FAITH, MOTHERHOOD

Choosing A Muslim Baby Name

 

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Every year BabyCentre comes out with a list of the top 100 baby names, I tried to find the ‘Muslimy’ version of this and they happen to have a post detailing the top 10  baby names  among Muslim parents around the world. And apparently, by around the world, they mean ‘Arab countries’, Malaysia and India.  Still, when you are in ‘looking for baby names mode’ any  list is fair game!

Choosing a name for your Muslim child,  in a predominantly non-Muslim country brings up its own issues. However, we are blessed to be in this position a third time and baby name searching has commenced!  I’d love to see a list of the top 100 Muslim baby names in the UK or the USA … If anyone knows of one do share in the comments!

So do you try to go for names that easily blend in like Adam, or Rayaan  or do you go for the classical ones? I like a mix of both. The classically traditional ones which are also familiar to the ear of most people living here in the West. For boys, the names of most of the Prophets mentioned in the Quran fit into that category.

6 years ago, when I was expecting our first baby (a boy) choosing a name was super simple. All the traditional prophetic names seemed so noble and majestic and there is something I totally love about the fact that there is a version of most of these names in all three Abrahamic faiths.  ‘Biblical names’ they call them here. So choosing a ‘Prophetic name’ was a no brainer.

One day while I was making dua for a boy who would be ‘soft hearted and strong hearted’ and for a son who would be the ‘best of sons’, I suddenly thought of a prophet, who is often mentioned in the Quran, a prophet who was truly the best of sons and whose story is the cornerstone of our faith. The Prophet I was thinking of, of course was Ismail or Ishmael. That was it. The name just entered my heart and settled in around the little boy who was still in my womb. It was an amazing feeling. To ‘know’ my baby’s name. I felt no trepidation at all in telling my husband (!) parents and relatives that I had decided on the name myself and there would be no need for further suggestions!

It was lovely, I still have emails from my dad asking me about the baby by name, months before he was born. ‘How’s Ismail doing?’ He would write.

Second time around it was the complete opposite. Why are Muslim girl’s names so much harder to choose than boys names? I was stuck. It was so hard. My husband and, the then three year old, Ismail advocated for the name Ayesha from the start. But I was adamant on finding a more ‘unique’ one. Evidently, it mattered to me that her name should not be so ‘popular’ (and by popular I meant common!). I made and read so many lists but nothing fitted. I guess I was waiting for that same experience I had with Ismail, but my little girl was already teaching me that she was not the same as her brother. She was her own person and whatever name we gave her she would make it her own ~ truly in the end I couldn’t come up with a more strong, intelligent and fiesty namesake than Hazrat Ai’sha (RA).

As for the third time round … there will be other considerations, like should the name ‘match’ the sibling names or not? My parent’s took some poetic licence and named my first 2 sisters and I real ‘matching matching’ names ~ all of them three-syllabic rhyming names beginning with ‘S’ !  #pro-tip from my dad : Don’t name your kids with names all starting from the same letter of the alphabet! It makes letters from doctors appointments and banks ect a nighmare (in deciphering the correct recipient – we would have three of everything addresses to a ‘Miss. S.Teli’ ) Fourth time round they chose a name beginning with Z instead. It’s never too late to learn! Right?!

How did you choose your baby’s name? Do you care if your child’s name is popular?

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27 Comments

  • Reply Lizzy November 25, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I’m wondering why Muslims feel the need to use Arabic names, even if they can’t even pronounce them properly, and even if there are perfectly nice English versions available. For example, why not call your son Jacob rather than Yaqoob? Or Isaac rather than Ishaaq?

    In fact, why not call your child whatever name you want, in any language? Why does it have to be Arabic? Can’t any name that has a good meaning be a Muslim name? Why can’t a Muslim call their child Elizabeth (God is my oath) or John (God is gracious) or Arthur (noble, courageous?).

    • Reply Zinjy November 26, 2016 at 7:23 am

      It’s true any name with a good meaning is suitable 🙂 my name is not Arabic in fact. I think many non-Arabic speakers assume it is since they do not know the origin, however. Some choose names related to their family tradition however (in my case, my son’s father’s side of the family does speak Arabic, though I still chose a name that I can pronounce). Some might also choose Arabic names or names of prophets due to their significance in the history of Islam. Even for non-Arab muslims (which make up the majority of muslims), the Arabic language holds special signficance since it is the language in which the Qur’an was revealed.

