Friday, June 8, 2012

The Art of Naming Children

AlhamduliLlah, on May 25, 2012, Allah The Most Generous blessed my wife and I with our first daughter. I ask for your prayers that she grow as a God conscious, healthy, intelligent, SPECIAL Muslimah, and that she be a source of joy, support, and reward for her parents and all those around her.

We named her Barakah.


Names are of great significance in Islam. It is through names that we recognize the Attributes of Allah Most High. Allah himself emphasizes that “His are the most beautiful names” [59:24]. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him) also stressed the importance of names by his statement: "On the day of resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your fathers names so give yourselves good names" (Abu Dawud). He also actively changed the names of some of his companions if they were inappropriate. Zainab bint Jahsh, AbdurRahman ibn Awf,and AbduLlah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-’Aas are examples of companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) whose names the Prophet had changed. For more Prophetic sayings relating to names in Islam, one can refer to the chapter on Names in Imam Bukhari’s Adab ul Mufrad.

I would also argue that names have far reaching effects on the development of a child. Specifically, it can affect the self esteem of a child, and his/her connection to Islam. For this reason, I have invested considerable time researching an appropriate name for each of my children, taking into consideration several factors to ensure that the name is supportive of the child’s development. These considerations are purely personal, and in no way do I claim that they represent some authoritative methodology. Nevertheless, I’m presenting them below as food for thought for future parents.

A name should:

  1. Be an Arabic name. There is no legal requirement that Muslims have Arabic names, and Turkic and Persian names are also common among Muslims. Some scholars have also recommended that converts to Islam not change their name unless the name’s meaning is inappropriate. I prefer Arabic names since Arabic is organic to Islam. Thus, having an Arabic name may increase one’s connection to Islam. My son, Dawud, for example, feels humbled when he reads his name in the Quran.

  1. Have a sound meaning. It is only appropriate that people call upon your child with a name that has a sound meaning. And a sound-meaning name will have a positive effect on the child, inshaAllah. I mentioned earlier that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him) changed the names of some of his companions because the names had improper meanings.  Note that some names may appear to have a sound meaning but are not appropriate Islamically, so one should confirm with a scholar if a name is appropriate for use.

  1. Relate to someone of historical significance e.g., a Prophet, a companion, scholar, etc. This allows the child to model him/herself to someone who has a high position with Allah, and allows the child to connect with Islamic history. If there is a liking to a particular name that is not shared by some historical Islamic figure, one could still add ‘Muhammad’ as a ‘prefixed’ name in addition to the desired name, as is often practiced by Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. This way, the child may develop a connection to the best of all creation, inshaAllah.

  1. Be unique or different than the plain vanilla. A unique name often adds beauty to the child, and causes him/her to stand out and be remembered. Furthermore, the child will feel unique and special by having a unique and special name.

  1. Be easy to pronounce in its proper, Arabic pronunciation. Arabic names, if not pronounced accurately, may inadvertently result in the utterance of another Arabic word that relates to a negative or insignificant meaning.

  1. Not have a negative meaning in other languages, especially in English. For example, an acquaintance of mine with the name Asad Butt, was teased at school as ‘A sad butt’. Parents can mitigate such situations by carefully considering the name of their child. Nevertheless, it is often difficult to foresee how a name may be warped and mocked, so this consideration isn’t one to get paranoid over.

Sometimes, parents simply choose a name because it sounds ‘nice’ or because it resonates with them in some immeasurable way, without investigating the meaning, pronunciation, historical relevance, uniqueness etc. I hope the above considerations help parents recognize the implications of the names they choose for their child, and hence stimulate parents to put more thought into the name selection process.


Our daughter’s name, Barakah, means ‘blessing’ in Arabic. In our social circle, this name is unique. The name is easy enough to pronounce. Moreover, Barakah relates to an important figure in Islamic history.

Barakah (May Allah be pleased with her) was the female companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him), better known by her kunya, Umm Ayman. She was of Abyssinian origin, and a servant of the Prophet’s parents. Since Barakah was the midwife for the honourable Aminah during her delivery of the Prophet, she holds the lofty status of being the first human being to see the Prophet, and her hands were the first to touch and hold the Prophet.

Following the death of Amina, when the Prophet was only six years old, Barakah assumed the role of a motherly figure for the Prophet, and remain at his service even after the Prophet had given her freedom. It is for this reason that the Prophet would often call her ‘Ummi’ (mother).

The Prophet gave her other titles as well, such as “the rest of my household” and “a woman of paradise”. The latter title inspired Zaid ibn Haritha to take her hand in marriage, despite the wide age gap. Through this marriage, Barakah gave birth to Usama ibn Zaid, a child who the Prophet loved dearly because of the high rank of his parents.

She gave birth to another son, Ayman, from her first marriage, hence the kunya Umm Ayman.

Barakah would live to see both the birth and the passing of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him).

More can be said about Barakah (may Allah be pleased with her). Check out for nice summary.

Allahumma salli ‘ala sayyidina Muhammad.


  1. Beautiful post. Never read anything like this before!

  2. Picking a name for my kids was going to be a short exercise. Not anymore!! This is a very interesting post. It also shows the depth of our religion... everything has so much meaning behind it.

    Thanks for sharing.