Children are gifts from Allaah, a blessing that He bestows upon the parents, and He has enjoined many duties towards them, which start with choosing a good name that he will carry throughout his life.
al-Mawardi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his book Naseehat al-Mulook (p. 167):
When the child is born, one of the first ways in which he is to be honoured is by giving him a good name, because a good name will have a good impact on the heart when it is first heard. End quote.
There follows some advice which it would be good to think about before choosing a name.
1 – It is not recommended to adhere to all the names of male and female Sahaabah, because some of their names were known and accepted in their society, but would be strange in other societies.
Al-Mawardi mentioned something in the book quoted above about that which is recommended when choosing names, which is:
That the name should have a good meaning and be appropriate for the one who is so called, and it should be common among people of his class and community. End quote.
The parents should choose a good name for their child, and it should not be weird or odd in the society in which they live, because having an odd name may cause the name or its owner to be made fun of, and he may feel too shy to mention his name before people.
The one who wants to choose a name like that of the Sahaabah, Prophets or righteous people should choose a name that suits him and suits his society and people.
2 – Non-Arabs do not have to give their children Arabic names. What is required is to avoid names that are used only by the followers of other religions and which are usually used by the followers of those religions, such as George, Peter, John and so on. It is not permissible for Muslims to use these names, because that is imitating the Christians in the names that belong uniquely to them. End quote from Ahkaam Ahl al-Dhimmah by Ibn al-Qayyim (3/251).
But if the non-Arabic name has a good meaning, there is nothing wrong with using it and giving it to one’s child. The Messengers and Prophets (peace be upon them) had good names and gave good names to their children, which they took from their customs and traditions, and they did not stick to Arabic names. Examples include Israa’eel (Israel), Ishaaq (Isaac), Moosa (Moses) and Haroon (Aaron).
3 – One should avoid ugly names or those that praise their owners. Al-Tabari (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, as quoted by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Baari (10/577):
One should not use names that have ugly meanings, or names that imply praise of a person, or names that have insulting meanings, even though names are just markers for people and are not intended to be a description of them. The reason why this is disliked is that when a person hears the name, he will think that it is describing the person named. Hence the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) changed names to something which, if the person was called by it, was true.
Among the female names that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) disliked was the name ‘Aasiyah (meaning disobedient), which he changed to Jameelah (beautiful), as was narrated by Muslim (2139).
Other disliked named which are widespread in some Muslim countries are names which include the words al-Deen (or uddin/uddeen) and al-Islam, such as Noor al-Deen and ‘Imaad al-Deen or Noor al-Islam and so on. These names are disliked by the scholars for both males and females, because they suggest exaggerated praise of their owners.
Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd (may Allaah preserve him) said:
That is because of the high status of these two words, al-Deen (the religion, the faith) and al-Islam. Forming names that include these words implies a false claim that is almost a lie. Hence some of the scholars stated that they are haraam, but the majority are of the view that they are makrooh, because some of them suggest meanings that are incorrect and cannot be applied to a person. Initially they were titles that were added to names, then they started to be used as names. End quote. Tasmiyat al-Wulood (p. 22).
4 – With regard to female names, it is essential to avoid names that carry meanings that provoke desire, such as Fitnah or Faatin (meaning tempting) or Naahid or Naahidah (which means one whose breasts are prominent).
It is also essential to avoid giving females the names of angels, because that is an imitation of the mushrikeen who thought that the angels were the daughters of Allaah.
Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd (may Allaah preserve him) said:
With regard to giving girls the names of angels, it seems that this is haraam, because it is an imitation of the mushrikeen who regarded the angels as daughters of Allaah, exalted be Allaah above what they say. Similar to this – i.e., in that it is haraam – is calling a girl Malaak or Malakah (meaning angel). End quote from Tasmiyat al-Mawlood (p. 24).
With regard to permissible names that may be suggested, there are many of them and we cannot list them all, but we will mention some of them:
Aaminah – means one who has peace of mind and is not afraid
Shayma’ – a woman of virtue
Arwa – feminine of wa’l (mountain goat), meaning beautiful and radiant
‘Aa’ishah – one who is alive
Asma’ – it was said that it is derived from wasaamah (elegance) or from samw which means loftiness or eminence
Reem – a gazelle which is very white
‘Aaliyah – derived from words meaning high status and eminence
Juwayriyah – the name of one of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
Rahmah – mercy, kindness, compassion
Basmah – smile, an expression of happiness
Razaan – dignity among women
‘Afaaf – derived from ‘iffah, meaning chastity, purity
Zaynab – a tree with a good scent
Saarah – brings joy to one’s hearts
Maymoonah – a blessed woman
Raaniyah – one with a fixed gaze
Su’aad – guidance, good fortune, blessings; the opposite of misery
Maryam – a Hebrew name meaning exalted or mistress of the sea
Salma – a slender woman, also derived from salaamah (security)
Noorah – light
Sumayyah – sound and of high status
Haajir – good and superior to others
And Allaah knows best.