Meaning of the word shaykh
Fatwa No: 357334

Question

What is the meaning of the word 'shaykh'?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

The Arabic word shaykh is used to refer to an old man whose hair is visibly white. The word was used in the following verse on the tongue of the wife of Prophet Zakariyya  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention. Allah, the Exalted, says (what means): {She said: Woe to me! Shall I give birth while I am an old woman and this, my husband, is a shaykh? Indeed, this is an amazing thing!} [Quran 11:72]

This word may also be used to refer to a man of stature and high position. Abu Bakr  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him said, "Do you say that to the shaykh (chief) of Quraysh?" He was referring to Abu Sufyaan ibn Harb, who was one of the chiefs of Quraysh.

It is also used in reference to the scholar; however, this usage was not common during the lifetime of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Companions, and the Taabi‘oon (generation following that of the Companions). Rather, it became commonly used as such by scholars of Hadeeth and Fiqh and others after the first three centuries of Islam.

Allah knows best.

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