  • Reply Nur Chew October 18, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    Msy-Allah! I can totally appreciate the feelings of all the parents who left their comments… Our journey was similar! We wanted Arabic names that was relatively easy to pronounce for non- arab speakers and one where we hope there would be no shortening (till today I insist on my family calling my children by their proper names and not shortened out of convenience). For everytime the child is called out in his or her full name, it is a doa for the child. And yes, we asked Allah for inspiration and each child’s names (first and middle) somehow fitted their characteristics and we pray that they live up to their names. First born was named Nabihah (meaning intelligent or someone of a noble character) Raiedah (a leader). My second was named after our beloved Prophet Muhmmad as I wanted him to be clear of his identity as foremost a Muslim. His second name is Yusuf and like most of the sisters, it was THE name that hovered in my heart and my husband and I instantly agreed when we saw Yusuf for the first time. For our last daughter, we wanted the same initials as her sister and reflecting our wish and hope for the third to be someone who will be the “Helper”‘ (Nasirah) in the family. And her second name reflects our gratitude to Allah (swt) for His Mercy (Rahmah). I hope you will be inspired too for your third child!

  • Reply Alice September 23, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    What fun, choosing your baby’s name!!! Choosing a Muslim name for a baby with parents from two different cultures and ethnicities was a fun challenge for us. Like others we wanted a name that would be simple but different, easy to pronounce but interesting, and positive associations. It needed to ‘fit’. We chose our boys name when we first met- Zakariya. I loved the name but I do sometimes find that zak sounds too harsh for our lovely gentle boy. His second name, Suleiman, brings back memories of lovely friends. We thought we had our daughter’s name sorted early on in our pregnancy because we both spontaneously said the same name as our preferred choice….. well we thought we had!!!! A similar pronunciation of two different names meant that for months we thought we had it sorted. But no and in the end she became Safiya rather than Sofiya. Her second name is the Islamic form of my middle name- Mary becomes Maryam. So in the end we have two beautiful children and their names just seem to be one very small part of who they are but I guess it’s one of the first decisions we make on the parenting road.

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:04 am

      Alice,that is so funny re the name mixup! I think ‘Safiya Maryam’ is a gorgeous name!

  • Reply Shaista September 20, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Ruqaya, Inayah, rhymes with Sumaya 😉

  • Reply Beenish September 20, 2016 at 2:33 am

    Maryam has been and will always be my all time favorite and hence no surprise that this name came naturally to me with no questions asked for my first born . I could literally write a whole essay how this name is so special and how it soothes , pacifies and comforts me .
    Aisha was my husbands choice and I agreed since my grand mother may Allah give her jannat ul firdous was named Aisha and she always gave blessing that I be blessed with a good husband and children .
    Lastly Rahmah is my understanding of my lord my Allah as he begins his book with verses that talk about the vastness of his mercy and that he is the source of all mercy and even though his mercy is evident everywhere it was in particular for that pregnancy and alhamdullilah Since she was born she has lived true to that name .besides Rahm is more than just mercy there is no word in English that would appropriately describe it but I could just say that it is an attribute of Allah love and mercy that makes the womb ties.

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Beenish, your coment made me tear up! mashaAllah for such daughters!

    • Reply Omar Tariq July 15, 2017 at 9:50 am

      MashaaAllah sister I named my daughter Maryam. She was born 4 days ago. People keep confusing me saying Islamic name should check the moon and islamic dates and this and that. I was confuse but I have a strong belief that there is no harm in Naming your daughter Maryam because Maryam is the name of the most Pious woman ever stepped on this face of the earth and Naming after such a Great Woman will not harm the baby. My great grand mother’s name was also Maryam… After reading you comment it made me more proud and I felt more comfortable… thanks…Please let me know your thoughts…

  • Reply Ayesha September 20, 2016 at 12:33 am

    I am a firm believer in names being destined for each person. My kids names are not unique but I think they are perfect fir each one of them.
    In India it is not very common to decide names for new borns beforehand. You do shortlist some names but they are finalised only after the baby comes. At the time of naming my first born my mother in law offered me to choose between Yusuf and Yaseen. I had developed a special affinity to the name Yusuf may be because I used to read the surah almost every day and it sounded perfect on him. Alhamdulillah, Yaseen came too when second time I was blessed with twin boys. This time Yaseen seemed very appropriate. The other one was named Muaz after much deliberation but alhamdulillah he suits it very much. By the third time I was very desperate for a girl, as it was my last chance. This time we had decided on names as soon as I conceived 😄 If it is a girl it will be Maryam. And of it’s another boy we would name him Bilal. Alhamdulillah Maryam came and completed our family and we couldn’t even imagine any other name for her. 💕
    It was very cute when Muaz was younger he used to ask me why isn’t there a surah Muaz?!
    Alhamdulillah he is past that age now and understands that he is named after a great Companion of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam.

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Haha that’s cute “why isn’t there a surah Muaz?”!

