A general title of respect.
The term shaykh (also sheikh), can be applied to an elderly man, a tribal chief, a ruler of a shaykhdom along the Persian Gulf, a village chief, a religious scholar, a senator, or a Sufi master. The early caliphs were known as shaykhs. Shaykh al-Islam was the title given to the chief mufti (jurist) of the Ottoman Empire, who had direct access to the sultan and served as the highest-ranking legal administrator.
see also shaykh al-islam.