Ashraaf is a term for the Muslim gentry in South Asia, usually claiming Arab, Persian or Turkish descent. This group is the equivalent, in some ways, of the European concept of the "gentry".

Origins of family namesEdit

Families/clans within this group have a family name that signifies their position.

These are often based on descent from The Prophet, his immediate circle, from major Sufi personalities, or from Genghis Khan or other mongol and Turkish warlords (See Baig and Khan.)

Some families also have names based on places (like Badakhshani from the Badakhshan province of Afghanistan).

Some names are based on Sufi orders—thus Chishti or Warsi might signify an affiliation/reverence to Moinuddeen Chishti or Nizamuddin Chishti on the one hand or the saint at Dewain Shareef on the other. In the latter case, sometimes, a person will not use the name till they have taken a formal oath of allegiance (bayth) or been ordained into the order.

Also, in some cases, the name might have been originally acquired by one ancestor in one of the last couple of ways and then used as a family name.

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