The Prophet of Allah (S.A.W) is reported to have said that it is the right of a Muslim to call his fellow Muslim by good names and titles which they like best. (Maariful Quran p135 v.8)
The first Khalifah in Islam was Abdul Ka’aba. Before you whip out your back-up Islamic History book, let me make my point. Abdul-Ka’aba, renamed Abdullah by Nabi (S.A.W), is better identified by his kunya ‘Abu Bakr’ (R.A).
‘Abd Ar-Raḥman, born ‘Abd Ash-Shams, narrated countless Ahaadith. No, no, don’t bother wracking your brains trying to recall if he made an apperarence in any of the Hadith Kitaabs you did in madrassah. He did, but under his kunya, ‘Abu Hurairah’ (R.A).
I’m using the term kunya for a reason. And it’s not to boast showcase my somewhat-miniature-but-not-to-me vocabulary abilities in Arabic (okay, maybe a little). Arabic is an exquisite language. See, in English, we have the word ‘nickname’. In case you don’t know what the correct definition of it is, and you don’t want to search it because a) you’re lazy or b) you’re boycotting Google (*sigh* Broadcasts strike again), it’s an invented name for somebody or something used humorously or affectionately. So that single word basically covers all bases (we need to save place in the dictionary for unsavoury words that damage our brain cells).
But then you get Arabic. Arabic is such an exquisite language (Did I already say that? Shame). A kunya is a name called out of respect. As in, ‘Umm Fathima’ or ‘Abu Salimah’. They are, most undeniably, not used to insult or slander anyone.
Which actually sums up my post for today (that doesn’t mean I’m going to keep quiet now. I’ve still get a couple hundred words left). Muslims are forbidden from calling their brethren (this word! xD) titles that would come across as demeaning or resentful or dishonouring. As in, ‘Fatso’ or ‘Karia’ (ahem, some people are so lucky I’m not mentioning names or giving hints like them being related to me. I’ll stop now).
The purpose is for the person being addressed not to feel hurt. It’s a different cup of tea if said person is commonly dubbed as such and accepts, or acknowledges their pet names (I prefer Qari-a. Tajweed make all the difference. Trust me, I pull my madd’s. I would know).
Another issue. Just as naming a baby is important because of the influence of a namesake, nicknames have the same concern. Don’t use un-Islamic tags. For a Muslim to call another person with names such as Faasiq (Transgressor), Kafir (disbeliever), Saariq (thief) Munafiq (hypocrite) and so forth, is not tolerable.
Use affectionate ones (blegh, yes, you can use sweetheart and darling). The Messenger (S.A.W) called his wife ‘Aishah (R.A) ‘Humayraa’ (one with pink cheeks). At times, he would lovingly call her ‘O ‘Aish’. How many distinctive names does Allah have for Nabi (S.A.W)? THE TRUSTWORTHY, THE SINCERE, THE HEALER, THE GUIDED. Scores of them, all of the same calibre.
Indirectly, giving someone a nickname not only reflects who you are as a person (some say sugar, some say honey) and what you merely think of a person (some say angel, some say devil) but also signifies the extent of your love.
Remember, you take one step towards Allah, Allah takes ten steps towards you.
May Allah protect us all and grant us the ability to overcome our Nafs.
Love and Duas,