Sayyid (Arabic: سيد‎) (plural sādah Arabic: سادة‎) literally means Mister. In the Arab world itself, the word is the equivalent of the English "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.[1]

The term Sayyid as an honorific title, is given to males accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his grandsons, Hasan ibn Ali and Husain ibn Ali, who were the sons of the prophet's 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 a branch of the tribe of Banu Hashim, a clan from the tribe of Quraish, which traces its lineage to Adnan, whose lineage traces back to the Prophet Ismael the son of the Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham.

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 Oman.


Language Transliteration Areas spoken
Arabic Sayyid, Sayyidi, Sayyed, Sayid, Saiyid, Sidi (Maghrebi) Arab world
Azerbaijani Seyid, Seyyid Azerbaijan, Iran
Baluchi Sayyid Sayeed, Sayyed, Sayid Baluchistan region
Indonesia Sayyid, Sayid Indonesia
Kurdish Seyid, Seyyid, Seyit Kurdish region
Malay Syed Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore
Pashto Sayed, Syed Afghanistan & Northwest portion of Pakistan
Bengali Said, Syed Bangladesh and Eastern India
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, Seit, Sait, Sead 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
Urdu, Saraiki, Punjabi Shah, Saab, Badshah Pakistan
Sindhi Shah, Sain, Saab, Makhdoom, Mir Sindh, Pakistan.
Malay Sharifah, Syarifah Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei
Malayalam Thangal Kerala, India
Gujarati Sayedna, Syedna, Sayednah Northwest India
Urdu, Punjabi Shah, Shah Ji, Pir, Pir Sahib Pakistan, India
Persian, PashtoMir, Mirza, Agha Iran, Afghanistan
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 Mecca, Medina, Iraq and now rule in Jordan, 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 provide 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 Alavi

2 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 transcribe 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 transcription 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 the 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, Al-Zaidi of Ma'rib, Sana'a and Sa'dah, Al-Saqqaf in Hadramauwt, Al-Wazir etc.

Sayyids in Iraq

There are many Sayyids in the Arab world and many of them formed their own tribes or stuck to their original tribe Banu Hashim. In Iraq, there are many Sayyids, especially in the southern region of Iraq. These Sayyids formed their own tribes and families such as Al-Yasiri, Al-Zaidi, Al-A'araji, Al-Hashimi, Al-Hassani, Al-Hussaini, Al-Rifa'i, Al-Alawi, Al-Ghawalib (Al-Ghalibi), Al-Mosawi 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 claim 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, especially 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 claim 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

Sayyid families in South Asia are direct descendants of the Prophet of Islam through his daughter Fâtimah and son-in-law Ali. Their ancestors migrated from different parts of Iran and Central Asia Turkestan, during the invasion of Mongol Halaku and other periods of turmoil. This migration from the Arabian Peninsuela was mainly due to the harsh empires such as Abbasid, Ummayid and Ottoman empires because of their Sayyid Shia Identity and saw them as a threat.

These migrations occurred during the periods of Mahmud Ghaznavi, Delhi Sultanate and Mughals and continued till late into the 19th century. Some of the early migrant Sayyids moved deep to the peninsular part of India, in the region of Deccan plateau in the reign of Bahmani Sultanate/Bahmani kings and later Qutb Shahi kings of Golconda, Nizam Shahi of Ahmadnagar, and other kingdoms of Bijapur, Bidar and Berar. Most probably, authentic Saayids or people of Arab ancestory are found in mostly Kerala, Deccans and Gujarat.

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 or mostly escaping from Abbasid, Umayyid and Ottoman empires. 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.

However, some Sayyids in Asia e.g. Malaysia are not Sayyids, but claim descent of the Prophet for respect, authority, finance and power. They fake family trees (Shajara Al-'aila) and documents, or steal a persons lineage.

See also


  1. People of India by Herbert Risely

External links

Template:Ethnic groups, tribes and clans of the Punjabar:سيد az:Seyideo:Sajidoeu:Sayyid fa:سید fi:Sayyidid:Sayyidja:サイイド ku:Seyîdpt:Sayyid ru:Сеид sk:Sajjid sv:Sayyid sw:Sayyid tr:Seyyid ur:سید

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