Sayyid (also spelt Syed, Saiyed, Seyd, Sayed, Sayyad, Sayyed, Saiyid, Seyed, Said and Seyyed) (pronounced [səj.jɪd], Arabic: سيد‎; meaning Mister) (plural Sadah Arabic: سادة‎, Sāda(h), also spelled Sadat) is an honorific title denoting people (Sayyid for males, Sayyida for females) accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his grandsons, Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali (combined Hasnain),[1]:31 sons of Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and his son-in-law Ali (Ali ibn Abi Talib).[2]:149

Female sayyids are given the titles Sayyida, Alawiyah or Sharifa. In some regions of the Islamic world, such as in India, the descendants of Muhammad are given the title Amir or Mir, meaning commander, general or prince. Children of a Sayyida mother but a non-Sayyid father are referred to as Mirza.[3]

In the Arab world, sayyid is the equivalent of the English word "liege lord" or "master" when referring to a descendant of Muhammad, as in Sayyid Ali Sultan.[4] The word sidi (from the contracted form sayyidī, 'my liege')[clarification needed] is often used in Arabic.[5]

Although not verified, many Arabic language experts state that it has its roots in the word Al Asad Arabic: الأسد‎, meaning lion, probably because of the qualities of valour and leadership.[6]:158[7]:265

In the early period, the Arabs used the term Sayyid and Sharif to denote descendants from both Hasan and Husayn. However, in the modern era, the term 'Sharif' (Sharifah for females) has been used to denote descendants from Hasan, and the term 'Sayyid' (Sayyidah for females) has been used to denote descendants from Husayn.[8]

Although reliable statistics are unavailable, conservative estimates put the number of Sayyids in the tens of millions.[9]

Indication of descent

The Sayyids are by definition a branch of the Banu Hashim, a clan from the tribe of Quraish that traces its lineage to Adnan and therefore it is directly descended from Ishmael (Ismâ`îl), as well as being collaterally descended from his paternal half brother Isaac (Isha'aq), the sons of Abraham (Ibrahim). Sayyids often include the following titles in their names to indicate the figure from whom they trace their descent.[8][10] The descendants of Ali and his other wives are called Alvi sayyid; they are titled Shah, Sain, Miya Fakir or Dewan.[citation needed]

Ancestor Arabic style Arabic last name Persian last name Urdu last name
Hasan ibn Ali al-Hasani الحسني او الهاشمي al-Hasani الحسني

al-Hashemi الهاشمي

Hashemi, Hasani, or Tabatabaei حسنى Hassani or Hasani حسنی‬ or Hashemi or Hashmi هاشمي
Husayn ibn Ali al-Hussaini1 الحُسيني al-Hussaini الحسيني

al-Hashemi الهاشمي

Hashemi هاشمی

Hussaini حسین

Hussaini حسيني

Hashemi or Shah

Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin al-Abidi or Abid العابدي al-Abidi العابدي Abedi عابدى Abidi or Abdi عابدی
Zayd ibn Ali az-Zaidi الزيدي al-Zaydi الزيدي

al-Hashemi الهاشمي

Zaydi زیدی Zaidi زيدي

Hashemi هاشمي

Idris ibn Abdullah al-Idrisi الإدريسي al-Idrisi الإدريسي His descendants are mostly from the Maghreb His descendants are mostly from the Maghreb
Muhammad al-Baqir al-Baqari الباقري al-Baqiri الباقري Baqeri باقری Baqri باقری
Ja'far al-Sadiq al-Ja'fari الجعفري al-Ja'fari or al-Sadiq/Sadegh الصدق او الجعفري Jafari or Sadeghi جعفرى/ صادقی Jafri or Jafry جعفری

or Sherazi or Jaffery shamsi جعفری‌شمسی

Musa al-Kadhim al-Moussawi الموسوي او الكاظمي al-Moussawi or al-Kadhimi الموسوي او الكاظمي Moosavi or Kazemi موسوى / کاظمى Kazmi کاظمی
Ali al-Ridha ar-Radawi الرضوي al-Ridawi or al-Radawi الرضوي Razavi or Rezavi رضوى Rizvi or Rizavi رضوی
Muhammad at-Taqi at-Taqawi التقوي al-Taqawi التقوي Taqavi تقوى Taqvi تقوی
Ali al-Hadi an-Naqawi النقوي al-Naqawi النقوي or al-Bukhari البخاري Naghavi نقوى Naqvi نقوی‬ or Bhaakri/Bukhari بھاکری/بخاری
Hasan al-Askari[11] al-Askari العسکري al-Bukhari البخاري Naqshbandi نقشبندی or Attar/Atar عطار Sadat سادات Sadat سادات‬ or Bukhari بخاري

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 place name into the name of a group of people connected by lineage or place of birth. Hence Ahmad al-Hassani could be translated as Ahmad, the descendant of Hassan, and Ahmad al-Manami as Ahmad from the city of Manami. 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, such as Umm ul-Banin (Fatima bint Hizam). Those who limit the term Sayyid to descendants of Muhammad through Fatima, do not consider Allawis/Alavis to be Sayyids.

Some Sayyids also claim to be "Najeeb Al Tarfayn", meaning "Noble on both sides", which indicates that both of their parents are Sayyid. But in actuality this term is applied only to those Sayyids who have both Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain in their ancestry. These Sayyids, especially in the Arab world, would keep the prefix of Sayyid Alshareef or Shareefayn, or Sayyidayn or Sheikh Assayyid before their names, followed by their father's and grandfather's names and then the clan's and tribe's names followed by AlHasani bil Hussaini or Al Hussaini bil Hasani, depending on which Imam is patrilineal or matrilineal. Many feel proud to attach Al Hashmi bil Quraishi at the end as well. Many Sayyids, especially in South Asia and Shia Sayyids, think that only the progeny of both Sayyid parents are called Najeeb Al Tarfayn, but this idea may be attributed to a lack of knowledge in Arabic language and Genealogy. The importance of this concept of Najeeb AlTarfayn has its source in the Hadeeth of Muhammad wherein he stated that the Mahdi, or "The Hidden One", would be Najeeb AlTarfayn from his lineage. Hence, Shia and Sunni Sayyids have different interpretations of this concept.In the Arab world Najeeb AlTarfayn Saadah would keep two white-colored daggers as opposed to just one by other Sayyids to demarcate their superiority amongst them. Hence their International coat of arms also shows two daggers.

