Notables; a social distinction. In the later Ottoman empire the term ayan came to be applied more specifically to the local notables. The meaning of ashraf (sing. sharif) has changed through time and place in the Islamic world, sometimes indicating descent from the Prophet Muhammad or, more generally, persons of nobility and importance. In Turkey and Persia today, sharif denotes high social and economic status, while sayyid is used for descendants of the Prophet. In South Asia the term is applied specifically to Muslims of foreign descent as opposed to indigenous Indian Muslim lineages.