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Somali aristocratic and court titles

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Title: Somali aristocratic and court titles  
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Somali aristocratic and court titles

Mohamoud Ali Shire, the 26th Suldaan (Sultan) of the Warsangali Sultanate.

This is a list of Somali aristocratic and court titles that were historically used by the Somali people's various sultanates, kingdoms and empires. Also included are the honorifics reserved for Islamic notables as well as traditional leaders and officials within the Somali customary law (xeer), in addition to the nobiliary particles set aside for distinguished individuals.

Monarchs and aristocrats

Below is a list of the royal court titles historically retained by the Somali monarchies and aristocracies.

Male titles

King of Kings

  • Boqor: Literally denotes King.[1] However, in practice, it is the primus inter pares or "King of Kings".[2] The title is etymologically derived from one of the Afro-Asiatic Somali language terms for "belt", in recognition of the official's unifying role within society.[3] According to Kobishchanow (1987), Boqor is also related to the style Paqar, which was employed by rulers in the early Nile Valley state of Meroe.[4] Various Somali honorifics and designations have Boqor as their root. The latter include Boqortooyo, signifying "monarchy", "kingdom" or "empire"; Boqornimo, meaning "royalty", "nobility" or "dignitaries";[5] and Boqortinnimo, denoting "kingship".[6] Historically, the title was mainly used by rulers in the northeastern Puntland region of Somalia.[3] The most prominent Boqor in recent times was Osman Mahamuud, who governed the Majeerteen Sultanate (Majeerteenia) during its 19th century heyday.


Suldaan Yusuf Ali Kenadid, founder of the Sultanate of Hobyo.

Royal family

Amiir (Prince) Ali Yusuf Kenadid of the Sultanate of Hobyo.
  • Amir: Prince. Honorific set aside for the hereditary son of the King or Sultan.[10] Notable Princes include Ali Yusuf Kenadid, the son and heir of Sultan Yusuf Ali Kenadid of the Sultanate of Hobyo.
  • Ina Boqor: Alternate court style for the Prince.[10]

Court officials

  • Wazir: Minister and/or tax and revenue collector. Title used in the northern Majeerteen Sultanate and Sultanate of Hobyo, as well as the southern Ajuran Sultanate. Wazirs were also quite common at the royal court of the medieval Sultanate of Mogadishu. When the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta visited Mogadishu in 1331, he indicated that the city was ruled by a Somali Sultan originally from the northern Barbara region, who had a retinue of wazirs, legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his service.[11] Other notable wazirs include the maternal grandfather of the Somali General Abdullahi Ahmed Irro, who was part of the Sultanate of Hobyo's aristocratic contingent in the southern town of Kismayo.[12]
  • Boqortiishe: Viceroy.[5] Style reserved for court officials governing territory on behalf of the King. Primarily used in the northern Majeerteen Sultanate and Sultanate of Hobyo.
  • Wakiil-Boqor: Alternate court title designating a Viceroy.[13]
  • Na'ib/Naïb: Deputy or representative of the Sultan. Duties included the administration of tribute, which was collected by court soldiers. Style was used in the Ajuran Sultanate, Majeerteen Sultanate and Sultanate of Hobyo.[14]
  • Qadi: Denotes a Chief Judge. Especially common title in northern Somalia, but also used in the southern Ajuran Sultanate. Prominent Qadis include Abd al Aziz al-Amawi, an influential 19th century diplomat, historian, poet, jurist and scholar who was appointed Qadi of the Kilwa Sultanate at the age of 18 by Muscat and Oman's Sultan Said bin Sultan; and the father of Sheikh Abdurahman Sheikh Nuur, inventor of the Borama script for the Somali language.[15]

Female titles


  • Boqorad: Literally translates as "Queen". Title mainly reserved for the queen consort of the King (Boqor).[16]

Royal family

  • Amirad: Princess. Honorific set aside for the hereditary daughter of the King or Sultan.[10]
  • Ina Boqor: Alternate court style for the Princess.[10]

Religious leaders

Sheikh Abadir Umar Ar-Rida, an early Muslim leader.

Islamic leaders within Somali society were often drawn from or elevated to the noble ranks. Below is a list of the titles most often used historically by the clergymen (ulama):

Traditional leaders and officials

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Below is a list of the titles traditionally employed by leaders and officials within the Somali customary law or xeer.


