The word sharif is derived from the Arabic root "to be noble, highborn." Sharif is an honorific term that has a variety of meanings in Muslim usage, and the word is related in meaning to sayyid. Ashraf (the plural form of sharif ), like sadat (or sada, the plural form of sayyid), are subject to special rules in Islamic law. One meaning, that of a descendant of the Prophet, is perhaps the most common, and specifically it often indicates descent through the line of al-Hasan, the Prophet's grandson. Muslim genealogists differ in their definition of sharif (as they do over sayyid). Some define sharif in a broad manner (including, for example, descendants of the Prophet's cousins); others are stricter, limiting the term to descendants of Muhammad through Hasan, the older son of the Prophet's daughter (Fatima) and her husband, ˓Ali. The two extremes only roughly correspond to the Sunni or Shi˓ite proclivities. For example, ashraf are prohibited from receiving the alms (zakat), though in Shi˓ite law they are compensated by being the sole recipient of the one-fifth tax (khums). Some hadith portray the ashraf as guaranteed a place in heaven, and others exhort the community to show them respect and honor. Some commentators have argued that these stipulations are not nullified, even if the individual is a sinner. The governor of Mecca (who was always a descendant of the Prophet) was known as al-sharif during the Ottoman period.
See alsoSayyid .
Gilsenan, Michael. Recognising Islam: Religion and Society in theModern Middle East. Croom Helm: London, 1982.
An Arabic word that literally means "noble" or "illustrious," especially by virtue of one's lineage.
In the first few centuries of the Muslim era, sharif (pl., ashraf or shurafa ) was used to refer to members of the prominent Arab families that made up the typically landed aristocracy of the expanding Muslim domains. Much like its rough equivalent sayyid, however, use of sharif as an honorific was gradually limited to scions of the clan of the prophet Muhammad (that is, the Banu Hashim), and eventually was further restricted to Muhammad's direct descendants through his grandsons Hasan and Husayn. In Mecca, Medina, and their environs, the custom developed of applying the title sharif almost exclusively to descendants of Hasan, with sayyid referring to descendents of Husayn. Under Ottoman rule the senior member of the Arabian sharifs was recognized as the semiautonomous governor of Mecca and the keeper of its sacred sanctuary.
see also muhammad.
sha·rif / shəˈrēf/ (also she·reef or she·rif) • n. 1. a descendant of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, entitled to wear a green turban or veil. 2. a Muslim ruler, magistrate, or religious leader. DERIVATIVES: sha·rif·i·an adj.