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Arabic: shaykh
Other spelling: Sheikh
Not recommended spellings: Shaikh, Sheykh
Incorrect spellings: Shaik, Sheik, Shayk, Sheyk

Within Arab, and Muslim communities, a religious leader, elder of tribe, lord or a revered old man. Shaykh comes from Arabic meaning "old man." This is also the use of the term in the Koran.
There is no defined system for using the title shaykh; it varies from region to region and from religious orientation to another. On an official level, it may be used for the simplest tribal leader, as well as for the ruler of independent states. In local communities it may denote any man in a high position, whether it be the head of a separate quarter of a town or the head of a teaching institution.
In the countries of the Persian Gulf, shaykh is used for any important man, be it rich business man or high officials.
Often a man who has memorized the whole Koran, can be called a shaykh, independent of his age.
The closest one comes to a uniform system is with Sufism, where leaders of both the order (tariqa) and local congregations always are referred to as shaykh.
Until 1971, was "shaykh" used for the leader of Bahrain. After independence, the title was changed to emir. It is used until today as the title for the ruler of Qatar. The leaders of Kuwait used shaykh as title until November 1965, when the new ruler, Sabah 2 assumed the title emir.
Shaykh is also used with Arab-speaking Christians, denoting an elder man of stature.

By Tore Kjeilen