Some Islamic naming customs refer to the religion of Islam, while others are genealogical. When choosing a name for a new baby, the most important consideration for a Muslim is the guidance of the Quran, which can be followed even when living in a culture with different naming practices.
Muslim given names often contain some reference to the Islamic religion. According to the "World of Islam" website, it is common to combine one of the names of Allah with Abdul or Abdus, as in the names Abdul Aziz or Abdus Saboor. Abdus is only used in front of names beginning with S. The names Ahmad or Muhammad can be used in combination with one of the names of Allah, as in the name Muhammad Ali. These names are used because the Prophet Muhammad said that names expressing praise or service toward Allah are more beautiful than any others. To select a name for a baby boy, look up a name expressing service or praise toward Allah, or combine one of the names of Allah with another name. No baby is ever given one of the names of Allah on its own.
Muslim girl names may refer to women in the life of Muhammad, such as his wife Khadeeja or his daughters Kulthoom or Zainab, although many of them simply describe pleasant attributes. For instance, the name Husn means beauty and the name Leena means tender. Names can also refer to religious concepts, as in the names Iman, meaning faith, and Amatullah, meaning servant of Allah. Muslims often try to avoid names that could be construed as lacking in humility. For instance, Muhammad's wife Zaynab was originally named Barrah, meaning pious, but this name was felt to be presumptuous so it was changed.
Because the Quran is written in the Arabic language, naming customs in Muslim cultures often follow Arabic tradition. Arabic names are usually genealogical, specifying the person's descent through the male line as well as the larger kinship group with which he is affiliated. For instance, according to the "World of Islam" website, the name Ali bin Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Fulani indicates a man named Ali, who is the son of Ahmed and the grandson of Saleh, of the Al-Fulani clan or family. According to "Family Tree Magazine," a woman named Amina bint Rashid would be the daughter of a man named Rashid. Women do not change their names when they get married, but the children are named according to their descent from the father.
Importance of Genealogy
Although Arabic naming customs may seem to be rooted in genealogy rather than in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad made several statements encouraging the use of naming customs to indicate genealogy. For instance, Al-Ahzab 33:5 specifically forbids the custom of using an adoptive father's name rather than the name of the biological father. This prohibition was intended to prevent unintentional marriages between close relatives. An article by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, on Zawaj.com, advises Muslim converts not to change their surnames for this reason, although changing the given name is acceptable. Many converts adopt Muslim names to fit in better with the Muslim community or to express their beliefs. However, there is no rule requiring them to do so.
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