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Sayyid ( ) (plural sādah ) literally means Mister. In the Arab world itself, the word is the equivalent of Engl. "Mister", as in Sayyid John Smith. The same concept is expressed by the word sidi (from the contracted form sayyidī 'my lord') in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic.

The term Sayyid as an honorific title, is given to males accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (primarily by Shi'ite Muslims) through his grandsons, Hasan ibn Ali and Husain ibn Ali, who were the sons of his daughter Fatima Zahra and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib. Daughters of male sayyids are given the titles Sayyida, Alawiyah, Syarifah, or Sharifah. Children of a Sayyida mother but a non-Sayyid father cannot be attributed the title of Sayyid, however they may claim maternal descent and are called Mirza.

Sayyids are Arabs, and Sayyids in Asia are of Arab origin. The Sayyids are from the tribe of Banu Hashim a clan from the tribe of Quraish which traces its lineage to Adnan who his lineage traces back to Prophet Ismael the son of Prophet Ibrahim.

Some Muslims also use the term Sayyid for the descendants of Abu Talib, uncle of Muhammad, by his other sons: Jafar, Abbas, Aqeel and Talib.

Alevi use seyyid (Turkish) as an honorific before the names of their saints.

El Cid, the name given to a famous Spanish knight of the 11th century C.E., is derived from Al-Sayyid (as-sayyid), meaning lord.

As-Sayyid is also used as title or a form of address to denote a prince or superior in the Sultanate of Omanmarker.


Language Transliteration Areas spoken
Arabic Sayyid, Sayyidi, Sayyed, Sayid, Sidi (Maghrebi) Arab world
Azerbaijani Seyid, Seyyid Azerbaijanmarker, Iranmarker
Baluchi Sayyid Sayeed, Sayyed, Sayid Baluchistan region
Indonesia Sayyid, Sayid Indonesiamarker
Kurdish Seyid, Seyyid, Seyit Kurdish regionmarker
Malay Syed Malaysiamarker, Bruneimarker and Singaporemarker
Pashto Sayed, Syed Afghanistan and Pakistan
Persian Sayyed, Sayed, Seyyed, Saiyed, Saeid, Siyyid Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
Punjabi Sayed, Syed Pakistan, India
Seraiki, Sindhi Sayed, Syed Pakistan
Turkish Seyed, Seyit, Seyyid, Seyyed Turkey, Azerbaijan and Central Asia
Bosnian Seid, Sait, Sead, Sajid, Sejid, Sejad Bosnia, Sandžak
Urdu, Marathi, Hindi,Assamese,Konkani, Kannada, Bhojpuri, Telugu, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Gujarati Syed, Saiyad, Saiyed, Sayyid, Saiyed, Saiyid, Sayyed South Asia
Spanish Cid Al-Andalus
Other Siyyid

People chose different Romanised (Latinized) transliterations based on the language with which they are familiar, not necessarily on the place where they are living. For example there are Muslim immigrants from many different countries living in London, UK. Immigrants of Arab origin may use the transliteration "sayyid" whilst immigrants of South Asian origin may use "Syed", this tendency may be extended to all ethnic communities. The name, however, could also be an anglicized form of the common Arabic name Sa‘id, with -y- as in 'shy', 'fly', etc.

Other Titles for Saadah

Language Title Areas spoken
Arabic Sharif, Habib Arab world
Pashto, Urdu, Saraiki, Punjabi Shah, Agha, Saab, Badshah, Mir Pakistan and Afghanistan
Sindhi Shah, Sain, Saab, Makhdoom, Mir Sindh, Pakistan.
Malay Sharifah, Syarifah Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei
Malayalam Thangal Keralamarker, Indiamarker
Gujarati Sayedna, Syedna, Sayednah Northwest India
Urdu, Punjabi Shah, Shah Ji, Pir, Pir Sahib Pakistan, India
Persian Mir, Mirza Iran
Bengali, Malay Shah, Agha, Saab, Mir South and South East Asia

Other Arabic honorific terms include sheikh and sharif. The line of Hassani sayyids who ruled Meccamarker, Medinamarker, Iraqmarker and now rule in Jordanmarker, the Hashemites, bore the title 'sharif' (plu. Ashraf). 'Sharif' is reserved for descendants of Hassan while 'Sayyid' is used for descendants of Husayn. However ever since the post-Hashemite era began, the term 'Sayyid' has been used to denote descendants from both Hassan and Husayn. Arab Shiites use the term 'Sayyid' and 'Habib' to denote descendants from both Hassan and Husayn.

However Many Sayyids around the world are Fake Sayyids and claim descent of the Prophet. This is because they want to gain respect and authority. Many of these sayyids provided fake documents and fake lineages, or steal a person's lineage and claim that they are sayyids. The numbers are in millions. Many of the Fake sayyids are located in Arab Countries, Iran, Pakistan, India, and many countries around the world.

