The ashraf (pl. of sharif)—the ‘nobles’—or the sada (pl. of sayyid) — the ‘masters’—are usually considered to be the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad by the marriage of his daughter Fatima to ‛Ali ibn Abi Talib. More precisely, the ashraf are descendants of ‛Ali’s elder son, Hasan, and the sada of his younger son, Husayn.1 During the ‛Abbasid period, the term ashraf was applied to all ahl al-bayt (the Prophet’s family, including, for example, the descendants of Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, ‛Ali’s second wife and the Hashimites), but the Fatimid rulers of Egypt (969-1171) restricted its use to the descendants of Hasan and Husayn. This restriction remained in force even after the government of Egypt became Sunni again.2