Somali aristocratic and court titles

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 Somali customary law (xeer), in addition to the nobiliary particles set aside for distinguished individuals.

Monarchs and aristocratsEdit

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

Male titlesEdit

Kings or RulersEdit

Suldaan Abdillahi Suldaan Deria, the 5th Grand Sultan of the Isaaq Sultanate
  • Ugaas: Authentic Somali term for "Sultan". Used throughout the northern and western Somali territories; particularly in the Somali region of Ethiopia and Somaliland, but also in central Somalia, southern and northeastern Somalia.[1][3] The Gadabursi, and Gaalje'el[4][5] gave their sultan the title of "Ugaas" romanized as "Ughaz".[6][7][8]
  • Boqor: Literally denotes King.[9] However, in practice, it is the primus inter pares or "King of Kings".[10] 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.[1] 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.[11] 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";[12] and Boqortinnimo, denoting "kingship".[13] Historically, the title was mainly used by rulers in the northeastern Puntland region of Somalia.[1] The most prominent Boqor in recent times was Osman Mahamuud, who governed the Majeerteen Sultanate (Majeerteenia) during its 19th-century heyday. Also used among the Gadabuursi as the law of the King and the 100 men' (heerka boqorka iyo boqolka nin).[14]
  • Garaad: Often employed interchangeably with "Suldaan" to denote a Sultan. Etymologically signifies "wisdom", "mind" or "understanding". According to Basset (1952), the title corresponds with the honorific Al-Jaraad, which was used during the Middle Ages by Muslim governors in the Islamic parts of Ethiopia. Gerad was historically employed throughout Somaliland by the Tol Je'lo as well as the Habar Awal until the clan's leadership adopted a Suldaan in the 20th century. It is still used by the Dhulbahante today.[1] Garad also denotes a "chief" in Harari and Silt'e languages respectively.[15]
  • Imaam: Denotes the Head of State.[16] Style was used especially by rulers in the Sultanate of Adal and the Ajuran Sultanate. Notable Imams include Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, also known as Ahmed Gurey or Gran (both meaning "the Left Handed"), who led a military campaign during the Middle Ages known as the Conquest of Abyssinia (Futuh al-Habash).
  • Emir: Used by leaders in the Adal Sultanate. Also employed by commanders in the Ajuran Sultanate's armed forces and navy. Prominent Emirs include Nur ibn Mujahid, the Emir of Harar who built the great wall (Jugol) around the city.

Royal familyEdit

Gadabuursi Ughaz Nur near the age of 80

Court officialsEdit

  • Wasiir: 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.[19] 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.[20]
  • Boqortiishe: Viceroy.[12] Style reserved for court officials governing territory on behalf of their Kingdom was mostly used by Ajuran Empire that established many colonies and a famous ruler was Abd al-Aziz of Mogadishu who ruled Maldive islands on behalf of Ajuran Empire
  • Wakiil-Boqor: Alternate court title designating a Viceroy.[21]
  • 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.[22]
  • Qaadi: Denotes a Chief Judge. Especially common title in Somaliland, but also used in the southern Ajuran Sultanate. Prominent Qadis include Ismail ibn Ash-Shaykh Ishaaq, the ancestor of the Garhajis clan, 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.[23]

Female titlesEdit


  • Boqorad: Literally translates as "Queen". Title mainly reserved for the queen consort of the King (Boqor).[24]

Royal familyEdit

  • Amiirad: Princess. Honorific set aside for the hereditary daughter of the King or Sultan.[17]
  • Ina Boqor: Alternate court style for the Prince or Princess.[17]

Religious leadersEdit

Sheikh Ali Ayanle Samatar, a prominent Islamic 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 officialsEdit

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


  • Islan: Clan chief.[33] Title evolved after the fragmentation in the 18th century of the great Harti confederation that dominated the northeastern Horn region since at least the 14th century. 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.[34]
  • 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.[35]
  • Akil: From the Arabic for "wise man".[1] A common title for male elders, who are the traditional clan chiefs. Used particularly in Somaliland.[36]


