Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Islam does not oblige Muslims to choose specific names for their children. It is rather up to people to choose the names for their children.
2- However, selecting names should be pursuant to some Islamic rules. Islam emphasizes that Muslims give good names to their children.
3- There is nothing wrong with giving Muslim children non-Arabic names so long as we keep in mind the below guidelines.
Answering your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states,
Children Are a Trust
Children are a trust in the hands of parents. Parents, therefore, have a duty to receive this divine gift with a true sense of gratitude and do everything at their disposal to provide the best nurturing.
There is nothing better they can do in this regard than by providing them a home filled with love and kindness, and thus contributing to their overall physical, intellectual, ethical and spiritual growth and development.
Such a duty begins before the birth of the child and extends all through their lives.
Having said this, I must say that the first important duty, when a child is born, is to recite the adhan in the right ear in a gentle voice, and give him or her a good name.
Guidelines for Choosing Names in Islam
As for the choice of names, please take note of the following guidelines:
1- We must certainly avoid names that indicate any trace of shirk or association of partners with Allah.
Therefore it is not permissible to call someone Abd al-Kabah, or Abd al-Nabi (servant of the Kabah or servant of the Prophet), since all of us are servants of Allah alone.
2- We must also avoid names that imply meanings that are offensive or unpleasant in connotations. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) changed names such as Harb (War) with Salam (Peace), Asiyah (Rebellious) with Jamilah (Beautiful), Sab (Difficult) with Sahl (Easy to deal with), etc.
3- We should give names that have good or noble meanings or associations, for names may inadvertently inspire a person to do great things or stay away from vices.
Choosing names of prophets or great persons who have been role models of virtue and piety is an excellent idea. Prophet Muhammad named his son Ibrahim, and he said, “I have called him by my father’s name.” (Muslim)
Choosing Non-Arabic Names for Muslim children
Having said this, I must add: There is nothing in the Islamic sources to indicate that we are allowed only to give our children Arabic names. Since Islam is a universal religion, there is nothing wrong with giving Muslim children non-Arabic names so long as we keep in mind the above points.
But, at the same time, while choosing names, we must strive our best not to compromise our Islamic identity.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.