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The Fiqh of Naming Children

from "Al-Minhaj Al-Qawim `ala al-Muqaddimah al-Hadramiyyah"
(a standard text of the Shafi`i school)

It is sunnah to keep a good name, and the best of names are Abdullah (Slave of Allah) and AbdulRahman (Slave of the Most Merciful); and the most truthful are al-Haarith (Productive) and Humaam (Active); and the worst are Harb (War) and Murrah (Bitter).
["The most beloved of names to Allah (the Exalted the Majestic) are Abdullah and AbdulRahman." -reported by Muslim. Abu Dawud added: "and the most truthful are al-Haarith and Humaam, and the worst are Harb and Murrah."]

And bad names, and those which signify bad things by their absence, are makrooh (disliked), such as NujayH (Successful), Barakah (Blessing), Kulayb (Dog), Harb (War), Murrah (Bitter), Shihab (Meteor), Himar (Donkey), AflaH (Most Successful), Yasaar (Ease), RabaaH (Profit) and Naafi` (Beneficial), and names like Sittun-nisaa (Lady of all ladies) are more reprehensible. And 'King of Kings' is forbidden, as is 'Shahenshah', and AqDal-quDaat (judge of judges).

And it is mandoob (preferred) to change bad names and those which signify bad things by their absence. And it is mandoob for a man's son, pupil and servant not to call him by his name, and that good people (men and women) should have kunyahs, even if they don't have sons, and that the kunyah is according to the eldest son; and it is forbidden (Haraam) to have the kunyah of AbulQasim for one whose name is Muhammad as well as for others, during the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.) as well as thereafter. {NOTE (inserted): There is some difference among schools of thought on this point- some have held that the prohibition applied only during the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.)}

And a transgressor (faasiq) or innovator should not be given kunyah unless there is fear of fitnah, or if it is for recognition, (like Abu Lahab). And it is preferred that a person should not use his kunyah alone (i.e. without including his name as well), unless he is well known by his kunyah and not known by anything besides it. And it is forbidden (Haraam) to nickname somebody by that which he dislikes if he is known by some other name (which he does not dislike), and even if the nickname reflects something about him which is true.

The Kunyah

Evidence was requested that to have a kunyah is sunnah. There are several allusions to this in the aHadeeth. Firstly, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had a kunyah, and there is no evidence that to have a kunyah was exclusively for him, and this suggests that it is a sunnah (following the Prophet in something which was not exclusively for him (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)). Then there is the Hadeeth to name people by the Prophet's name (Muhammad) but not by his kunyah (AbulQasim), which again implicitly suggests that we would be naming people with a kunyah. Further, there is a Hadeeth reported in Tirmidhi's "al-Shama'il" in which the Prophet (s.a.w.) called a young boy by a kunyah, showing that it is not necessary to have a child before taking on a kunyah. Further discussion of these ahadeeth can be found in FatH-al-Baaree (commentary of SaHeeH al-Bukhari).

*** has many excellent articles about Muslim names:

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