Names, Surnames

Posted on 06/28/2012 by __socrates

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Arabic Ism اسم, Laqab لقب, Kunyah كنية. The teaching of Muhammad very greatly influenced the nomenclature of his followers, as is evident from the chapter devoted to the Traditions on the subject in the Mishkatu ‘l-Masabih, entitled “Babu ‘l-Asami, book xxii. ch. viii, from which are extracted the following traditional sayings of Muhammad:-
“The best names in the sight of God are ‘Abdu ‘llah (the servant of God), ‘Abdu ‘r-Rahnan (the servant of the Merciful One).”
“You must not name your slaves Yasar (abundance), Rabah (gain), Najih (prosperous), Aflah (felicitous), because if you ask after one of these your domestic servants, and he be not present, the negative reply will express that abundance, or gain, or prosperity, or felicity, are not in your dwelling.”
“The vilest name you can give a human being is Maliku ‘l-Amlak, or ‘King of Kings,’ because no one can be such but God Himself.”
“You must not say to your slaves, ‘My slave,’ or ‘My slave girl,’ for all your slaves are God’s, but say, ‘My boy,’ or ‘My girl,’ or ‘My youth,’ or ‘My lass.'” And a slave must not say to his master, Ya Rabbi! (i.e. My Lord!), but he may say to him Ya Saiyidi! (My Chief!).”
“Call your children after your Prophet (i.e. Muhammad), but the names God likes best are ‘Abdu ‘llah, (servant of God), ‘Abdu ‘r-Rahman, and the next best names are Haris (husbandman), and Humam (high-minded). The worst names are Harb (enmity), or Murrah (bitterness).” [Heb. see Ruth i. 20.]
Shuraih ibn Hani’ relates that his father came to the Prophet with his tribe, and the Prophet heard them calling him Abu ‘l-Hakam. When the Prophet said, “Why do you call him so? Hakan ‘Ruler,’ is an attribute of God.” And the Prophet ordered him to call himself Abu Shuraih, i.e. the father of Shuraih, his eldest son.
Modifies, somewhat, by these injunctions of the Prophet, Muslim names have still continued to be ordered amongst learned Muslims according to the ancient custom of Arabia. Persons are often named –
(1) By a single name, as Muhammad, Musa (Moses), Da ud (David), Ibrahim (Abraham), Hasan, Ahmad.
(2) As the father or mother of certain persons e.g. Abu Da ud, the father of David; or Ummu Salimah, the mother of Salimah.
(3) As the son of a certain one e.g. Ibn ‘Umar, the son of Umar; Ibn ‘Abbas, the son of Abbas, &c.
(4) By a combination of words, e.g. Nuru ‘d-din, “Light of Religion”; Abdu ‘llah, “Servant of God.”
(5) By a nickname of harmless signification, e.g. Abu Hurairah, “the kitten’s father.”
(6) by the trade or profession, e.g. al-Mansur al-Hallaj, Mansur the dresser of cotton.
(7) By the name of his birth place e.g. al Bukhari, the native of Bukharah.
These rule, guiding the nomenclature of the Arabians, give a strange sound to western ears in the names of celebrated authors. For instance, the celebrated compiler of the chief book of authentic traditions is known as Abu ‘Abdi ‘llah Muhammad ibn Isma’il ibn Ibrahim ibn Mughirahal al-Ju’fi al-Bukhari, which means that he is the father of a son named ‘Abdu ‘llah, and that his own father’s name was Isma’il, the son of Ibrahim, the son of Mughirah of the tribe of Ju’fi, and that he himself was born in Bukhara.
Arabic names have undergone strange modifications when brought in contact with western languages, e.g. Averroes, the philosopher, is a corruption of Ibn Sina; Achmet, the Sultan, Ahmad; Amurath, of al-Murad; Saladin, the celebrated warrior of the twelfth century, or the Arabic Salahu ‘d-din, “the peace of religion.”

Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam

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