Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Myth Of "Bin Abdullah"


There's one question that I have been asked by most people.
"Is it compulsory in Islam teaching that we must put bin Abdullah at behind our family name?"

Which means, do Islam forcing those who interested to embrace Islam let go of their name? Since you told me there are no enforcement in Islam, then why Islamic law causing such conflict between faith and name? 

This issue have been discussed and argued over and over again by Pendakwah Bebas, non muslim politician, NGO and also the minority Reverted Muslim. This issue can be very sensitive and I would like to explain the myth of "Bin Abdullah" in most perspective way. 

What is the meaning of "Abdullah" and "Muhammad" ?

There are a lot of hikmah in the name "Abdullah".
The meaning of "Abdullah" mean Servant of God. However "Muhammad" mean praised, yang terpuji.

Kami meriwayatkan dalam Shahih Muslim, Kitab al-Adab, Bab an-Nahyu an at-Takanni bi Abi al-Qasim, 3/1682, no. 2132. dari Ibnu Umar radiyallahu 'anhu , dia berkata, "Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wasallam bersabda,

'Sesungguhnya nama-nama kalian yang paling disukai Allah Subhanahu waTa`ala adalah Abdullah dan Abdur-rahman'."

Kami meriwayatkan dalam Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan an-Nasa`i dan se-lain keduanya, dari Abu Wahb al-Jusyami ash-Shahabi radiyallahu 'Anhhu , dia berkata, "Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wasallam bersabda,

'Namakanlah diri kalian dengan nama-nama nabi, dan nama yang paling disukai Allah Subhanahu waTa`ala adalah Abdullah dan Abdurrahman, dan yang paling benar di antaranya adalah Harits dan Ham-mam, sedangkan yang paling buruk di antaranya adalah Harb dan Murrah'."

And according to the history, Rasullulah SAW father's name is Abdullah which mean servants of God. Abdullah have been passed away before Rasullulah SAW was born.The name of "Muhammad" that given to Rasullulah actually was very rare at the time of prophet.

Aminah sudah hamil, dan kemudian, seperti wanita lain iapun melahirkan. Selesai bersalin dikirimnya berita kepada Abd'l Muttalib di Ka'bah, bahwa ia melahirkan seorang anak laki-laki. Alangkah gembiranya orang tua itu setelah menerima berita. Sekaligus ia teringat kepada Abdullah anaknya. Gembira sekali hatinya karena ternyata pengganti anaknya sudah ada. Cepat-cepat ia menemui menantunya itu, diangkatnya bayi itu lalu dibawanya ke Ka'bah. Ia diberi nama Muhammad. Nama ini tidak umum di kalangan orang Arab tapi cukup dikenal. Kemudian dikembalikannya bayi itu kepada ibunya. Kini mereka sedang menantikan orang yang akan menyusukannya dari Keluarga Sa'd (Banu Sa'd), untuk kemudian menyerahkan anaknya itu kepada salah seorang dari mereka, sebagaimana sudah menjadi adat kaum bangsawan Arab di Mekah.

Pada hari ketujuh kelahirannya itu Abd'l-Muttalib minta disembelihkan unta. Hal ini kemudian dilakukan dengan mengundang makan masyarakat Quraisy. Setelah mereka mengetahui bahwa anak itu diberi nama Muhammad, mereka bertanya -tanya mengapa ia tidak suka memakai nama nenek moyang. "Kuinginkan dia akan menjadi orang yang Terpuji, bagi Tuhan di langit dan bagi makhlukNya di bumi," jawab Abd Muttalib.

The View Of Prof Madya Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin About "Bin Abdullah"

While Prof Madya Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin was working at Perlis Mufti, he have written an important article that attracted Malaysian Muslim attention. This article have been collected in his book Islam In Malaysia : Perceptions And Facts in Chapter 10 : Of Name, Justice And Islam.

