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Banū Hāshim (Arabic: بنو هاشم) is a clan in the Quraysh tribe with a unique maternal bloodline of Israelite ancestry through Salma bint Amr of Banu Najjar. This makes Banu Hashim both an Ishmaelite and Israelite clan. The Islamic prophet, Muhammad was a member of this Arab tribe; his great-grandfather was Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, for whom the clan is named. Members of this clan are referred to as Hashemites. Descendants of Muhammed usually carry the titles Sayyid, Syed, Hashmi, Sayed and Sharif, or the Ashraf clan (synonymous to Ahl al-Bayt).
Amongst pre-Islamic Arabs, people classified themselves according to their tribe, their clan, and then their house/family. There were two major tribal kinds: the Adnanites (descended from Adnan, traditional ancestor of the Arabs of northern, central and western Arabia) and the Qahtanites (originating from Qahtan, the traditional ancestor of the Arabs of southern and south eastern Arabia). Banu Hashim is one of the clans of the Quraysh tribe, and is an Adnanite tribe. It derives its name from Hashim ibn Abd Manaf, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, and along with the Banu Abd Shams, Banu Al-Muttalib, and Banu Nawfal clans comprises the Banu Abd al-Manaf section of the Quraysh.
The House of Abdul-Muttalib of Banu Hashim comprised nobility in pre-Islamic Mecca. This was based on their hereditary duty to act as stewards and caretakers of the pilgrims coming to Mecca to worship at the Kaaba, the sacred shrine that in Islamic tradition was built by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his first-born son and heir Ismail (Ishmael) was a Monotheist site of worship.
With time, the Kaaba had come to be occupied by some hundreds of idols. Visiting of these idols by the different tribes caused traffic which added considerably to the wealth of the merchants of Mecca, which also benefited from its position astride the caravan routes from Yemen (Arabia Felix) up to the Mediterranean markets.
It was into the House 'Abd al-Muttalib of Banu Hashim of Quraysh that Muhammad was born. At the age of 40, his establishment of Islam set him at odds with the established powers in Mecca. His membership of the 'top house, of the top clan' (in terms of prestige and power) was a factor (according to Islamic tradition) through which God kept him safe from assassination during the early years of his mission, as a number of his uncles would not countenance any such insult to their so-called clan honour. After 13 years, the Muslim community of Mecca migrated (made Hijrah) to the city of Yathrib (which subsequently became known as Medina) to avoid their often murderous persecution by the non-believers of Mecca. With the conquest of Mecca, the city was captured by the army of Islam. The Kaabah was cleansed of idols and became the centre of pilgrimage for Muslims, once again the centre of pure Abrahamic monotheism. (It is illegal for non-Muslims to enter an area designated surrounding the city of Mecca).
The two major lines of descent of Muhammad are those of his two grandsons, Al-Hasan and Al-Husain, born of the union of his daughter Fatimah and his cousin and son-in-law Ali. Muhammad besought the love of the Muslims on his grandsons, thus their descendants have become spiritual aristocracy among the Muslims. The descendants of Muhammad's grandsons are known by the titles of Sayed, Sayyid, Syed and Sharif.
In the 19th Century CE, to try to resolve the confusion surrounding the descendants of Muhammad, the Ottoman Caliphs attempted to replicate the Almanach de Gotha (the tome listing the noble houses of Europe) to show known and verifiable lines of descent. Although not 100% complete in its scope (some lines might have been excluded due to lack of proof, although no false lines are included) the resulting Kitab al-Ashraf (Book of the Sharifs), kept at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is one of the best sources of evidence of descent from Muhammad. The Alids (the term given to the descendants of Muhammad via his daughter Fatima and Ali) lines of descent produced many once, current (and future) reigning dynasties across the Islamic imperium, amongst these stand:
- Reuven Firestone (1990). Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis. p. 72.
- Göran Larsson (2003). Ibn García's Shuʻūbiyya Letter: Ethnic and Theological Tensions in Medieval al-Andalus. p. 170.
- Al-Mubarakpuri, Safi-ur-Rahman (2002). The Sealed Nectar (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum). Darussalam. p. 30. ISBN 1591440718.