Existence of descendants of Imam Hasan Al-Askari

The existence of any descendant of Imam Hasan al Askari is disputed by many people. However, it is believed by Sunni and Shia followers of the Twelve Imams that Imam Hasan al-Askari had a son called Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, who will be the redeemer of Islam. Genealogy trees of Middle Eastern and Central Asian families, mostly from Persia, Khorasan, Samarqand and Bukhara, show that Imam Hasan al-Askari had also a second son called Sayyid Ali Akbar. It definitely indicates that Imam al-Askari had children and it also substantiates the existence of Imam Muhammad al Mahdi. Whether Imam Al Askari had children or not is still disputed may be because of the political conflicts between the followers of the Imamah and the leadership of the Abbasids and Ghulat Shiites who do not believe in Imam Hasan al-Askaris Imamah. Another group of historians studying the pedigrees of some Central Asian saints' "shejere" (genealogy trees), believe that the Twelfth Imam was not the only son of Imam Hasan al-Askari, and that the Eleventh Imam had two sons, Sayyid Muhammad (i.e., Imam Mahdi) and Sayyid Ali Akbar.[12] One descendant of Sayyid Ali Akbar was Saint Ishan (Eshon) Imlo of Bukhara. Ishan Imlo[13] is called "saint of the last time" in Bukhara, as it is believed that after him there were no more Saints – Asian Muslims generally revere him as the last of the Saints. According to the source, Ishan Imlo died in 1162 AH (1748–1749); his mausoleum (mazar) is in a cemetery in Bukhara. Notable descendants of Sayyid Ali Akbar are Sufi Saints like Bahauddin Naqshband,[14][15] descendant after eleven generations,[11] Khwaja Khawand Mahmud known as Hazrat Ishaan, descendant after eighteen generations, the two brothers Sayyid ul Sadaat Sayyid Mir Jan and Sayyid ul Sadaat Mir Sayyid Mahmud Agha, maternal descendants of Imam Hasan al Askari and Hazrat Ishaan.[11] and also qadi Qozi Sayyid Bahodirxon.,[16] Sufi saints Tajuddin Muhammad Badruddin and Pir Baba.

In her book Pain and Grace: A Study of Two Mystical Writers of Eighteenth-Century Muslim India, Dr. Annemarie Schimmel writes:

Khwaja Mir Dard`s family, like many nobles, from Bukhara; led their pedigree back to Baha'uddin Naqshband, after whom the Naqshbandi order is named, and who was a descendant, in the 11th generation of the 11th Shia imam al-Hasan al-Askari.[17]

Although Shiite historians generally reject the claim that Hasan al-Askari fathered children other than Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Shiite hadith book Usul al-Kafi, in Bab Mawlid Abi Muhammad al-Hasan b. 'Ali confirms the Sufi claim that Hasan al-Askari had more than one wife, in addition to slave girls, with whom he had relations. In his Usul, al-Kafi writes:

When the caliph got news of Imam Hasan 'Askari's illness, he instructed his agents to keep a constant watch over the house of the Imam...he sent some of these midwives to examine the slave girls of the Imam to determine if they were pregnant. If a woman was found pregnant she was detained and imprisoned....[11][18][19][20][21][22]

Middle East

Men belonging to the Sayyid families or tribes in the Arab world used to wear White or Ivory colored daggers like Jambiyas, Khanjars or Shibriyas to demarcate their nobility amongst the other Arab men although this custom has been restricted due to the local laws of the variously divided Arab countries. Wearing Turbans of various colors especially white, black, green, yellow, orange or maroon is still done in its place and this practice has been followed more by the Non Arab Sayyids than Arabic speaking ones.


The Sayyid families in Iraq are so numerous that there are books written especially to list the families and connect their trees. Some of these families are the Al-Nasrullah, Al-Wahab, Al-Hashimi, Al-Quraishi, Al-Obaidi, Al-Yasiri, Al-Samarai, Al-Zaidi, Al-A'araji, Al-Hasani, Al-Hussaini, Al-Shahristani, Al-Qazwini Al-Qadri, Tabatabaei, Al-Alawi, Al-Ghawalib (Al-Ghalibi), Al-Musawi, Al-Awadi (not to be confused with the Al-Awadhi Huwala family), Al-Sabzewari, Al-Shubber, Al-Hayali, Al-Kamaludeen, some of the Al Kaabi and many others.[23]


Sayyids (in Persian: سیدseyyed) are found in vast numbers in Iran. The Chief of “National Organization for Civil Registration” of Iran declared that more than 6 million of Iranians are Sayyid.[24] The majority of Sayyids migrated to Iran from Arab lands predominantly in the 15th to 17th century during the Safavid era. The Safavids began transforming the religious landscape of Iran by imposing Twelver Shiism on the populace. Since most of the population embraced Sunni Islam, and since an educated version of Shiism was scarce in Iran at the time, Ismail imported a new Shia Ulama corps who predominantly were Sayyids from traditional Shiite centers of the Arabic-speaking lands, such as Jabal Amel (of southern Lebanon), Syria, Bahrain, and southern Iraq in order to create a state clergy. The Safavids offered them land and money in return for loyalty.[25][26][27][28][29] These scholars taught the doctrine of Twelver Shiism, made it accessible to the population, and energetically encouraged conversion to Shiism.[26][27][28][29][30]