  • Islan: Clan chief.[24] Title evolved after the fragmentation in the 18th century of the great Harti confederation that dominated the northeastern Horn region since at least the 1300s. A general process of decentralization ensued, with new leaders known as Islaan assuming at the local level some of the power that was previously solely commanded by the Sultan of Majeerteenia, the titular head of the entire confederation. Although they nominally asserted independence from the sultanate, Islaan's mainly wielded religious rather than political authority.[25]
  • Ughaz: Generic term for "ruler". Used throughout the northern and western Somali territories; particularly in the Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia and the far northwestern area corresponding with the Awdal region.[3]
  • Malakh: Signifies "War Leader". Historically used mainly by the Rahanweyn clan that today forms one of the largest constituencies in southern Somalia, in addition to a few sympatric clans. Usually assigned to the Herabow sub-lineage, from which two male constituents were selected to manage the group's military affairs.[26]
  • Akil: From the Arabic for "wise man".[3] A common title for male elders, who are the traditional clan chiefs. Used in the north, particularly in the Somaliland region of Somalia.[22]


Nobiliary particles

  • Aw: Nobiliary particle meaning "honorable", "venerable", or simply "Sir".[30] Reserved for learned Islamic clerics,[17] and used throughout the Somali territories. During his research in the ancient town of Amud, the historian G.W.B. Huntingford noticed that whenever an old site had the prefix Aw in its name (such as the ruins of Aw Bare and Aw Bube[31]), it denoted the final resting place of a local saint.[32] Surveys by A.T. Curle in 1934 on several of these important ruined cities recovered various artefacts, such as pottery and coins, which point to a medieval period of activity at the tail end of the Sultanate of Adal's reign.[31] Northern Somalia in general is home to numerous such archaeological sites, with similar edifices found at Haylan, Qa’ableh, Qombo'ul, El Ayo, Heis, Botiala, Mudun, Maduna and Damo, among other areas.[33]

See also


  1. ^ Orwin, Martin (1990). Aspects of Somali phonology. University of London. p. 55. 
  2. ^ Lewis (1999:208)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lewis (1999:203-204)
  4. ^ Claessen, H. J. M. (1987). Early State Dynamics, Volume 2 of Studies in Human Society. Brill Archive. p. 121.  
  5. ^ a b Maxamed, Maxamed Cabdi (1987). Lexique somali-français. s.n. p. 27. 
  6. ^ R. David Paul Zorc, Abdullahi A. Issa (1990). Somali Textbook. Dunwoody Press. p. 551.  
  7. ^ "Warsangeli Sultanate - Official website". ECOTERRA Intl. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Pankhurst, Richard (1982). History of Ethiopian towns from the Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century. Steiner. p. 63.  
  9. ^ Mohamed Haji Muktar, Historical Dictionary of Somalia, (Scarecrow Press: 2003), p.35
  10. ^ a b c d Hashi, Awil Ali (1993). Essential English-Somali Dictionary. Fiqi Press Ltd. p. 318.  
  11. ^ Laitin & Samatar (1987:15)
  12. ^ Ahmed III, Abdul. "History of Somali Military Personnel". THOAPI. 
  13. ^ Hashi, Awil Ali (1993). Essential English-Somali Dictionary. Fiqi Press Ltd. p. 442.  
  14. ^ Axmed Faarax Cali, Francesco Antinucci, ed. (1986). Poesia orale somala: storia di una nazione. Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Dipartimento per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, Comitato Tecnico Linguistico per l'Universita Nazionale Somala. 
  15. ^ Laitin (1977:86-87)
  16. ^ Kraska, Iwona (1992). "From verb to clitic and nominal suffix: The Somali -e,-o nouns". Studies in the Linguistic Sciences (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dept. of Linguistics) 22: 97. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c d IFLA Committee on Cataloguing, IFLA International Office for UBC., IFLA International Programme for UBC., IFLA UBCIM Programme (1987). International cataloguing: quarterly bulletin of the IFLA Committee on Cataloguing, Volume 11. The Committee. p. 24. 
  18. ^ "Scholars Biographies - 15th Century - Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Abdullaah as-Sumaalee". Fatwa-Online. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  19. ^ Ho, Engseng, Graves of Tarim, (University of California Press: 2006), Berkeley. p.149
  20. ^ Uhlig, Siegbert (2007). Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N, Volume 3. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 1045.  
  21. ^ a b Lewis (1999:224)
  22. ^ a b Abdullahi (2001:13)
  23. ^ Lewis (1998:102)
  24. ^ Diiriye, Anwar Maxamed (2006). Literature of Somali onomastics & proverbs with comparison of foreign sayings. Gobaad Communications & Press. p. 59.  
  25. ^ Cassanelli (1982:130)
  26. ^ Luling (2002:103)
  27. ^ Adam, Hussein Mohamed; Richard Ford (1997). Mending rips in the sky: options for Somali communities in the 21st century. Red Sea Press. p. 148.  
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Back to Somali roots". Retrieved 2009-12-20. 
  29. ^ WSP Somali Programme (2001). Rebuilding Somalia: issues and possibilities for Puntland. HAAN Associates. pp. 69 & 84.  
  30. ^ Reese, Scott Steven (1996). Patricians of the Benaadir: Islamic learning, commerce and Somali urban identity in the nineteenth century. University of Pennsylvania. p. 179. 
  31. ^ a b Lewis (1998:90)
  32. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, "The Town of Amud, Somalia", Azania, 13 (1978), p. 184
  33. ^ Michael Hodd, East African Handbook, (Trade & Travel Publications: 1994), p.640.


External links

  • Warsangeli Sultanate (Official website)
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