Estimated reading time: 18 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1 NIV).
When my sister was pregnant with my nephew, she chose a respectable Biblical name for her son and enthusiastically shared it with our strong African grandmother. Our grandmother (may Allah be pleased with her) was a devout Christian and an impassioned student of the Word. So it came as a complete surprise when she forbade my sister from naming her son after this man in the scriptures. Although he was a good man, my grandmother explained that he was “crippled” and lived a life of hardship. She was convinced that if my sister named her son after him, she would be sentencing her son to a similar life. Being obedient, my sister submitted and chose a more agreeable Biblical name for her son.
Now, one may say that our grandmother was a little extreme and clearly overcome by superstition. You could be right. But there was a bigger message that she was trying to communicate to us. It is the same strongly held belief that remains till this day in many African and Eastern cultures – ‘you become your name.’ Believing this, great care is always given when naming children.
What encompasses a name? Our name is certainly that word that we are referred to as, identified with and referenced by – it distinguishes us from all others in a particular space and time. When someone mentions our name, we become especially attentive and alert because we are being specifically addressed and whatever comes next will likely be of particular importance to us. Our name is the distinction that signifies our presence. But even bigger than that, our name is the label attached to our work, our character, our history and our reputation.
The title of this article, A Good Name is Better than Gold, comes directly from the name of a chapter in Message to the Blackman in America, written by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He opens this chapter by stating, “One of the first and most important truths that must be established in this day is our identity.” He also writes, “First, you must be given the names of your forefathers, whose names are the most Holy and Righteous Names of Allah.”
The Book of Isaiah 65:15 bears witness – it reads, “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name” (KJV). In reference to this scripture, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes, “Here, we are warned that God will not accept us in the name of the white race, because He has another name that He will call us by, and He mentions this throughout Isaiah and the New Testament. We must have a name of God and not the name of an enemy of God” (How to Eat to Live: Book I).
The Black man and woman are direct descendants of God. And just as children resemble their parents, God’s descendants also resemble Him in likeness and in image. Similarly, children wear the name of their parents and we too should also wear the name of Our Father. His names illuminate His divine attributes, His characteristics, His works, His history and His reputation.
Allah (God) has at least 99 distinctive attributes which are manifested in both the feminine and masculine expression. We argue that the energy from these attributes are best absorbed if spoken in the original Mother tongue of the planet – Arabic. We know this is the original language because every other language spoken on Earth has derivatives from Arabic. So by choosing a name in the Arabic language we are reconnecting to our origin as the Mothers and Fathers of civilization – synchronizing our being and our identification so that it aligns with the universe.
If we study the 99 attributes and the countless other names of Allah (God), we will discover that the names are all describing human characteristics because a good name illustrates our god-potential. For example: Al Qadir – the Powerful; Al Halim – the Patient, Tolerant, Forbearing, Generous; Ash Shahid – the Witness; Al Jalil – the Great, Exalted, Magnificent; or Ar Rashid – the Wise, Right-minded, One of Good Council. Each of these beautiful names and meanings is also found in the feminine expression of God: Qadira, Halimah, Shahidah, Jalilah, and Rashidah. According to the Holy Qur’an and the Bible, both the male and the female were created from the same divine essence of God; therefore, both can exemplify His attributes to the fullest.
Contrast that to continuing to wear the names of our enemy and former slave masters, which connects us to them and identifies us as still belonging to them. The Original man has no beginning nor ending – we are as old as God Himself. The enemy of God – on the other hand – had a beginning and will certainly have an ending. We must refuse to allow another generation to walk in the enemy’s finite names – his newness to the planet compels him to choose names after God’s lower creations: River, Wolfgang, Apple, Stone, Colt, Rose, etc. These things are subordinate to the human being and are unworthy to be assigned to our divine identity.
So as parents, we may not be able to choose the gender of our children or the shade of their skin; nor do we determine how tall they will become or their final shoe size – it is Allah (God) who shapes us in the wombs as He pleases. BUT, we do have the ability and responsibility of choosing the name they will carry during their sojourn on this earth. Yes – it is true that our children are not born into the world exemplifying these attributes, but like Grandma believed, ‘you become your name.’ The scriptures verify, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 KJV). Later it reads, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14 KJV).
So let’s take the naming of our children a little more seriously. A name, after-all is not just a name. There is actual palpable energy – universal transformative rhythms – that are attached to all words. Imagine everyday being called; Powerful, Magnificent, Wise, or Generous. Could a meaningful name increase the likelihood that our children will raise their standards and conduct to exemplify God? Could a righteous name improve their self-concept? Could they grow to one day become worthy of their name? Well – it certainly gives them something noble to strive for.
Gold is very valuable, indeed; but a good name is PRICELESS!
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)