During the reign of Shah Abbas the Great, the Safavids also imported to Iran more Arab Shias, predominantly Sayyids, built religious institutions for them, including many Madrasas (religious schools), and successfully persuaded them to participate in the government, which they had shunned in the past (following the Hidden imam doctrine).[31]

Common Sayyid family surnames in Iran are Husseini, Mousavi, Kazemi, Razavi, Eshtehardian, Tabatabaei, Hashemi, Hassani, Emami, Ladjevardi, Zaidi, and Imamzadeh.[citation needed]

They were given accommodation free of charge.[32]


In Yemen the Sayyids are more generally known as sadah; they are also referred to as Hashemites. In terms of religious practice they are Shia, Sunni, and Sufi. Sayyid families in Yemen include the Rassids, the Qasimids, the Mutawakkilites, the Hamideddins, some Al-Zaidi of Ma'rib, Sana'a, and Sa'dah, the Ba 'Alawi sada families in Hadhramaut, Al-Wazir of Sana'a, Al-Shammam of Sa'dah, the Sufyan of Juban, the Al-Jaylani of Juban, and others.[33][34][35]


The Sayyids in Libya are Sunni, including the former royal family, which is originally Zaidi-Moroccan (also known as the Senussi family).[36] Add to that the El-Barassa Family are Ashraf as claimed by the sons of Abdulsalam ben Meshish, a descendant of Hassan bin Ali bin Abi Talib

South Asia

Millions of people in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal claim Hashemite descent.[34] In 1901 the total number of Sayyids in British India was counted as 1,339,734.[37] Recent estimates show that in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal there are more than fifteen million Sayyids: eight million in Pakistan, seven million in India, over one million in Bangladesh, and around seventy thousand in Nepal.

History of South Asian sayyids

Sayyids migrated many centuries ago from different parts of the Middle East, Central Asia (Turkestan), during the invasion of the Mongols, and other periods of turmoil such as during the periods of the Ghaznavid dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, and Mughal Empire, encompassing a timespan of roughly until the late 19th century. Sayyids migrated to Sindh in the north and settled there very early. Other early migrant Sayyids moved deep into the south, to the Deccan sultanates located in the Deccan Plateau region in the time of the Bahmani Sultanate, and later the Qutb Shahi kings of Golkonda, Nizam Shahi of Ahmednagar, and other kingdoms of Bijapur, Bidar, and Berar. Several visited India as merchants or escaped from the Abbasid, Umayyad, Safavid, and Ottoman Empires. Their names figure in Indian history at the breakup of the Mughal Empire, when the Sayyid Brothers created and dethroned Emperors at their will (1714–1720). The first Muslims appointed to the Council of India and the first appointed to the privy council were both Sayyids.[8][38][39]

Syeds, wherever they went, were respected by local communities. Most of them were assigned religious duties by local leaders. When the Muslim conquest of South Asia began, Islamic forces from Central Asia also brought with them many Syed religious scholars who not only used to perform religious rites in the army but also preached Islam to the local population. Among them were the ancestors of modern-day Tirmizi Syeds.

During the entire period of Mughal ascendancy in the Indian sub-continent, the Mughals acknowledged Karlughs as the rulers of Pakhli sarkar. In addition, probably due to their common Central Asian origin, Mughals never levied taxes on the state of Pakhli Sarkar. Sultan Maqarrab revolted against his own brother Sultan Mehmud Khurd, but was defeated by the Sultan due to intervention from the Delhi Sultanate under the command of Syed Jalal Tirmizi Baba the grandson of Pir Baba. In honor Sultan Mehmud Khurd marry his daughter to Syed Jalal Baba in 1701. Around 1713 Sultan Mehmud Khurd went to Delhi; in his absence Shamsher Khan, a general of Sultan Khurd, revolted against the Mughals, citing increased interference on the part of the Mughal Empire at the Jhanjal fort of Thakot. This revolt was successfully put down after a siege of several months by Syed Jalal Baba, and their allies, the Yousafzais, defeated Shamsher Khan, who was killed in battle and Sultan Khurd imprisoned by Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha in Delhi until his death. Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha, the cousin of Syed Jalal Baba, who were both powerful Mughal Army generals of the Mughal Empire during the early 18th century. The Sayyid Brothers became highly influential in the Mughal Court after Aurangzeb's death and became kingmakers during the anarchy following the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707. They created and dethroned Mughal Emperors at their will during the 1710s. Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha was fatally poisoned in 1722.

Another main fight was fought between the Hindus and Sikhs of Shamdhara and Syed Jalal Baba troops in the Agror Valley (Shamdhara was a great centre of business run by Hindu Baniyas as like Qissa Khawani Bazaar Peshawer and was located on Silk road to China). Syed Jalal Baba issued an ultimatum to either accept Islam or be ready for battle. The Hindus and Sikhs chose battle, so Syed Jalal sent his brother, Pir Imam Tirmizi (the grandson of Pir Baba), along with Yosafzai's troops, to capture the Agror Valley. A bloody battle started among Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims at the place of Shamdhara named "Kundiyan"; this area still exists between Shamdhara (Yousafzai families still live there and are called Khankhel) and Chajjar Syedan (the Tirmizi families still live there). Signs of the ancient battles are easily found: hundred of human skulls can be unearthed after digging just a meter of ground. After a siege of several months, Hindus and Sikhs asked for safe passage to leave Shamdhara.

After the Karlugh Turks were overthrown (the Turks retained small lands everywhere), the tribes of the Syeds and Yousafzai established their rule on the plains of Pakhli the Chattar, in the mountains of Kaghan, and in the Agror Valley. These areas were then divided among the above-mentioned tribes.

