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Shaikh, also rendered as Sheik, Shaykh or Sheikh (Arabic: شيخ), is a word in the Arabic language meaning elder of a tribe, lord, revered wise man, or Islamic scholar. A daughter or wife of a Sheikh (lord) is sometimes called Sheikhah (Arabic: شيخة).

The term literally means a man of old age, and is used in that sense in Qur'anic Arabic. Later it came to be a title meaning leader, elder or noble, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, where shaikh became a traditional title of a Bedouin tribal leader in recent centuries.

In South Asia the term applies to individuals of Arab descent.

The title is not only used by Muslims; it is also used by Arab Christians for elder men of stature, showing that it is independent of religion. Its usage and meaning is similar to the Latin senex meaning old man, from which the English "senator" is derived. It is also used to refer to scholars of various Islamic sciences such as faqihs, muftis, and muhaddiths.

In Sufism tariqah (orders), it is an honorific for an elder sufi who has been authorized by the order to teach, initiate and guide aspiring dervishes.

In the Arab Gulf states, the title is used for men of stature, whether they are managers in high posts, wealthy business owners, or local rulers.

For example, it was the term used in the West to refer to the leaders of Kuwait's ruling al-Sabah dynasty, but the monarchic style was actually Hakim (Arabic 'ruler') until June 19, 1961, when Kuwait joined the Arab League, and the title Emir was adopted; similarly in Bahrain and Qatar. In fact it is used by every male member of all the Gulf royal houses.

It was also used in certain Islamic parts of Africa, as in imperial Ethiopia by the hereditary Muslim rulers of Bela Shangul, and by certain Muslim notables of Wollo, Tigray and Eritrea.

The title is often more informally used to address learned men as a courtesy.

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de:Scheich es:Shayj eo:Ŝejko fr:Cheykh he:שייח' nl:Sjeik pl:Szejk pt:Xeque (título) ru:Шейх sl:Šejk fi:Šeikki sv:Shejk


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