Muslim naming conventions differ from country to country. Yet there are some general rules that have to be followed in conjunction with the Islamic traditions. A newly born child must be given a name within seven days culminating with the Aqeeqah ceremony – an Islamic rite to thank Allah by sacrificing one or two goats or sheep of which one-third of the meat is distributed to the poor and the rest is consumed among parents, friends and relatives. Usually, the parents may take suggestions from grandparents and other relatives or consult an Imam while selecting a name that will suit the personality of the child. The name is drawn from the Islamic history and tradition and must have a positive meaning. In one of the hadiths, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) advises to adopt a good name and avoid any name which conveys bad meaning, because on the Day of Judgement every Muslim will be called by his/her name and his/her father’s name.
In Mauritius, each Muslim has a personal name and a family name derived from the father’s lineage. Given that the bulk of the Muslim immigrants came from the Indian sub-continent, it is found that most of the Muslim names in Mauritius draw their roots from Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Indian origins. Taking into account that all the names of our ancestors were transliterated from the original oriental pronunciations into English and French phonetics and consonants by the colonial bureaucracy, many of the names are faced with spelling challenges and some of them have even been corrupted. For example, the name “Muhammad” is written in different misspelling variations like Mamad, Mamode, Mahomed, Mohamed etc. In many of the Muslim names that have been transliterated from Urdu/Arabic to English language, it is found that the sounds and syllables do not flow well.
The surnames of the Mauritian Muslims do not have prefix like “Al” or “Bin” or “ibne” which is a prevailing practice in the Middle East. However, majority of the surnames bear suffixes like Ali (name of Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law), “backus” (gift), “deen” (religion), “mian” (title of respect) and “khan” (Afghani title of nobility). However, when these suffixes have been written in Roman letters, they have undergone several spelling variations. For example, surnames bearing the suffix of “Ali” end up like “Mohamadally”, “Goolamallee”, “Hossenali”, Rosunally, Ramjanally, Karamtally, Samtally, Bartally, Barkatally, Sahebally etc. Those bearing the suffix of “backsh” is also found with different spelling like Khodabux, Khodabaccus, Mardarbux, Allybux, Allybackus, Emambux, Emamboccus, Modbocus etc. The surnames with the suffix “deen” are found in names like Alladeen, Sahebdin, Moideen, Fatadeen, Ameeruddin, Samsuddin, Khodadeen etc. The suffix “Mian” has been identified in surnames like Ameermeeah, Fakeemeea, Sookoomiah, Bahemia, Hassenmia, Rahimeea, Doreemiah. Several family names in Mauritius are suffixed with “Khan”. While it was a honorific title in the Mongol Empire, Khan is a widespread Muslim surname in most countries of Central Asia and South Asia. In India, Pakistan and Afghanistan “Khan” is used a stand-alone surname, but in Mauritius it is widely coined with the family names such as Hyderkhan, Oozeerkhan, Jamalkhan, Mohideenkhan, Ebrahimkhan, Farzankhan, Fazalkhan, Nazarkhan, Abdoolakhan etc.
Some surnames in Mauritius end up with the sound of “on” or “un” or “an”. This is also a common practice in the Bengali naming convention. The following surnames have been surveyed with such suffix: Agawon, Sohawon, Bujhawon, Joorawon, Jeewon, Basswon, Madarun, Joomun, Chamun, Faridun, Khedarun, Rohimun, Beegun, Meerun, Najeebun, Soreefan.
There are quite a number of surnames that terminate with the sounds of “lah”, “ee” and “roo”. Some of these surnames can be listed as follows: Sadullah, Nusrullah, Badullah, Abdullah, Sanaoullah; Roojee, Sumodhee, Aumeeruddy, Musuddee, Monodee, Basiruddy, Currimjee, Jeewanjee, Adamjee, Salejee, Hafejee, Shimjee; Khadaroo, Salaroo, Chataroo, Mangroo, Heeroo, Cheeroo, Peeroo, Kauroo, Khoyroo.
There are also many family names that are common to both Hindus and Muslims. Some of the popular ones can be mentioned as follows: Patel, Koomar, Desai, Ramgoolam, Keenoo, Chooramun, Bundhoo, Bundhun, Baichoo, Ganoo, Uteem, Gokhool, Jaddoo, Jhurry, Bedassy, Teeluck, Jhowry, Jaddoo, Cheddy, Nuckchedy, Dulloo, Tincowree, Chukowree, Gunowree.
The naming convention for the first name has evolved considerably since the days of French colonisation. During the French rule, our ancestors could not officially retain their first names of Islamic origin. For example, the first Imam of the Camp des Lascars Mosque was known as Ignace Sobdar. During the days of the British colonization, although there was no restriction on the inscription of Muslim names, in many archival documents our ancestors are referred as Indian with just a surname together with an identification number. But it was a general rule for each Muslim to have a first name of Muslim denomination for current use. The first wave of the Muslim immigrants drew their first names largely from the names of Prophets, Caliphs and historic Muslim figures, such as Adam, Ibrahim, Jabbar, Moossa, Yacoob, Younous, Soleman, Dawood, Osman, Siddiq, Ali, Omar, Hassen, Hussein, Kader, Jeelani amongst others. For women, the names like Khateejah, Hawa, Mariam, Fatimah, Zainab, Aisha, Zaitoon were widely used. As from 1850 onward, it appears that there was a tendency for Muslims in Mauritius to draw names from the Ottoman gallery such as Abdul Majeed, Abdul Hameed, Mahmood, Farouk, Sultan. Some names were also copied from the Mughal tradition, such as Akbar, Salim, Mumtaz, Rustom, Sohrab, Sikandar, Zahir, Wazir, Wahab, Samsher, Sahzad, Sheraz, Safaraz, Naushad, Khurshid, Dilshad, Azim, Banon, Ruqaiya, Zeenat, Noori, Afroze etc. Until recently, it has been a tradition in Mauritius to add the title of “Bibi” to girl’s names. Bibi is a Persian word of respect for lady. There is also a convention in Mauritius to use the feminine equivalent of the male names, such as Rashid: Rashida; Hamid: Hamida; Abid:Abida; Alim: Alima; Saleem:Saleema; Saheed:Saheeda; Feroze: Feroza; Waheed: Waheeda; Zaheer: Zaheera; Malik: Malika; Khaleed: Khaleeda; Zahid: Zahida; Hanif: Hanifa.
It is also reported that our ancestors gave names to their newly born babies in accordance with the Islamic months or events when they took birth. Therefore, there are some names that are related to the Islamic months such as Ramzan or Ramjan, Safar, Rajab and Shaban. And those born on the day or during the period of Eid were named as Edun or Bakreedun. There are few names like Joomratty (night of Jummah), Subratty (night of Shabe-e-barat), Koodratty (night of destiny) and Khoyratty (alms-giver). It has also been a tradition until recently to add the title of “Hajee” to the names of those who had performed Hajj.
The modern generation has wide choices for selecting rhythmic and mellifluous names. Many Mauritian parents have the opportunity to pick beautiful names from the Pakistani television serials. Others consult the Islamic websites which instantly produce a catalogue of Muslim names together with their meanings. In the life of every Muslim parent, name-giving is one of the most defining moments. Name is an identity that will survive in the Hereafter.