By definition, a name declares an identity - be it of a country, an organisation or an individual.
The Qurān and Hadīth also emphasise this point. Consider that Allāh has al-Asmā al-Husnā
- the Best Names. When a name helps define or declare who someone is,
surely the Greatest of all would have the Best Names. Another indication
in the Qurān of the importance of names is that when Allāh conferred a
son unto Zakarīyā 'alayhis salām, He also conferred the name - Yahyā - as an additional mark of honour.
Abū Dawūd narrates that when someone embraced Islām, but had an
Islamically offensive name, Rasūlullāh صلى الله عليه و سلم would
immediately change his name. This should be clear evidence of the
importance of establishing our Islamic identity through our names.
A Muslim keeps a wholesome name
By adding 'Abd in front of the Best Names, a Muslim proudly declares himself to be a slave of Allah, for example Abdul Khāliq.
Whenever someone calls him, it is a reminder of his divine servitude.
The Western habit of shortening names is most disturbing when Muslims
omit 'abd from these names. To call another person in effect
"Creator, All-Knowing, the Absolute Truth" etc is impudence of the
highest order and an insult to Allāh.
By naming our children after
Prophets and pious men and women of the past, we hope to establish a
role-model and wholesome guiding figure for the boy or girl.
A name with a good meaning is like a du'ā that the child, and eventual adult, acquires the good qualities embedded in that name.
good Muslim name identifies one’s religion and facilitates easier
connection with one’s co-coreligionists, especially when we live in the
Contrast this wholesome bounty of Islām with western naming
practices. As long as a name sounds nice or a child is named after some
family figure the western parent is satisfied. Consider how many
Christian figures of the highest order are named "Mark" which means
dedicated to Mars, the pagan Roman god of war. I personally know two
Jewish Marks. Such apathy to the origin and meaning of a name is
unimaginable to a Muslim guided by the Qurān, Hadīth and the ways shown
by the pious.
Living in the West & Identity politics
acquaintance recently reverted to using his pre-Islamic name. It is sad
that he no longer wishes to be identified as a slave of the
Ever-Victorious Allāh. I wish I knew why, but he is quite prickly over
this issue and refuses to discuss why. When I vocalised the thought that
he regarded an Arabic name as Arab/Asian imperialism he still gave no
Be that as it may, a Muslim living in the West
faces tremendous pressure to assimilate and act western in all spheres.
Some may not go to the extreme of changing their names, but identify
themselves in such a way that it sounds, "cool and western" while still
soothing their conscious that the "name" is somehow a Muslim name.
argument goes that shortening names creates greater friendliness. Sure -
as if your sense of friendliness, neighbourliness and hospitality
exceeds that of the Sahābah ضى الله عنهم. Whatever the merits or
demerits of any of our opinions might be, let us ask in all honesty why
these nicknames are not only "cool and western" but also so designed
that they can pass for being a Christian name?
example would you insist on being cool, Christian-sounding Joe or Joey?
Is it so embarrassing to be identified with Allāh's Nabī, Yūsuf 'alayhis salām?
Allah has praised in His Book a man called Sulaymān. Why is it that a Jewish sounding Solly appeals more to you?
hope, I really hope, that I do not have to explain the beauty of the
name Muhammad. Why are you so averse to Muhammad and call yourself Moe -
a name which to me evokes the image of a red-neck, pot-bellied,
beer-guzzler? Why keep a name you intend to desecrate?
Spelling, Language & History
would encourage Muslims to start a move towards standardisation of
spelling of names for the simple reason that many people who do not know
Arabic rely upon the spelling of a word for pronunciation and hence
pronounce a name incorrectly. Incorrect pronunciation in a delicate
language like Arabic can have disastrous effects. A good starting point
would be the elimination of our colonialist-orientalist legacy of the
letters e and o. Arabic has three vowels. Stick to a, i and u. Mohamed
is so British Raj. Please use Muhammad.
When choosing a name a
certain amount of knowledge is required. Consult someone with knowledge
of at least Arabic, Ḥadīth, Tafsīr and history before naming your child.
Whilst Amānī might be fashionable in certain circles, such
parents should have been informed how the Qurān uses the word
exclusively in reference to disbelievers doomed to Hell.
Again, if the Ummah were to take their effort to learn their history, Muslims of the Orient would not have named their daughters after Salmah son of al-Akwa‘رضى الله عنه. Similarly, Mumtāz and Kulthūm (even when mispronounced as Kulsūm) are masculine names.
(Saalim) was a common name amongst the Ṣaḥābah رضى الله عنهم. Salīm
(Saleem) was not used as a name. I do not raise a question of
permissibility or impermissibility, simply the point of which is more
authentic and which was actually a name amongst the best of Muslims.
kind of confusion is not exclusive to those of us living in the West.
An Omani read a Ḥadīth about “Udayy bin Ḥātim.” I pointed out that
whilst Udayy might be contemporarily more known due to Udayy, son of
Saddām Husayn, the Ṣaḥābī was Adī, not ‘Udayy. Whilst he did reread the
Ḥadīth, I got that patronising look which perhaps other western Muslims
may have experienced – “whatever your lineage and studies might be, we
know better than you by virtue of living in the Arab lands”.
When I mentioned this incident to an Egyptian, he brushed Adī aside as an extreme anti-Saddām concoction!
A lady questioned another Egyptian, a graduate of al-Azhar, about her name. Mehjabīn. With full confidence, and without even saying it might be, he declared to the lady that her name is a corruption of Muhazzabīn – cultured males (plural). I pointed out that Meh is Persian for moon and jabīn is Arabic for forehead. He was not happy.
Some recommended names
follows some names I have recommended in the past, selecting names of
Sahābah which I think are not being used and should be revived. Without
prejudice to what I have stated above, spelling here is simply for
elucidation. As many people might not be familiar with these names I
have spelt them in a manner which will I hope will clarify the
Females: Atheelah -high born/ strong-rooted - Ansaari lady who pledged allegiance to Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam - at least 3 Sahaabiyaat had this name. Arwaa - most pretty - aunt of Nabi sallallahu alayhi wa sallam - at least 8 Sahaabiyaat had this name. Umaymah - little leader/little mother - verse 10 of Mumtahinah was revealed for her – at least 31 Sahaabiyaat had this name.
Barakah - blessings - only human to be with Rasulullah sallallahu
alayhi wa sallam for full 63 years from birth to death – at least 2
Sahaabiyaat had this name. Bareerah - desert flower - slave-girl of Nabi sallallahu alayhi wa sallam – at least 2 Sahaabiyaat had this name. Jaleelah - majestic - 1 Hassaanah - extremely beautiful/good - friend of Khadijah - 1 Khawlah - gift - famous warrior lady - 32 Durrah - pearl - sister-in-law of Nabi sallallahu alayhi wa sallam Rufaydah - little helper - first nurse in Islam, had mobile clinic at battles, hospital tent in Masjid Nabawi.
Rafi - lofty
Rifaa'ah -lofty Ka'b - prominant Qays - intelligent Miqdaad - good physique Urwah - someone to hold onto Mugheerah - warrior
Nuaym - pleasure; whilst naeem is an Arabic word it was never used by
the early generations as a name. Nuaym was very common. Most famous
Nuaym -Nuaym bin Amr al-Ghatfāni رضى الله عنه - read about Battle of
May Allah grant the day when we shall purify ourselves
of all Shiah influence such as the unspoken ban on the name Yazeed
(increase). At least 31 Sahaabah had this name.