Ash-Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-Uthaymeen  rahimahullah, was asked about addressing everyone with the term ‘Shaykh’.


كلمة شيخ في اللغة العربية لا تكون إلا للكبير. إما كبير السن، أو كبير القدر بعلمه أو ماله أو ما أشبه ذلك, ولا تطلق على الصغير.

The word ‘Shaykh’ in the Arabic language should only be for the one who is considered big. (This is) either (for) the one who is old in age, or for the one who is big in the amount of knowledge he possesses, or in the wealth he has, or whatever is similar to that. And it shouldn’t be uttered for the young one”

لكن كما قلت: تفشت الآن حتى كاد يلقب بالشيخ من كان جاهلاً أو لم يعرف شيئاً, وهذا فيما أرى لا ينبغي;… فالذي أرى: أنها لا تطلق كلمة شيخ إلا على من يستحقها, إما لكبره، أو لشرفه وسيادته في قومه, أو لعلمه.

As you mentioned, it has become common now to the degree (that) the ignorant one will be practically referred to as a ‘Shaykh’, or (even for) the one who doesn’t know anything. And this (action) according to my opinion is inappropriate… For verily I don’t see that the term ‘Shaykh’ should be expressed except for the one who deserves it. Either due to his old age, or due to his great status and role of leadership to his people, or due to his knowledge…

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A Side Note: We should also refrain from using this term as a regular word when addressing one another although the actual meaning may not be intended. However, it is always best to close all doors which may lead to us raising a person above his level. Allah knows best.

Translated by

AbdulFattaah bin Uthman
Abu Fajr