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Names
According to Quran and Sunnah

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If something is not classified as haram (prohibited) in the Deen (religion/way of life of a Muslim), then it is halal (permitted). Retaining a name that (1) does not identify itself with/contain anything Islamically forbidden and (2) is not a Name of Allah , has not been declared haram.

It is according to sunnah (the examples of the Prophet's life what he said, did, implemented, how he implemented), to change a bad name (whether it is an arabic name or any other language) immediately, and it is permissible according to sunnah to exchange a name for a better one.

According to Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, "...if one's name is Abdul-Messiah, for example, or similar such names, then he is obligated to change it, as the Prophet had people with the names Abdul-Ka'bah and Abdul-Uzzah change their names upon accepting Islaam. If the original name does not comprise or imply anything forbidden in Islaam, then he or she is permitted to retain it (such as the name George, for example). As noted, though, it is preferable to change it to an Islaamic name, as this also distinguishes him or her from the kuffaar."

While it is not haram to retain the name under the conditions listed above, the muslim has a responsibility to the Sunnah of the Prophet , and is encouraged to choose "the best of names"; and the best of names are the humblest, insha'Allah. In addition, the best of names we have on this side of life, will be what we are called by in Paradise, insha'Allah.

We should not cut the ties to our father, and it is correct to retain the name of the father, even in the muslim's newly converted name. i.e. "Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips"... he chose (or was given, by another muslim) the name "Bilal" after the well-known companion Bilal, used the name "Abu Ameenah" meaning father of his daughter Ameenah, and he retained his father's last name, "Philips". Women are not encouraged to change their last name to their new husband's last name upon marriage, in situations where her father's last name is known.

While it is halal and encouraged to have a humble name such as "Abdur Rahman" (servant/slave of the most Beneficent [Allah]), having the name "Al-Rahman" ("Al-" means "The") is not permissible because it is the same as the Name of Allah, and no-one should compare themselves to Allah swt.

Names that are Disliked

Hadith - Bukhari (#819), Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Tirmidhi

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet of Allah said, "The name most detested by Allah is 'Malik Al-Amlak' ('King of Kings.')"

Hadith - Muwatta 54.24

Malik related to me from Yahya ibn Said that the Messenger of Allah asked about a milk camel about to be milked, "Who milks this camel?" A man stood up. The Messenger of Allah said, "What is your name?" The man said, "Murra (bitterness)." The Messenger of Allah said to him, "Sit down." Then he said, "Who milks this one?" A man stood up and the Messenger of Allah said, "What is your name?" He said, "Harb (war)." The Messenger of Allah, said, "Sit down." Then he said, "Who milks this camel?" A man stood up, and the Messenger of Allah, said to him, "What is your name?" The man said, ''Yaish (he lives)." The Messenger of Allah, said to him, "Milk!"


Prohibited Names

Hadith - Bukhari 1:110, Narrated Abu Huraira  
The Prophet said, "Name yourselves with my name (use my name) but do not name yourselves with my Kunya name (i.e. Abul Qasim)...."

Hadith - Muslim 5331, Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah  
Allah's Messenger decided to forbid (his followers) to name persons as Ya'la (Elevated), Barakah (Blessing), Aflah (Successful), Yasar and Nafi', but I saw that he kept silent after that and he did not say anything until Allah's Messenger died. And he did not forbid (his followers to do this), then Umar decided to prohibit (people) from giving these names, but later on gave up the idea.


Changing to a Better Name

Hadith - Al-Tirmidhi #4774, Narrated 'Aisha  

The Prophet used to change a bad name.

Tirmidhi transmitted it.

Hadith - Sahih Al-Bukhari 8.212, Narrated Abu Huraira

Zainab's original name was "Barrah," but it was said, "By that she is giving herself the prestige of piety." So the Prophet changed her name to Zainab.

Hadith - Dawud, Narrated AbuWahb, Hazn ibn AbuWahb

The Prophet asked: What is your name?
He replied: Hazn (rugged).
He said: You are Sahl (smooth).
He said: No, smooth is trodden upon and disgraced.
Sa'id said: I then thought that ruggedness would remain among us after it.

     AbuDawud said: The Prophet changed the names al-'As, Aziz, Atalah, Shaytan, al-Hakam, Ghurab, Hubab, and Shihab and called him Hisham. He changed the name Harb (war) and called him Silm (peace). He changed the name al-Munba'ith (one who lies) and called him al-Mudtaji' (one who stands up). He changed the name of a land Afrah (barren) and called it Khadrah (green). He changed the name Shi'b ad-Dalalah (the mountain path of a stray), the name of a mountain path and called it Shi'b al-Huda (mountain path of guidance). He changed the name Banu az-Zinyah (children of fornication) and called them Banu ar-Rushdah (children of those who are on the right path), and changed the name Banu Mughwiyah (children of a woman who allures and goes astray), and called them Banu Rushdah (children of a woman who is on the right path). AbuDawud said: I omitted the chains of these for the sake of brevity.

Hadith (agreed upon)

The Prophet said, "Whoever shuns my Sunnah is never of me."

Hadith - Sahih Al-Bukhari 8.212, Narrated Abu Huraira, .

Zainab's original name was "Barrah," but it was said, "By that she is giving herself the prestige of piety." So the Prophet changed her name to Zainab.


Abu

It is common for muslim fathers to be referred to as "Abu" plus the first name of their son.  For example, Abu Turab literally means "Father of Turab."

Hadith - Sahih Al-Bukhari 8.223, Narrated Sahl bin Sad

The most beloved names to 'Ali was Abu Turab, and he used to be pleased when we called him by it, for none named him Abu Turab (for the first time), but the Prophet . Once 'Ali got angry with (his wife) Fatima, and went out (of his house) and slept near a wall in the mosque. The Prophet came searching for him, and someone said, "He is there, lying near the wall." The Prophet came to him while his ('Ali's) back was covered with dust. The Prophet started removing the dust from his back, saying, "Get up, O Abu Turab!"


Naming after a Prophet

Hadith - Sahih Al-Bukhari 8.218, Narrated Abu Musa

I got a son and I took him to the Prophet who named him Ibrahim, and put in his mouth the juice of a date fruit (which be himself had chewed, and invoked for Allah's blessing upon him, and then gave him back to me. He was the eldest son of Abu Musa.


Hadith - Abu Dawood, Narrated AbuWahb al-Jushami

The Prophet : Call yourselves by the names of the Prophets. The names dearest to Allah are Abdullah and AbdurRahman, the truest are Harith and Hammam, and the worst are Harb and Murrah.


Related Link:  List of Muslim Names


Action Items for the Muttaqun:

  • Retain your father's family name in your name

  • When guiding a new revert to Islam, at the appropriate time, inform him/her that it is sunnah to change one's name if it contains anything haram or is a name of Allah swt (i.e. Al-Raheem).

  • If you are able, legally change your name to your new muslim name.  

    • Call your local county clerk's office for details, and explain your reason for changing your name as being "for religious reasons".  The judge's main concern is that you are not just someone trying to dodge oustanding bills and creditors.

    • The total cost is currently around $100 USD (may vary depending on your local area).  

  • Select a humble name

Remember... Allah, subhana watala, sees everything we do!


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