Somali resistance to foreign interference in their lives dated back to at least the years between 1528 and 1535 when, under the command of Imam Ahmed (Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi), known as Ahmed ‘Gurey’ (the left-handed), the Somali devastated, and for a time successfully pushed back the Abyssinian Empire. It was only with the help of the Portuguese that the Abyssinians defeated the Somali forces.
The resistance to colonial interference which Sayid Abdulle Hassan inspired and led at the close of the nineteenth century and for the succeeding two decades was nationalistic in essence, and in a tradition not seen in the Somali peninsula since Ahmed Gurey’s war against Abyssinia in the sixteenth century.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Islam was reawakened in Eastern Africa, as a result of a revival of Islam in the Muslim world. This tendency might have been triggered by the Euro-Christian colonisation of Muslim lands in Africa and Asia, creating a widespread reaction culminating in a resurgence of a revivalist movement against the Euro-Christian hegemony. The Mahdist revolt in the Sudan in 1880s and that of the Darwiish (Dervish) movement led by Sayid Mahamed in Somalia during the same period, are examples of this revivalist movement.
The resistance led by Sayid Mahamed Abdulle was motivated by religious and cultural principles. His objective was to establish his suzerainty `over the whole of the Somali territory’.
Islam served as the ideology of the Darwiish movement. A Darwiish is a Muslim believer who takes vows of poverty to lead a life of austerity in the service of Allah and of his community.