Indication of descent

Sayyids often include the following titles in their names to indicate the figure from whom they trace their descent. If they are descended from more than one notable ancestor or Shi'a Imam, they will use the title of the ancestor from whom they are most directly descended.

Ancestor Arabic Title Arabic Last Name Persian Last Name Urdu Last Name
Ali ibn Abu Talib Alawi2 Allawi2 or Alawi3 Alavi2 علوى Alavi2 or Awan
Hasan ibn Ali al-Hashimi or al-Hassani al-Hashimi or al-Hassani Hashemi, Hassani, or Tabatabai حسنى Hassani or Hashmi
Husayn ibn Ali al-Hussaini al-Hussaini1 Hosseini حسينى Hussaini or Shah
Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al Abidin al-Abidi al-Abidi Abedi عابدى Abidi
Zayd ibn Ali ash-Shahid az-Zaidi al-Zaidi Zaidi زيدي Zaidi
Muhammad al-Baqir al-Baqiri al-Baqiri Bagheri باقرى Baqri
Jafar as-Sadiq al-Ja'fari al-Ja'fari Jafari or Jafri جعفرى Jafri, Jafry or Jaffery
Musa al-Kadhim Al Mosawi al-Mousawi or al-Kadhimi Musavi or Kazemi موسوى / كاظمى Kazmi or Mosavi
Isma'il ibn Jafar al-Isma'ili al-Ismai'li Ismaili Ismaili
Ali ar-Rida ar-Radawi al-Ridawi or al-Radawi Rezavi or Razavi رضوى Rizvi
Muhammad at-Taqi at-Taqawi al-Taqawi Taghavi تقوى Taqvi or Taqwi
Ali al-Hadi an-Naqawi al-Naqawi Naqavi نقوى Naqvi
Al-Abbas ibn Ali al-Abbasi2 al-Abbasi2 Abbasi2 Abbasi2
Abdul-Qadir Gilani al-Qa'dri al-Qa'dri Qadiri, Khadri or Quadri Qadiri, Khadri or Quadri
NOTE: (For non-Arabic speakers) When transliterating Arabic words into English there are two approaches.
  • 1. The user may transliterate the word letter for letter, e.g. "الزيدي" becomes "a-l-z-ai-d-i".

  • 2. The user may transliterate the pronunciation of the word, e.g. "الزيدي" becomes "a-zz-ai-d-i". This is because in Arabic grammar, some consonants (n, r, s, sh, t and z) cancel the l (ل) from the word "the" al (ال) (see Sun and moon letters). When the user sees the prefixes an, ar, as, ash, at, az, etc... this means the word is the transliteration of the pronunciation.

  • An i, wi (Arabic), or vi (Persian) ending could perhaps be translated by the English suffixes ite or ian. The suffix transforms a personal name, or a place name, into the name of a group of people connected by lineage or place of birth. Hence Ahmad al-Hashimi could be translated as Ahmad of the lineage of Hassan and Ahmad al-Harrani as Ahmad from the city of Harran. For further explanation, see Arabic names.

1Also, El-Husseini, Al-Husseini, Husseini, and Hussaini.

2Those who use the term sayyid for all descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib regard Allawis or Alavis as Sayyids. However Allawis are not descendants of Muhammad, as they are descended from the children of Ali and the women he married after the death of Fatima Zahra, such as Umm al Baneen/Fatima bint Hizam. Those who limit the term Sayyid to descendants of Muhammad through Fatima Zahra, will not consider Allawis/Alavis to be Sayyids.

3This transliteration is usually reserved for Alawi sect.

Sayyids in the Arab World

Sayyids in Yemen

There are Shiite and Sunni Sayyid families in Yemen, they include the Rassids, the Qasimids, the Mutawakkilites, the Al-Zaidi of Ma'rib, Sana'a and Sa'dah, Al-Saqqaf, etc...

Sayyids in Iraq

There are many Sayyids in the Arab world and many of them formed their own tribes or sticked to their original tribe Banu Hashim. In Iraq, There are many Sayyids especially the South region of Iraq. These Sayyids formed their own tribes such as Al-Yaseri, Al-Zaidi, Al-A'araji and many more. There are Sayyids in nearly every city in Iraq.

Iraqi Sayyids of Iranian origin

There are sayyids in Iraq of Iranian origin, Many geneologists calim that these sayyids who came from Iran to Iraq are fake not all, but most. 85%-90% of the sayyids in Iraq are Shia Muslims. Many sayyids in Iraq joined many Arab tribes centuries ago specially in Southern Iraq. Because They used to be tortured and murdered. Many of them migrated from Iraq to Asian and many countries around the world. These sayyids have joined tribes in Iraq are still now protected by the tribe. Geneologists calim that the sayyids who have joined the tribes in Iraq are Real Sayyids.

Sayyids in Saudi Arabia

There are many Sayyids in Saudi Arabia, families such as Al-Hashimi, Al-Alawi, Al-Hussaini, Al--Hassani and many more.

Sayyids are located in nearly every Arab Country, it includes the real and the fake.

