Arabic Names and Arab Names
Westernization of Arabic Naming Practices and Names
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Many Arabic countries have now adopted a Westernized way of naming. This is the case for example in Lebanon and Maghreb countries where French conventions are followed, and it is rapidly gaining ground elsewhere.
Also, many Arabs adapt to Western conventions for practical purposes when travelling or when residing in Western countries, constructing a given name/family name model out of their full Arab name, to fit Western expectations and/or visa applications or other official forms and documents. The reverse side to this is the surprise of many Westerners when asked to supply their first name, second name, father's name and family name in some Arab visa applications. Similarly, if an Arab woman marries a Westerner and applies for a passport, her new 'official' name becomes, for example, Maryam David William Smith because of the patronymic naming convention.
The Westernization of an Arab name may require transliteration. Often, one name may be transliterated in several different ways (Abdul Rahman, Abdoul Rahman, Abdur Rahman, Abdurahman, Abd al-Rahman, or Abd ar-Rahman), as there is no single accepted system. A single individual may try out several ways of transliterating his or her name, producing even greater inconsistency. This has resulted in confusion on the part of governments, security agencies, airlines, and other: for example, especially since 9/11, persons with names written similarly to those of suspected terrorists have been detained.
Westerners often make these mistakes:
* Separating "the X of Y" word combinations (see idafa):
o With "Abdul": Arabic names may be written "Abdul (something)", but "Abdul" means "servant of the" and is not, by itself, a name. Thus for example, to address Abdul Rahman bin Omar al-Ahmad by his given name, one must say "Abdul Rahman", not merely "Abdul". If he introduces himself as "Abdul Rahman" (which means "the servant of the Compassionate One"), one must not say "Mr. Rahman", (as "Rahman" is not a family name but part of his (theophoric) personal name), instead it would be Mr. Ahmad, being the family name).
o People not understanding Arabic sandhi in genitive constructions: Habību-llāh = "beloved of God"; here a person may in error report the man's name as 'forename "Habib", surname "Ullah"'. Likewise, people may confuse a name such as Jalālu-d-dīn ("The Majesty of the Religion") as being "Jalal Uddin", or "Mr. Uddin", when "Uddin" is not a surname, but the second half of a two-word name (the desinence -u of the construct state nominative, plus the article, appearing as -d-, plus the genitive dīn). Although, to add to the confusion, some immigrants to Western countries have adopted Uddin as a surname, although it is grammatically incorrect outside the context of the associated "first name". Even Indian Muslims commit the same error. If a person's name is Abd-ul-Rahim (Servant of Merciful), his companions may call him as Mr Abdul (Servant of) erroneously as they are not aware that it is incorrect usage and that it sounds quite odd.
* Confusing "`alā'" with "Allah": Some Muslim names include the Arabic word `alā' علاء = "nobility". (Here, ` represents the ayin sound, the voiced pharyngeal fricative, and ' represents the hamza sound, the glottal stop, and L is spelled and pronounced once. In Allāh, L is spelled twice and pronounced separately.) In Arabic pronunciation, `alā and Allāh are clearly different. But Europeans, Iranians and Indians often cannot pronounce some Arabic sounds correctly, and tend to pronounce these two names the same. For example, the Muslim male name `Alā'-ad-dīn = "the nobility of the religion" is often misspelt as Allah-ad-din. (This name is known to English speakers as Aladdin.) Because these two words are different, there is really a given name of a male Arab "`Ala' Allah" (Aliullah), meaning "the nobility of God."
* Grammar errors: These can result from differences between Arabic grammar and the grammar of some other languages. Arabic forms noun compounds in the opposite order from Indo-Iranian languages. For example, during the war in Afghanistan in 2002, a BBC team found in Kabul an internal refugee whose name they stated as "Allah Muhammad". This may be a misspelling, as described in the previous paragraph; but if not: By the rules of Arabic grammar, this name means "the Allah who belongs to Muhammad", which is not acceptable as a man's name and ideally and logically wrong; but by the rules of Iranian and most Indian languages this name means "Muhammad who belongs to Allah", which is acceptable; the Arabic equivalent is "Muhammad Ullah". Most Afghans speak Iranian languages. Such mismatched and grammatically incorrect Arabic and Arabic-Persian compound names are not uncommon in Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan.
* Transliteration of Arabic: The general rule is to follow the transliterated spelling adopted by the individual in question, if it exists, or else to follow one of the available systems. If someone has decided to spell his name "Mohammed", it is somewhat rude to refuse to accept this and to insist on "Muhammad," even if "Muhammad" is the preferred transliteration among scholars. Similarly, to refer to the late President Nasser of Egypt as "Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir" would be incorrect on two counts:
1. because his first name used the standard Egyptian geem rather than jeem (i.e., Gamal, not Jamal);
2. because his preferred transliterations of his last name were Abdel Nasser and Abd-el-Nasser and because the rules of Arabic pronunciation make a contraction of "Abd" and "Al" to be pronounced "Abdel." For more information about Alef pronunciation see Hamza#Hamzatu l-wasl
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