Islamic Guidelines for Choosing Names
Name of Mufti: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
Topic: Islamic Guidelines for Choosing Names
Name of Questioner: Shazia from Pakistan
Question: As-Salamu `alaykum, could you please shed light on the Islamic guidelines in choosing names? In other words, what are the criteria to be followed by Muslim in choosing names?
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear sister in Islam, we commend your keenness on getting your self well-acquainted with Islam and its teachings, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.
Islam emphasizes that Muslims should have good names and give good names to their children. It is reported in a hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “You will be called on the Day of Resurrection by your names and the names of your fathers, so have good names.” (Reported by Abu Dawud)
In the choice of names, we should follow certain guidelines as illustrated in the following fatwa issued by the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi:
“Islam does not oblige Muslims to choose specific names, Arab or non-Arab names, for their children, whether males or females. It is rather up to people to decide which names they would like to choose for their children.
However, selecting names should be pursuant to some Islamic rules:
1- To be a good name that is neither detestable by people nor to be rejected by the child himself, when he grows up. Such detestable names are like those which bear the meaning of bad omen, evil connotations, names of people known for their oppression and excessiveness, and so on. In this regard, we find that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to change bad names into good ones. For example, he changed the name of someone from “Qalilah” (A few) into “Kathirah” (A lot), and the name of another from “`Aasiyah” (Sinner) into “Jamilah” (Beautiful), and so on.
2- A Muslim should not call his son names such as, “`Abdul-Ka`abah”, “`Abdun-Nabi”, “`Abdul-Hussayn”, and such names that implies `Ubudiyyah (servitude) to others than Allah. Ibn Hazm said that naming children with names as such is, according to the consensus of Muslim scholars, prohibited, except the name of “`Abdul-Muttalib”.
3- A Muslim should not choose names that give an impression of pomposity and vainglory. This is supported by the hadith that reads, “The most detestable name for Allah in the Hereafter is that of a man who calls himself “King of All Kings”, for Allah is the Lord of the Kings.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and At-Tirmidhi)
Muslims are also forbidden to name their children after the Finest Names of Allah, such as “Ar-Rahman (the Gracious), Al-Khalik (the Creator), etc.
It is also prohibited to use the Attributes of Allah with a definite article, such as “Al-`Aziz” (the All-Powerful) and “Al-Hakim” (the Most-Wise), as names. But they may be used without a definite article, e.g. “`Aziz” and “Hakim”.
4- It is a commendable thing to call children after the Prophets and righteous people, to keep them in memory, so as to take them as a guide and follow in their footsteps.
The best of such names are the names that show man’s humility before his Lord, as indicated by the hadith that reads, “The best names in Allah’s Sight are `Abdullah and `Abdur-Rahman.” (Reported by Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah)
The same applies to names that consist of two parts, of which the first “`Abd” and the second is one of the Finest Names of Allah, such as “`Abdul-`Alim”.
5- As for non-Arab names, there is nothing wrong in using them as names, so long as they bear good meanings in their language. Although the early Muslims were purely Arabs living in a pure Arab atmosphere, they found no harm in non-Arab names, as regards men and women. For example, “Mareyah” (the Mother of the Believers) who gave birth to Ibrahim, the son of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was known for her Coptic name.
Also, most of the names of early believers were linguistically names of plants, such as “Talhah”, “Salamah”, “Hanzalah”; names of animals and birds, such as “Asad”, “Saqr”; names of objects and parts of nature, like “Bahr”, “Jabal”; adjectives used as names, like “`Amir”, “Salim”; names of previous Prophets and righteous people, e.g. “Ibrahim” and “Yusuf”.
Thus, a Muslim should take into consideration such restrictions while choosing names for their children.”
Added Note: Muslim names are NOT chosen according to the date or time of birth.
Choosing names according to the date or the time of birth is a form of astrology or numerology. It is a type of shirk – associating partners with Allah. It is a custom which some Muslims of the Indian subcontinent have borrowed from other religions. It has no basis in Islam.
Allah said in the Quran, “Say: ‘None in the heavens and the earth knows the Ghayb (Unseen) except Allah.” (Surat al-Naml 27:65)
Saheeh Muslim has narrated, on the authority of one of the wives of the Prophet (Hafsah – may Allah be pleased with her), that Allah’s Prophet (sws) said:
“Whoever went to a fortune-teller and asked him about some matter (i.e. of the unseen) and believed him, will have his prayer rejected for forty days.”
Imam Ibn Taymiyah said: “Astrology that is concerned with studying the positions and aspects of celestial bodies in the belief that they have an influence on the course of natural earthly occurrences and human affairs is prohibited by Almighty Allah’s Book, the Sunnah, and the unanimous agreement of the Muslim scholars. Furthermore, astrology was considered forbidden by all Messengers of Almighty Allah.”
The great scholar, Ibn `Uthaymeen, said: “Astrology is a kind of sorcery and fortune-telling. It is forbidden because it is based on illusions, not on concrete facts. There is no relation between the movements of celestial bodies and what takes place on the Earth.”
Before the advent of Islam, people would think that the sun and moon might eclipse when a great figure died. During the Prophet’s lifetime, it happened that the sun eclipsed on the same day when the Prophet’s son Ibrahim died. The people then thought that it had eclipsed because of the Prophet’s son’s death. On knowing this, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) led them in the Eclipse Prayer and then delivered them a speech saying: “The sun and moon are but signs of Allah; they do not eclipse because so-and-so died or was born.”
This hadith indicates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) denied all relation between the movements of the heavenly bodies and events on the Earth. Besides, people who believe in the prophecies of astrologists are easily exposed to a labyrinth of illusions, pessimism, and psychological problems.
How Do Muslims Choose Names?
Muslims can choose any name with a good meaning. Good sources for names are the Quran (for example names of the Prophets), names of the Sahabah, and names of great figures from Islamic history. And of course, “Abd” followed by any of the 99 names of Allah, such as AbdulRahman, AbdulAzeez, etc.
There is also nothing wrong with choosing a name to honor someone you love, such as an ancestor, family member or friend.