However, after the fall of Jhanjer Fort and Shamdhara, Syed Jalal Baba and his allies gained control of the area, and from that base embarked on military campaigns across the state. Since they met with little resistance, the Syeds and Yousafzai easily entered the Rush area of Hazara.

In the 1850s the British captured Pakhli, Kaghan, and the Agror Valley from the Syeds and Yousafzai. Many Syeds and Yousafzai were killed and arrested by the British. Some Yousafzai made a truce with British, and now they all are titled as Khan of their areas. The majority of Syed and Yousafzai allies moved to the Black Mountain (Tor Ghar) (the location of famous villages Parari Syedan, Tikari, and Tilli Syedan) and in the mountains of Kaghan and Naran (village of Bugarmang). The British built a fort in 1865 (currently the headquarters of the Frontier Constabulary (FC)Oghi District) and deployed a battalion there. They also built a check post on the highest place of Oghi from which they watched and observed their enemies (this check post still exists and is known as "Picket"). The Black Mountain (Tor Ghar) tribes (Syeds and Yousafzai) had never been under direct British rule, although it was generally accounted to be part of the 'Frontier Region/Provincial Tribal Areas' from about 1901 onward and nominally attached to the then Hazara district. The tribes had been involved in fighting with British for quite some time, and a number of famous 'Black Mountain Expeditions' or 'Campaigns' took place between 1852 and the 1920s. A brief account of the British Expeditions against the Tor Ghar tribes follows:

  • Under Lieutenant Colonel F. Mackeson, 1852–53, against the Hassanzais. The occasion was the murder of two British customs officers. A force of 3,800 British troops traversed their country, destroying their villages, grain, and crops.
  • Under Major-General A. T. Wilde, 1868. The occasion was an attack on a British police post at Oghi in the Agror Valley by all three tribes. A force of 12,544 British troops entered the country and the tribes made peace.
  • The First Hazara Expedition 1888. The cause was the constant raids made by the tribes on villages in British territory, culminating in an attack on a small British detachment, in which two English officers were killed. A force of 9,416 British troops traversed the country of the tribes, and severely punished them.
  • The Second Hazara Expedition, 1891. The Black Mountain tribes fired on a force within British limits. A force of 7,300 British troops traversed the country. The tribesmen made peace and entered into an agreement with government to preserve the peace of the border.

Meanwhile, The Islamic State of Swat was established in 1849 under Syed Akbar Shah (the grandson of Pir Baba) with Sharia law remaining in force, but the state was in abeyance from 1878 to 1915. Thereafter, Syedd Abdul-Jabbar Shah, nephew of Syed Akbar Shah, was made ruler by a local Jirga and had trouble exercising power. Syed Abdul-Jabbar Shah become prime minister of the State of Amb in the late 1920s.


The Sayyid population in India is distributed. The total population of Sayyids in India is 7,017,000, the largest populations being those of Uttar Pradesh (1,493,000), Maharashtra (1,108,000), Karnataka (766,000), Andhra Pradesh (727,000), Rajasthan (497,000), Bihar (419,000), West Bengal (372,000), Madhya Pradesh (307,000), Gujarat (245,000), and Tamil Nadu (206,000), with 25,000 in Jammu and Kashmir.[38][40] Sayyids are also found in the north-eastern state of Assam, where locally they are also referred to as Dawans.[41][42]

In India, Sayyids of Hadramawt (who originated mainly from the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf) gained widespread fame. There is a big community of Sayyids settled in and around the Nanganallur region in Chennai. They can trace their ancestry directly to the Sayyids of Iraq.[43]

North India

The earliest migration of Sayyids from Afghanistan to North India took place in 1032 AD when Gazi Saiyyed Salar Sahu (general and brother-in-law of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni) and his son Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud established their military headquarters at Satrikh (16 km (9.9 mi) from Zaidpur) in the Barabanki district, Uttar Pradesh. They are considered to be the first Muslim settlers in North India. In 1033 AD Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud was killed at the battle of Bahraich, the location of his mazr. Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud had no children. Iraqi Sayyids or Iraqi biradri in Eastern Uttar Pradesh are descendants of Sayyid Masud Al Hussaini who was direct descendant of Prophet's grandson Hussain ibn Ali and came to India from Iraq during the reign of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1330 A.D. He settled with his seven sons and forty champions in Ghazipur (U.P.). This is because some of them converted to Sunni Islam in the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi. His Shia descendants are now known as Sayyids of Ghazipur. Syed Ahmed Rizvi Kashmiri and Khan Bahadur Aga Syed Hussain were both Rizvi Sayyids through Aaqa Meer Sayyid Hussain Qomi Rizvi, whose sacred shrine is in the Zainageer Village of Sopore, Kashmir.

Sayyids of Syed nagli, or Said Nagli, or the Baquari Syeds had migrated from Termez (Present day Uzbekistan)[44] during the Sultanate era. Sikandar Lodi[45] was the ruler of Delhi when Mir Syed Mohammad al Hussain al Hussaini al Termezi Haji al Haramain came to India and settled at Syed Nagli. He was a Baquari Syed who drew his lineage from Imam Mohammad al Baqir.

