Somalia Religion

Almost all Somalis are Sunni Muslims. There is also a Shiite Muslim minority but it is unclear how big it is. In recent years, Islamist groups, such as al-Shabaab, have strengthened their position and tried to push through a fundamentalist form of Islam.

According to the Provisional Constitution of 2012, Islam is state religion and all laws must be compatible with Sharia. It is forbidden to plead for other religions. At the same time, it is stated that religious freedom prevails.

In Somaliland and Puntland, it is explicitly forbidden to convert to another religion, but it is not socially accepted in any part of the country.

There is a small Christian minority in the country who keep a low profile. This also applies to other religious minorities.

Traditionally, most Somalis have applied a fairly liberal form of Islam. In the past it was rare for Somali women to appear in secret. Brotherhood or arranging roots in Islamic mysticism (Sufism) plays an important role. It honors the memory of holy men, who sacked Daarood Jabarti who came from Arabia in the 11th century as well as later sack Issaq. These two are said to have preached Islam, married local women and become ancestors of the clan families of Darod and Issaq.

During the latter decades of the 20th century, many Somalis worked in the states around the Persian Gulf and brought home fundamentalist thought. Such stricter directions (itihad) within Islam thus gained a foothold in Somalia.

The Islamist group al-Shabaab has been withdrawn in recent years, but still controls parts of southern and central Somalia, where it practices a strict interpretation of Islam and its laws (Wahhabism). People have been executed after being accused of adultery or of having engaged in missionary activities. In the areas al-Shabaab controls, music must not be played, cinemas have been banned, as is the internet. Women must wear full-length veils. al-Shabaab has also raided Sufi mosques and several priests have been killed. al-Shabaab has also closed mosques that have made other interpretations of Islam.

Somalia Population Pyramid 2020

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Somalia, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.

In 2013, however, 160 Somali religious leaders issued a fatwa, a religious injunction, against al-Shabaab, saying at a conference in Mogadishu that the militant group has no place in Islam.

In connection with the 2020 Corona crisis, al-Shabaab claimed in its propaganda that the covid-19 viral disease was spread by “foreign crusaders”. At the same time, other myths are spread, such as the disease being God’s punishment against China, or the United States, for the country to treat Muslims. Another notion was that you could not be affected if you were a good Muslim. Even then, moderate religious leaders tried to act to break the propaganda and the myths that were spread. They also made efforts to disseminate information on how people should protect themselves against the new coronavirus causing the disease. Quran schools were also closed in many places



New parliament in place

December 27

Although some mandates have not yet been fulfilled due to differences of opinion about the election process, the country’s new MPs are sworn in at a ceremony in Mogadishu. At the inauguration, just over 80 percent of the new members are present. Parliament has the task of appointing the country’s president but it is not decided when such a vote will be held.

AU investigates incidents of civilian deaths

December 19

AU investigates two incidents where Amisom soldiers are accused of killing civilians in Somalia. One case involved soldiers shooting a minibus near the town of Qoryooley and killing six people. The second case concerns an AU vehicle driven into a house in the port city of Marka and killed a woman and her five children. According to the mayor of Marka, this happens after an AU column avoided a bomb attack.

Many dead in new suicide

December 11

At least 29 people, most civilians, are killed and even more injured in an attack near the port of Mogadishu.

Puntland recovers port city from IS

December 7

Authorities in Puntland say they have taken back the port city of Qandala, which is controlled by IS. The IS rebels are led by Abdiqadir Mumin, who previously belonged to al-Shabaab.


Risk of new famine disaster

November 28

The lack of rain, together with continued violence, create major problems. 38 aid organizations warn of a similar disaster as that country hit in 2011 unless new relief efforts are implemented.

Delays in the election

November 28

The parliamentary elections are carried out step by step, but have not been completed in time. So far, only three-quarters of the members of Parliament’s two chambers have been appointed. Therefore, it is unlikely that Parliament will be able to elect the President on November 30 as planned.