This is quite a unique issue. Only in our country does a convert to Islam have to change his or her name (and therefore descent) to Abdullah. I am not sure if this is the practice in Brunei, but it certainly does not occur in the Arab countries or in Indonesia. So, if there was an association in this country which has a few hundred converts as members, all of them would have the same ‘bin’ or ‘binti’(son or daughter of), that is “Abdullah”. If there are ten Ahmads, for example, how very confusing it will be as they will all be named “Ahmad bin Abdullah”. And so the officers of such an association would have to memorise their identification card numbers instead.Similarly, should a husband and wife embrace Islam they will become two individuals whose father has the same name: Abdullah.

The Prophet pbuh changed the name of one who embraced Islam only when his name bore an unworthy meaning—but he did not change the father’s name. For instance, he changed the name of one of his Companions from Àbd al-Syams bin Sokhr to Àbd al-Rahman bin Sokhr because “Àbd al-Syams” meant “servant of the Sun”. However, the name Sokhr (“rock”) was retained.Furthermore, he did not change the name of Abdullah bin Àbd al-Asad even though “Àbd al-Asad” meant “servant of the lion”. The Prophet pbuh did not say that a father’s name had to be changed for fear of ruining the son’s akidah. Those who desire details of this should consult those scholars of hadith who have mastered the Kutub al-Tarajim; or they can refer directly to books of al-tarajim that discuss the biographies of those who are mentioned in the history of Islam. Some of these include Al-Isobah fi Tamyiz al-Sahabah by al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Àsqalani, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala by al-Hafiz al-Zahabi, and many others.

Islamphobia also attacking those who approach Islam

How many person that having will to approach Islam in Malaysia, when they are walking along on the path of Hidayah... Suddenly they stopped at the entry of registration and feel doubt with "bin Abdullah" official procedure. They hesitated and feel doubt, no proper answer given by Malaysia muslim.

At last, most of them left and only very little of them willing to register "Officially". Some of them even really thinks they Masuk Melayu already with the name given and learning hard in Malay's cultural instead of Islam. This have been caused by the environment not Syariah Islam, and also causing the symptom of Islamphobia to those who unfamiliar with Islam.

Me myself doesn't mean to criticize Malaysia's cultural because I have been registered as Muhammad Ikhwan Ng Bin Abdullah. But what I am trying to write is more and more facts that I collected in journey of life. And how I am dealing with double identity in multiracial community.

So far, only 4 states in Malaysia allowed reverted Muslim retain their original name. Which is Negeri Selangor, Melaka, Perlis, Wilayah Persekutuan dan Kelantan. It is not the fault of department in charge, but more to the local people response.

Dear Father, I have changed the name you gave me !

"I've studied Spanish, French, German, Swahili, Russian and Mandarin Chinese. (I'm only fluent in English and Spanish, though.) The hardest would be either Russian (the awful grammar!) or Mandarin (the tones, the writing). Foreigners have told me that English is pretty easy, then they qualify that to mean the written, not the spoken. Reason: simple grammar". - Miles Abernathy (Source)
"I am going to give his name as Chee Yoong." At 1985 my dad decided. "Which means being ambitious and spread the spirit of it"

Every chinese parent giving a lot of effort in finding the most suit 3 chinese word to their son and daughter. The name itself represent the dignity and reputation of chinese cultural that practiced over thousands year. Also my father putting his hope and ambition on me, he was taught me a lot in life and books. He given me a book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" written by Dale Carnegie while I was just 9 years old. Which makes a remarkable hobby for the rest of my life.

At 2008, I told my dad that I have been embrace Islam. For sure he was thinking that his son Ng Chee Yong is dead. No more beloved son that raised so hard and given such meaningful name in 3 complex chinese traditional words. Now his son is nothing but malay boy with the muslim name too, of course. No more so called spread the ambitious in family member anymore.

Personally, I never forget or throwing behind my chinese name.
No one can call themselves as chinese if living without chinese written name. Taking it away really makes me labelled as "Masuk Melayu". But when I was stuck between official procedure and Islam, I choosen the easier path for my own that seems selfish by others. It is not easy to live as "Double Identity Muslim" that put a big @ between Muslim Name and Original Name.