Sayyid or Mir
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups

The Sayyid (Arabic: سيد‎; plural sādah Arabic: سادة‎) of Uttar Pradesh in India are a Muslim community who are members of the wider Sayyid community of South Asia. They are also known as Mir and Pirzada. Many are also now found in Pakistan.[47]

History and origin

Sayyid literally means Mister or Sir. In the Arab world, 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.[5]

As an honorific title, the term Al-Sayyid is given to males accepted as descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his grandsons, Hasan ibn Ali and Husain ibn Ali (Hasnain), 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.[48]

Sayyids are Arabs by origin, and Sayyids and are by descent 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. In North India, most of the Sayyid families are descended from individuals invited by the Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, as advisors and administrators, and granted jagirs. During the period of Mughal rule that followed the Delhi Sultanate, they held the majority of the civil and ecclesiastic posts. They also provide an important element in the Mughal army, and many are still found in the old Muslim garrison towns such as Nuhta, in Bijnor District, Budaun, Kara in Awadh and Bayana. Many of these towns were founded by the Sayyid grantees, and they encouraged both Muslim immigrants and new converts which helped established Muslim towns in what was still a Hindu countryside. A further event that accelerated Sayyid immigration was the Mongol invasion of Central Asia, Iran and Iraq in the 13th Century, and sacking of such famous Muslim cities like Bukhara, Samarkand, Nishapur, Mashad, Isfahan, Hamdan, Baghdad and Basra by Hulagu Khan, the Mongol warlord. This is still reflected in the common surnames among the Sayyid such as Bukhari (literally an inhabitant of Bukhara), Mashadi, Baghdadi and Hamdani and so forth.[48]

Sayyids from Iran initially chose four places to settle in India. These were Hallaur, Baraha, Mohan and Bilgram.[49]

Many Sayyid were also settled in the countryside, and one such example were the Saadat-e-Bara, who ancestors came from Central Asia, and were granted estates near Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. This community played an important role in the politics of the Mughal Empire. Another branch of this famous clan are the Sayyid of the town of Bilgram in Awadh. Another example is that of Shia Sayyid family who came from Bukhara Central Asia and settled in Bahnera a small qasba (a small rural community) in Bijnor.[50]

In addition, many of the early Sufi saints who came to Uttar Pradesh belonged to Sayyid families. Most of these Sayyid families came from Central Asia and Iran, though some also originated from Yemen, Oman, Iraq and Bahrain. Perhaps the most famous Sufi was Syed Salar Masud, from whom many of the Sayyid families of Awadh claim their descent.[48] Sayyids of Jarwal (Bahraich), Kintoor (Barabanki) and Zaidpur (Barabanki) were well known Taluqadars (feudal lords) of Awadh province.[51] Even Nawab of Awadh Burhan ul Mulk Sa'adat Khan belonged to high-grade Sayyid noble family of Nishapur.[52]

Perhaps the most important figure in the history of the Sayyid in Uttar Pradesh was Sayyid Basrullah Shustari, who moved from Mashad in Iran in 1549 and joined the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar later appointed Shustari as his chief justice, and Shustari used his position to strengthen the position of the various Sayyid families. They were preferred in administrative posts, and formed a privileged elite. When the Mughal Empire disintegrated, the Sayyid played an important role in turbulent politics of the time. The new British colonial authorities that replaced the Mughals after the Battle of Buxar also made a pragmatic decision to work with the various Sayyid jagirdars. Several Sayyid taluqdars in Awadh were substantial landowners under the British colonial regime, and many other Sayyid still played their part in the administration of the state.[48] After abolition of zamindari system many Sayyid zamindars (e.g. that of Ghazipur) had to leave their homes.[53]

Present circumstances

The Sayyids are found throughout Uttar Pradesh, with Faizabad, Muzaffarnagar Balrampur, Raibareli, Hallaur, Wasa Dargah, Lucknow, Barabanki, Jaunpur, Bhadohi, Ghazipur, Kanpur Azamgarh, Allahabad, Amroha, Bareilly, Meerut and Aligarh being home to large Sayyid communities. They generally speak Urdu, and most also understand the various dialects of Hindi. The Sayyid are divided along sectarian lines, with a slight majority belonging to the Shia sect, especially in the Awadh region, while the Sunni are found mainly in the western districts. They are further divided into discreat endigamous clans, bases on territorial groupings. The most important ones are the Abidi Sadaat-e-Phoolpur Dist Balrampur Sadaat-e-Karari, Sadaat-e-Jais Sadaat-e-Bara, Sadaat-e-Kundharki, Sadaat Amroha, Sadaat-e-Barabanki, Sadaat-e-Saithal, Sadaat-e-Sirsi, Sadaat-e-Rudauli, Sayyids of Hallaur, Sayyids of Wasa Dargah, Sadaat-e-Bilgram and Sadaat-e-Barn, Sadaat-e-Chholas, Sadaat-e-Jarcha and Sadaat-e-Nagli. Other groupings include the Alavi, Abidi, Baqiri or Baquari, Barcha, Bukhari, Jafari, Jalali, Kazmi, Naqvi, Rizvi, Tirmizi and Zaidi, each claiming descent from a particular Shia Imam. 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.

Traditional Sayyid families rarely marry outside their community, with an emphasis of marrying into Najeeb Altarfain (of Sayyid descent from both the mother’s and father’s side) families. This insistence on endogamy has begun to decline among the more urbanized families, with an increase inter marriage with other group such as the Shaikh and Mughals.[54]

Historically the Sayyids of UP were substantial landowners, often absentees, and this was especially the case with the Awadh taluqdars. In the urban townships, Sayyid families served as priests, teachers and administrators, with the British colonial authorities given the community a preference in recruitment. Though they are less than 3% of Muslim population, they control a majority of economic resources.The community also has a very high literacy rate.The independence and partition of India in 1947 was traumatic for the community, with many families becoming divided, with some members moved to Pakistan. This was followed by the abolishment of the zamindari system, where land was redistributed to those who till the land. Many Sayyids who remained on the land are now medium and small scale farmers. While in the urban areas, there has been a shift towards modern occupations.[54]

Genetic studies of Sayyids of Sub-continent

Classical multidimensional scaling based on RST genetic distances showing the genetic affinities of the Syeds with their non IHL neighbours from India and Pakistan (both in bold characters) and with various other Arab populations

