Question # 235: Can we give names like Ghulam Muhammad to our kids?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: The following category of names are haraam (forbidden) to use:

  • Any name which belongs only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) unless it is preceded by Abd (servant) such as Abd-us-Samad and Abd-ul-Jabbaar.
  • Any name which befits no one except the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), such as Sayyid Walad Adam (master of the sons of Adam), Sayyid al-Naas (master of mankind), Sayyid al-Kull (master of all).
  • Any name which implies enslavement to anything besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) like ‘Abd al-‘Uzza (slave of al-‘Uzza – a pagan goddess), ‘Abd al-Ka’bah (slave of the Ka’bah), ‘Abd al-Daar (slave of the House), ‘Abd ‘Ali (slave of ‘Ali), ‘Abd al-Husayn, Ghulam Hussein (slave of Husayn), ‘Abd al-Rasool (slave of the Messenger), ‘Abd al-Nabi (slave of the Prophet) and ‘Abd al-Ameer (slave of the prince), Ghulam Nabi, Ghulam Muhammad, Ghulam Rasul, Ghulam Ahmad etc.
  • Names of idols that are worshipped instead of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
  • Names of devils (shayaateen), such as Khanzab, al-Walhaan, al-A’war and al-Ajda’.

The following category of names are makrooh (disliked) to use:

  • Names that have bad or distasteful meanings, or which sound odd, which would cause others to mock a person or would cause him embarrassment such as Harb (war), Rashaash (sprinkles or drizzle), and Hiyaam.
  • Names whose meanings are too soft and provocative or erotic.
  • Deliberately naming someone after promiscuous actors and singers.
  • Names that convey any sense of sin and disobedience to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) such as Saariq (thief), Zaalim (wrongdoer) and Asiyah (عَاصِيَةُ) (disobedient). [The Asiyah should not be confused with Asia (آسِيَةُ), wife of Pharaoh]
  • Foreign names belonging only to the disbelievers.
  • Names of Pharaohs or other tyrants such as such as Fir’awn (Pharaoh), Haamaan (the name of Pharaoh’s minister) and Qaaroon.
  • Names that have any undesirable or elite meaning like Rabah, Aflah [successful], Yasar, Najihi, Barrah.
  • Naming people after animals that are known for their bad qualities.
  • Names such as Noor al-Deen/Nuruddin, Diya’ al-Deen/Ziauddin, Shams al-Deen, Sayf al-Islam, Noor al-Islam, Shams al-Islam, Shihaab al-Deen and Dhahab al-Deen because of the great status attached to the words, al-Deen and Islam.
  • Adding word to the name of Allah except the word ‘Abd (slave) such as Hasab-Allah, Rahmat-Allah (the mercy of Allah).
  • Names which include the word al-Rasool (the Messenger).
  • Some scholars regard using the names of angels (peace be upon them) as makrooh. For further details, refer Question # 37.
  • Some scholars regard using the names of Soorahs of the Qur’an as makrooh, such as Ta-Ha, Yaa-Seen, Ha-Meem or even Basmalah.

The following are some of the categories of permitted and good names:

  • Names like ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan.
  • Names which express enslavement to and worship of Allah, such as ‘Abd al-Azeez, ‘Abd al-Raheem, ‘Abd al-Malik, ‘Abd al-Ilaah, ‘Abd al-Salaam.
  • Names of Prophets and Messengers (عليه السلام).
  • Names of righteous slaves of Allah, above all the companions of our noble Prophet (both male and female).
  • Names which do not apply only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and which may be applied to human beings, so it is permissible to call people by them, such as Samee’ (hearing), Baseer (seeing), ‘Aliy (high, exalted), Hakeem (wise), Rasheed (wise), al-‘Aliy (high, exalted), al-Kabeer (great), al-Rasheed (wise), al-Badee’ (innovator or originator).
  • Any other good name which has a proper and pleasant meaning. 

Long Answer: There are certain names which are haraam (forbidden) to use, examples of which are as follows:

  1. Any name which belongs only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), such as al-Khaaliq (the Creator) and al-Quddoos (the Most Holy), [al-Rahmaan (the Most Merciful)] or names which do not befit any except Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), such as Malik al-Mulook (King of Kings). This is the consensus of the fuqaha’.