Sayyids in South Asia

There are Sayyids in Asia, but many of these Sayyids are actully normal citizens who later out of a sudden claimed descent of the Prophet. They faked documents, lineages and family trees so they can gain respect and authority. Many of these Sayyids dont have any documents or family trees to claim descent of the Prophet.

Some Sayyid families in South Asia claim direct relationship with the Prophet of Islam through his daughter Fâtimah and son-in-law Ali.However, living with Indian society, Muslims got effected with the cast / sects tradition of ancient India, which prompted, some newly converts to establish family lineage to early Syed or Ansari of Arabia. However, they claim their ancestors migrated from different parts of Iranmarker and Central Asia Turkestan, during the invasion of Mongol Halaku and other periods of turmoil. They migrated through Heratmarker in Afghanistanmarker to different parts of modern Pakistanmarker and India. These migrations occurred during the periods of Mahmud Ghaznavi, Delhi Sultanate and Mughals and continued till late into 19th century. Most sufi saints whose lineage is being traced to Prophet Muhammad also migrated during the early periods of Delhi Sultanate and Mughals. Some of the early migrant Sayyids moved deep to the peninsular part of India, in the region of Deccan plateaumarker in the reign of Bahmani Sultanate/Bahmani kings and later Qutb Shahi kings of Golconda, Nizam Shahi of Ahmadnagarmarker, and other kingdoms of Bijapur, Bidarmarker and Berar. Most probably, authentic Saayids or people of Arab ancestory are found in mostly Kerala, Deccans and Gujarat. Most of the Sayyids in India are of dubious origin regarding their origin.

The history of Sayyids or Syeds in South Asia dates back to more than 1000 years. Several Syeds visited India as merchants along with the general Arab traders. These Sayyids came from Iraq and were all Shi'a Muslims. Many Sayyids then converted to Sunni Islam by force They also ruled over India (Delhi Sultanate) during the period 1414-1451. Except for this brief period of India's history, Syeds or Sayyids were mostly connected to business activities.The notable Syeds of South Asia include Abul Hassan Ali Hajvery aka Data Ganj Bakhsh, Moinuddin Chishti, Khwaja Qutbuddin Baktiyar Kaki, Nizamuddin Auliya, Nasiruddin Muhammad Chirag-e-Dehli,Khaja Mahboobullah,Deccan, Muhammad Hussaini Gisudaraz Bandanawaz, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Akbar Allahabadi, the Shahi Imams of Delhi ,Syed Shahbuddin and Ashraf Jahangir simnani .

Sayyids in India

The Joshua Project reported that 6,944,000 people self-describing as Sayyids in Indiamarker. Largest States Of the Syeds in India are the Uttar Pradeshmarker (1,469,000), the Maharashtramarker (1,129,000), theKarnatakamarker (783,000), the Andhra Pradeshmarker (729,000), the Rajasthanmarker (624,000), the Tamil Nadumarker (573,000), the Biharmarker (425,000), the West Bengalmarker (379,000), the Madhya Pradeshmarker (310,000), and the Gujaratmarker (250,000).These are people who claim descent of the prophet, It will include real Sayyids and Fake Sayyids.

And the Major Languages Spoken by the Sayyids of Indiamarker. Urdu (4,919,000 Speakers), Bengali (292,000), Telugu (141,000), Marwari (125,000), Tamil (117,000), Gujarati (109,000).This includes real Sayyids and fake Sayyids.

Sayyids in Pakistan

The Joshua Project reported that 6,471,000 people self-describing as Sayyids in Pakistanmarker. Largest Provinces on file: the Sindhmarker (3,150,000), the Punjabmarker (1,824,000), the NWFPmarker (436,000), the Balochistan (172,000), the Azad Kashmirmarker (158,000) and Islamabadmarker (29,000).

Major Languages Spoken by the Sayyids of Pakistan are Punjabi, Western (1,748,000 Speakers), Sindhi (1,507,000), Urdu (1,317,000), Seraiki (366,000), Pashto Northern (103,000)This includes real Sayyids and fake Sayyids

Syeds of Kirani

Kiranimarker (N 30.17 E 66.94) is an historical village lying five miles west of Quettamarker city, capital of Baluchistanmarker province of Pakistanmarker on the outskirts of the Chiltan range. Syed's of Kiranimarker owning to their great sanctity and influence among the local tribesmen

Sayyids in Bangladesh

1,044,000 people self-describing as Sayyids in Bangladeshmarker. Languages spoken by the Sayyid's of Bangladesh are Bengali (741,000 Speakers), Chittagonian (67,000), Sylheti (46,000), Urdu (5,100), Farsi, Eastern (Dari) (700), Kok Borok: Noatia (80)This includes real Sayyids and fake Sayyids

People will need to be careful when they claim descent of the prophet. Many people think they are sayyids because they grandparents told them so. Joshuaproject calculated the Sayyids in Asia but does not know who are the fake and real Sayyids are, which will be very hard to tell.

See also


  1. People of India by Herbert Risely

External links

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