Islam in Somalia
Nearly all people in Somalia are Sunni Muslims. For more than 1400 years, Islam made a great part of Somali society. Practicing Islam reinforces distinctions that further set Somalis apart from their immediate neighbors, many of whom are either Christians or adherents of indigenous faiths. The early Muslims sought refuge from persecution in cities on the northern Somali coast.For generations, Islam in Somalia followed the Ash’ariyah theology, Shafi’i jurisprudence, and Sufism, until recent decades when Salafism has made inroads. Influence of Islamic religious leaders has varied by region, being greater in the north than among some groups in the settled regions of the south. Among nomads, the exigencies of pastoral life gave greater weight to the warrior's role, and religious leaders were expected to remain aloof from political matters.The role of religious functionaries began to shrink in the 1950s and 1960s as some of their legal and educational powers and responsibilities were transferred to secular authorities. The position of religious leaders changed substantially after the 1969 revolution and the introduction of scientific socialism. Siad Barre insisted that his version of socialism was compatible with Qur'anic principles, and he condemned atheism. Religious leaders, however, were warned not to meddle in politics.The new government instituted legal changes that some religious figures saw as contrary to Islamic precepts. The regime reacted sharply to criticism, executing some of the protesters. Subsequently, religious leaders seemed to accommodate themselves to the government.