Islamic Names for children
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
There is an Arabic saying: “Al-Asmaa’u Tanzilu min’as’sama’a.” It means that meaning of names cast their shadow on life, the character and the disposition of a person. The name while giving a clue to the person’s caste, tribe, and family also identifies his faith and religion. That is why Islam has given detailed instructions for naming children. Our beloved Prophet (SAW) said: “You will be called by your name and that of your father on the Day of Judgment, so choose good names.” [Abu Dawood]
Good names have good influence on personality and morals and bad names have bad! Haafiz Ibn-e-Qayyim (Rehmatullah Alaih) writes:
“Recall the names of six people who fought in Badr and see how names played a decisive role in that battle. Of course it was the will of Allah (SWT) which sealed the fate of the disbelievers as losers and bestowed honor of victory upon the faithful. The kuffaar (disbelievers) had sent three of their best to challenge the Muslims. Namely they were Shaibah, Utbah, and Waleed.
Shaibah means the old and the weak. Utbah means painful. Waleed means a child, the weak and infirm.
When three Muslims from the Ansar (helpers) from Madinah accepted their challenge, the kuffaar told them that they were not their match and refused to fight with them. Prophet (SAW) then sent Sayyidina Ali ibn Abi Talib (RA), Hazrat Ubaidah bin Al-Haarith (RA), and Hazrat Hamzah (RA).
‘Ali’ means the exalted, the brave and the courageous, the one with might and the one who is over powering.
‘Ubaidah’ means the earnest worshipper and the committed slave of Allah (SWT).
‘Hamzah’ means the strong willed and the lion-hearted.
Haafiz ibn Qayyim proving his point asserts that the names: the overpowering, the earnest worshipper and the lion hearted played an important role in overpowering the painful, the weak and the infirm. [Zaad-al-Ma’ad]
Any name that was not appropriate, Prophet (SAW) used to change it. Sayyidina Umar’s daughter was named ‘Aasiah’, which means ‘sinful’. Prophet (SAW) changed it to ‘Jameelah’, which means ‘beautiful’. Imaam Abu Dawood (RehmA) has mentioned many such names, which Prophet (SAW) changed for reasons of meaning.
Hazrat Aqrabah (RA) named his son ‘Buhair’. Once when accompanied by his son, he visited the Messenger of Allah. Prophet (SAW) asked as to who he was? Hazrat Aqrabah (RA) told him that it was his son ‘Buhair’, which means ‘foolish and perplexed’. Prophet (SAW) changed it to ‘Bashir’, the one who gives good news. According to another narration, Prophet (SAW) called ‘Buhair’ to sit by his side, put his blessed hand on his head, and advised him that from then on his name was ‘Bashir.’
Prophet (SAW) always took a positive approach. He taught us to be optimistic, always hope for the best, think positively and focus on the bright side. He (SAW) gave a positive dimension to human thought and action and it is a part of his Prophethood. Sayyidina Ali (Razi Allah) has named his son ‘Harb’, which means ‘the battle’. Prophet (SAW) changed it to ‘Hussain’, which means noble, generous, decent, and a combination of virtues. Prophet (SAW) met a believer in the battle of Hunain. When asked what his name was? He replied it was ‘Ghurraab’, which means a ‘crow’. Prophet (SAW) said: “You are a believer, an obedient.” He (SAW) named him ‘Muslim’. One companion had his name as ‘As sarim’, the one who bites. Prophet (SAW) named him ‘Saeed’, meaning the fortunate, the lucky. Another companion had his name ‘Aswad’, which means ‘black’. Prophet (SAW) changed it to ‘Ab’yadh’, meaning ‘fair’ and ‘white’.
It is inappropriate to pick a name which is Allah (SWT)’s attribute. A person visited Prophet (SAW), who was called ‘Abul Hakam’. ‘Hakam’ means the ‘Decision Maker’ the One, who decrees judgment. Prophet (SAW) didn’t like the name and said that ‘Hakam’ is one of the attributes of Allah (SWT). Referring to the person’s son, he suggested that his name should be ‘Abu Shureeh.’ [Abu Dawood]
Prophet (SAW) said that the worst person is he, who names himself as ‘King of Kings’, because this attribute belongs to Allah (SWT) alone.