Ibn al-Qayyim said that names which belong only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) include: al-Ahad (the One), al-Samad (the Eternal), al-Khaaliq (the Creator), al-Razzaaq (the Provider), al-Jabbaar (the Compeller), al-Mutakabbir (the Majestic), al-Awwal (the First), al-Aakhir (the Last), al-Baatin (the Hidden) and ‘Allaam al-Ghuyoob (the Knower of the Unseen). (Tuhfat al-Mawdood)

The evidence that it is forbidden to call anyone by a name which belongs only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), such as Malik al-Mulook (king of kings), may be seen for example in the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه); in the version narrated by al-Bukhari, he said: “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: ‘The most despised name with Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be a man called Malik al-Mulook.’” According to Muslim, he said, “The man who will most deserving of Allah’s anger and most evil on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who was called Malik al-Amlaak. There is no King except Allah.”

  1. Any name which befits no one except the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), such as Sayyid Walad Adam (master of the sons of Adam), Sayyid al-Naas (master of mankind), Sayyid al-Kull (master of all), because these names, as the Hanbalis said, befit no one except him, (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
  1. Any name which implies enslavement to anything besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) such as ‘Abd al-‘Uzza (slave of al-‘Uzza – a pagan goddess), ‘Abd al-Ka’bah (slave of the Ka’bah), ‘Abd al-Daar (slave of the House), ‘Abd ‘Ali (slave of ‘Ali), ‘Abd al-Husayn (slave of Husayn), etc. It was stated in Haashiyat Ibn ‘Aabideen that one should not be called ‘Abd foolaan (slave of so-and-so). It says in Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’: “They (the scholars) agreed that every name which implies enslavement to anything other than Allah is forbidden, such as ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, ‘Abd ‘Amr, ‘Abd ‘Ali, ‘Abd al-Ka’bah, and any other similar names, such as ‘Abd al-Nabi (slave of the Prophet), ‘Abd al-Husayn, ‘Abd al-Maseeh (slave of the Messiah).” (Haashiyat Ibn ‘Aabideen; Mughni al-Muhtaaj; Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj; Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’; Tuhfat al-Mawdood)

[Other] names which express enslavement to or worship of anything other than Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) are ‘Abd al-Rasool (“slave of the Messenger”), ‘Abd al-Nabi (“slave of the Prophet”) and ‘Abd al-Ameer (slave of the prince) and other names [like Ghulam Nabi, Ghulam Muhammad, Ghulam Rasul, Ghulam Ahmad] which imply worship of or submission to anything other than Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).

The evidence that it is forbidden to use any name which implies enslavement to anything other than Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) may be seen in the report of Ibn Abi Shaybah from Yazeed ibn al-Miqdaam ibn Shurayh, from his father, from his grandfather Haani’ ibn Yazeed (رضي الله عنه) who said: “A delegation came to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and he heard them calling someone ‘Abd al-Hajar (slave of the stone). He asked him, ‘What is your name?” and he said, ‘‘Abd al-Hajar.’ He said, ‘No, you are ‘Abd-Allah (the slave of Allah).’” (Al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah)

The great Sahaabi ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn ‘Awf (رضي الله عنه) said: My name was ‘Abd ‘Amr – or according to one report, ‘Abd al-Ka’bah – and when I became Muslim, the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) called me ‘Abd al-Rahmaan. (Narrated by al-Haakim; Al-Dhahabi agreed with him)

  1. Names of idols that are worshipped instead of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
  1. Names of devils (shayaateen), such as Khanzab, al-Walhaan, al-A’war and al-Ajda’. It was reported that the Sunnah is to change names such as these.

