#484: Changing Name Because It’s Too Heavy


Assalamualaikum w.b.t. There is a young child who is always ill. Then his father changes the child’s name because some people advised him to do so because the name is ‘too heavy’ and cannot be borne. After the name change, the child no longer falls ill too frequently. Is such superstition true in Islam or just a coincidence or is there any basis for this in Islam? Hope for an explanation.



Waalaikumussalam w.b.t.

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.

Encouragement of Giving Good Name to One’s Child

In Islam, when a child is born, parents should name their child with a good name and not a bad name or names that contained shirk elements. Furthermore, naming one’s child with a good name is encouraged because it is a supplication and the child will be called with this name in the hereafter in the future.

There is a narration from Abu al-Darda’ RA, the Rasullullah PBUH said:

إِنَّكُمْ تُدْعَوْنَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِأَسْمَائِكُمْ وَأَسْمَاءِ آبَائِكُمْ فَأَحْسِنُوا أَسْمَاءَكُمْ

“On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your father’s names, so give yourselves good names.” [1]

Hence, one should choose a name that Allah SWT likes. Rasullullah PBUH said:

تَسَمَّوْا بأسماءِ الأنبياءِ، وأَحَبُّ الأسماءِ إلى اللهِ تعالى عبدُ اللهِ وعبدُ الرحمنِ، وأَصْدَقُها حارثٌ وهَمّامٌ، وأَقْبَحُها حَرْبٌ ومُرَّةٌ.

“Call yourselves by the names of the Prophets. The names dearest to Allah are Abdullah and AbdurRahman, the truest are Harith and Hammam, and the worst are Harb and Murrah.” [2]

There is a question of which is it permissible for us to name our children with the names of Allah SWT? Regarding this issue, Syeikh Zakaria al-Ansari explained that it is permissible to use names that aren’t specified for Allah SWT. He said that it is permissible to name children with the names of Allah that aren’t specified for Him (Allah SWT). As for names specific for only Allah SWT, then it is prohibited. This is as explained by Imam al-Nawawi in his book Syarh Muslim. [3]

This is also as stated by the jurists of madhhab Hanafi who stated that naming with the names of Allah that is mentioned in His book such as al-‘Ali, al-Kabir, al-Rasyid, al-Badi‘ that it is permissible for it is from the associated names (in terms of its meaning). It is meant as the rights of people and not the rights of Allah SWT. [4]

While Ibn Qayyim explained this issue by giving several examples of the names of Allah that are specific for Allah SWT that are prohibited to be given to or used by creations. He said: Among the prohibitions in naming a person is with the names of Allah SWT. It is impermissible to name a person with the names al-Ahad, al-Samad, al-Khaliq, al-Razzaq and all the names specific to Allah. [5]

Thus, the specific names for Allah SWT such as al-Ahad, al-Samad, al-Khaliq and others, hence, it is prohibited and absolutely impermissible to name anyone with them. However, if the name is not specific to Allah SWT and the meaning may also be owned by creation, then it is fine to name a person with it. Especially, if the name has a good meaning.

The Prophet PBUH changed the names of the companions

In a hadith from Ibn al-Musayyib, from his father, he said:

أَنَّ أَبَاهُ جَاءَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ: «مَا اسْمُكَ» قَالَ: حَزْنٌ، قَالَ: «أَنْتَ سَهْلٌ» قَالَ: لاَ أُغَيِّرُ اسْمًا سَمَّانِيهِ أَبِي قَالَ ابْنُ المُسَيِّبِ: «فَمَا زَالَتِ الحُزُونَةُ فِينَا بَعْدُ»

“That his father (Hazn bin Wahb) went to the Prophet (ﷺ) and the Prophet (ﷺ) asked (him), “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Hazn.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “You are Sahl.” Hazn said, “I will not change the name with which my father has named me.” Ibn Al-Musaiyab added: We have had roughness (in character) ever since.” [6]

