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Banū Hāshim (Arabic: بنو هاشم) was a clan in the Quraysh tribe. Muhammad, was a member of this clan; his great-grandfather was Hashim, for whom the clan is named. Members of this clan are referred to by the Anglicised version of their name as Hashemites, Hussaini or Hasani. Descendants of Muhammad usually carry the titles Sayyid, Syed or Sharif or are the Ashraf clan.
Amongst pre-Islamic Arabs people classified themselves according to their Confederation, their tribe, their clan, and then their house/family. There were two Tribal Confederations; the Adnani (originating from "Adnan", the traditional ancestor of the Arabs of northern, central and western Arabia), and the Qahtani (originating from "Qahtan", the traditional ancestor of the Arabs of southern and south eastern Arabia). Banu Hashim is one of the clans of the Quraysh tribe, of the Adnani confederation. It derives its name from Hashim, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, and along with the Banu Abd Shams, Banu Al-Muttalib, and Banu Nawfal clans comprises the Banu Abd al-Manaf section of the Quraysh.
The house of 'Abd al-Muttalib of Banu Hashim of Quraysh comprised a form of nobility in pre-Islamic Mecca. This was based on their hereditary duty to act as stewards and caretakers of the pilgrims coming to Mecca to worship at the Kaaba, the sacred shrine that in Islamic tradition was built by the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his first-born son and heir Ismail (Ishmael), and which had come to be occupied by some hundreds of idols. The idols represented many different tribes and as a result Mecca became a centre of pilgrimage, and the Kaaba's environs were an inviolable sanctuary. This pilgrimage traffic added considerably to the wealth of the merchants of Mecca, which also benefited from its position astride the caravan routes from Yemen (Arabia Felix) up to the Mediterranean markets.
It was into the house 'Abd al-Muttalib of Banu Hashim of Quraysh that Muhammad was born. At the age of 40, his establishment of Islam set him at odds with the established powers in Mecca. His membership of the 'top house, of the top clan' (in terms of prestige, though not power) was a factor in keeping him safe from assassination during the early years of his mission, as a number of his uncles would not countenance any such insult to their clan honour.
After 13 years of prophethood, the Muslim community of Mecca migrated (made Hijrah) to the city of Yathrib (which subsequently became known as Medina) to avoid their often murderous persecution by the pagans of Mecca.
With the conquest of Mecca, the city was captured by the army of Islam. The Kaabah was cleansed of idols and became the centre of pilgrimage for Muslims. (It is illegal for non-Muslims to enter an area designated surrounding the city of Mecca).
Though Muhammad had a number of wives, few of his children lived long enough to produce any ongoing lines of descent. The two major lines of descent are those of his two grandsons, Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain, born of the union of his daughter Fatimah and his cousin and son-in-law Ali. Muhammad besought the mercy of the Muslims on his beloved grandsons, thus their descendants have become a form of spiritual aristocracy among many, though not all, Muslims. The descendants of Muhammad's grandsons are known by the titles of Sayed (Sayyid, Syed, etc.), or Sharif/Sherif.
Over the centuries, a great many 'false' Sayedi/Sharifi lines of descent have developed. These have often arisen not through deceit upon their part as much as through the obfuscation of genealogical identity over largely unrecorded centuries. Two known clusters of 'false Sayeds' are: the so-called 'Sayeds of Sindh' in modern Pakistan, descendants of the Ansar (helpers) of a Sayedi/Sharifi refugee from Medina whose line died out early on thus creating the impression amongst the descendants of those who sheltered him that they were Ahl an'Naas ('of the blood') and the 'Talukdari Sayeds' of Hyderabad Deccan in Southern India, the descendants of Muhammad an adopted son of Muhammad and therefore also not 'of the blood'.
There are also many Hassani and Hussayni (double s lines) who claim to be descendants of the Prophet but who are not so in reality, this is a long attested fact; as well as which there are those who falsely claim descendants of the Prophet Muhammad's uncle Al-Abbas to constitute part of the Ahl an-Naas (House of the Blood) of the Prophet, the which is mostly done by Abbasis who wish to appear as descendants of the Prophet, 'though these are possible descendants of the Abbasid line which is separate to Banu Hashim; along with many of the Shia'at Ali who claim that descent through Ali is as, if not more, significant in terms of descent from Muhammad and thus falsely try to include Alvis and a cluster of others under the umbrella of being descendants of the Prophet Muhammad despite the clear lack of any blood lineage.
In the the 19th Century CE, to try to resolve the confusion surrounding the descendants of Muhammad, the Ottoman Caliphs attempted to replicate the Almanach de Gotha (the tome listing the Noble houses of Europe) to show known and verifiable lines of descent. Although not 100% complete in its scope (some lines might have been excluded due to lack of proof, although no false lines are included) the resulting Kitab al-Ashraf (Book of the Sherifs), kept at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is one of the best sources of evidence of descent from Muhammad. The Alids (the term given to the descendants of Muhammad via his daughter Fatima and Ali)lines of descent produced many once, current (and future) reigning dynasties across the Islamic imperium, amongst these stand:
- the Abbasid sherif of Baghdad and Qairo Abbasi sherif are currently found in many countries of the world
- the Hashemites; former Sherifs of Mecca, who now rule Jordan (and used to rule the Hejaz and Iraq also);
- the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt;
- Non-Muslims who interacted with Muslims during Muhammad's era
- Abbasid Caliphate
- Ba'Alawi (Al Husayni Al Hashimi Al Qurayshi) Sadah of Hadhramaut
- Banu Hashim - Before the Birth of Islam