Middle East and Central Asia

The ancestor of the Bārha Sayyids, Sayyid Abu'l Farah Al Hussaini Al Wasti left his original home in Wasit, Iraq, with his twelve sons at the end of the 13th century (or the beginning of the 14th century) and migrated to India, where he obtained four villages in Sirhind-Fategarh. By the 16th century Abu'l Farah's descendants had taken over Bārha villages in Muzaffarnagar.[55]

The Sayyids of Bilgram are Hussaini Sayyids, who first migrated from Wasit, Iraq, in the 13th century.[56] Their ancestor, Syed Mohammad Sughra, a Zaidi Sayyid of Iraq, arrived in India during the rule of Sultan Iltutmish. In 1217–18 the family conquered and settled in Bilgram.[57]

Perhaps the most famous Sufi that belonged to a Sayyid family was Syed Salar Masud, from whom many of the Sayyid families of Awadh claim their descent.[48] Sayyids of Salon (Raebareli), Jarwal (Bahraich), Kintoor (Barabanki), and Zaidpur (Barabanki) were well known Taluqadars (feudal lords) of Awadh province.[58]


In Gujarat, most of the Sayyid families are descended from individuals invited by the Muslim rulers of Gujarat to serve as advisers and administrators, and granted jagirs.[citation needed] During the period of Sultan Mahmud Begada (1458–1511), the Sayyid of Gothada, Thasra, and Pali, a Zaidi Sayyid – Saadat-e-Bara. Sultan Mahmud Begada provided land to three Sayyid brothers and a grant to settle there after the victory of Pavagadh fort. In 1484 the young Sultan, after laying siege to the fort for twenty months, conquered it on 21 November 1484. He then transferred his capital to Champaner, which he completely rebuilt at the foothills of the Pavagadh fort, calling it Muhammadabad. During Mughal rule in Gujarat (1570–1750), they held the majority of the civil and ecclesiastical posts. For example, the Sayyids of Thasra, Kheda district were invited to serve as administrators and judges by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, and provided land grants to settle there. They also provided an important element in the Mughal army, and many are still found in the old Muslim garrison towns such as Ahmedabad. In addition, many of the early Sufi saints that came to Gujarat belonged to Sayyid families. Most of these Sayyid families came from Central Asia, Iran, Yemen, Oman, Basra, and Bahrain.[59][verification needed]


Kerala has a two-thousand-year-old association with Arabia. In Malayalam, Thangal is an honorific Muslim title almost equivalent to the Arabic term Sayyid, which is given to males believed to be descendants of Muhammad. The present day Thangals are supposed to be descended from Sayyid families who migrated from the historic city of Tarim, in the Hadhramaut Province, Yemen, during the 17th century in order to propagate Islam on the Malabar Coast. Sayyids selected coastal areas to settle. The royal family of Arakkal in Kerala had Thangal origins.[38][60]

Tamil Nadu

There are a notable number of Sayyids in Tamil Nadu mostly concentrated in the south cities of Madurai and Kayalpattinam. Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin the son of Mufti Jamaluddin al Ma'abari who founded the Kazimar Big Mosque in 13th century the first mosque in Madurai is from Syed family. Till today his descendants (Syeds) have managed to live in the same Kazimar Street locality in the center of Madurai city for over 7 centuries and are managing the mosque constructed by their forefather. Syed Tajuddin's younger son Hazrat Kazi Alauddin lived in Kayalpattinam and his shrine is found there.


There are numerous Sayyids in Pakistan. Some of these Sayyids first migrated to Gardez, Bukhara, and Termez, and then to South Asia. Many settled early in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Punjab. There are many sayyids of both Shia and Sunni sects of Islam. Amongst the famous Sayyids who migrated to this region were Shah Yousaf Gardez of Multan, who came to Multan, Punjab, around 1050 AD. His grandfather, Syed Ali Qaswer, a decedent of Imam Jafar Sadiq, the grandson of Imam Hussain, migrated from Bughdad and was settled in Gardez, Afghanistan. The Gardezis of Pakistan and the Azad of Jammu and Kashmir are his descendants. Other saints include Syed Ali Shah Tirmizi (Pir Baba) of Buner, Syed Kastir Gul (Kaka Sahib) of Nowshera, Jalaluddin Surkh-Posh Bukhari, Shaykh Syed Mir Mirak Andrabi of Khanqi Andrabi in Kashmir, Haji Syed Ahmed Shah (Haji Baba) of Dir and Sayyid Muhammad Al-Makki. Sayyid people of Pakistan are figured as the most prominent and well-established people of the country, with a number of them having become popular and well-known religious icons, political leaders, and professionals. Furthermore, Pakistan currently holds the largest Sayyid population in all of South Asia.[5] Mashwanis are also living in Pakistan.

The Syeds in Balochistan are present in the Pishine and District Harnai. The Harnai Syed include sub-categories such as Bukhari, Qadree, Pahchi, Maswani, and Miagan. The Syed Bukhari is popular in Harnai district because of his religious thoughts. The popular mazar of Syed Bukhari in the districts of Harnai Shaikh Mussa Baba and Shaik Zirak and Mubarak are also populated...

The Sayyids of Punjab belong to the Hasani (descendants of Hasan), Husaini (descendants of Husayn), Zaidi (descendants of Zayd ibn Ali, grandson of Husayn), Rizvi, (descendants of Ali al-Ridha), Sherazi (descendants of Jafar-As-Sadiq) and Naqvi(descendants of Ali al-Hadi).[61]

The Sayyids from Sheraz, Iran migrated to Baluchistan and later to Sindh are known as Sherazi Sayyid. They are living in Jacobabad and Thatta. The first Sherazi Sayyid to migrate from Baluchistan to Sindh was Malook Shah who was saint. He is buried near Jacobabad cities. Another famous saint of Sindh Mehr Shah was from the lineage of Malook Shah. MPA Aijaz Ali Shah and Ex-Provincial Secretary Arbab Ali Shah are Sherazi Sayyid.

