It’s funny to think that after all this time I NOW get why Muslims are encouraged to learn Allah’s 99 names.
We have a guest in our home, and according to Dagomba tradition, her name for the first week of her life here on earth is “Saanpaga”, which means “Lady guest”. The male equivalent, “Saandoo” also means, take a wild guess, “Man Guest”. Total ingenuity, I know. Anyway, today Saanpaga will finally get her own name according to Islamic tradition. And during the last 10- and what is deemed the holiest- days of Ramadan too! MashAllah. In addition, as per family tradition, she will get a Dagbani middle name.
Yes, her Islamic name will most likely have “tu” affixed to the end as most Islamic female names do. No, it’s not a fad, but rather a grammatical rule, as “tu” serves as a female indicator. Kind of like the French ‘e’. My full name for instance, is Jemila(tu) Wunpini Abdulai. Jemila means beauty or beautiful in Arabic. My Dagbani name Wunpini – given to me at age 14 by my late grandfather- means “God’s Gift”, while Abdulai is our family name and incidentally, the name of Prophet Muhammed’s father. So now you know the origins of the “God’s Gift” on my Facebook profile.
Anyway, after suhoor this morning I was doing some research on how Muslims select names for their babies and I came across this website detailing Allah’s 99 most beautiful names. Nothing new there. I’d heard about them and even attempted memorizing them. But I’d never actually connected with them. This directory gives a good descriptiom of each of Allah’s names and I found it especially comforting. That’s when I realized the importance of knowing Allah’s names by heart- so at any given moment, we can “call on” Him and find solace in the many roles he plays – as our Guide, Confidant, Lord, Protector, etc.
Here’s something interesting about His names. Each of them starts with “Al”, “Ar” or “As”which means “The”, and Allah encourages people to take on some of His names as their own, only without the “The”. Also, all names are free game with the exception of “Allah” which means “The One” (Obviously, the name would become defunct if more than one person used it.) So, essentially, Allah gives each of us some quality similar to the many He has and asks us to imbibe it. Now if that’s not an amazing thing- sharing the same name as the Creator of the Universe! – then I don’t know what is. MashAllah.
Bon, I’ve only just started perusing Allah’s names, and already, I have favorites – Al-Rahmaan ( the Compassionate), Ar-Raheem (the Merciful) and As-Salaam (the Source of Peace). Take a look at the list and let us know yours :)
Love, Light and Blessings to you all! Salam!
P.S. My lil cousin has a name! Shefa’atu Nasara. Shefa’atu meaning ‘intercession’ in Arabic, and Nasara being ‘blessing’ in Dagbani. Welcome to the world lil one! May each of your steps be guided by Allah, Ar-Rahman! Amine!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.