Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: Is it acceptable to choose a name that is not Arabic and is not from the Qur’an as long as it has a good meaning? We have been told that for example “Audrey” or “Isaiah” are impermissible or disliked. Is this true?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
This is permitted and those who have told you otherwise are incorrect. The most important consideration when it comes to a name is its meaning.
Islam does not prohibit people from embracing and continuing to abide by their own cultural norms so long as these norms are not interdicted. Rather, as the Qur’an states, God created people and gave them diverse backgrounds and cultures as a means: “We have made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” (49:13) This verse continues by stating, “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the one most righteous.” In other words, it is not the Arabization of one’s culture that counts; what counts is piety and righteousness. From this perspective, an Isaiah can be far greater in the sight of God than an Amr or Zayd.
Those who state that keeping non-Arabic names is impermissible ignore a number of crucial points. The most glaring is the fact that many of the prophets were not Arabs, did not speak Arabic, and nor did they have Arabic names. They were people who spoke in their own non-Arabic tongues. As the Qur’an states, “We have not sent a messenger except with the tongue of his people.” Thus, Moses (God bless him) was said to have spoken Hebrew and Jesus (God bless him) Aramaic, while Abraham (God bless him) spoke a Kushitic language.
Another point worth noting is that fact that there were a number of Companions who also had non-Arab names, such as Fayruz al-Daylami who was Persian. [Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba] Throughout the history of the Islamic world, Muslims have always used non-Arabic names.
Finally, none of the above is to suggest that Arabic does not hold significance. It clearly does. It is the language in which the Qur’an was revealed and the tongue spoken by our Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) and many early Muslims. However, just as we are not prohibited from speaking in our own non-Arabic tongues, we are not prohibited from keeping non-Arabic names.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani