enough to simply claim that these authorities are unreliable. One actually has to prove this with countering authorities that themselves explicitly demonstrate this. Otherwise, it's basically drive-by tagging, which is against policy. It would take some doing to prove that Van Notten in particular is unreliable vis-a-vis xeer since not only is he a legal expert, he actually lived in a xeer-administered community in Somalia, where he was taken into the fold, so-to-speak, as a clan member. So his work on the customary law is based on both his professional experience as an attorney and his practical experience as an adoptive xeer constituent. Middayexpress (talk) 17:26, 19 August 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, your opinion on the importance of MacCallum does not justify his presence in the lede, and the sources are still just as one-sided (and broken) as before. The purpose of the POV template is to attract other editors to complement the current sources with new ones that represent other relevant points of view. According to WP policy it may not be removed until there's a consensus here on the talk page that it is no longer necessary. (talk) 22:29, 24 August 2014 (UTC)
Per the pov template's actual usage documentation, "drive-by tagging is strongly discouraged[...] the editor who adds the tag should discuss concerns on the talk page, pointing to specific issues that are actionable within the content policies[...] in the absence of such a discussion, or where it remains unclear what the NPOV violation is, the tag may be removed by any editor[...] this template should not be used as a badge of shame." It still remains unclear what specific phrases in the lede sourced to what specific works you have problems with and why. You've vaguely alluded to Spencer MacCallum's wikipage and some links there, but have not articulated any specific problematic statements here on this wikipage. Indeed, you admitted that you are not familiar with his work on xeer at all. You've also mentioned several broken links, when only one was dead and that could easily have been fixed (which I've just done btw). That said, I'll give you a week to articulate what specific sentence(s) in the lede you have issues with and why. If you are still unable to do so, the tag shall be removed per the template's actual usage documentation's prohibition against drive-by tagging and badges of shame. Middayexpress (talk) 14:13, 25 August 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── To make my concerns more specific (all those IP comments above are mine), the main problems are

  • (1) some of the sources are still broken links ("Stateless Justice in Somalia", "Microsoft Word — Somali Region Assessment 8.4.06.doc", "Text — Williamsburg Speeches")
  • (2) some of the sources are not reliable, essentially just links to random self-published docs on the web (, probably the one and some of the above too)
  • (3) the current sources give undue weight to a libertarian POV (Leeson, MacCallum,, which needs to be balanced out with additional sources
  • (4) the lede (opening section) should not contain quotes of any individual authorities, only general statements about the topic backed by several reputable sources

I'll try to fix some of these, but to resolve the POV issue we need other editors to join this conversation (and provide additional sources). (talk) 23:09, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for the explanation:
1) The broken links have been fixed.
2) That is not a self-published work. It is a journal piece by the late legal expert and xeer specialist Michael van Notten that was originally published in the December 1993 issue of Freedom Network News [6].
3) Both the ISIL and Mises links are works by MacCallum himself; they're just stored on those servers. Again, on what are you basing your objections against his and Van Notten's xeer work? That is, which notable authority if any has criticized their work on xeer?
4) The lede already contains general statements on xeer. MacCallum is attributed per the attribution policy so that readers know who this is coming from.
5) Kindly specify which sentences/phrases if any you have issues with and why. What can't be identified can't (and perhaps needn't) be fixed either.
Please answer the above within a week. If you are unable to do so, the tag shall be removed per the template usage documentation's prohibition against drive-by tagging and badges of shame. Middayexpress (talk) 16:28, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
The "POV" templete is not needed. I believe your looking for the factual accuracy which I have gone and fixed. AcidSnow (talk) 16:41, 27 August 2014 (UTC)
As it's been several months and no alleged factual errors have been pointed out, I've removed the tag. Middayexpress (talk) 16:45, 25 November 2014 (UTC)

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The IPA mouse-hover doesn't work. IPA is the most insultingly useless thing ever![edit]

IPA is the most insultingly useless thing ever! They should replace it with something simply written clearly and phonetically. Sometimes I can hover my mouse over a IPA on Wikipedia and each letter it will say how to pronounce stuff, but that doesn't work anymore on Wikipedia and it just send to an IPA page. I tried changing to spanish, english, and german and showing preview and it still no mouse-hover. So I went to the IPA page. I searched through it's randomized index and found each letter. The IPA claims that xeer is not pronounced "zeer" but pronounced the same as a cat coughing up a hairball. That is exactlly what the Somali IPA help page claims! HORRIBLE! Someone needs to fix it. IPA should be removed from Wikipedia all together and replaced with something that is not insultingly useless!! Stoodpointt (talk) 09:02, 10 September 2016 (UTC)


Apparently a lot of the content is in violation of copyright, or "copyvio" as it were. Actually I nearly put the copyvio back in. I really miss the copyvio. That's not very pro-law thing to say, but its true. This looks like a clear case of needing a reliable secondary source with a CC BY-SA license, as presumably the copyvio is copyrighted with all rights reserved and Wikipedia is a tertiary work that only allows primary works that are backed up with secondary works or something. WP:SECONDARY or something. The work also should cover the role of clan system infighting, and attempts by clans to take State power. In my opinion, no account of the Xeer is complete without examining clan system infighting and attempts by clans to take State power. Does anyone know anything about the alleged Garre-Murule Conflict? (talk) 13:33, 22 November 2016 (UTC)