Being published in Chinese Newspaper

One day I was asked by chinese reporter about my name and job position. I written down my chinese name (in chinese language of course). I didn't write my islamic name doesn't mean I am not declare myself as muslim, but the chinese language itself translating islamic name may turn into very long pronouncing words. Also causing unnecessary doubts to my parent.

Everytime I being published in chinese media, I will ask my father to keep a copy of it. I am still not forgetting that my father putting hope on me to spread the "Ambitions". I am doing this for the sake of Allah SWT and also my family dignity.

What Western Muslim Talks About Arab Name 

What a surprising article I found!
Western Muslim started to comment about Arab Name too... For full article please click here and I am just digest out the enlighten point.

Any student of Arabic grammar would notice that most of the Prophets’ names mentioned in the Qur’an are of the “prevented from morphology” category (ممنوع من الصرف). You see, in Arabic grammar there are many special types of words that are prevented from taking certain morphological case markings and thus do not get kasrah (-/i/) or tanween (-/n/). One of the categories that is “prevented from morphology” is the non-Arabic proper noun (العلم الأعجمي). Indeed, most of the Prophets’ names are of this category because those Prophets were not Arabs and therefore their names are not Arabic. So when revealing the Qur’an, God Arabized those names in order for the Arabs to relate to them. Whereas had he kept those names in their original Hebrew or otherwise it wouldn’t have flowed right for them. Ponder the following verse:

“Surely we have revealed it (the scripture) as an Arabic Qur’an (recitation) so that you (Arabs) may understand it,” (Qur’an 12:2).

Based on this, these Prophets were not called, in their time and by their people, by their Arabized names, like Ibrahim, Is’haaq, Ya`qoob, Yusuf, Musa, `Isa, etc. What I am suggesting we do is follow the example of the All-Wise and Omniscient and thus we refer to the Prophets in English according to the translations of the Bible already available so as to help English speakers relate to it.

On a related note, I remember when a brother named his son Noah and the Muslims were bothered by this and somehow found fault with it. So I reminded them that first of all nowhere does the Qur’an or sunnah say that all Muslims must use Arabic names to name their kids. Sadly, we do see many scholars saying this based upon the concept of the universal Arabization of Islam we are dealing with. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying; our religion was revealed in Arabic and those divine words and the tradition that gives detail and wisdom to them can only be mastered in Arabic. That said, this research shows that there is a clear difference between scholarly reference to Islam and everyday expression of Islam for a common non-Arab Muslim. So yes, you can name your children in Malay, Urdu, Persian, or English, etc. The only condition is that the name you choose has a good spiritually sound meaning because the Prophet ﷺ said:

“You will be called on the Day of Judgment by your name and you father’s name so pick the best names,”  (Abu Dawood 4948).

Nak Kahwin Susah Nak Mati Lagi Susah

Ketahuilah, inilah tajuk berita yang pernah disiarkan oleh Media suratkhabar. Apa yang paling menyedihkan ia telah menjadi isu konflik dalam masyarakat majmuk ini, seolah-olah semua orang yang memeluk Islam dengan nama Arab adalah mangsa agama.

Berita Penuh Tekan Sini

Apabila Reverted Muslim penat berlari sini sana untuk berdakwah dan menyebarkan keindahan Islam, juga memohon nama asal dikekalkan demi menjaga silaturrahim dengan keluarga yang masih belum Islam... Media pula menghidangkan macam-macam kes mohon murtad, ingin padamkan nama Islam kerana Agama menyusahkan. Boleh kata setiap 2-3 minggu mesti ada berita yang berkenaan.

Ia bertambah payah apabila tercetus salahfaham yang lebih teruk dalam masyarakat majmuk ini. Ketahuilah seluruh dunia sedang memerhatikan pemerintahan Islam dan sering mempertikainya, artikel ini telahpun dipergunakan oleh seorang ahli politik untuk menjadi senjata sensasi menyerang orang Islam. Apakah kesudahannya apabila media hanya mampu "melapor" satu demi satu konflik agama, tapi orang Islam sendiri pula terus berdiam sahaja?

Conclusion : The Future of Islam Need To Be Built "Inside Out" 

No one know how it feels, unless those who experienced it

 "Can't be deny family surname is very important la, but I don't mind already maintain or not with my nama asal." Hafeez told me.

