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Sunday, May 25, 2014

What's in a name? Giving your child a Muslim name?

You called your child what? Are you joking? You know, it never ceases to make me cringe when I hear the names that some parents give their children. I am not joking about this but it is something horrific. If only the child knew the meaning of the name; what would they say? Would they not cringe as I do? Well anyway as ever is granddad is going to give advice. Well that's what someone called it when my mouth opens and words come  out!

Where did you get it from?

Yes, where did you that from? I have never heard of it before and you have picked it out of fresh air and placed it before me! If it was a dagger I would quote Shakespeare! Now due to the Indo Pak slang of Arabic words good names are given a totally different meanings. The famous example is Thamina which in Arabic means priceless. This is what daughters are like to their fathers but when you read that Tha as sa the meaning changes totally. So Thamina becomes Samina which means fat. This name corruption would make those who understand Arabic howl with laughter when they hear it!

Iqra is another common girls name. It's the first word revealed of the Quran but what does it mean? It's a common verb in the imperative form meaning read. It's not a name! Okay? It's not a name! Also giving children names that are not names is not proper at all! Read, come over here!

Lists and personalities

The list of incorrect name is very long and it makes me shudder to even think of them! Names that are titles can be okay, as long as you do not tell people to use the entire title when calling them! Like Zayn Al-Abideen etc. Other names that should not be given like Yasrab/He drinks, dhahan/brain, siham/arrows, Nadeem/regret and the list goes on.

Also avoid name of personalities that have bad names in Islamic history; like Yazid, Hajaj, Pervez, Ummayyah/ the name of the tribe against Ahl Al-Bayt and it also means illiterate etc. And all their ilk should be avoided at all costs. If you  have a name that has a bad connotation then change your name by deed poll for goodness sake!

99 names

Now this is a very contentious issue that many do not understand. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) advised to give names with praise or servitude linked in them. Like his blessed name or a name that means slave of Allah or one of the 99 names.

The only problem is when people use the second part of the word omitting Abd/slave. The common example is Haseeb; his name should be Abdulhasseb but now it's just Haseeb. This is permissible but should be avoided because of potential harm in it. Why? Because Allah has attributes/siffat and creation has characteristics/khuluq. These are two different things, look in the Quran how Allah describes the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) as Rauf/compassionate and raheem/merciful. These are not attributes/safat like Allah rather these are characteristics which makes them permissible and different. Because most people misunderstand them, in particular, our petrol fueled friends; they should be avoided. (In terms of usage). So someone can name their child any of the names of the 99 names except Al-Rahman and of course the name Allah. The last two are not to be used under any circumstances. Even though the other terms are permissible it does not mean that they should be used it's better not to. Names in common usage are Majid and Ali etc.

The word Abd Al-Nabi or Ghulam Nabi have much controversy because it's not understood what abd means. Abd has two meanings one is servant and other is slave. (Abdul is not a name it means slave of - that's not a name!) The common misunderstanding of the word Abd is that is means slave and there is no other possible meaning. When Abdulmustafa is used its a servant but not in terms of worship. Servant meaning khadim not anything other. Slavehood is solely for Allah and not for anything or anyone else. So someone can have the name Abdulmustafa meaning the servant of Mustafa. This is not shirk because it means servant not slave. Similar is the name Ghulam Mustafa and so on. Do not forget the name that is not possible to give is Sami ullah which means the hearing of Allah. This is something that's highly disliked or even unlawful. No one can be the hearing of Allah (the Exalted). Do not allow someone to give this name to their children.

The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) had servants himself. Zayd ibn Al-Harith (may Allah be pleased with him) was a gift to him by our lady Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her); for their wedding.

Does Al/the matter and Raab

We look at Surah Yusuf for the best story of a family separated and reunited. That's why it's so important. Yusuf (upon him peace) helps a man with a dream and he says 'mention me to your lord' (verse 42); this is used in term of king and not in terms of lordship of God. Here, the word is not used like Raab Al-'Alameen/Lord of universe or otherwise. Normally Raab is used with another noun and not on its own. But most of all look at the context before becoming the judge, jury and executioner.
Also latter we that the Pharaoh is called Al-'Aziz and this title is given to Yusuf (upon him peace). Had it been shirk/polytheism Yusuf would not have allowed it. Also ال does not make a difference because it just means the.

Picked from the Quran

We all love the Quran but let's detach our emotions from it. Picking a name out of the Quran without understanding and out of context; its irrational and dangerous. Why? Because you do not understand what the name means or what the context is. You pick out a name like Rauwada which sounds good but it means flowing; it's not a child's name! Neither is naming your child after an item like a sword or an arrow. So do not pick a name from the Quran without knowing what it means exactly. Or else you want to call your child a silly name that does not mean what you think it means! Change the name!

Do not forget that the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) changed names of companions that had bad meanings. Abu Hurayrah's name before Islam was AbdusShams/Slave of the sun. The Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) changed it to Abdurrahman/Slave of the All-Merciful.

One of his wives had an incorrect name and he changed it into Zaynab. why is it important to change names? The Arabs have a saying that everyone has a share of their name. So if you call your daughter Samina do not be surprised if she is fat! Or if you call your son saghir/small and his growth is stunted!

