Naming After the Prophets and the Imams

Some Muslim families who follow the school of Ahlul Bayt name their children after some of the prophets and imams in the manner of ‘Abd al-Nabi, ‘Abd al-Rasul, ‘Abd al-Husayn, ‘Abd al-Rida, and so on. Some people wonder whether this practice is permissible or not. Although the Prophet said that the best of names are those beginning with “‘Abd” and “Muhammad,” thus there is no harm in using the previous name because the name is not intended to be literal, and it does not imply that the specific child is a slave of the Prophet, Imam Husayn, or Imam Rida, or that the Prophet or the imams created him and are sustaining him. Rather, this sort of naming expresses gratitude, admiration, and love to those individuals such as the Prophet or the imams who dedicated their entire lives for the welfare of humanity.

The Noble Qur’an itself uses the word “‘abd” to mean other than the “servant of Allah” for example, the phrase “min ‘ibadikum” (from your male slaves) does not mean that the slaves are worshipping their owner. The real slavery and ownership is for Allah, but allegorically, the name ‘Abd al-Rasul implies that its bearer is a slave of Allah through the Prophet, since the Noble Qur’an states,

“Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah.”[1]

Again, the sense of slavery is to be taken allegorically and not literally. Expressions like these find their way into a common speech in which people sometimes say the phrase “my master (sayyidi),” as a form of politeness. Some may even use the expression, “may I be your ransom (ju’iltu fidak)” without meaning it literally.

In the Arabic language, these phrases express gratitude and thankfulness. Hence, by naming a person ‘Abd al-Husayn or ‘Abd al-Rida is in no way shirk (polytheism) to Almighty Allah, since all Muslims agree that He is the only One who deserves submission and obedience.

[1] Noble Quran, 24.32.

Inquiries about Shia Islam by Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini