Thursday, May 19, 2022
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An Eye on Somali Philosopher and Poet “Idaajaa”

By Adan Makina

Praise Be To Allah who has given me the ability and time to write on a very special person in this blessed month of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar and it is also the month when the first revelation of the Qur’an occurred. Part of the five pillars of Islam, Muslims spend their time in prayers, reading the Qur’an and serving their communities who are in need.

Ahmed Farah Ali (Idaajaa);
photo credic/

Despite having conversations with him over the phone a few times, honestly speaking, we have never met face-to-face before. However, I’ve known him for decades because I was a great reader of newspapers like Xiddigta Oktoobar and Halgan and international magazines such as Newsweek, Time and the National Geographic that I was a subscriber for over a decade or so. Likewise, I was also a great listener to Radio Mogadishu and Radio Moscow and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) before the collapse of Somalia.

While his real name is Ahmed Farah Ali and since almost all Somalis have nicknames according to a foreign correspondent, he is also known as “Idaajaa.” No wonder the name Idaajaa is from a surah or verse in the Qur’an. To this day, I have a friend whose nickname is “Aladii”–also a surah from the Qur’an, which, I think was one of the hardest to memorize for local dugsi (Qur’an school) students of yore.[i] For “Aladii”, Qur’an students were known to sing “Aladii i gubtooy i guduudisoy”, which translates to ‘Aladii that burns me and leaves reddish color on my epidermis’ which is the outer layer of the skin. The burning is the pain from the whipping of the Qur’an teacher when a student misses an ayah or verse while the reddish color connotes the traces left after the inflictions are done. After thorough search on “Aladii”, the final meaning derived from Surah Muhammad which is the 47th surah with 30 ayahs. As for “Idaajaa” that is Arabic, regardless of being his nickname, it means “when comes…” For example, some surahs begin with Idaa jaa like Surah Al-Nasr (110: 1) that starts with the verse “When Allah’s ultimate help comes and the victory˹over Mecca is achieved’.”

Somalia’s Idaajaa is the author of Dabkuu shiday Darwiishkii (1974) with contributions from Cabdulqaadir Xirsi “Yamyam who is regarded among the top poets of Somalia. Idaajaa is an orator, historian and cultural analyst, a broadcaster, a poet, and a translator and as well, a mentor for millions of Somalis from the time he started his radio broadcasting in the early 70s until now. Calling Idaajaa names and complaining that his poetic narrations or broadcasting have been the cause of divisions since he is directed to only a few clan poets are outrightly meaningless for such exclamations have been conceived by people with negative tribal mindsets and obviously could be branded deceitfully invigorating miserable individuals because some brandish barren degrees that have not done anything meaningful to Somalis and humanity in general.

The above ethos reminds me of one my articles on Maxamed Saleebaan “Tubeec” that appeared on WardheerNews on February 9, 2012. Even though the first article on the vocalist had to undergo changes in the form of a eulogy on April 4, 2014 with the title In Memory of Tubeec: King of Somali Music after his departure from this world while in Germany, a comment from a famous and educated Somali man who is well known to many since he is a great writer in the Somali language left me in bewilderment. Rather than being thankful, he wrote in Somali “waxba noomaadan sheegin”, meaning you have narrated nothing to us. In response to his sarcastic and belittling language, I wrote back to him saying “isku gobol ayaad ka timaadeene, maxaad wax uga qori weyday”? I meant, since you hailed from the same region, what prevented you from writing an article about him? With that in mind, years later, I received an electronic message from a man who was from the same region as the previous recalcitrant responder. He wrote, “Makina, you really described Tubeec exactly the way he was known to us.” That shows how people have opposing personality traits resulting from negative and positive emotions.

According to a friend who is familiar with the historical past of Idaajaa, there was a time he landed in a big city in one of the states of Somalia. At the airport, he was confronted by a few men who wanted to know why he always spent most of his time on Seyid Muhammad Abdullah Hassan’s poems and why he gave little credence to their reputed poets. The Seyid was the man who fought imperialist powers for almost over twenty years. To call a spade a spade, he reminded them that the Seyid always recited his poems by mentioning the name of Allah while their poets were religiously deficient. Amazed and ashamed of their arrogance, they let him go free.[ii]

By Googling the name Idaajaa one’s reflection could end up boggled, because the name is so numerous in almost every social media and that could lead to confusion when it comes to picking up the right choice. Whether in audio or visual form, every search engine will give you pages loaded with his name. He has a captivating voice that is humorous, soulful, exhilarating and melodious and unique especially in his presentation styles.

