Sharīf Asharif or Alsharif (Arabic: شريف šarīf) or Chérif (Darija: Chorfa) is a traditional Arab title in origin, the word is an adjective meaning "noble", "highborn". The feminine singular is sharifa(h) (Arabic: شريفة šarīfah). The masculine plural is Ashraf (Arabic: اشراف ʾašrāf).
Sunnis in the Arab world reserve the term sharif for descendants of Hasan ibn Ali, while sayyid is used for descendants of Husayn ibn Ali, Hasan's younger brother. Both Hasan and Husayn are grandchildren of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, through the marriage of his cousin Ali and his daughter Fatima. However ever since the post-Hashemite era began in 1925 after the fall of the Sharif of Mecca, the term sayyid has been used to denote descendants from both Hasan and Husayn. Shiites use the terms sayyid and habib to denote descendants from both Hasan and Husayn; see also ashraf.
From 1201 until 1925, when the Hejaz was conquered by Ibn Saud, this family (the descendants of Hasan ibn Ali) held the office of the Sharīf of Mecca, often also carrying the title and office of King of Hejaz. Descendants now rule the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the name being taken from the Banu Hashim, the sub-tribe of Banu Quraish, to which Muhammad belonged.
The word has no etymological connection with the English term sheriff, which comes from the Old English word scīrgerefa, meaning "shire-reeve", the local reeve (enforcement agent) of the king in the shire (county).
The first known Chorfa, Idris I, was the great-grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib and Fatima Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadijah. Idris I and his people fled from Syria to Morocco in 786 from the Abbasids after losing to them in the Battle of Fakh near Mecca in which his family was massacred. In 788, he was greeted by the Amazigh people of Volubilis, a Roman city near Meknes. He got to found the Imperial City of Fes. It is believed that Idris I was poisoned in 791 by a servant sent by Caliph Harun al-Rashid, leaving his wife Kenza pregnant. His servant Rached, a freed slave, helped Kenza raise Idris II who was born 2 months later.
Idris II came to the throne at the age of eleven. His tomb is located in Moulay Idriss, a village up on a mountainside near Volubilis. Idriss II's descendants ruled the country until the second half of the 10th century, when they lost their authority to the invasions of the Zenata, an Amazigh tribe under the orders of the Fatimid Caliphate, later the Caliph of Cordoba.
Most Chorfa of Morocco are descendant of Hasan ibn Ali.
According to French historians, Abdelkader El Djezairi was a descendant of Muhammad. The full name of El Amir Abdelkader is Abd el-Kader ibn Muhyidin, ibn Mostafa (qui s’est installé définitivement dans la plaine d’Ighriss), ibn Muhammad, ibn Ahmed, ibn Muhammad, ibn Abdel-Kaoui, ibn Ali, ibn Ahmed, ibn Khaled, ibn Yussef, ibn Ahmed, ibn Bachar, ibn Muhammed, ibn Massoud, ibn Taous, ibn Yacoub, ibn Abdelkaoui, ibn Ahmed, ibn Muhammad, ibn Idriss II, ibn Idriss I, ibn Abdallah El Kamel, ibn Hassan El Muthana, ibn Hassan Essabt, ibn Ali.
The Senussi, a political-religious brotherhood, founded in Mecca by Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi in 1837, came to become the Emirs of Cyrenaica in 1917 and then in 1922, the Emirs of Tripoli. The dynasty is of the Chofra descent through their sixth Senussi sultan, Ali ibn Omar. They got to become the kings of Libya.
The last king of Libya, Idris, was overthrown by a military coup in 1969. The current claimant for the Libyan throne is Sayyid Mohammed El Senussi. It is also claimed by Sayyid Idris bin Abdullah al-Senussi.
The Asharaf is a tribe in Somali who claim to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammed saw. Sharif (the word of which Asharaf is the superlative). It is an Arabic word meaning 'noble' or 'respected'. It can be attached to one of a person's names or to more than one, and an individual may use it at one time but not at another. It can be used by all Ashraf, but is not necessarily and many nowadays prefer to omit it. It is not generally a personal name, and hence will not necessarily appear on documents such as identity card or passport. (It is sometimes used as a personal name, not only among the Asharaf. Asharaf in Somalia are either related to the Prophet through his grandsons Hassan ibn Ali or Husayn Ibn Ali. The Hussein branch of the Asharaf of Somalia live in the coastal towns such as Mogadishu and are part of the 'Benadiri' minority population. A few have moved to other places in order to trade or because they have bought land. The Ashraf of the Hassan branch live mainly in the interior of the country (some of them of course may have gone to live in Mogadishu), and mostly are not Benadiri. However, the Asharaf al-Ahdali in Merca, who are Benadiri, are said to be Hassan. The Asharaf elders indicated that they are living in Southern Somali and in Kenya and Ethiopia however they mostly like in urban locations such as Bardera , Kismayo , Baidoa , Hudur , Merca , Brava , Luuq , Jalalaqsi, Buur Ukur, Beledweyne, and Mogadishu. The largest concentration of Ashraf are found in Mogadishu in the Shangani , but they also live in Xamar. Some Ashraf settled in Ethiopia after being exiled from Somali during the Ogaden war in 1977. These Asharaf are settled in Ogaden , Dire Dawa , Oromia , Harar, however many Asharaf fled Somali during the 1991-1992 Somali Civil War.
- Online Etymology Dictionary:sheriff, Online Etymology Dictionary:reeve
- Société languedocienne de géographie, University of Montpellier. Institut de géographie, CNRS France, publié par le secrétariat de la Société languedocienne de géographie, 1881. Footnotes: v. 4, page 517
- Rozet et Carette, L'Univers ou histoire et description de tous les peuples, Firmin Didot, 1850, p.193
- Complément de l'Encyclopédie moderne, Firmin Didot, 1857, t.5, p.722