Explorations in History and Society

Exploring and Collecting the History of the Somali clan of Hawiye.

The Hiraab Imamate

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The birth of the Hiraab Imamate

According to local oral tradition and the town chronicles along the coast, the Hiraab imamate was a powerful alliance of closely related groups who shared a common lineage under the Gurgarte clan divisions. It successfully revolted against the Ajuran empire in the 15th and 16th centuries before establishling an independent entity.

The Imamate formed a clear division of power. The alliance involved the army leaders and advisors of the Habar Gidir and Duduble, a Fiqhi/Qadi of Sheikhal, 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 stretching from Mogadishu in the Banaadir province along the coast to as far as the port town of Hobyo in the northernmost central town.

Transferred leadership

As affirmed earlier, the Hiraab had defeated the Ajuuraan, and subsequently the titular clan leadership within the Hawiyya tribe had shifted from the Garen Jambelle to the Gorgarte clan divisions, hence the strategic watering wells and trading locations were some of the many new purks that they attained. And indeed, by the early modern times, Hawiyya country was increasingly identified by those territories whom the Hiraab had held sovereignty over.

 The importance of Hobyo in the Imamate

Hobyo served as a prosperous commercial centre for the Imamate.  The agricultural centres of Eldher and Harardhere  included the production of sorghum and beans, suplementing 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.  The luxury comodities traded consisted predominantly of 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 replinish their supplies. To conclude, the port of Hobyo was an income-generating source where the Imamate received enormous revenue.

The reigning sultans of the Hiraab Imamate

  • Suldaan Xaaji Cumar Hilowle al-Yacquubi
  • Suldaan Doodshe Aadan Good
  • Suldaan Daamey Cali (Xume) Axmad
  • Suldaan Cumar Abu Bakr
  • Suldaan Abu Bakr
  • Suldaan Axmad I
  • Suldaan Maxamad I
  • Suldaan Axmad II
  • Suldaan Maxmuud
  • Suldaan Cali
  • Suldaan Cusmaan
  • Suldaan Maxamad II
  • Suldaan Axmad III
  • Suldaan Xassan C/Qaadir Xaaji

The fall of the Hiraab Imamate

By the late 19th century, the Imamate began to decline. Faced with internal problems and challenges from the imperialist forces, the Zanzibari sultan, and even from  the Portugese earlier on, the Hiraab Imamate lost it’s power and eventually fragmented. By 1880, a young ambitious dissident of the northeast, allied with an army of Hadrami musketeers, had managed to sieze Hobyo and formally declared an independent sultanate. After a few years, Hobyo was ceded to the Italian government of Mogadishu. In 1925, under Italian admission, the sultanate was pensioned off to Mogadishu and Hobyo became an administative district of the Mudugh region.

By then, the entire surrounding regions of what formed the Italian Somaliland were 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 still enjoys a dominant influence in national Somali affairs.

References; The Shaping of Somali society by Lee Cassanelli.


Written by daud jimale

May 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm

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