Global Sourcebook for International Data Management

                                         by Graham Rhind

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Muslim personal names - a guide

Global Sourcebook | Index | Properties


There are around 2 000 000 000 Muslims in the World, and although they live concentrated in an area from southern Europe and Northern Africa, through the Middle East across southern Asia to South-East Asia, they can be found all over the World.

Muslim names do not follow the “Western” pattern of given name followed by family name. Their composition is more complex and also more variable – there are no hard-and-fast rules governing naming practices. This chapter is intended to provide a basic understanding of the way Muslim names are created to enable database managers and database marketers to store and use them correctly.

Muslims often have a given name (Ism) followed by the name of their father, such as:

   Mohammed Jemal
   Mohammed bin Jemal
   Mohammed ibn Jemal

Binand ibn both mean “son of”, and are, of course, only used for males. Bint means “daughter of”. Women also may derive their names from that of their father, and they retain their name upon marriage, not taking their husband’s name. In both cases, the name of the father’s father and so on may also be added as a practice of honouring ancestors.

Muslims may be named from one or more of the following categories:

This can lead to very long name strings which require de-composition to understand. For example, the name:

   Ali Abdullah Mughram al-Ghamdi

breaks down into a given name (Ali), the father’s name (Abdullah), the grandfather’s name (Mughram), and then the “family name”, either a tribal name or the name of a place (ālor el mean “tribe of”).

Many Muslims have no family names. In this example:

   Abdel Aziz Saleh Eddin Abdel Aziz

Abdel Azizis the given name, Saleh Eddin the father’s name and Abdel Aziz the grandfather’s name. A famous example of this is the Iraqi Saddam Hussein, where Saddam is the given name and Hussein his father’s name. He had no family name. Clearly, each member of a family may have a fully different name and identifying a household on the basis of name is not possible.

Understanding is required when decomposing these names. For example, Abdul means "servant of" and must be followed by a further name to have meaning, such as Abdul Rahman - "servant of Rahman". Splitting these two words removes the meaning. Equally, a name such as Habibu-Ullah, meaning "beloved of God", cannot be split, though cases like these will often be referred to as "Mr Ullah" by those not understanding the construction.

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All information copyright Graham Rhind 2022. Any information used should be acknowledged and referenced.