  • Reply Mariam September 19, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    With my first one-it was totally my hubby naming my boy, which sometimes even annoys me now! Saad is a beautiful name, meaning ‘blessed’ one but still I wanted something purely Islamic and so I named my second one, Ibrahim:)

    If my brother hadn’t been named Ahmad- that would have been my other choice. And then, Omar is another name that always always seems so powerful and glorious to me:)

    Among girlie names, Anaya is very cute. I like the sound of Abeer as well:)

  • Reply Khadiza Millie September 19, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    I had a dream when I was expecting my first alhamdulillah. I dreamt that I called him Ishaaq. Fell in love with the name..all the names of the prophets are beautiful but loved the name Ishaaq more after I knew I was going to call my baby it. I didn’t find out the sex but knew in my heart and from the dream that I would have a baby boy. Now that I’m expecting again I wish allah would show me another dream!! I didn’t find out the sex again and have mixed feelings. Finding it really hard to decide on a girls name too!

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:14 am

      Amazing story mshaAllah! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you did have a dream again?! I dreamt I would have a girl when I ended up having a boy and vice versa when I had my Little girl! This time I haven’t had any dreams with regard to gender.

  • Reply Huma September 19, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    I had thought of my children’s name when I was a teenager .
    My first one a girl , It had to be fatimah coz I wanted the ‘ best daughter ‘ name for her n wot better than fatimah .
    Second one , ‘ the best male ‘ name and wot better than the name of our beloved prophet Muhamad .
    Third one was a bit difficult , but one at I heard the story of Maryam AS, her purity , the only female who had a Surah dedicated to her … so that was it … the third one was called Maryam n the best part was that she was born on the’ 19th ‘ and Surah Maryam is the19th Surah in the Quran .
    Alhamdulilah !!
    If I had more kids I wud love to name them ibraheem and Ismael … may be they will be my grandchildren in future inshaAllah

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Huma you are one of those who had baby names ‘picked’ out when you were a teen! It’s actually embarrassing if I tell you what name I was obsessed with when I was around 13 – ‘Mumtaz Mehal’ I know ! haha and yes the “mehal” part was important. I’m glad I changed my mind later.

  • Reply Aiysha September 19, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    Love this Sumaya <3 Although I do have some thoughts about Aiysha being a "common" name - I prefer to think of it as a classic! I also enjoyed reading all the comments, what wonderful thoughts and stories.

    It was really important to me that we give our children names which were NOT easy to pronounce to those whose first language was english. This is something I felt strongly about even before I had children. I could never really articulate why it was so important to me, I just knew that a “not easy” name would be something that would ultimately help them and support them.

    Then, a few years ago, I read this quote by poet Warsan Shire, and it was as if she had given words to my innermost sense – that my children’s names would be gifts by which to assess the integrity of the people they would meet throughout their lives:

    “Give your daughters difficult names.
    Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue.
    My name makes you want to tell me the truth.
    My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”
    Warsan Shire

    I am curious to know if anyone else ever considered names in this same way?

    • Reply Zinjy September 19, 2016 at 11:43 pm

      I guess I see a difference between unusual/”difficult” names vs. names that are actually hard to pronounce in the local language. My given name is very unusual and everybody pronounces it wrong, not because the sounds are difficult to make but because it’s unusual. I do not mind this and I like having an unusual name. When I was considering names that could be pronounced by English speakers, it wasn’t so much the unusual/difficult aspect as being able to actually say the letters. I myself am a native English speaker, and so are my family members (and the child being named),and there are some letters in Arabic Islamic names that I considered which I know I can’t pronounce correctly, and which would be a problem for others to pronounce correctly as well (especially if I can’t even model it right). I think it would be different if the name included sounds that were part of my native language (my given name isn’t English, but it doesn’t include sounds that aren’t used in English). I did end up giving my son an Arabic name, but one that is relatively easy for English speakers to approximate. I’m also aware that a native Arabic speaker would probably consider me to be pronouncing it incorrectly, however, it’s still closer than I am able to do with some other Arabic letters.

      • Reply Ayesha September 20, 2016 at 12:53 am

        I think there are a few names which even though common, feel unique on each person. Major examples I can sight are Ayesha and Sumaiya in girls and Muhammad and Omer in boys names. Not saying it because it’s my name but every Ayesha I came across is different from other. Similarly Sumaiya is my younger sister. I know three other Sumaiyas and each one of them is unique. The names even though same feel different on each one of them. Whereas in the case of Yusuf I have found most of them are similar in nature. Kind, calm, soft hearted. So I think it’s part own personality and part the effect of the name that makes one stand out.