Culture and language

This does play a part too because a meaning of one name in Hindi might not mean that same thing in Arabic. So I would recommend looking for the meaning of a name generally in Arabic before considering names. Although  it does not mean you have to name your children with Arabic only names rather the meaning must be good. Naheem means praise of God in the language of Hindi but in Arabic it could mean clearing ones throat or avarice. It could also be a corruption of Naeem.

Also there are lot of badly spelt names, so please spell them correctly.

How should I choose a name?

Simple start by names of any Prophet, their wives or family then companions. Find out the meaning of the names. Check the meaning of the name with a book of Muslim names. Email me if you have to! Then feel free to give it and relax. Please do not let me hear daft names that are not names.
Also please spell them in Arabic not your local tongue! Usman/Osman should be Uthman etc. You have not a clue how tired I am from hearing names that not names! Peace!


  1. Assalamu alaykum. Thank you for this article. I have always been interested in Muslim names.

    I have a few comments:

    1. Regarding corruption of pronunciation of Arabic names (e.g. ثمينة and عثمان cited above as well as Ahmet and Mehmet and Usman etc), it seems to me that once they have made the transition to the target languages and are commonly used therein (here, for example, Urdu, Persian, and Turkish), they should be (or at least, _can be_) pronounced according to native and not Arab pronunciations. It seems unfair to expect non-Arabs to use proper pronunciation in something as commonplace and everyday as names of their own children - and let's not forget that this corruption exists to a very large extent in many Arabic dialects (specifically the ث to "s" change as well as lack of distinction for ع).

    Keep in mind that in Turkish, Persian, Urdu etc., the "s" sound IS the correct pronunciation for ث and the "z" sound IS the correct pronunciation for ذ/ز/ض/ظ.

    As for transcription, this is of course not an issue in Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu, etc. but of course it does present an issue in languages using Latin based characters. Again, though, I don't see any problem with spelling the name in English in the way one is actually going to pronounce the name. Even if one did transcribe the names "properly", taking it to it's logical extreme even "Uthman" would be incorrect since it does not incorporate the ع.

    Though, sometimes the transcriptions used are atrocious (I'm looking at you "Farooque" and "Siddique" and Siddiqui" and "Hoque" and "Haque"- no reason for those u's and e's) in which case I completely agree with you. I do find it strange than in the article itself "Mustapha" was used for "Mustafa".

    2. Interesting point you make about using, for example, a verb like اقرأ as a name. Some mufassirin (those that claim it has an Arabic origin) say that يحيى is actually the present tense verb.

    I'm not sure that something that is not generally used as a name cannot be used as one. Pretty much _every_ name in every language was once just a noun (like the ism fa'il صالح and عادل and ذاكر et al.) or verb or adjective (including ثمينة which is cited) or a title not originally used as a name. (See also point #5.)

  2. 3. The article states that we should avoid using even Names of Allah which are permissible to use as names due to the possibility of Wahhabis misunderstanding them, but it is strange that the same logic is not applied to 'Abd al-Nabi, Ghulam Mustafa, and the like (especially when these have valid ikhtilaf concerning them from other than Wahhabis).

    Also, are you sure that ONLY "Allah" and "Rahman" are impermissible to use? What about المميت and المحيي? I cannot imagine those being allowed with or without the "Al-" unless attached to another word e.g. محيي الدين أو محيي الإسلام. (This is a subject about which much has been written. In sha Allah I will research it a bit.)

    4. What is wrong with the name Parvez? I'm curious.

    As for Ummayyah, I really think the wording should be changed ("he name of the tribe against Ahl Al-Bayt and it also means illerate [sic] etc"). This is the tribe of many of the Sahabah, including some who were Khulafa', and they were not, of course, "against Ahl al-Bayt". Also, illiterate (a much better translation in this context "unlettered") using this word has a positive connotation, not a negative one, since our Prophet عليه الصلاة والسلام was النبي الأمي and he himself called our Ummah unlettered (إنَّا أمةٌ أميةٌ as it comes in Sahih al-Bukhari hadith #1913).

    5. I don't really see the problem with naming after swords or arrows or the like. Can you elaborate?

    When I see Arab names (including Jahili names which stayed current after Islam) like سيف وحسام وحرب والعباس ومرة and the like, it seems like there is nothing wrong with them. The Arabs were just given to names which would make their enemies fear them, and that seems like a worthy reason even now.

    6. I definitely agree with choosing random names from the Qur'an - the results are often humorous. (I know a girl named ترمي.)

    Let me know what you think. Jazakum Allahu khayra.

    Imran Ahmed

  3. The th sound in Urdu is totally different - it's not like the arabic tha but a T with a h through it. So it is understandable to have names such as Usman and Samina. Remember even Turkish - now using the Roman Alphabet - spells it Osman. The Roman alphabet is hit and miss when it comes to foreign words. Do you know what Hatice is in Turkish? It's the first wife of our prophet `alayhissalam. The kh orthography only exists in English and French. European languages use ch for the same sound, so it all depends where one is from.
    As for AbdulAziz become Aziz - that's ok.
    However, the Bangladeshi convention of not having a surname/ father's name and splitting the first name is just wrong, for example, Mr Abdul Aziz. or Dr Mushtaqur Rahman (star of Deenport)
    Also names like Allahditta ---> Allah Ditta, so what would non-Muslims call this guy?