The Muslim naming system is different from the traditional British pattern and may consist of a religious name (or title), a personal name and sometimes a family name. In addition, children may also be given a nickname.
Religious Names (or titles)
A Muslim boy will often not be called by the first of his names, which may be a title, e.g. Mohammed, or one of the 99 names of Allah. Each name, or combination, has a different meaning, e.g. Abdul (servant of God). Out of respect for the Holy Prophet Mohammed, Ikram will be known as Ikram, not Mohammed.
Although religious names should not be used alone, they are sometimes used together with the personal name.
A personal name is the name by which a child should be known.
Many personal names are those of important religious leaders or of past prophets e.g. Fatima (daughter of the Prophet Mohammed) or Ibrahim (Abraham).
Other personal names are chosen for their meaning or for the beauty of their sound e.g. Ishrat (happiness) and Akhtar (star).
Girls and women have a personal name, which comes first, followed by a female title or by another personal name.
In Bangladesh, Muslims do not generally have surnames and family members may each have a different last name, making it impossible to tell the relationship between two people from their names. Where a family name exists, it may relate to religion, clan or family history, e.g. Chaudhury (landlord).
Where 'ul', 'ur' or 'ud' occurs between two names, it usually indicates that the two names have to be pronounced together e.g. Najeeb-ur-Rahman or Anwar-ul-Hassan.
For girls and women , Bibi, Begum, Khatun, Khanom or Sultana added to a personal name, simply signify gender. 'Begum', when used as a forename, is equivalent to 'Mrs'. Girls and women, until they marry, often take one of their father's names (usually the personal name) as their final name. Once they marry, this is usually replaced by one of their husband's names.
Although, traditionally, Bangladeshis have not used a family name, many families moving overseas have adopted an element of the father's name to use as a surname.
It is common for children to have nicknames e.g. Rumi, Kochi (youngster) or Anu (short for Anwar). These are names only used within the family and by some close friends and should not be used at school or on any official documents.
Implications for Schools
Owing to the complexity of Muslim naming systems, it is essential for schools to check the names by which the child and his/her family members wish to be addressed. If this is done when the child is first admitted to the school, not only will much embarrassment be avoided, but a positive message will be communicated to the child, his/her family and to the whole school. Every effort should be made to pronounce the child's name correctly.