The Tirmizis, who settled in Pakistan, are mostly descendants of the great Sufi spiritual saint Syed Ali Shah Tirmizi Pir Baba. Pir Baba's grave and shrine is in Bacha Killay village in the mountainous Buner District of present Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan. He was also known as "Shāh Kurassan" ("King of Kurassan").

Syed Jabbar Shah.jpg

South Asian Sayyid communities

Important Sayyid communities in South Asia include:

  • Hasani syeds of Rudauli District Barabanki

Ibraheem al-Ghamar bin Hasan Muthanna had a son named Isma'eel ad-Deebaj. Ad-Deebaj had two sons: Hasan bin Isma'eel ad-Deebaj – he left a large progeny; and Ibraheem bin Isma'eel ad-Deebaj – he came to be known as Tabataba. It is mostly his progeny who have spread across Iran and Iraq who are known as the Tabatabai and use that as their last name.

It was the children of Imam Hasan and their children who came to India as the first Muslims in Sind. This was in the time of Hajjaj bin Yusuf. Later many of them moved from Sind to other parts of India. Hasani Syeds populate a town named Rudawlee near Lucknow, in Punjab and in other areas of the sub-continent.

  • Rizvi Sayyids of Zaidpur, Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh
  • Naqvi syed, sadat e dokoha, Jaladhar, Punjab, India - now settled in saman abad Lahore, Pakistan after the partition of sub-continent. Sadat-e-dokoha migrated from Tirmiz Iran during the reign of Ibrahim lodhi
  • Sadaate Kichaucha or Ashrafi Saadat - these Sayyids are the direct descendants of the Sufi saint Syed Sheikh Abdul Qadir jeelani who was a hasni, and also Indirect descendants of Syed Ashraf Jahangir Semnani who himself was a descendant of Husayn
  • Sadaate Safipur or Baqai Sadaat - these Sayyids are the descendants of Syed Baqaullah Shah, the descendants of imam Husayn.
  • Sadaat Nasirabad

One of the earliest settlements of Naqvis is reported from Nasirabad, Raibareli in North India. Naqvi Sadats migrated from Sabzevar, Iran and arrived in Nasirabad around 410 Hijri (around 1027 AD) and settled there. After some time adjacent Patakpur (Nasirabad), was also inhabited by Mu'mins and rechristened as Nasirabad after the name of Syed Naseerudin companion and sipahsalar of Hazrath Shah Jalal (Rh:). Nasirabad is the earliest known Naqvi Sadats of India. Naseerabad is the native land of Khandan e Ijtihad and a multitude of very high-ranking scholars have come from there. The first Mujtahid from India, Dildar Ali Naseerabadi was from here and later his family came to be called "Khandan e Ijtihad" due to the heavy presence of high-ranking scholars. Some famous and known religious scholars from this lineage include Syedul Ulema Ayatullah Syed Ali Naqi Naqvi 'Naqqan', Jannat Ma'ab Ayatullah Syed Mohammad Naqvi, Ayatullah Aqa Hasan Sb, Ayatullah Syed Kalbe Hussain Naqvi, Hujjatul Islam Syed Kalbe Abid Naqvi, Hujjatul Islam Syed Kalbe Jawwad Naqvi, Hujjatul Islam Syed Hasan Zafar Naqvi (based in Karachi), Allama Syed Razi Jafar, Allama Nasir Ijtehadi, Dr Kalbe Sadiq, Hujjatul Islam Syed Ali Mohammad Naqvi.

The Sadaat Amroha or Amrohi Syed are a community of Sayyids, historically settled in the town of Amroha, in Uttar Pradesh, India. Many members of the Sadaat Amroha community have migrated to Pakistan after independence and have settled in Karachi, Sindh.

  • Sadaat Bukhari of Pargana Chail of Allahabad

The Sadaat Bukhari of pargana Chail are Naqvi Syeds and being descended from syed Hussam aldin Bukhari ibn Sadruddin Rajju Qattal (brother of Jalaluddin Surkh-Posh Bukhari) ibn Syed Ahmed Kabir ibn Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari.

Sadat-e-Bara (Urdu: ہسادات بار), sometimes pronounced Sadaat-e-Barha, are a community of Sayyids, originally from a group of twelve villages situated in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh in India. This community had considerable influence during the latter days of the Mughal Empire. They were also found in the Karnal district and Haryana in India. Many members of this community have migrated to Pakistan after independence and have settled in Karachi, Khairpur State in Sind and Lahore.

  • Zaidi Sadat Of Kandipur, Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh

Zaidi Sayyed migrated from Jansath to the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh namely Sikanderpur, Kandipur in the Ambedkar Nagar district. These Sayyeds are descendants of Abul Farah Wasti who came to India from Wasit, Iraq in the late 13th century along with his four sons.

The Gardēzī Sadaat is a Sadaat Muslim family of Sayyid from Gardez, Afghanistan; consequently known as ‘Gardēzī Sadaat’ in South Asia.

Kintoor or Kintur is a village about 10 mi (16 km) north-east of Badosarai in the Barabanki district, famous for the battle of Kintoor of 1858 during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

  • Sayyids of Hallaur
  • Sadaat-e-Saithal Founded by Syed Faiz ullaah. These are the zaidi Syed from wasit Iraq, Descendants of Sayyid Abu'l Farah Al Hussaini Al Wasti who migrated India in 10th century last or beginning of 11th century

Hallaur or Hallor (Urdu, Persian and Arabic: هلور, Hindi: हल्लौर, Bhojpuri: हलूर) is a town or a big village in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, situated near the banks of the West Rapti River. Residents of Hallaur are referred as Hallauri.