There are certain names although not forbidden are makrooh (disliked) to use, examples of which are as follows:

  1. Names that have bad or distasteful meanings, or which sound odd, which would cause others to mock a person or would cause him embarrassment, in addition to being contrary to the guidance of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), who taught us to choose good names. Examples of such (objectionable) names include Harb (“war”), Rashaash (sprinkles or drizzle), and Hiyaam – which is the name of a disease suffered by camels.
  1. Names whose meanings are too soft and provocative or [erotic], which is a widespread problem in the naming of girls.
  1. Deliberately naming someone after promiscuous actors and singers who star in worthless entertainment shows.
  1. Names that convey any sense of sin and disobedience to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) such as Saariq (thief) or Zaalim (wrongdoer). It was narrated from Ibn Umar that: “a daughter of ‘Umar was Asiyah (disobedient) then the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) named her ‘Jamilah‘ (beautiful).” (Sunan Ibn Majah, Graded sahih) [The Asiyah should not be confused with Asia (آسِيَةُ), wife of Pharaoh]
  1. Foreign names belonging only to the kuffaar.
  1. Names of Pharaohs or other tyrants such as such as Fir’awn (Pharaoh), Haamaan (the name of Pharaoh’s minister) and Qaaroon.
  1. Names that have any undesirable [or elite] meaning.
  • Narrated Samurah bin Jundab: that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Do not name your boy Rabah, nor Aflah [successful], nor Yasar, nor Najih, so that it may be said: ‘Is he there?’ and it may be said: ‘No.'” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi, graded sahih)
  • Zainab’s original name was “Barrah [pious],” but it was said’ “By that she is giving herself the prestige of piety.” So the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) changed her name to Zainab. (Sahih al-Bukhari)
  • Muhammad b. ‘Amr b. ‘Ata said: “Zainab daughter of Abu Salamah asked him: Which name did you give to your daughter? He replied: Barrah. She said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) forbade giving this name. I was called Barrah but the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: Do not declare yourselves pure, for Allah knows best those of you who are obedient. He said: we asked; which name should we give her? He replied: Call her Zainab.” ( Sunan Abi Dawud; graded hasan sahih by Al-Albani)
  1. Naming people after animals that are known for their bad qualities. When the Arabs called their children by such names, it was because of good qualities that they noticed in them, and this was the desired meaning. So when they used the name Kalb (dog), it was because of the dog’s alertness and ability to work hard; when they used the name Himaar (donkey), it was because of the donkey’s patience and forbearance, and so on… This refutes the false arguments of the Shu’oobiyyah against the Arabs, as was explained by Ibn Durayd, Ibn Faaris, and others.
  1. Any name which is composed of any word added to such words as al-Deen (the Religion) or Islam, such as Noor al-Deen/Nuruddin (Light of the Religion), Diya’ al-Deen/Ziauddin (Brightness of the Religion), Shams al-Deen (sun of the religion), Sayf al-Islam (Sword of Islam), Noor al-Islam (Light of Islam), Shams al-Islam (sun of the Islam) etc. This is because of the great status attached to these words, al-Deen and Islam. Adding words to them to form names is an exaggeration which borders on lying, which is why some scholars said that this is haraam, and the majority say that it is makrooh, because it gives an incorrect impression which should not be given. The way this practice started was that these were titles which were added to people’s names, then people started to use them as names.

Names of this sort may be forbidden for two reasons. In a name such as Shihaab al-Deen, for example, the word Shihaab means a flame, which comes from fire, then this is added to the word al-Deen (which is inappropriate). This can lead to the use of strange names, as in Indonesia, where people use names such as Dhahab al-Deen (gold of the Religion) and Maas al-Deen (diamond of the Religion).

Imaam al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him), use to dislike being called by his nickname Muhiy al-Deen, and Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) used to dislike being called by his nickname Taqiy al-Deen, and he said, “But my family gave me this nickname, so I am known by it.”

  1. Adding any word to the name of Allah except the word ‘Abd (slave), as in ‘Abd-Allah (Abdullah). Example of this include Hasab-Allah, Rahmat-Allah (the mercy of Allah), etc.
  1. Names which include the word al-Rasool (the Messenger).
  1. Some of the scholars regarded using the names of angels (peace be upon them) as makrooh. Giving angels’ names to women is clearly haraam, because it implies imitation of the mushrikeen, who thought that the angels were the daughters of Allah. Exalted be He above what they say. For further details, refer Question # 37.
  1. Some of the scholars thought that it was makrooh to give people the names of Soorahs of the Qur’an, such as Ta-Ha, Yaa-Seen, Ha-Meem. These names are al-Huroof al-Muqatta’ah (letters which appear at the beginning of some soorahs; their meaning is known only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)). (See Tuhfat al-Mawdood by Ibn al-Qayyim) (The popular notion that Ya-Seen and Ta-Ha are names of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is not correct).

