Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has banned 50 given names including “foreign” names, names related to royalty and those it considers to be blasphemous.
Saudis will no longer be able to give their children names such as Amir (prince), Linda or Abdul Nabi (Slave of the Prophet PBUH) after the civil affairs department at the ministry issued the list, according to Saudi news sites.
It justified the ban by saying that the names either contradicted the culture or religion of the kingdom, or were foreign, or “inappropriate”.
The names fit into at least three categories: those that offend perceived religious sensibilities, those that are affiliated to royalty and those that are of non-Arabic or non-Islamic origin.
A number of other names appear that do not necessarily fit into any category and it is therefore unclear as to why they would have been banned. Names such as Abdul Naser and Binyamin are not found to be particularly offensive to Muslims. Binyamin is believed in Islam to be the son of Prophet Jacob (Yaqoub) and the full brother of Prophet Joseph, but it also happens to be the name of the Israeli prime minister. Abdul Naser, similarly, is the name of the famous Arab nationalist ruler of Egypt, who was at odds with Saudi Arabia.
Names such as Abdul Nabi and Abdul Hussain, common among Shias and some Sunni Arabs, are controversial because of the multiple ways in which they can be interpreted. Abdul in Arabic means “worshipper of” or “slave of”, while Nabi means “prophet” and Rasool means “messenger”. Those who oppose such names argue that Abdul means “worshipper of’ and is therefore forbidden as only God can be worshipped. Most Muslim names with Abdul carry one of God’s 99 Islamic names. Abdul Rahman, for example, comes from the name Al Rahman.
Another set of names that is banned includes those that have to do with royalty, especially titles such as Sumuw (highness), Malek (king) and Malika (Queen) and other royal terms such as Al Mamlaka (the kingdom).
Some of the names on the list are not uncommon among Arabs, including Malak (angel), Amir (prince), Abdul Naser and Jibreel (Gabriel).