Prophet (SAW) had heard of many such names which had both good and bad meanings, but he did not change them, because only their good meanings were popularly known. Sayyidina Ali(RA)’s brother Hazrat Jafar (RA) was a respectable and distinguished companion of Prophet (SAW). His name ‘Jafar’ meant: she camel which gives milk, a donkey, and the extensiveness of a river. The name was not changed due to its being known for its popularly known positive and good attribute of the river.
Prophet (SAW) taught us not to believe in omens and make conjectures from auguries and signs, but he did not like names which projected negative meanings. He taught us to look for good aspects and think positively.
Once he (SAW) asked the name of a visitor and was told that his name was ‘Hazn’, meaning ‘hard’ or, difficult’. He (SAW) told him: “No, you are ‘Sahl’; ‘soft’ [Bukhari] He (SAW) had sent messages to the governors that they should send ambassadors who were good looking and had good names. [Musannaif Ibn Abi Shaibah. V. 17: p. 125]
This practice was not limited to the names of individuals, but was also applied to cities. The original name of Madinah was ‘Yathrib’, which had a negative connotation. It means ‘cursed’ or ‘bad’. Prophet (SAW) changed its name to ‘Taa’bah’, which means ‘Nice’ and ‘Pleasant’. [Bukhari] He also named it Madinah [Bukhari: 1881], which means the thriving city of culture and civility.
Once Prophet (SAW) was passing through a passage between two mountains and was told that the name of the place was ‘Fadih’ and ‘Mukhzi’, both of these names mean ‘the degraded’ and ‘the defamed’. Hearing this Prophet (SAW) changed his route [Tuhfat-ul-Maudud, p. 105]
Once a she camel was needed to be milked, Prophet (SAW) asked for a volunteer. A person came forward. He told his name was ‘Murrah’, which means ‘bitter’. Prophet (SAW) asked him to sit down. Another person came forward to do the job. His name was ‘Harb’, meaning ‘battle’, he too was not selected. The third person offered his services, whose name was ‘Ya’eesh’, which means ‘live and alive’, he (SAW) asked him to milk the she camel. [Muwatta]
Once Hazra Umar Farooq (RA) submitted: “Yaa Rasul Allah, please allow me to ask a question.” When permitted, he (RA) submitted: “You have taught us not to believe in omens.” Prophet (SAW) replied: “Yes, and I don’t believe in omens, but I prefer good names in place of bad ones.” [Ar-Raudhul-Anaf. V. 3 p. 57-58]
Prophet (SAW) always liked the names which mean Allah’s obedience and reflect servitude to Allah (SWT) like Abdullah and Abdul Rahman, and for girls’ he (SAW) liked names like Amatullah etc. He also liked the names of the Prophets like Ibrahim and Ismail, etc. [Abu Dawood] Children be given such names that they should immediately be recognized as Muslim. Due regards should be given to certain names, which should be called in full not in part because of Allah’s attribute. If the name is Abdul Razzaque, the person shouldn’t be addressed as Razzaque, but Abdul Razzaque. Similarly if the name is Abdul Samad, then calling him by the last name ‘Samad’ will be a sin, as it is Allah (SWT)’s attributive name. The person should be addressed as Abdul Samad.Remember that good names influence the personality of the child and creates qualities in nature and character corresponding to the meaning of the name. According to some traditions of our beloved Prophet (SAW), child should be named on the seventh day, and some scholars have considered it waajib. However, it is better to name the child soon after he is born. Hazrat abu Usaid(RA) brought his new born son to Prophet (SAW), who named him ‘Munzir’ right at that time. [Muslim] When a son was born to Prophet (SAW), he (SAW) said: “Last night I fathered a son, and I named him Ibrahim after my father’s name.” [Muslim]
May Allah enable us to realize the importance of the gift of life and the countless blessings we have been bestowed with and utilize our time prudently and wisely and the way it pleases Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW). Aameen!
SWT = Subhanahu Wa Ta'Ala
SAW = Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam
AS = AlehisSalam
RA = Radhiyallaho anhu
RAnha= Radhiyallaho anha
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.