New Names

Question

Nowadays there is a growing trend of choosing new names. What is the preferable method of keeping names? Please can you answer in light of the Qurʾān and Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.

Answer

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily, you will be called on the Day of Resurrection by your names and the names of your fathers, so choose good names for yourselves” (Sunan Abū Dāwūd, 4948; Musnad Aḥmad, 21693). The Prophet ﷺ said, “Name by the names of the Prophets, and the most beloved names to Allāh are ʿAbd Allah (servant of Allah) and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (servant of the Most Beneficent), and the most truthful names are Ḥārith and Hammām, and the worst names are Ḥarb (war) and Murrah (bitter)” (Sunan Abū Dāwūd, 4950; Musnad Aḥmad, 19032; al-Adab al-Mufrad, 814).

Names have an impact on a person’s life as well as the lives of descendants. The famous tabiʿī Saʿīd ibn al-Musayyib (d. 94/712-3) narrates that when his grandfather Ḥaẓn (rugged land) [n.d.] visited the Prophet ﷺ, he asked, “What is your name?” He said, “Ḥazn.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “[Rather] you are Sahl (smooth land, pleasant, easy).” He said, “I will not change the name with which my father named me.” Ibn al-Musayyib says, “So we have had harshness ever since” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 6190).

Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ changed the names of several other companions. For example, the original name of the mother of believers Zaynab (d. 20/640-1) (may Allah be pleased with her) was Barrah, but it was said that by that she is giving herself the prestige of piety. So the Prophet ﷺ changed her name to Zaynab (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 6192).

Therefore, when deciding to name a child, it is preferable to choose the name of a Prophet or a companion or a pious person or a name that has a meaning of servitude. One should avoid searching for new names not least because some new names have a negative meaning or no relevant meaning.

Allah knows best

Yusuf Shabbir

28 Muḥarram 1428 / 15 February 2007