Ansari (Arabic: انصاری) is a Nesbat in Middle East and South Asia. It originates from Ansar (Arabic: انصار) the Medinan people that helped Islamic prophet Muhammad when he migrated from Mecca to Medina. The literal meaning of Ansar is supporters.
The name itself is not used as a surname among Arabs, patronymics is used instead. The word is added as a title to the end of the name, if one has an ancestor who was an Ansar. This kind of use of a name is called "Nesbat" in Arabic, meaning "relation". In modern times, however, the surname Al-Ansari is widely used in many Persian Gulf and Arab nations.
In contrast, Iranians use surnames instead of Patronymics. In Iran, it has become a a Surname, since Iranian use surnames. This has also happened with the "Tabatabai", also originally a Nesbat.
Pakistani and Indian Usage
The Ansari surname goes as far as being used in Pakistan, northern India and Bangladesh, to show a lineage or ancestral link to the Ansar of Medina. Through the various waves of migration from the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan, descendants of the Ansar tribes arrived in the Indian Subcontinent. These families, mainly came either as scholars, government administrators and functionaries, soldiers or officers. Ansaris in the Indian Subcontinent hail both from the Shi'a and Sunni Muslim schools of thought.
The main original settlements and concentrations of Ansaris on the Indian Subcontinent, were in Multan, Pakistan; the Sindh province, Pakistan; Lilla, in western Punjab, Pakistan; Panipat, India; Saharanpur, India; Gorakhpur, India; and Lucknow, India - see,Firangi Mahal.
It seems that over a period of time, others, and many of the new Muslim converts, in India also identified themselves as Ansari, to show reverence to their Islamic faith. Many of these in northern India and Pakistan were involved in fabric manufacturing i.e. weavers (Urdu: julahay). Often, but not necessarily, Ansari is used to identify a caste, as well. In the Indian Hindu Caste System and in the (Urdu: baradari) system traditionally, different cast were involved or associated with different trades or professions. See also, Islam in India.