"Why say so?"
"Well... Personally I think those who want to do dakwah better keep their original name lah. Because it gives impression to others.. But for me just with Islam name plus Family Surname, enough already."

In a matter of fact, Hafeez is my reverted Muslim friend that have been registered with Muslim Name + Nama Asal. Which makes his name become combination of different style. Long time ago he even encourage me to change back my name into original one with the help of Pendakwah Bebas Mr. Lim Jooi Soon.

For years we both learning Islam, struggling our head and soul in world's hardest Arab language and Tajweed... Finally we have been realized the most important facts. Building faith and Iman "inside out", not outside in. The first step taken by Rasullulah SAW in dakwah was not labeling his sahabat with flourish islamic names, but he have been dakwah secretly to most closest family members and relatives about Tauhid : no gods but Allah SWT

We all love Islamic Name as identity, and even feel proud of having it. But the faith and Iman need to be stronger at "inside" first before we encounter with all kinds of challenges at "outside". How can we simply build mosque that impressed whole world at the same time Jemaah inside it was less than few row? The strength of Islam should be built with the knowledge and dakwah of Muslim ourselves, then learn how to understand and respect others cultural.

Choosing Arab Name with bin Abdullah, or nama islam + nama asal, or keeping original name... Should be an optional choice to future reverts muslim not compulsory. If this case is not handle with care, Islam will be keep on humiliated by those who against Islam and stopping them from approach Islam.

May Allah SWT guide us to His Nur Hidayah and show us the right path.

*Extra noted at 5 January 2012*
Alhamdulilah I found out a foreign muslim is written his experience in retain original name, and I am highly recommend it to everyone. May Allah SWT show us the straight path :


  1. I saw my name, and my word, pay me the copyright fees oh~~~~~~

  2. Your copyright is not reserved wakakaka

  3. Wa'alaikumus Salam waramatullah...
    really good article and suggest Bro. Ikhwan get it released to the publis.Very informative and surely beneficial for all to read and contemplate.

  4. foo abd,

    Thanks for visit my blog. So far I still don't think about released to public, where I prefer to share my article for free and easy to reach. Because so far media is still restricted in this kind of issue.

  5. Additionally,Penang also allow for this,my name is Muhammad Adam Lim Kean Chuan.

    By KC Lim.

    1. Alhamdulilah, thanks for your information Muhammad Adam Lim.

      Seems like it's getting easier to register with chinese name retained now.

  6. Salam,

    I concur that it's only in Malaysia that reverted Muslims are expected to change their names or have "bin Abdullah". Having lived in the United States, I've met many Muslims from all over the world and most of them don't have "bins" or "bintis". So why then in Malaysia reverted Muslims should have "bin Abdullah". It's not compulsory at all to change your name when reverted to Islam unless your name means something bad. Sometimes Malays get confused between what's religion and what's cultural. I'm Malay but my grandfather was a reverted Muslim.

    1. In Malaysia,you first "masuk melay" then you "masuk islam";really foolish of the Islamic Department. I know many do not want to "masuk melayu" and thus do not embrace Islam. And when you "masuh melayu" you will still not enjoy "melayu" benefits.

    2. I am not going to talk about the so called "melayu benefits", because what our intention is getting benefits of Jannah.

      Yes, indeed it's a problem at 80's era when "bin abdullah" is added compulsory. It make reverted muslim more challenging to approach the religion of Truth. Just like put a lot obstacle in front of the Islam Entry.

      It is awareness of being Muslim, not put up unnecessary obstacle for those who interested in Islam.

  7. Salam. Bagus. Letaklah nama2 yang indah sebagaimana yang telah di ajar oleh Rasulullah (SAW) waimma apa jua pun saperti hadith riwayat Abu Dawud. Regards

    1. A name is an organized way of identifying persons;any name with good meanings can be used

    2. A name should be read with its original language meaning. Sometime people tend to make our name looks "Islamic" without care of the sensitivity and race identity.