The number of Somali poems, mythological stories, social, cultural and traditional commendations he has presented remain uncountable. How he narrates the historical poem known as “Silsiladdii Guba” that was started by Cali Dhuux Aadan that brought together a combination of 12 well-versed poets, has produced many eidetic modern young Somali men. An eidetic is someone with the ability to memorize a conversation, poem or stories no matter how long they could be. The most famous Somali eidetic who memorized almost 100 poems of the Seyid and who took over the leadership of the Dervishes was Hussein Dhiqle. He has been described as the best eidetic of his era.[iii]

Idaajaa is a Somali traditional and cultural analyst for the Voice of America (VOA) Somali Service and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on matters related to culture, social, religious ideologies, traditional issues and other factors. Someone with such wide array of knowledge is regarded as a polymath and if writing and reading is included, he becomes a philomath. We could assume Idaajaa is a man of literary repute, a man who has surpassed the love for wisdom which is Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) because, in modern times, there are many Somalis having multiple degrees who have contributed nothing to the advancement of their society.

One day, while reading a research paper on the Somali language–a paper that was written by a foreigner, I got shocked to learn that the author or writer was out of context, because s/he claimed that words that end with ‘kayaga’ are exclusive to the Dhulbahante only. Dhulkayaga, waddankayaga, dhaqankayaga and others fall under that category. To avoid falling into a literary dragnet, out of curiosity, I picked up the phone and called Idaajaa who proved to me that the writer was out of topic and misplaced in his or her grammatical expounding. Likewise, Idaajaa told me that he doesn’t belong to the said tribe and that he commonly uses those end words.

Many doubting Toms who have been defective of the history of the humorous Garaad Wiil Waal now have the chance to narrate to their children in audiovisual series or receptions while Carraweelo aka Ceebla’–the most brutal woman in Somali history who castrated men and is characteristically defined as akin to Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, is easily accessible on Youtube with the appealing voice of Idaajaa overtaking other presenters. Even though the exact period or era when recordkeeping started in the world is unknown and conjectural, for contemporary Somali history, enough has been recorded to entertain our current and future generations.

Full of creativity, Idaajaa, the Somali man of wisdom who served his nation with dignity and devotion to culture and literature, is also a poet. While mimicry elicits stereotypes, Idaajaa has been criticized by some who don’t have control of their mannerisms. Psychologically, it is common for people to have different behaviors that include being active, ambitious, cautious, curious, creative and finally being conscientious. Part of the positive task-oriented behavior, the rest are logical, organized, perfectionist and precise.[iv] Those displaying negative task-oriented behaviors are known to be scatterbrained, volatile, lazy, careless and anxious. There are also the extroverts and introverts. There is no human being who is perfect. We all have weaknesses and the best of all amongst us is the patient one.

Regarding the commitments of Idaajaa to Somali cause, there is enough evidence that reveals the role he played from the very first day he spoke on a radio microphone, the first day he jotted down an article either using the old type QWERTY typewriter or the day he scribbled a note using a Bic pen or a ballpoint pen that is manufactured by Société Bic of Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine, France and an exercise book. On a final note, Idaajaa deserves a pat on the back for the hard work and determination spent spreading what benefits the people of Somalia for over half a century.

Nota Bene: This article will appear in the writer’s upcoming book to be released after Eid, In Shaa Allaah.

Adan Makina
Email: [email protected]


[i] Telephonic conversation with Maalim Idris and Abubakar Mohamed. April 11, 2022, Kenya.
[ii] Telephonic Interview with Ibrahim Sambul. March 15, 2022, Dhagaxley Refugee Camp, Kenya.
[iii] An Anthology of Somali Poetry – 1993 – PAGE 48
[iv] List of Words that Describe Behavior. Retrieved from

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