Hiraab is a Somali clan, and one of the Gorgaarte Hawiye subclans. Hiraab members live in central and southern Somalia, from Galkayo to Kismayo. Most of them, such as the Abgaal, live in Mogadishu. Others live in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. They once formed a kingdom which successfully revolted against the Ajuran Sultanate and established an independent Hiraab Imamate, which included Hobyo.[1] According to Dr. Bernhard Helander of Uppsala University, "the Imam of Hiraab is a hereditary position that traditionally is held by a person of the first-born branch, the Mudulod."[2]

The Hiraab Imamate

Lee Cassanelli in his book, "The Shaping of Somali society," provides a historical picture of the Hiraab Immate. He writes:

"According to local oral tradition, the Hiraab imamate was a powerful alliance of closely related groups who shared a common lineage under the Gorgaarte clan divisions. It successfully revolted against the Ajuran Sultanate and established an independent rule for at least two centuries from the seventeen hundreds and onwards.[1]

The alliance involved the army leaders and advisors of the Habar Gidir and Duduble, a Fiqhi/Qadi of Sheekhaal , and the Imam was reserved for the Mudulood branch who is believed to have been the first born. Once established, the Imamate ruled the territories from the Shabeelle valley, the Benaadir provinces, the Mareeg areas all the way to the arid lands of Mudug, whilst the ancient port of Hobyo emerged as the commercial capital.[1]

Hobyo served as a prosperous commercial centre for the Imamate. The agricultural centres of Eldher and Harardhere included the production of sorghum and beans, supplementing with herds of camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Livestock, hides and skin, whilst the aromatic woods and raisins were the primary exports as rice, other foodstuffs and clothes were imported. Merchants looking for exotic goods came to Hobyo to buy textiles, precious metals and pearls. The commercial goods harvested along the Shabelle river were brought to Hobyo for trade. Also, the increasing importance and rapid settlement of more southernly cities such as Mogadishu further boosted the prosperity of Hobyo, as more and more ships made their way down the Somali coast and stopped in Hobyo to trade and replenish their supplies.[1]

By the late 19th century, the imamate began to decline. Faced with internal problems, the imamate also faced challenges from the imperialist forces as well as the Zanzibari sultan, and even the Portuguese in the earlier years. By then, a young ambitious rebel of the Majeerteen managed to invade Hobyo with an army of Yemeni musketeers and declared himself the sultan of Hobyo. After few years, the Sultan was disposed and overthrown by a former commander of the Imamate named Guuleed Faarax Jeex who put Hobyo back into the hands of the Imamate for a short period of time .

Soon afterwards, the entire region was snapped up by the fascists Italians and it led to the birth of a Modern Somalia. However, the Hiraab hereditary leadership has remained intact up to this day and enjoys a dominant influence in national Somali affairs."[1]

List of Imams of the Hiraab Imamate

The first Imaam of Hiraab was Imaam Yacquub Ciqwaaq Maxamed Owbakar Gaabane Maxamed Caroone Muuse Isxaaq Harti Abgaal Cusmaan Darandoole Mudulood Hiraab Madable Abkaal Berdaale Sacmaal Sariire Baraxow Daame Gorgaate Hawiye Irir Samaale. His descendants ruled a small kingdom centered at Golool until the Imaamate rapidly expanded in the 17th century, conquering Mogadishu from the Muzaffar and Ajuuraan, and the important Ajuuraan town of Hobyo, both of which are majority Hiraab today.

Ruler Name Reign Note
1 Imaam Yacquub Ciqwaaq Founder of the Hiraab Imamate and first Imam, eponymous ancestor of the Yacquubi dynasty
2 Imaam Xasan Imaam Yacquub
3 Imaam Maxamed Imaam Xasan
4 Imaam Maxamuud Imaam Xasan
5 Imaam Diimaale Imaam Xasan
6 Imaam Hilowle Imaam Diimaale
7 Imaam Maxamuud Imaam Hilowle
8 Imaam Cumar Imaam Maxamuud fl.1620 During his Imaamate, Hiraab conquered Mogadishu and displaced the Muzaffar Dynasty.[3]
9 Imaam Maxamed Imaam Cumar His descendants would form a cadet Imaamate based in Shingani district of Mogadishu
10 Imaam Maxamuud Imaam Maxamed Brother of Imaam Maxamed, his descendants continue the main line of the Imaamate
11 Imaam Axmed Imaam Maxamuud
12 Imaam Maxamed Imaam Axmed
13 Imaam Maxamuud Imaam Maxamed
14 Imaam Cabdiraxmaan Imaam Maxamuud
15 Imaam Caamir Imaam Cabdiraxmaan
16 Imaam Cumar Cali Imaam Caamir 19??-1986 Grandson of Imaam Caamir
17 Imaam Maxamuud Imaam Cumar 1986-2011 Son of Imaam Cumar, played a key role in peacemaking efforts between rival Hawiye factions in the Somali civil war.[4]
18 Imaam Maxamed Yuusuf Cali 2011–present Cousin of Imaam Maxamuud Imaam Cumar and nephew of Imaam Cumar Cali, he is the current Imaam of Mudulood and all Hiraab

Hiraab sub-clans

Ali Jimale Ahmed outlines the Hiraab clan genealogical tree in The Invention of Somalia:[5]

  • Hawiye
    • Goorgarte
      • Hiraab
        • Mudulood
          • Abgaal
          • Hilibi Daarandoole
          • Wacdaan
          • Moobleen
          • Ujejeen
        • Duduble
        • Habarghidir
          • Sacad
          • Saleebaan
          • Cayr
          • Saruur
        • Sheekhaal

[6] [7]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lee V. Cassanelli, The shaping of Somali society., Philadelphia, 1982,
  2. ^ Bernhard, Helander (1994-01-19). "The Hiraab Treaty". Somalia News Update. Uppsala, Sweden: Dr. Bernhard Helander, Uppsala University. Archived from the original on 2007-02-24. Retrieved 2009-03-31. The Imam of Hiraab is a hereditary position that traditionally is held by a person of the first-born branch, the Mudulod. 
  3. ^ Enrico, Cerulli, How a Hawiye tribe used to live chapter 4, published in: Somalia, scritti vari editi ed inediti, Vol. 2, edited by Enrico Cerulli, Roma, 1959.
  4. ^ The United Nations and Somalia: 1992-1996, United Nations, Department of Public Information, 1996, page 443
  5. ^ Ali Jimale Ahmed (1995). The Invention of Somalia. Lawrenceville, NJ: Red Sea. p. 123. ISBN 0-932415-98-9. 
  6. ^ Richard Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa, 1856; edited with an introduction and additional chapters by Gordon Waterfield (New York: Praeger, 1966), p. 165
  7. ^ https://www.ecoi.net/file_upload/90_1261130976_accord-report-clans-in-somalia-revised-edition-20091215.pdf Clans in Somalia Report on a Lecture by Joakim Gundel, COI Workshop Vienna, 15 May 2009 (Revised Edition) published December 2009