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What’s in a Name?
An individual’s name is related to his family and cultural heritage. It is a significant part of one’s identity. God sometimes uses human names to identify Himself, as in Exodus 3:6 “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. Each of these names has a special significance.
Arabic names form the basis of many Muslim names around the world. Many of these names have significance drawn from the Islamic understanding of the God of Abraham. While the Islamic understanding of God is incomplete, it is not totally devoid of truth. Given names and family names based on the 99 names of God used in Islam are quite common among Muslims from many nationalities. Many of these names sometimes give accurate insights into God’s activities, nature and character.
99 Arabic Names
Some examples of the 99 names are:
* al-Malik, the King, who is King of kings.
* al-Alim, the Knowing One, who is well aware of everything.
* al-Haqq, the Truth.
* al-Hakim, the Wise, who is both wise and well informed.
* al-Halim, the Kindly, who is both forgiving and kindly disposed.
* al-Hamid, the Praiseworthy, to whom all praise is due.
* as-Salam, the PeaceMaker, whose name is Peace.
* al-Hadi, the Guide, who leads believers in the straight path.
* al-Nur, the Light, illuminating both earth and heaven.
The Structure of Arabic Names
There is a logical structure to the Arab naming, often used in the Middle East, which makes it possible to understand a person’s recent ancestry. For example… an individual’s name is Hamid bin Muhammad bin Abdul Al-Mansur. He is called Hamid by his friends and family. His family name is Al-Mansur. What does bin Muhammad bin Abdul mean? This means that he is the son of Muhammad who is, in turn, the son of Abdul. Bin means “son of”. The entire name indicates his given name, his father’s name and his grandfather’s name, plus the family name.
The meaning of the name of Muhammad is “He who is worthy of praise”. It is estimated that more than 15 million people in the world bear the name Muhammad. This name also has many variants- Ahmed, Mahmoud, and so forth. If one also counts all those who use it as a middle or family name, the number rises to perhaps more than 60 million people. This makes it one of the most used names in the world, if not the most used.
Women’s Arabic Names
The names of Muslim women are similarly significant. When being introduced to a Muslim woman it is a well-received and a polite gesture to enquire the meaning of her name. A woman will almost always be able to tell you and will appreciate your interest. An enthusiastic conversation will often follow! A woman may be named after a significant and important Muslim character such as Amina, who was Muhammad’s mother, or Fatima, who was Muhammad’s daughter. A woman is also commonly named after an honoured character trait such as the name Djamila, which means beautiful.
Praying by Name
Let us cite the people by name specifically before the Lord in prayer, “Lord, remember the ones who are named Muhammad, etc.! May Your kingdom come in their lives!” There are literally millions of people around the world who have the names listed on this page. Perhaps you can think of many more Muslims by name. Pray for their salvation. Some common Muslim names include: Hassan, Hussein, Ali, Jabbar, Aziz, Rachid, Mahmoud, Abdul, Mehmet, Khalid, Safir, Safira, Fatima, Fatiha, Akila, Rachida, Halima, Djamila, Amina, Khadija, Bassem.