Wasa Dargah is a village in the eastern part of Uttar Paradesh. Situated 12 km (7.5 mi) from Domariaganj.

Genetic studies of Sayyids of the Indian sub-continent

Classical multidimensional scaling based on RST genetic distances showing the genetic affinities of the Syeds with their non IHL neighbours from India and Pakistan (both in bold characters) and with various other Arab populations

"the Y chromosomes of self-identified Syeds from India and Pakistan are no less diverse than those non-Syeds from the same regions." The authors of the study suggested that Syed status, rather than being strictly patrilineal, may have been passed through other routes.[62]

A study of Y chromosomes of self-identified Syeds from the Indian subcontinent by Elise M. S. Belle, Saima Shah, Tudor Parfitt and Mark G. Thomas showed that "self-identified Syeds had no less genetic diversity than those non-Syeds from the same regions, suggesting that there is no biological basis to the belief that self-identified Syeds in this part of the world share a recent common ancestry. However, self-identified men belonging to the ‘Islamic honorific lineages’ (Syeds, Hashemites, Quraysh and Ansari) show a greater genetic affinity to Arab populations—despite the geographic distance – than do their neighbouring populations from India and Pakistan."[63]

In Northern India, 29 percent of the Shia Muslim belong to Haplogroup J. There are 18 percent belonging mainly to Haplogroup J2 and another 11 percent belong to Haplogroup J1, which both represent Middle Eastern lineages. But Haplogroup J2 reflects presence from the neolithic period in the subcontinent.[64][specify] J2 occurs among 11 percent of Austro-Asiatic tribals. The frequency of J2 is higher in South Indian castes (19%) than in North Indian castes (11%) or Pakistan (12%).[65] J2 appears at 20 percent among the Yadavas of South India while among the Lodhas of West Bengal it is 32 percent. In the Maldives, 22 percent of the Maldivian population were found to be haplogroup J2 positive.[66][67] Overall, the presence of J1 and J2 markers in Indian populations is thought to be at least 3000–4000 years old.

Southeast Asia

Most of the Alawi Sayyids who moved to Southeast Asia were descendants of Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin, especially of Ba 'Alawi sada, majority descendants of migrants from Hadhramaut. Even though they are alleged descendants of Imam Husain, it is uncommon for the female Sayyids to be called Sayyidah, they are more commonly called Sharifah. Most of them live in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Moro Province in Philippines, and Pattani. Many of the royal families of this region such as the previous royal families of Philippines(Sultanate of Sulu), Singapore(Sultanate of North Borneo), Malaysia(Sultanates of Johor and Malacca) and Indonesia(Sultanates of Sarawak, Jakarta and Yogyakarta) are Ba'Alawi Sayyids and the existing royal family of Brunei(House of Bolkiah) are also Ba'Alawi Sayyids.[68][69][70][71]

Some common surnames of these Sayyids are al-Saqqaf, Shihab (or Shahab), al-Aidaroos, al-Habsyi (or al-Habshi), al-Kaff, al-Aththos, al-Haddad, al-Jufri (or al-Jifri), al-Muhdhar, al-Shaikh Abubakar, al-Qadri, al-Munawwar (see Ba 'Alawi sada for a more complete list).


In the Ottoman Empire, tax breaks for "the People of the House" encouraged many people to buy certificates of descent or forge genealogies; the phenomenon of teseyyüd – falsely claiming noble ancestry – spread across ethnic, class, and religious boundaries. In the 17th century, an Ottoman bureaucrat estimated that there were 300,000 impostors. In 18th-century Anatolia, nearly all upper-class urban people claimed descent from Muhammad.[72]

Maternal descendance

According to Iran's religious leader[73] and the Deobandi creed, which is a creed especially followed by patriarchal Pashtun tribes, the status of being a Sayyid can only be attributed through the patrilineal lineage.[74] According to Shia opinions, children of a Sayyida mother and a non-Sayyid father are referred to as Mirza.[3] The Persian notation "Mirza", which is a derivation of the word "Mirzada" i.e. Son of a "Mir" has various meanings. One of the meanings of "Mir" is a Sayyid leader of a Sayyid branch or community, simultaneously being a religious Islamic scholar. Thus, a Sayyid of patrilineal lineage, being the son of a Mir can also be called "Mirza". This example substantiates the fact that there are different opinions concerning the transmission of the title "Sayyid". Another historical opinion of Ottoman Naqib al Ashrafs expresses that children of maternal prophetical descent are called "Sharif".[75]:131

However, in 1632 when an Ottoman court challenged a man wearing a sayyid's green turban, he established that he was a sayyid on his mother's side, and this was accepted by the court.[75]:130

In patriarchal societies, women usually have to assimilate themselves into their husbands status. However, this does not affect female descendants of the prophet, since it is seen as a sacred blood relation. Thus, the heraldic title can be given to an individual through his or hers mother's line in accordance to Ottoman Naqib al-Ashrafs.[75] Even the Zaynabids, the descendants of Lady Zainab, the daughter of Ali ibn Abi Talib can also be titled "Sayyid" or "Sharif", according to the Egyptian Imam al Suyuti.[76] In Tajikistan matrilineal descendants are also honored.[77] The fact why there is no total consensus indicating Sayyids and abandoning individuals of maternal descent, may be to limit the number, because of financial reasons, such as Khums or governmental support especially for Sayyids, although this manifestation of "charity" for descendants of the prophet is forbidden, according to Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad himself and Imams of the Prophets household.[75][78]

Family tree

Sayyids are descended from Muhammad through his grandsons Hasan and Husayn.

(Family tree)
Khadija bint Khuwaylid
Ali bin Abu Talib
Hasan bin Ali
Husayn bin Ali
(Family tree)


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