Sharif of Mecca

The Sharif of Mecca (Arabic: شريف مكة, Sharīf Makkah) or Hejaz (Arabic: شريف الحجاز, Sharīf al-Ḥijāz) was the title of the leader of the Sharifate of Mecca, traditional steward of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The term sharif means "noble" in Arabic and is used to describe the descendants of Prophet Muhammad's grandson al-Hassan ibn Ali.

The Sharif was charged with protecting the cities and their environs and ensuring the safety of pilgrims performing the Hajj. The title is sometimes spelled Sheriff or Sherif, with the latter variant used, for example, by T. E. Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The common law political and legal office of sheriff found in some anglophone countries is unrelated.

The office of the Sharifate of Mecca dates back to the late Abbasid era. Since 1201, the Sharifate was held by a member of the Hawashim clan, not to be confused with the larger clan of Banu Hashim to which all Sharifs claim descent. Descendants of this family continued to hold the position until the 20th century on behalf of various Muslim powers including the Ayyubids and the Mamelukes. In 1517, the Sharif acknowledged the supremacy of the Ottoman Caliph, but maintained a great degree of local autonomy. During the Ottoman era, the Sharifate expanded its authority northwards to include Medina, and southwards to the frontiers of 'Asir, and regularly raided Nejd.

The Sharifate came to an end shortly after the reign of Hussein bin Ali, ruled from 1908, who rebelled against the Ottoman rule during the Arab Revolt of 1916. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and its subsequent dissolution in 1923, Hussein declared himself Caliph. The British granted control over the newly formed states of Iraq and Transjordan to his sons Faisal and Abdullah. In 1924, however, in the face of increasing attacks by Ibn Saud, Hussein abdicated his secular titles to his eldest son, Ali bin Hussein, who was to become the last Grand Sharif. At the end of 1925, Ibn Saud conquered the Hejaz and expelled the Hashemites. The House of Saud has ruled the holy cities and the Hajj since that time.[1]

List of Sharifs of Mecca (967–1925)

During the Fatimid Dynasty (967–1101)

Flag of Fatimid Hejaz

During the Ayyubid Empire (1201–1254)

Flag of Ayyubid Hejaz

During the Mamluk Empire (1254–1517)

Flag of Mamluk Hejaz

During the Ottoman Empire (1517–1917)

Flag of Ottoman Hejaz
Muhammed bin Abdulmuin, Sharif of Mecca 1827–1851, as pictured in the 1848 book by William Francis Lynch

During the Kingdom of Hejaz (1916–1925)

Flag of Kingdom of Hejaz

See also


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