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:19 am

      OOPS! Sorry, Of course I meant ‘Classic’! 🙂

  • Reply Zinjy September 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I *love* the names Aisha and Ishmael/Ismael 😀 If I ever had two other kids, these might well end up being their names! The first was my nickname for a while because I loved it so much (though like you, I eventually dropped it because of ‘commonness’ since my original name is more unique and I knew several Aishas! But that doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful name. I first heard it in the song of the same name by Khaled and loved it). However, it was ‘off the table’ as a female backup name when I was pregnant with my son as a result, and I also really did have hard time coming up with girl names! (My name was set if it was a boy… I had a dream about having a baby with his name many years before and became set on it!). My son’s name is common in the muslim world but not around here, so I don’t mind that. I think it’s okay for a boy to have a more “common” name, but I felt like I needed a unique name if I picked a girl name :D. My criteria also included: Easy to pronounce by English speakers and doesn’t sound like something bad in English, not the name of anybody I have known with negative associations, good meaning, looks nice written, fits with other names (in family, also middle/last name). I also admit that having an Islamic association in the name was significant for me especially for a boy (I got some pushback on this…). I got a muslim baby names book for inspiration as well, though I can’t find a link to it anymore.

    • Reply Sumaya October 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

      Oh yeah that song by Cheb Khalid!Love it!Funnily enough there are other songs where the name Aiysha is mentioned… I think there is a bollywood song as well!

  • Reply Ranya September 19, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Salaam,
    Agreed! Choosing the ‘perfect’ name for your child can become challenging. Being pregnant with my 1st son, I desperately wanted a ‘unique’ and meaningful name for him. Quickly realizing how growing up in the states with an uncommon name was ‘torture’. Kids can be cruel & constantly poked fun at me. I remember how embarrassed I was when my name was called out loud in class. My name was botched 100 different ways. I would ask my parents “what were you thinking to name me that!?”. But as I got older, I’ve learned to appreciate & LOVE my name (Ranya). But I didn’t want my little ones to experience the same, so we decided on two beautiful unique names(in their own special way). While being mindful of our beautiful religion. So we chose Yacoub & Aadam. And I’m hoping they will never be shameful by it. Good Luck! Whatever name you choose will be a blessing from Allah (SWT). Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Tasneem Casker May 24, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Salaam Ranya

      what does your name mean? is it Arabic?

      shukran so much
      Tasneem

  • Reply Alice September 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Wonderful names you picked for your children!
    I never looked at lists, and my husband and I were not necessarily looking for a name that would ‘blend’ but for something that we liked and would reflect something we care about. From the very beginning of our marriage, way before I was even pregnant and before we knew where we were going to settle (we were both students at the time in a country that was not home to either of us), we would refer to our future son as Hamza. I had met a very sweet Somali little boy years earlier and his name reminded me of his soft heart. After reading the sira of our Prophet and the story of Hamza, the name came to reflect also strength and courage in my mind, and I liked it even more! My husband agreed and now we have our little sweet Hamza who will be growing into a strong and soft-hearted man inshaAllah.
    Thank you for your post!

  • Reply Humera September 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Love this post and I love your kids’ names, I’m sure you’re going to come up with another gem for the 3rd!

    We had such a hard time choosing all 3 kids names. I really wanted a traditional name but I have 2 or more Ayeshas, Mariams, Zainabs, Fatima etc in my family and friends circle.

    Adnan and I named Izzah together, our freind suggested it and we loved how unique it was. It was also on a list my MIL sent us when we asked her for suggestions.

    Then Adnan named Aman and said “he will bring peace to Pakistan.” I was very iffy about it at first because the name has become so associated with Indian movie heroes but now I love it.

    The poor 3rd child wasn’t named for 2 days because we just couldn’t really agree on anything. I completely agree on how hard it is to find a Muslim girl name!

    Then my cousin suggested Anaya and it stuck! I do wish sometimes it wasn’t such a common name and was as unique as the other two names, but it definitely suits my Anaya.

  • Reply Shaheen Qadri September 19, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    When I was expecting my first baby, like everyone else I was browsing the online ” top Muslim baby names ” and refreshing the icon every time with the hope that a new, unique, delightful n easy to blend in east-west culture Muslim name will pop up. I guess I am one of those moms who wanted ” an unique yet meaningful Muslim name” for my child. Suggestions from everyone were into consideration. Shortlisted couple male n female names ( as I didn’t know the sex of the baby) , but none seemed so thrilling n exciting ( Honestly-No idea what I was looking for ). My sister-in-law mailed me couple Muslim Baby Name books. As I open a random page from one book, my eyes were delighted as I had found my baby’s name. A unique name with a thrilling n soothing meaning, I immediately opened the Quran n I found the name in one of the great Suras, never heard that name before and there was my baby’s name and a feeling that Allah has blessed me with my baby girl. Alhamdulillah she is Noor of my eyes with the perfect name that fits her character and personality so well.

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