In explaining this hadith, al-Qastalani said: Ibn al-Musayyib said, ‘فَمَا زَالَتْ فِينَا الْحُزُونَة’ (We have had roughness (in character) ever since), that means difficulty in life. [7]

Al-‘Aini cited Ibn al-Tin said: The meaning of the words of Ibn al-Musayyib, ‘فَمَا زَالَتْ فِينَا الْحُزُونَة’ (We have had roughness (in character) ever since), means there is no ease in what they wanted. [8]

Likewise, Syeikh Syams al-Haq al-‘Azim Abadi also explain the word ‘حزونة’ here means roughness in character and manners, as stated by al-Suyuti. [9]

Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar cited from Ibn Battal said: “Here there is a statement that the commandment to beautify the name and change it to a better name is not obligatory.”

It is also cited by al-Dawudi, he said: “It means the roughness in their character.” Other scholars stated: “He signals the roughness that persists in their character.” The nasab experts said that in his child, there is a deficient character and this is well known and nearly never gone in them. [10]

Hence, according to this matter, it can be understood that there is a relation between a name given with the character of a person.

The relationship between a name and a person’s character

Some scholars explained that there is a clear relation between the name of a person with the person named with the name.

Among them is as stated by Imam Ibnul Qayyim when he said: “To conclude, the bad character and conduct is related to the person’s name. Hence, good names push a person to good character and conduct. And the Prophet PBUH wouldn’t be named Muhammad except for the numerous honourable and commendable characteristics of the Prophet PBUH. And indeed, the owner of a good name sometimes is shy of his name and sometimes his name will encourage a person to do something in line with his name and leave anything that contradicts it.[11]

Due to this relationship, scholars discussed the ruling of changing one’s name and the details were presented by Imam Ibnul Qayyim in the third chapter of his book Tufhatul Maudud when explaining the encouragement of changing one’s name to another name due to a maslahah. [12]

Among the evidences that show the encouragement of changing unfavourable name is a hadith narrated by RA, he said:

أَنَّ زَيْنَبَ، كَانَ اسْمُهَا بَرَّةَ، فَقِيلَ تُزَكِّي نَفْسَهَا‏.‏ فَسَمَّاهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم زَيْنَبَ‏

“Zainab’s original name was “Barrah,” but it was said’ “By that, she is giving herself the prestige of piety.” So, the Prophet (ﷺ) changed her name to Zainab.” [13]

Likewise, in a hadith from Ibn al-Musayyib, where the Prophet PBUH advised to change the name of his grandfather from Hazan to Sahl as stated in the above hadith.

According to the above hadiths and other hadiths that are related to the issue of naming a child, scholars have reached several conclusions that are:

  • We are encouraged to change the name of a person if it is a bad or atrocious name. [14] For example, the name Abdul Ka’abah, for the name has shirk elements in it.
  • Likewise, we are encouraged to change a name due to a certain maslahah even if the original name is good. Such as the name Barrah and Khairunnisa’. The reason is Barrah means do a lot of good while Khairunnisa’ means the best of women.
  • We are encouraged to avoid any names that can lead to the superstition of bad luck, for instance, the name hazan means sadness, such names can lead people to believe that any harm that befalls this person named hazan is due to his name that leads to sadness. [15] On this basis, Imam al-Nawawi ruled it makruh to name a child with a bad name with a bad meaning. [16]

Adopting the attitude of Tafa’ul (hoping for good)

There is a hadith from Samurah bin Jundub, he said: Rasullullah PBUH said:

لا تُسَمِّينَّ غُلامَكَ يَسارًا ولا رَباحًا ولا نَجيحًا، ولا أفلَحَ؛ فإنَّك تقولُ: أثَمَّ هو؟ فيقول: لا، إنَّما هنَّ أربَعٌ؛ فلا تَزيدُنَّ عَلَيَّ

“Do not call your servant Yasar (wealth), Rabah (profit), Nijih(prosperous) and Aflah (successful), for you may ask; Is he there? And someone says: No. Samurah said: These are four (names), so do not attribute more to me.” [17]

According to the above hadith, there is a question of whether it is impermissible for us to name our child Yasar, Rabah and others although they have good meanings. Yasar means easy and good, while Rabah means profit.

