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The Sultanate of Mogadishu

The Sultanate of Mogadishu, was a medieval sultanate centered in modern-day southern Somalia. It was also known as the Kingdom of Magadazo and was established by the Somalians by 800 AD. Starting from 900 AD, the kingdom became one of the more notable powers in the Horn of Africa region. The Horn of Africa region refers to the east African region that is home to the countries of modern-day Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The Africans of the Sultanate of Mogadishu were Muslim and it was another example of an Islamic African nation which became extremely prosperous and influential.

At its peak, the Mogadishu Sultanate maintained a vast trading network, dominated the regional gold trade, minted its own currency, and left an extensive architectural legacy in present-day southern Somalia. It was a local city-state which much influence over the neighboring coastal towns. Trade between the people in the Mogadishu area with other areas along the Indian coast of Africa was commonplace. Muslim traders from the Arabian Peninsula came to the area by 900 AD. Trade increased among the Swahili cities of coast of East Africa in the 10th century hence driving the Mogadishu economy. At its peak, Mogadishu had a well-established trading network with important trading partner nations such as Egypt, Persia, India, and China. Mogadishu established its own Mogadishu currency for its medieval trading empire in the Indian Ocean. It centralized its commercial hegemony by minting coins to facilitate regional trade. The currency bore the names of the 23 successive Sultans (or rulers) of Mogadishu. During his travels, the Arab geographer, historian, poet named Ibn Sa’id al-Maghribi noted that the city had already become the leading Islamic center in the region. Somalis were the some of the earliest non-Arabs that converted to Islam. Fatimah bint Asad was an aunt to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and died in Mogadishu, in modern-day Somalia in 626 AD. It is understood that Islam had been introduced en masse into Somalia as early 634 AD when some Muslims arrived from the country of modern-day Oman on an expedition. Now, Ibn Battuta, was a African Berber scholar and explorer from Morocco who travelled extensively in Africa and Asia. Ibn Battuta visited the region an provides the following description in his writings:

“From Zeila we sailed fifteen nights and arrived at Mogadishu, which is a very large city. The people have very many camels, and slaughter many hundreds every day. They have also many sheep. The merchants are wealthy, and manufacture a material which takes its name from the town and which is exported to Egypt and elsewhere. Among the customs of the people of this town is the following: when a ship comes into port, it is boarded from sanbuqs, that is to say, little boats. Each sanbuq carries a crowd of young men, each carrying a covered dish, containing food. Each one of them presents his dish to a merchant on board, and calls out: “This man is my guest.” And his fellows do the same. Not one of the merchants disembarks except to go to the house of his host among the young men, save frequent visitors to the country. In such a case they go where they like.

When a merchant has settled in his host’s house, the latter sells for him what he has brought and makes his purchases for him. Buying anything from a merchant below its market price or selling him anything except in his host’s presence is disapproved of by the people of Mogadishu. They find it of advantage to keep to this rule. We went to the chief mosque, and prayed behind the maqsurah, the enclosure for the Shaikh. When he came out of the maqsurah, I greeted him with the Qadi. He replied with his good wishes for us both, and talked to the Qadi in the local language, and then said to me in Arabic: “You are welcome: you have honored our country by coming and have rejoiced us.” He went out into the courtyard of the mosque and stopped at the tomb of his son, which is there. He recited a passage from the Koran and prayed. Then came the wazirs, the amirs and military commanders and greeted him. In doing this they observed the same customs as are followed in the Yemen. The man who gives his greeting places his forefinger on the ground, and then on his head, and says: “May God make you glorious!”

The Sultanate of Mogadishu eventually came part of the expanding Ajuran Sultanate.

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