Wadaad's Writing

stone tablet in Wadaad writing.
Type abjad
Languages Somali
ISO 15924 Template:ISO 15924 code, Template:ISO 15924 number
Direction Template:ISO 15924 direction
Unicode alias Template:ISO 15924 alias

Wadaad writing, also known as Wadaad's Arabic, is the traditional Somali version of written Arabic,[1] as well as the Arabic script historically used to represent the Somali language.[2] Originally, it referred to an ungrammatical Arabic featuring some words in Somali, with the proportion of Somali vocabulary terms varying depending on the context.[3] Alongside standard Arabic, Wadaad's writing was traditionally used by Somali religious men (wadaado) to record Xeer (customary law) petitions and to write qasidas.[1][4] It was also used by merchants for business and letter writing.[4] Over the years, various Somali scholars improved and altered this form of writing. This culminated in the 1950s with the Galal alphabet, which substantially modified spelling standards and introduced new vowel symbols.[2]


The Arabic script was introduced in the 13th century by Sheikh Yusuf bin Ahmad al-Kawneyn (colloquially referred to as Aw Barkhadle or the "Blessed Father"[5]),[6] a man described as "the most outstanding saint in northern Somalia."[7] Of Ashraaf descent, he sought to advance the teaching of the Qur'an.[6] Al-Kawneyn devised a Somali nomenclature for the Arabic vowels, which enabled his pupils to read and write in Arabic.[8]

Though various Somali wadaads and scholars had used the Arabic script to write in Somali for centuries, it would not be until the 19th century when the Qadiriyyah saint Sheikh Uways al-Barawi of the Tuuni clan would improve the application of the Arabic script to represent Somali. He applied it to the Maay dialect of southern Somalia, which at the time was the closest to standardizing Somali with the Arabic script. Al-Barawi modeled his alphabet after the Arabic transcription adopted by the Amrani of Barawa (Brava) to write their Swahili dialect, Bravanese.[9][10]

Wadaad's writing was often unintelligible to Somali pupils who learned standard Arabic in government-run schools.[11] During the 1930s in the northwestern British Somaliland protectorate, Mahammad 'Abdi Makaahiil attempted to standardize the orthography in his book The Institution of Modern Correspondence in the Somali language. Following in the foosteps of Sh. Ibraahim 'Abdallah Mayal, Makaahiil therein championed the use of the Arabic script for writing Somali, showing examples of this usage through proverbs, letters and sentences.[9]

In the 1950s, the Somali linguist Musa Haji Ismail Galal (1917–1980) introduced a more radical alteration of Arabic to represent Somali. Galal came up with an entirely new set of symbols for the Somali vowels. Lewis (1958) considered this to be the most accurate Arabic alphabet to have been devised for the Somali language.[12]

See also



Template:Arabic alphabets
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