Naming a Muslim Child
Muslims are encouraged to give their children meaningful and suitable names, reflecting good qualities and virtues. The child's name does not necessarily have to be Arabic in origin, as long as the meaning of the name is appropriate and the name itself does not subject the child to ridicule.
In Muslim families, parents often choose a single first name for the newborn child. A child may then have several standard middle names that indicate the family's lineage: the name of the father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on. The family surname (or historically, the tribal name) comes at the end.
The words bint (daughter of) or ibn (son of) may also be included somewhere in the name to denote relationship. Thus, a girl named Haifa bint Abdullah Al-Ashari is Haifa, the daughter of Abdullah (her father's name), of the tribe or family called Al-Ashari.
This system of naming a child after the father is not very different from the traditional English naming system. Historically, a person named Timothy, who was the son of John, became known as “Timothy, John's son,” and later simply “Timothy Johnson.” Similarly, over time the historical bint or ibn has been generally removed from Arabic names, so the family ancestral names read simply like a long series of middle names.
It is forbidden in Islam to give one's child a name that is dishonorable, such as “ugly” or “dirty.” Muhammad changed one person's name from Harb (war) to Silm (peace), and another person's name from 'Asiyah (tough or hard) to Jamilah (beautiful).
Muslims are forbidden from calling their children names that denote worship of something or someone other than Allah. In ancient Arabia, it was common for people to be named Sun-worshiper and the like; Muhammad changed their names to more appropriate ones once they embraced Islam. Any names that show reverence to false gods are forbidden.
It is also forbidden for Muslims to give their children names that are befitting of Allah alone. Muslims must refrain from names such as Al-Khaliq (the Creator) or Malik al-Mulook (King of Kings), as these should be used to describe only Allah.
The most honorable names in Islam are those that denote worship of Allah. Other common names may reflect the character of previous prophets or valuable Islamic virtues. Muhammad used to recommend that Muslims name their sons Abdullah (worshiper of Allah) or Abdel-Rahman (worshiper of the Most Merciful). Indeed, the prefix “Abd” can be attached to any of the names or attributes of Allah to mean, for example, “Worshiper of the Mighty” (Abdel-Aziz) or “Worshiper of the Truth” (Abdel-Haqq).
Does a Muslim convert have to change his or her name?
Only if the name has an offensive meaning. Many new Muslims keep their given names, some change them, and others take on Islamic “nicknames” by which they are known among their Muslim family and friends. Converts to Islam should always retain their family surname, as it indicates lineage.
Muslims often name their children after previous prophets, as well as after the companions of the Prophet Muhammad or other members of the earliest Muslim community. Muhammad is the most common example, but Muslims also name their children Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus), Ibrahim (Abraham), and Yahya (John the Baptist), among others.
It is common to name girls after well-known women in history, including Maryam (Mary, mother of Jesus) and Khadijah (the first wife of Muhammad). Many girls are also named for values and virtues that are respected in Islam, such as Hanan (mercy), Farah (cheerfulness), and Amina (trustworthiness).