Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Rabi-Ul Awwal/Rabi-Ul Akhir 1423 H
June 2002
Volume 15-06 No:186

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Hadith


Using names to convey affection and endearment

Using names to convey
affection and endearment

A highly authentic Hadith reported by Aishah says: “ Allah’s messenger (peace be upon him) said,
‘Aish! This is Gabriel, giving you his greetings of salam.’ I said,
‘And my greetings are paid to him with Allah’s mercy.’
The Prophet could see what I could not.” (Related in all six main collections of Hadith).
In this Hadith, the Prophet addresses his wife whom he loved dearly deleting the last letter of her name.
This is a well known form of address, which expresses friendliness and endearment

Commentary by Adil Salahi

We have been speaking howProphet Muhammad (Pbuh) advised his companions about the importance of giving a good impression to people and that included even giving good names.The fact is that the Prophet changed several names as in the case of a person being called “servant of” someone or something other than God. One name the Prophet changed was that of Zahm, which means “being in a tight or overcrowded place or situation.” Obviously the name suggests difficulty and stress. Hence the Prophet changed the man’s name to Basheer, which means a “herald bringing happy news.” The Hadith reporting this is related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Muslim and Abu Dawood. What happens if the Prophet wanted to change someone’s name, but that person refused? Obviously, this is something that does not touch on faith. That man would not be contravening any fundamental Islamic principle, but he would show lack of respect and obedience to the Prophet.

Indeed the best thing any person could do is to follow the Prophet and his guidance. If a man has a name which is not particularly pleasant, and the Prophet changes it, then he would be well advised to accept the change. It would be a source of honour for him that the Prophet himself gave him his name. Some of us may find it impossible to believe that anyone would reject such a name, but it happened. Saeed ibn Al-Musayyib was a famous scholar in Madinah at the time of the successors to the Prophet’s companions. He lived in Madinah and his fame travelled far and wide. His father was one of the Prophet’s companions. Saeed reports on the authority of his father that his grandfather met the Prophet who asked him his name. He said, Hazn. The Prophet said, “You are Sahl.” The man said, “I do not change a name given to me by my father.” (Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and others). Hazn, which was the man’s name, means “rough ground”, and Sahl means the opposite, or easy and lenient.

The Arabs would use a name like Hazn to denote strength and a solid stand against enemies. But the Prophet wanted the man’s name to indicate ease and kindness. The man decided that he preferred whatever name was given to him by his father. This was clearly a rough and unrefined attitude to adopt. It could not have pleased the Prophet. Saeed ibn Al-Musayyib, the man’s grandson, comments, “Roughness remained with us ever since.” He is speaking about the man’s children and grandchildren. Apparently, roughness was in their nature.

The Prophet attached clear importance to names, because a name gives the first impression of the person concerned. He wanted his companions and followers to always be associated with good and happy impressions. Moreover, he often used a name as a sort of endearment. If he loved a person, he might address him in an endearing way, using a shorter version of the name. A highly authentic Hadith reported by Aishah says: “God’s messenger (peace be upon him) said, ‘Aish! This is Gabriel, giving you his greetings of salam.’ I said, ‘And my greetings are paid to him with God’s mercy.’ The Prophet could see what I could not.” (Related in all six main collections of Hadith). In this Hadith, the Prophet addresses his wife whom he loved dearly deleting the last letter of her name. This is a well known form of address, which expresses friendliness and endearment. In fact, such shortening of names is common in many cultures.

The British people use it very frequently. But when the Prophet uses it, it signifies that the person he is addressing has a special position in the Prophet’s esteem. What is also significant about this Hadith is that Aishah is given a special greeting by the angel Gabriel. She must have felt very happy at this, because angels could only act with God’s permission. For the angel to offer his greetings to her means that she enjoys a special position, which she certainly had. She returns the greeting with a better one, adding a wish for God’s mercy. She also states that she could not see the angel herself. It was only the Prophet who saw him. Another Hadith mentions the following story reported by Umm Kulthoom bint Thammamah who travelled for pilgrimage. As she was about to depart, her brother Al-Mukhariq ibn Thammamah said to her: “Visit Aishah and ask her about Uthman ibn Affan. People have been saying all sorts of things here.”

Umm Kulthoom reports: “I visited her and said, ‘One of your sons sends you his greetings and asks you about Uthman ibn Affan.’ She answered, Greetings be to him with God’s mercy. As for myself, I say very clearly that I saw Uthman in this house on a particularly hot night, with God’s messenger here receiving revelations from Gabriel. The Prophet patted Uthman’s hand, or may be shoulder and said, ‘Write down, Utham!’ God would not have given such a close position to His messenger except to one whom He loves. Damned be anyone who abuses Ibn Affan.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Ahmad).

This Hadith is related to the topic we are discussing because of the Prophet’s address to Uthman as Utham, which is a form of endearment, indicating close friendship. We note also the details given by Aishah indicating that she had full memory of the incident. She mentions the time and place where it happened. It was in her own room, on a very hot night. Uthman was visiting the Prophet, and apparently he was the only one with the Prophet, apart from his wife and the angel Gabriel. He was witnessing the Quranic revelations being given to the Prophet. When the Prophet had received the new revelations, he asked Uthman to commit it to writing. Unlike the Prophet who was unlettered, Uthman was one of the scribes who used to write Quranic revelations for the Prophet when he received them. On this occasion, the Prophet did not merely ask him to write down the revelations he received. He patted him on the hand or on the shoulder, and used a very familiar form of address, expressing close friendship. This is a very special position, which Aishah describes in detail. Then she makes a comment which is in line with her profound understanding of Islam. God would not have allowed an ordinary person to get to such a close position with the Prophet unless he was genuinely good, and unless God Himself was pleased with him.

The final comment of Aishah damning anyone who abuses Uthman is also appropriate. If God is pleased with someone to allow him to be very close to His messenger, and if the Prophet trusts that man, speaks to him in a very friendly manner, and pats him as he speaks to him cordially, then what sort of man would heap abuse on such a person? Indeed he is only a person to be cursed, and this is what Aishah did. We disassociate ourselves from such an attitude to Uthman and say without hesitation that Uthman was one of the great personalities in the history of Islam. May God be pleased with him.

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