What's In A Name?

Hello, my name is Arslan.

If you hadn't known me quite personally, would my name have made even the slightest of difference to your initial perception about me (with that perception having been carved either by the way I talk or look, or what I ridiculously wear)?

I mean if today I were to change my name to Rahat Gujjer Khanewala or something that long and bizarre, would you look down upon me? Err, with that extreme a name, yeah probably, but would you look down upon me, or hold grudges, or hate me for any reason, because I have changed as a result of my name change? Will you?

Think about it.

Why do we like people? Or hate them, even? How unreasonably biased is our view regarding them? And what is it that draws us to that conclusion? Out of all their negativities and a struggled and feeble attempt to come up with some positive aspects (just to even out their overall image), how much importance does their name hold? Do we EVER hate people because of what they are named?

Okay, and I am not talking about someone claiming to be named Osama Bin Laden, and you hating him/her because of the similarity with the infamous version of the name. I mean practically. In our day to day lives, how many people do we come across that we dump on the
rejects' pile simply because they have a name that sounds like a building, or an ancient chinese recipe?

We don't, at all! We form opinions about them from everything besides their name. I mean, after all, what's in a name, right?


Why all the fuss over naming of a new-born baby? Why take weeks to come up with that one name that'll be perfect for the baby?

What is a perfect name? Are their any names that aren't as good as some other ones?

I mean, take my name, for example. Arslan. Spelt Arsalan oftentimes. When the parents of respective Arslans and Arsalans decided upon keeping the name, what specifity of it did they concentrate on? My guess is the meaning: The lion (although, my Mum always said, my version of Arslan was derived from the world
Arsla - sent from God, but that's a completely different story, worthy of its own blogpost).

And, if it is correct, our names are supposed to have an affect (or effect, whichever fits into the context) on the way we are, right, then shouldn't keeping the same name lead every Arslan or Arsalan out there to be exactly the same? To think the same way, approach a problem in the same manner, solve it using the same logic, and so on?

Then why say every individual is what he is because of his surroundings? I mean both arguments are seemingly in conflict here, which arguably suggests one isn't correct. But which one?

The other day, I happened to watch the auditions for one of Pakistan's most popular reality show "Living on the Edge"; now, I do not know if it were merely a publicity stunt to grab on to more TV ratings, or whether it was factual, but a Pakistani teenager came to the audition and confessed to the host (Waqar) how he had raped a girl, without the slightest remorse etching across his tone of voice or his expressions. And that kid was named something on the lines of "God's Flower".

If our names do actually shape us, shouldn't his name have prevented him to commit such a heinous act (let's not even get into the religious aspect of it, here)? Shouldn't he be expected to observe behaviour of the exact opposite nature?

If not, then do names actually make us what we are? Or is all to do with our surroundings, interactions, learning, peers and this other endless list of entities we all are familiar with?

If anyone can be named anything, shouldn't we be a little less fixated over the name of a child and stop ruling them out only because they remind us of someone unpleasant and unlikeable? I mean, just because they have the same name doesn't mean they will turn out to be the same, right?

To finish off, one confession from my side: I was originally going to be named Ali. Muhammad Ali Saeed. Does it make me look different? Sound different? Act different?

It shouldn't matter, should it? After all, what's in a name? Right?


  1. Well, Lion, we fret for weeks for choosing a name because we expect them to grow up and live up to their name. But you're right: a name never FORCES a personality; from the name the person only inherits a goal to strive towards and a habitude to behave as when that person comes to a decisive point. And then when acting noble, we can use the excuse, "Because my name is Nabeel."

    I remember reading a Hadith once (can't find it now) that said something similar to, if not exactly, "Give your children good names, so that they may live up to their names."

    So basically, a name that has a good meaning will give people good associations when they say it. Likewise, a name with unpleasant associations will bring up unpleasant thoughts when people pronounce it. That is why you found the Prophet (peace be upon him) changing bad names into good ones. Like the famed 'Abd al-Kaabah' (Slave of the Kaabah) into 'Abdullah' (Slave of Allah), or 'Aasiyah' (sinner) into 'Jamilah' (beautiful).

    If one is named after a hero, he will want to be a hero in his own right. If his name inspires him with certain values, he would want to translate them into practice. [And I'd say, I have thought that same way about my name more than a thousand times. It really works.]
    So, basically, when a name signifies high values, it expects the name-holder to live up to their name. That is the basic idea of giving a name.

    P.S. - Love the new look! =D

  2. And when your name is unique, you will feel really unique :P. Yes, I do =). Somewhat =). You'll feel life has chosen you out from amongst the masses for some task (or quality) while the others are not.

  3. Yeah, obviously, you'd name your child something good, but I am guessing all Islamic names have a good meaning to them: these ridiculous associations that Usama will cause the boy trouble, all girls named Falak are dark in complexion (did I spell that right?) and stubborn, or something that stupid! One i heard the other day, Zoya is a film director's name, naming the baby Zoya might make her want to go to bollywood!

  4. oh and your name's not unique, come visit my family, you will find all names there, except Rija and Wijdan, but then, I know them, so that counts too! :P

  5. I know everyone says that but I like to feel my name is unique. 8-) It's what keeps me going. =D

  6. the first time i heard ure name ...i thought of Aslan frm THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. one of my all time fav. characters. :) seems the character is based on one of the most famous personalities in the history of man....lol i aint suggestin anything coz like u said a man is not his name. right?