Accusations of corruption in connection with the election

November 25

Somalia’s Auditor General Gen Nur Farah Jimale says that extensive corruption has occurred in connection with the election. Candidates must have paid between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000 to secure votes. The British BBC writes on its web site that it has received information that some candidates have offered bribes in excess of $ 1 million. In some constituencies it has meant that all but one candidate have withdrawn their candidacy. There have also been harassment, cheating and some outbreaks of violence. Gen Nur says that some choices have to be made. In most places, however, it has been carried out under calm conditions.

Militia fighting in Galkayo requires at least 29 lives

November 7

Militia forces from Puntland and Galmudug gather in Galkayo. What triggers the unrest is a dispute over new buildings in the city, which is divided between the two regions.


Thousands on the run from new battles

October 25th

At least 18 people are killed in fighting between forces from Puntland and Galmudug in the north. According to the UN, about 75,000 people, who already lived in refugee camps, are forced to leave.

al-Shabaab occupies the city of Halgar

October 23

al-Shabaab occupies the city of Halgar in the Hiran region after Ethiopian soldiers resign. A member of parliament from the region says that many of the city’s residents have been executed by the Islamists on suspicion of supporting the government side. In the past, al-Shabaab has taken control of two other cities in the area. Ethiopia says it has withdrawn its forces from southwestern Somalia and says more support is needed from the international community. A representative of the government says the forces concerned did not belong to Amisom and rejects information that they were sent home due to domestic disturbances.

Kidnapped sailors are released

22 October

26 Asian sailors taken hostage by pirates in 2012 are handed over to the Galkayo authorities.

Violates UN rules

October 12

Diplomats from Western countries say that weapons imported by the Somali government are being resold in violation of UN sanctions. Up to 40 percent of the light weapons available on the black market were originally purchased by the government. In 2013, the UN eased the arms embargo on the Somali government.


New UN envoy for Somali refugees

September 30th

The United Nations appoints Kenya’s former Somalia ambassador, Mohamed Abdi Affey, as a special envoy for Somali refugees. His job will be to raise money and start projects that make it easier for returning refugees to establish themselves in Somalia. Kenya has previously asked for more money from the UN to repatriate 300,000 Somali refugees living in the Dadaab camp. Within the country, there are over one million internal refugees, and in the neighboring countries there are almost as many Somali refugees.

“Somali soldiers killed”

September 29th

Somali military confirms that soldiers from their ranks had been killed in the attack in late September. The United States says to investigate what has happened.

Controversy around flying trees that kill 22

September 28

A representative of the Galmudug regional government accuses Puntland of forcing the United States to carry out an airstrike through false information. According to him, 22 soldiers and civilians are killed in the region’s defense forces. In the regional capital Galkayo, anti-American protests erupt. According to the US military and point authorities, the attack is directed against al-Shabaab.

The parliamentary elections are postponed

September 26th

Disagreement over which names should stand for the electoral rolls causes the parliamentary elections to be postponed yet again, now until October 23 to November 10. A new date for the presidential election is November 30, and members of Parliament’s House of Commons will be held on November 23.

Food shortages are getting worse

September 21

The UN warns that five million Somalis are at risk of starvation. Drought, floods and continued violence have exacerbated the situation, especially for people who are on the run inland.

al-Shabaab calls for violence against the elections

September 20

al-Shabaab urges its supporters to kill clan elders, officials and candidates who take part in the parliamentary elections that begin on September 25 (and hold it until October 10).

Criticism against Kenya and UNHCR

September 15th

In a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Kenyan authorities and the UN refugee body are criticized for the way voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees is carried out. According to HRW, many refugees have left the camps for fear that they would otherwise be forced to leave. The UNHCR is also criticized for not providing the returning refugees with sufficient information on the security situation in Somalia.