      As Islam is a universal religion, so it should be alright to retain name that brings beautiful meaning or at least neutral and not commit shirk.

  8. Salams Bro Ikhwan : I feel that whether the NAME is a muslim name or non muslim name, it should be a good & meaningful one, rather in the old days, the chinese used to named their children 'Ah Kow, Ah Niu, or Siow chu, siow yang etc..

    1. Walaikumsalam.

      Yes, chinese always look for chinese dictionary so hard just to give son/daughter the best name in chinese language. Those Ah Kow Ah Niu is back in old times, where minority people don't know how to read and write, so they just "recite" the name while registering birth cert. That's true anyway.

  9. Assalamualaikum. This is my first time commenting here.

    I am Malay, and I admire how Chinese people retain their family name for generations. For Arabs, their "al" is for family name, say "al-Maliki" means their family name is "Malik" (this is my observation, i might be wrong though).

    Having said that, name is important for me, and being Muslim does not change race whatsoever (unless someone purposely write their child race to Malay for certain reason). I believe, name change does not necessary but to be more convenient, then a single name of 'Arab' is fine, just for easier reference. Let just say "Ng Ikhwan Chee Yong", should be perfectly fine.

    Well anyway, my great great great grandfather was a Chinese, but due to culture during that time, he changed his name and even dropped his family name. Not sure about you, but I just hope you can retain Ng name to your children.

    1. Walaikumsalam Zayd.

      Yup, it is advisable to put arab name+original name. As for registration at Pejabat Agama and a lot syariah procedure it's very important to declare the "Muslim" Identity.

      I'm also hardly say that retain original name is the best way although shouldn't be forbidden, because I read few cases of reverted muslim who passed away, being argue with Pej Agama for funeral process.

    2. Islam is a simple religion but it is the people that make it complicated.At the end of the day it is our sincerity to embrace Islam and hold on strongly to our faith in Islamic teaching, is most important.

  10. If only Malaysia NEVER came out with the compulsory "bin/binti Abdullah" rules, Islam would have been accepted much easier by all races.

  11. Is it ok to just retain the original Chinese name without adding any Arabic name? What happened when we have children? Does NRD allows chinese muslim children to retain only chinese name?

    1. The choice is on revert. It could be

      a) Adding Arabic Name, and children will have Arabic name also.

      b) Retain original Chinese name, and of course, retain chinese race. So the children will be registered as Chinese, religion "Islam" with Chinese name.

      Depends on the parent's will.

  12. Salam, you can still retain your father's given name to you (Ng Chee Yong) by just adding Ikwan Abdullah in front to identify you as a Muslim for secular legal purpose like no argument during death (muslim are buried not burn, etc) because there is a verse in the Quran that say you are not supposed to change a child given name (by the parent). So in Ikwan Abdullah you have an additional meaning to life to the original name given by your father " being ambitious and spread the spirit of it " - which you are living up to it now in learning more about Islam & spreading the message to both Muslim & non - muslim . You can happily tell your father that in a way the name he gave you is wonderfully correct " being ambitious and spread the spirit of it " by your blog, FB, etc .

    1. my example : Aizzat Abdullah (Arabic meaning honor, prestige, reputation, servant of God) @chern hua yian 华 原 (mandarin meaning, origin of chinese) so i retain my full name as : Aizzat Abdullah tan hua juan and my daughter same with arabic name in front to identify as muslim followed by full chinese name and IC the race is still the same as "chinese" because the race followed the father.

    2. Jazakallah khyran for your sharing. We should share more this kind of information.

  13. Those who go and struggle to learn Koran in Arabic are stupid. Go get a good and real Koran in your language that you understand and read. The point is to understand what the Koran says that's all. Why torture yourself? Please use your brain god would want you. Why do the Arab wants you to read Koran in Arabic? Economic, language domination, control.

  14. Those who go and struggle to learn Koran in Arabic are stupid. Go get a good and real Koran in your language that you understand and read. The point is to understand what the Koran says that's all. Why torture yourself? Please use your brain god would want you. Why do the Arab wants you to read Koran in Arabic? Economic, language domination, control.

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