Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The meanings of Shariff and Said titles

The above are the best explanations of the titles that I've ever
heard. Before this, I only listen to holders of this title but their
explanations fall short.

I used to think that these are meaningless titles but now I realise
that they are very important indeed. We should not forget our
ancestors that easily.

Based on the above wiki articles, it is obvious that these titles were
given to Arabs and their descendents but they were given to male
descendents only.

Shari'ful Hashem Syed Abu Bakar was the first Sultan of Sulu on his
marriage to a local Rajah but what was obvious is that he is an Arab
and his knowledge of Islam was good.

Although his father's name is a Syed, he subsequently uses the Sharif
title to indicate that he is a descendent of Hassan, instead of

In India, Syed/Said is used to address any Arab or descendents of
Arabs. Even in Malaysia, there are many Saids but as pointed out by
one West Malaysian friend, these titles were used by those with Indian
Muslim ancestry which means that they may not be directly descended
from Prophet Muhammad. We can easily find out from their physical

In Sabah, I know of one Arab descendent who use the Said title and his
children are all called Habib. They call their children with the
titles Habib but when they grow up, they are supposed to be called
Said but since their birth certificates are already written as Habibs,
they remain that way until they grow up.

In Sabah, as in the Philippines, the Shariff title is more common and
widely quoted in history books. There are also monuments dedicated to
these Shariffs and they tend to be sacred to Muslims which made me
wonder earlier on that they were just pious Muslims who have done
considerable service to the Muslim community.

Because the first Sulu Sultan was a Sharif, most probably these
Sharifs are related one way or another. It is just that we have lost
tract of our ancestors. What remains are just these titles but since
only the male descendents were given these titles, many others have
lost their ancestry links.Those that still keep these titles are most
probably related to Hassan or at least with Arabic ancestry.

Even without these titles, we cannot run away from our features. Many
had pretended not to have these titles because they will be condemned
if they are breaking Islamic rules such as drinking and womanising, so
it is safe to note that only pious Muslims will want to maintain these
titles in order to show respect to Prophet Muhamamd, our revered

Even if were are not, these titles will keep us on the straight path
and can be used by the community to curse us. In fact we are already
cursed with examples such as the high mortality rate among my uncles
as proof of it. Out of 13, only 5 survived for abandoning these
titles. The reason why my grandparents refused to acknowledge these
titles was their early deaths and therefore the overall poverty of the
family. All my uncles are pious so hiding these titles in order to
commit sins are not the reasons. It is more of a case of humility or
just the early death of their parents.

My wife's case is differnt. Her grandmother was a Sharifah so my wife
should be given the title of Siti but her parents didn't register it.
Since genetic materials can be passed down from either father or
mother, and in fact, Hassan and Hussin are descended from Fatimah, the
daughter of Prophet Muhamamd, it is silly to consider only the Male
genetic line. I shall encourage our children to use the Sharif and
Sharifah titles at least as footnotes. Once it is recorded in the, it should be easy to trace and remember.

It is not necessary to insert in birth certificates. Many ignorant
Malays have already used these titles as their names instead of just
titles, making it very hard for us to determine their real ancestry.
Many have used Siti, Said, Saidah, Sharifah, Shariff as theri names
but we can always determine their ancestry lines by their features and
geneology. We can even verify using DNA tests.

Muslims in Malaysia, especially Sabah, have begun to forget our
ancestry because our preachers have deemphasised ancestry lines as
shirik and not important at all. It is true that someone's worth is
determined by their deeds, not their ancestry, but it is the
responsibility of all descendents to remember their parents and
therefore their ancestors.

If we disobey these fundamental laws of nature, we shall pay for it in
the end, such as the lack of information on diseases. I'm beginning to
see common diseases among my family such as gastric, gaut, asthma and
respiratory diseases. It will help us diagnose diseases quickly if we
can compile a list of these diseases and their links to our genetic

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