I have always been fascinated by names and their meanings. I also like suggesting names to newborns in the family. It is more like an excitement driven hobby. A fulfilling experience. And you can feel an adrenaline rush when your suggested name actually gets chosen.
To me a good meaningful name is really important because it’s something that remain unchangeable for most people, unless you so despise your name that you actually take the court’s route and get it changed. But most people neither have time nor energy for that.
In Islam we don’t believe that a name can impact a person’s personality as in related to astrology (that every name is connected to a star and the star decides a child’s fate). But we do believe that it can impact them psychologicaly in the sense that If you name a child after some personality, the child when he learns about their namesake may try to become like them.
The story behind my child’s name is quite magical, especially for me. Years ago while reading the Quran with meaning, I was moved by the story of Prophet Zakariya (عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam). He was the prophet of bani Israel, a simple man, a carpenter by profession with limited provision, but a sincere devotee of Allah. Surah Al Imran is full of miracles and in it I found the story of Maryam (عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam) and her uncle Zakariya (عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam). How the latter was appointed as the guardian of the former, and how he would witness miraculous events surrounding Maryam (عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam)
“Every time Zakariya entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Maryam, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah. Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.” (Al Qur’an 3:37)
Zakariya (عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam) had reached an extreme old age and also his wife couldn’t bear children. But witnessing these miracles his faith in Allah only increased and he started supplicating for an offspring of his own, not to inherit his wealth (of which he had none), but rather, progeny who would continue spreading the message and knowledge of Islam. So he started praying with utmost convictions
“My Lord, grant me from Yourself a good offspring. Indeed, You are the Hearer of supplication.” (Al Qur’an 3:38)
He also supplicated:
“O My Lord! Leave me not single (childless), though You are the Best of the inheritors.” (Al Qur’an 21:89)
“My Lord! Indeed my bones have grown feeble, and grey hair has spread on my head, And I have never been unblest in my invocation to You, O my Lord! And Verily! I fear my relatives after me, since my wife is barren. So give me from Yourself an heir, who shall inherit me, and inherit (also) the posterity of Yaqub). And make him, my Lord, one with whom You are Well-pleased!” (Al Qur’an 19:4 – 19:6)
Soon Allah answered his prayers, cured his wife’s barrenness, blessed them with a child and also their son had the honour of being named by Allah himself, with a name that had never existed in mankind’s history.
So We answered his call, and We bestowed upon him Yahya (John), and cured his wife (to bear a child) for him. Verily, they used to hasten on to do good deeds, and they used to call on Us with hope and fear, and used to humble themselves before Us. (Al Qur’an 21:90)
What I learnt from his story is that the prayer is the ultimate shield of a believer. And nothing is impossible for Allah. Allah can provide for whom He wants, at His own will. And our faith in Allah should overpower any negative thought of hopelessness. There is nothing Allah cannot do, even when circumstances seem impossible we should lean on to him with sincere faith like Zakariya (عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam)
So while naming my child after such a humble and God fearing personality my only hope was that throughout my son’s life may Allah answer all of his valid supplications just like HE answered Propher Zakariya ( عليه السلام ʿAlayhis salaam)‘s supplications, And may my child’s faith increase after learning about his namesake. And may he strive to be like him. Aameen.
Great and Inspiring Article.