Nobiliary particlesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lewis (1999:203–204)
  2. ^ Correspondence respecting the Rising of Mullah Muhammed Abdullah in Somaliland, and consequent military operations, 1899–1901
  3. ^ Lewis, I. M. (1961-01-01). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 204. ISBN 9783825830847.
  4. ^ Muuse, Guuleed (2021-09-07). "Video: Ugaaska Gaaljecel oo war cusub kasoo saaray kiiska Ikraan, fariin u diray Farmaajo". Caasimada Online. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  5. ^ "Daawo: Ugaaska Gaaljecel oo war cusub kasoo saaray". Axadle Wararka Maanta. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  6. ^ Abdi, Abdirahman (August 24, 2013). "Ugaas Xasan Ugaas Yaasiin oo Muqdisho kula kulmay odayaal dhaqan(Sawiro)". Retrieved September 21, 2019.
  7. ^ "Taariikhdii Ugaas Yaasiin".
  8. ^ Westermann, Diedrich; Smith, Edwin William; Forde, Cyril Daryll (2007-01-01). Africa. Oxford University Press. p. 230.
  9. ^ Orwin, Martin (1990). Aspects of Somali phonology. University of London. p. 55.
  10. ^ Lewis (1999:208)
  11. ^ Claessen, H. J. M. (1987). Early State Dynamics, Volume 2 of Studies in Human Society. Brill Archive. p. 121. ISBN 9004081011.
  12. ^ a b Maxamed, Maxamed Cabdi (1987). Lexique somali-français. s.n. p. 27.
  13. ^ R. David Paul Zorc, Abdullahi A. Issa (1990). Somali Textbook. Dunwoody Press. p. 551. ISBN 0931745489.
  14. ^ Lewis, I. M. (1961-01-01). A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics Among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 207. ISBN 9783825830847.
  15. ^ Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: Gärad.
  16. ^ Mohamed Haji Muktar, Historical Dictionary of Somalia, (Scarecrow Press: 2003), p.35
  17. ^ a b c d Hashi, Awil Ali (1993). Essential English-Somali Dictionary. Fiqi Press Ltd. p. 318. ISBN 0969768508.
  18. ^ Kirk, J. W. C. (31 October 2010). A grammar of the Somali Language, p.140. ISBN 9781108013260.
  19. ^ Laitin & Samatar (1987:15)
  20. ^ Ahmed III, Abdul. "History of Somali Military Personnel". THOAPI. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  21. ^ Hashi, Awil Ali (1993). Essential English-Somali Dictionary. Fiqi Press Ltd. p. 442. ISBN 0969768508.
  22. ^ 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. {{cite book}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  23. ^ Laitin (1977:86–87)
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ "Scholars Biographies - 15th Century - Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Abdullaah as-Sumaalee". Fatwa-Online. Archived from the original on 15 September 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  27. ^ Ho, Engseng, Graves of Tarim, (University of California Press: 2006), Berkeley. p.149
  28. ^ Uhlig, Siegbert (2007). Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: He-N, Volume 3. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 1045. ISBN 978-3447056076.
  29. ^ a b Lewis (1999:224)
  30. ^ Abdullahi (2001:13)
  31. ^ Lewis (1998:102)
  32. ^ Mukhtar, Mohamed Haji (2003-02-25). Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6604-1.
  33. ^ Diiriye, Anwar Maxamed (2006). Literature of Somali onomastics & proverbs with comparison of foreign sayings. Gobaad Communications & Press. p. 59. ISBN 0972661514.
  34. ^ Cassanelli (1982:130)
  35. ^ Luling (2002:103)
  36. ^ Abdullahi, p.140
  37. ^ Adam, Hussein Mohamed; Richard Ford (1997). Mending rips in the sky: options for Somali communities in the 21st century. Red Sea Press. p. 148. ISBN 1-56902-073-6.
  38. ^ a b c d e f "Back to Somali roots". Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  39. ^ WSP Somali Programme (2001). Rebuilding Somalia: issues and possibilities for Puntland. HAAN Associates. pp. 69 & 84. ISBN 1874209049.
  40. ^ Reese, Scott Steven (1996). Patricians of the Benaadir: Islamic learning, commerce and Somali urban identity in the nineteenth century. University of Pennsylvania. p. 179.
  41. ^ a b Lewis (1998:90)
  42. ^ G.W.B. Huntingford, "The Town of Amud, Somalia", Azania, 13 (1978), p. 184
  43. ^ Bader, Christian (2000). Mythes et légendes de la Corne de l'Afrique. Karthala. p. 263. ISBN 2845860692.
  44. ^ Michael Hodd, East African Handbook, (Trade & Travel Publications: 1994), p.640.


External linksEdit