Summit in Mogadishu

September 14

For the first time since 1991, a regional summit is held in the Somali capital. It is the heads of state from Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti who, together with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, have come to the country to discuss the Somali elections within the framework of the Igad cooperation organization.

Imports of khat from Kenya are stopped

September 6

All imported drug khat, via flights from Kenya, is stopped. The decision is made without warning. So far, about 15 freight planes with khat arrived at Mogadishu are estimated every day.


Twenty killed in new bombing

August 30th

A truck with explosive charges forces roadblocks towards a hotel, near the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu. The driver unleashes the bomb when he reaches the hotel gates, killing 22 people and injuring some 30. al-Shabaab claims to have carried out the attack. The Islamist group has threatened to ramp up violence ahead of the September / October elections.

AU soldiers are convicted of fraud

August 17th

Nine Ugandan soldiers are sentenced by a Ugandan military court for selling fuel from Amisom to civilian Somalis. They are sentenced to one to three years in prison. It was the first time the Ugandan court conducted a trial in Somalia, during the nine years the Ugandan force has been stationed in Somalia.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are announced

12th of August

The authorities announce that elections for a new parliament will be held between September 24 and October 10 and that a new president be elected on October 30. According to the constitution, the members of Parliament’s lower house are to be appointed in general elections but the Constitution will not be applied this time. The 275 members of the lower house will be appointed by six electoral colleges, where the delegates are in turn appointed by clan leaders. The members of the upper house are appointed by the federal states. New president elected by parliament. However, there are several uncertainties, including how many seats will be in the upper house (54 or 57), and how the entire electoral process will be financed (the donors require the Somali government to pay part of the election).


Suicide attacks kill at least 13

July 26

Two terrorists fire car bombs at the entrance to Mogadishu airport, killing at least 13 people. Seven of the victims are guards employed by the UN. al-Shabaab takes on the death.

Attack on army base

July 11

At least ten soldiers are killed when al-Shabaab attacks an army base five miles southwest of Mogadishu. According to the army, at least twelve Islamists are also killed in the fighting.


Attacks on Ethiopian base

June 9

al-Shabaab says 60 Ethiopian soldiers were killed at an AU site near the city of Haglan, about 26 kilometers north of Mogadishu. Ethiopia denies any losses, while Amisom claims, along with Somali government troops, to have backed the attack and killed over 100 militiamen.

At least 15 dead in attacks on luxury hotels

June 1st

After detonating two car bombs outside the hotel in Mogadishu, the assailants enter the building and shoot people. Among the victims are 2 members of parliament. Some 50 people are also injured. The explosion is one of the most powerful that has hit Mogadishu in several years. al-Shabaab takes on the deed. At the same time, the United States claims to have killed an al-Shabaab military leader, Abdullahi Haji Daud, in a drone attack.

Attendant man killed in fear

June 1st

Mohamed Kuno, al-Shabaab member, who led the attack on a university in Garissa in Kenya (see April 2015) is killed in a raid near Kismayo. Another 3 high-ranking militia leaders are killed, as well as another 16 al-Shabaab members.


Lifetime bombing prison

May 31st

A military court sentenced two men to life imprisonment for the assault on an aircraft at the beginning of the year (see February 2016). A further eight people are sentenced to shorter prison terms for involvement in the act.

The government is urged to speed up the electoral process

May 23

It is the UN Security Council and several major Western donors, including the United States and the EU, who urge the government to do everything it can to keep the timetable, so that the elections can be held as planned in August. For example, Parliament has not approved the new rules that will apply to the election. Since general elections cannot be held, 13,750 people from different states must vote on who will get the 275 seats in the lower chamber. A new upper house with 54 seats will also be created.


Refugee boat capsize

April 19

Hundreds of people, many of them Somalis, are feared to have died while trying to take a boat from Libya to Europe.

