Mohammed bin Abdullah Hassan, better known as the Mad Mullah, was born in the interior of Somaliland, His boyhood was much like that of other Somali boys, spent sometimes with his fellow-tribesmen and their stock in the interior, sometimes in Berbera. Now and again, perhaps, he voyaged in some friendly buggalow carrying Somali produce, hides and ghee and sheep, to Aden and the Arabian coast. Be this as it may, when he was about seventeen or eighteen, he determined to see the world, and is said to have enrolled at Aden as a fireman in one of the liners plying between East and West. His employment in this capacity must have greatly influenced his future career. For, doubtless, at Egyptian ports in native caravanserais he often listened awestruck to many a strange story of the Mahdi from the mouths of refugees from the Sudan. Following on his experiences at sea, Mohammed having now fully attained to man's estate, made the pilgrimage to Mecca - a journey which is the common ambition of all Somalis. So impressed was he by what he heard and saw that he made several subsequent journeys to the sacred city, joining the Mohammed Salih, an insignificant but fanatical Mohammedan sect, whose tenets are of a harsh and uncompromising nature as compared with those of the Kadariyah, which is the predominant sect in Somaliland. On his return from the last of these pilgrimages in 1895, he gained some notoriety in Berbera by denouncing certain practices of the Kadariyah to somewhat bored and unsympathetic audiences. With all the strident fervency of a born agitator he would inveigh against the luxury of the age, the immorality of chewing " kat," He gained but few adherents among the comparatively sophisticated inhabitants of Berbera, and so in 1899 he repaired to the interior, where he lived in the Nogal valley among his mother's kin. Here he started a movement advocating the expulsion of the British infidel from his Mohammedan country. Many adherents Looked to his banner. Some were fired by his religious and political teaching. Others were attracted by promises of the wealth to be gained by raiding the stock of those tribes which espoused the infidel's cause, others again were inspired by a dual motive, religious and material: they saw an admirable opportunity to lay up for themselves treasure in the Mohammedan paradise by confiscating other tribes' treasure upon earth. For three years the Mullah disciplined his follower", eradicating the tribal feeling, which is normally one of the chief characteristics of the Somalis, and substituting his own authority for that of the elders of the tribes. Then early in 1899 he perpetrated his first overt set of hostility to the British Government. Suddenly swooping down upon Burao, a considerable native centre some eighty miles from Berbera, he raided the wealthy Habr Yunis tribe, and a section of the Dolbahanta joined him. After the raid, his fighting men were estimated to number 3000.
letter to the british-
I wish to rule my own country and protect my own religion. If you will, send me a letter saying whether there is to be peace or war. I intend to go from Burao to Berbera I warn you of this - I wish to fight with you. I like war, but you do not. God willing, I will take many rifles from you, but you will get no rifles or ammunition from me. If you want wood and stone, you can get them in plenty. There are also many ant-heaps. The sun is very hot. All you can get from me is war - nothing else. I have met your men in battle, and have killed them. We are greatly pleased at this. Our men who have fallen in battle have won paradise. God fights for us. We kill, and you kill. We fight by God's order. That is the truth. We ask for God's blessing. God is with me when I write this. If you wish for war, I am happy; and, if you wish for peace, I am content also. But if you wish for peace, go Solvay from my country back to your own. If you wish for war, stay where you are. Hearken to my words. I wish to exchange a machine gun for ammunition. If you do not want it, I will sell it to some one else. bend me a letter saying whether you desire war or peace."
During 1910-1914 Sayyid's capital moved from Illig to Taleeb in the heart of Nugaal where he built three garrison forts of massive stone work and a number of houses. He built a luxurious palace for himself and kept new guards for his palace By 1923, he had dominated the entire hinterland of the Somali peninsula by building forts at Jildali and Mirashi in Warsangeli country, at Wardeer and Qorahy in the Ogaden and Belet-Weyn in Southern Somalia. In 1919, a Dervish force raided the Habar Yoonis tribe near Burao and killed the British officer Corfield commanding the British Camel Corps. In the same year, the Dervish attacked Berbera and looted and destroyed it.
In the beginning of 1920, the British struck the Dervish settlements with a well-coordinated land, sea and air attack and gave them a stunning defeat. Thus Somalia was the first country in Africa which was attacked by aeroplanes. The forts of Sayyid Mohammed were damaged and his army suffered great losses. They hastily fled to Ogaden. Here, again with the help of his patriotic poetry and charisma, he tried to rebuild his army and accomplish the coalition of Ogaden clans which made him a power in the land once again. The British sent a peace delegation to him offering to give a government subsidy and a land grant in the west of the British Somaliland where he could settle with his followers, but he spurned the proposal. He even raided the returning delegation. Then smallpox and rinderpest broke out in Ogaden and about half of the Dervish died therefrom. in February 1921 Sayid Abdullah Hassan died of influenza at the age of 64 ending the longest and bloodiest colonial resistance war in africa