In answering this issue, Syeikh Dr Aidh al-Qarni said: The meaning of this hadith is that when you name your children with such names, for instance, you say, is Yasar at home (that means ease), and the reply is: “No,” Here, it can mean that difficulty or hardship is there. Or if you ask is Rabah (that means profit) home? And it is answered: “No,” then it will change the place of rabah (profit) to loss. Likewise, for other such names. [18]

This depicts how Rasullullah PBUH adopt the attitude of tafa’ul that is hoping for good and closes all the doors that can lead to a fall, insult and bad things. This is the reason why these names aren’t encouraged although we find that some scholars or people named their children with such above names.

A name is too heavy to bear?

As for the issue of a child who couldn’t bear the name because the name is too heavy and others, we don’t find any reasonable explanation behind such claims.

Furthermore, we are concerned that such belief contains the elements of superstition because the scholars defined superstition as:

الاعتقاد بما لا ينفع ولا يضر ولا يلتئم مع المنطق السليم والواقع الصحيح

“Superstition is a belief of unbeneficial things, unharmful and inappropriate with a rational mind and current reality.” [19]

We worry that such belief contradicts the true aqidah that is obligatory to be believed by all Muslims and that it is only Allah SWT that can benefit or harm.

Allah SWT states:

وَإِن يَمْسَسْكَ اللَّـهُ بِضُرٍّ فَلَا كَاشِفَ لَهُ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ وَإِن يُرِدْكَ بِخَيْرٍ فَلَا رَادَّ لِفَضْلِهِ ۚ يُصِيبُ بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۚ وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ

“And if Allah should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no repeller of His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He wills of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” [20]

Ibn Kathir when interpreting this verse said “Indeed, good, bad, benefit and harm is owned only by Allah SWT. None should be associated with Him in such matters. Hence, only Allah is worthy of worship. There is none like Him.” [21]

This belief has elements of believing in bad luck that is clearly prohibited by the Prophet PBUH in a hadith:

لاَ طِيَرَةَ

“No evil omen,” [22]

According to the above arguments, in our opinion, believing a certain name is too heavy and couldn’t be borne by a baby is a belief that isn’t based on clear evidences, hence it is best for Muslims to avoid and distance themselves from such belief.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Narrated by Abu Daud (4948)

[2] Narrated by Abu Daud (4950) and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (814)

[3] See Asna al-Matalib Syarh Raudh al-Talib, 4/243

[4] See al-Buraiqah al-Mahmudiyyah, 3/234

[5] See Tuhfah al-Maudud, 1/125

[6] Narrated by al-Bukhari (6190)

[7]  See Irsyad al-Sari, 9/111

[8] See ‘Umdah al-Qari, 22/208; See Fath al-Bari, 17/391

[9] See ‘Aun al-Ma’bud, 13/203

[10] See Fath al-Bari, 17/391

[11] See Tuhfah al-Maudud, pg. 250

[12] See Tuhfah al-Maududpg. 129

[13] Narrated by al-Bukhari (6192)

[14] See Tuhfah al-Maududpg. 133

[15] See Syarh Muntaha al-Iradat1/615

[16] See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 8/417

[17] Narrated by Muslim (2137) Abu Daud (4958) al-Tirmizi (2836) and Ahmad  (20078)

[18] See Mulhim al-‘Alam, pg. 166-167

[19] See al-Mazahib al-Fikriyyah al-Mu’asirah2/1186)

[20] Surah Yunus (107)

[21] See Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim, 7/407

[22] Narrated by Muslim (2224)