Some of the People of Knowledge have disliked that a baby be named, Basmalah (The appellation of the phrase, Bismillah, meaning, “In the Name of Allah”) because it is a means of exposing this noble sign to degradation, should the girl, for instance, be subject to insult or defamation. For that reason, scholars have prohibited anyone to bear any of the names of the Qur’an or its chapters, as Ibn ul-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) decided in Tuhfat al-Mawdoud bi Ahkam al-Mawloud. (Dr.Salah Al-Sawy, the Secretary General for the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America)

In either case, the person who has done this must hasten to repent, and changing the name is a condition of repentance.

The following are some of the categories of permitted and good names:

  1. Names like ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan. It was reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “The most beloved of names to Allah are ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan.” (Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh)
  1. Names which express enslavement to and worship of Allah, such as ‘Abd al-Azeez, ‘Abd al-Raheem, ‘Abd al-Malik, ‘Abd al-Ilaah, ‘Abd al-Salaam, etc.
  1. Names of Prophets and Messengers (عليه السلام). Undoubtedly the best and greatest of them is our Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم); the name Ahmad is also one of his names. Next come the names of the “Messengers of strong will” [cf. Al-Ahqaaf], namely Ibrahim, Moosa, ‘Eesa and Nooh (عليه السلام), then the rest of the Prophets (عليه السلام).
  1. Names of righteous slaves of Allah, above all the companions of our noble Prophet (both male and female). It is mustahabb to use their names, following their example and hoping to reach a higher status.
  1. Names which do not apply only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and which may be applied to human beings, so it is permissible to call people by them, such as Samee’ (hearing), Baseer (seeing), ‘Aliy (high, exalted), Hakeem (wise), Rasheed (wise). Some of the most well-known Sahaabah were called by these names, such as ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib and Hakeem ibn Hizaam (رضي الله عنه). Some Hanafi fuqaha’ confirmed that when they said: Calling people by names of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) which are found in the book of Allah, such as al-‘Aliy (high, exalted), al-Kabeer (great), al-Rasheed (wise), al-Badee’ (innovator or originator), is permissible, because they are names that may be shared by Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and people, but their meaning when used for people is different from their meaning when used for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) (Bareeqah Mahmoudiyyah quoting from al-Tatarkhaaniyyah) Hence, there is nothing wrong with calling a person named ‘Abd al-Hakeem by the name “Hakeem”, as it is one of the names which it is permissible to give to people, and it does not belong only to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).
  1. Any other good name which has a proper and pleasant meaning.

It is good to pay attention to a number of matters when giving names to our children, including the following:

  1. Recognizing the fact that this name will stay with the person for his entire lifetime, and it could cause some embarrassment or problems for him which in turn could make him feel badly towards his father, mother or whoever gave him this name.
  1. When looking at names in order to choose one, we should look at it from a number of angles. We should look at the name itself, and also think of how it will sound when this person is a child, a youth, an adult, an old man and a father, and how it will suit his father to be called “Abu” (Father of) So and so, and how it will suit his son to be called Son and so son of So and so, etc.
  1. [Since the husband is entitled to wilayat ul-nafs (general custodianship), of which naming the child is a part,] choosing the name is the right of the father, because he is the one after whom the child will be named (son of, or daughter of…). But it is mustahabb for the father to involve the mother in the decision and to ask for her opinion as to whether she thinks the name is good, so that she will feel happy.
  1. The child must be named after his father even if the father is deceased or divorced, etc., even if he does not take care of the child or see him at all. It is utterly haraam to name a child after anyone other than his father, except in one case, which is when the child is born as the result of adultery (Allah forbid). In this case the child should be named after his mother and it is not permissible to name him after his father.

(Most part of the above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid on the topic, unless stated otherwise)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam