February 13, 2011

Children's Rights: To Be Given a Good Name

When the good news of a child to come is received, a common dilemma parents face is what to name him or her. While searching names online, in books, or through family trees may present some decent options, before we make a final decision, the most important question to ask ourselves is: Will this name fulfill my child's right?

One of a children's primary rights over his parents is to be given a good name.

In a hadith narrated by Ahmad, the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, "Every child is a pledge subject to its Aqeeah, an is animal is sacrificed upon its behalf on its seventh day, it is there forth named and it's head shaved." --Tirmidhee graded it hasan saheeh 

The Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, also said: "You will indeed be called on the Day of Judgement by your names and the names of your fathers, so choose good names (for yourselves)." --Abu Dawood, Ahmad

It's reported by Abu Dawood and An-Nasaa'ee that the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, instructed the people how to name themselves when he said, "Name yourselves with the names of the prophets. The most beloved of names to Allah are 'Abdullah and 'Abdur-Rahman. The most truthful are Haarith and Hammaam. And the most repugnant are Harb and Murrah." 

It was also a practice of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, to change names with bad, ugly or self-praising meanings to names with good meanings.

Sa'eed ibn Al-Musayyib reported that the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, once asked his father, "What is your name? He said, "Hazn (i.e. rough). So the Prophet said, "Rather you are Sahl (i.e. ease). He replied, " I will not change a name that my father gave me." Ibn Al-Musayyib said: "So hardship (i.e. grief) did not cease to be with us after that."--Bukhari

Abu Hurairah reported that Zainab's name used to be Barrah (i.e. pious) and it was said: 'She is praising herself.' So Allah's Messenger, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, named her Zainab. --Bukhari. 

We can see from these examples that naming the child was no insignificant matter. Our children must bear the names we give them throughout their lives and after their deaths. So isn't it best that the names we give them be good ones, and can inspire our children to a good way?

Ibn Al-Qayyim mentions the effect that names can have on a person in their lives when he says, "Names have an effect on the things they identify and vice-versa in terms of beauty and repulsiveness and lightness and heaviness, as the saying goes: 'It is very rare that your eyes see someone with a nickname whose identity, if you think about it, is found in his nickname.'"--Zaad-ul-Ma'aad of Ibn Al-Qayyim, taken from Raising Children in Light of the Qur'an and Sunnah

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