AU soldiers kill civilians

April 16

Protests erupt in southern Somalia after Amisom soldiers killed four people, including an 80-year-old woman and a 9-year-old girl, who were on their way to Mogadishu to seek care. According to Amisom, the soldiers have shot at the car when it does not stop at a roadblock.

The journalist is executed

April 11

The verdict against Hassan Hanafi (see March 2016) is enforced.

Militians are killed in American raids

April 4th

US military says al-Shabaab’s high-ranking leader, Hassan Ali Dhoore, has been killed in a plane crash.


Weapon is seized

The French Navy says it seized weapons from a vessel in the northern Indian Ocean. The weapons are believed to be intended for al-Shabaab.

Rages against al-Shabaab

March 20

The Kenyan military says at least 30 rebels from al-Shabaab have been killed in connection with raids near the cities of Afmadow and Sarira in Somalia.

al-Shabaab occupies a port city in Puntland

March 15th

Most residents are said to have moved from Garad in connection with al-Shabaab taking control of the city. This is another sign that the Islamist group has stepped up its activities

American fear of al-Shabaab

March 5th

Up to 150 members of al-Shabaab are killed when US warplanes and drones attack their base in Raso, some 20 miles north of Mogadishu. That the scare took place is confirmed by al-Shabaab, who, however, says the death toll is exaggerated. The week after, US troops, together with Somali forces, take part in a new scare against al-Shabaab. This time in the city of Awdhegele, five miles south of the capital.

Former journalist is sentenced to death

Hassan Hanafi, former reporter at Radio Andalus, which is run by al-Shabaab, is being convicted of helping the Islamist group kill five Somali journalists from 2007 to 2011. He must also have targeted death threats against a number of journalists. Hanafi was arrested in Kenya in 2014 where he escaped after being convicted of mutilation for a crime, unknown which, in one of al-Shabaab’s courts. However, the verdict was not enforced, according to media because of the efforts he had previously made to the Islamist group.


Over 40 dead in terrorist attacks

February 26th

al-Shabaab carries out a new terrorist attack against a hotel in Mogadishu, killing at least 14 people. Two days later, the same group performs two new attacks in the city of Baidoa, which require a total of at least 30 lives.

New data on the number of Kenyan deaths

Somalia’s president says in a TV interview on February 25 that 180 Kenyan soldiers were killed by al-Shabaab in the attack on an AU operation in January. The information is rejected by Kenyan authorities.

Risk of starvation

The UN warns that up to 50,000 children are at risk of dying due to severe drought, especially in the northern parts of the country, Somaliland and Puntland.

Suspected bomb attack on aircraft

February 2

A plane is forced to land in Mogadishu at the beginning of the month after a hole has appeared in the aircraft body following an explosion. Several people are injured, but only the assailant is killed. Somali authorities later say it was a bomb attack and 20 people are arrested on suspicion of involvement in the act. On February 13, al-Shabaab takes on the attack.

al-Shabaab takes control of important port city

al-Shabaab takes Merca, southwest of Mogadishu. The city has until now been controlled by the AU force for more than three years.


At least 20 dead in terrorist attacks

January 21st

An attack is targeted at a popular restaurant in Mogadishu and over 20 people are killed. al-Shabaab takes on the deed.

Kenyan military abandons base

The Kenyan military announces that it has completely left the base of El-Adde and that the Kenyan soldiers are now stationed nearby. A spokesman for al-Shabaab said at the same time that the militant group now controls the entire city.

al-Shabaab takes on AU base

January 15

Islamist militia al-Shabaab claims to have taken full control of a site near the city of el-Adde in southern Somalia and that it has killed more than 60 Kenyan soldiers. However, the Kenyan military says it is storming a Somali base, and that the Kenyan soldiers strike back at the militia. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta confirms that Kenyan soldiers have been killed, but does not say how many. al-Shabaab claims that up to 100 Kenyan soldiers have been killed. The militia must also have seized a number of vehicles and military equipment, and must have carried away an unknown number of Kenyan soldiers.

Somalia Religion