Arabic Names: The structure and meaning of Islamic Names

No matter where you live, you must have heard of someone named Mohammad, Abdullah, Ali or Omar. These are some of the most common Muslim Arabic names and are used by people from all parts of the world. The Muslim names you hear most of the time are Arabic words that have meaning as ordinary adjective or noun:

“Mohammad” means “Glorified, Praiseworthy”

“Abdullah” means “Servant of Allah”

“Ali” means “High, Exalted”

“Omar” means “Speaker, Flourishing, Long-lived”

First Name (Ism)

The First Name or Personal Names are often aspirational in nature. Muslims believe that your name affects your mindset, and has an impact on your nature. That’s why Muslim names always have a very positive meaning. Mohammad is the most common Arabic First Name, and in case of the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia, it is the first name of almost every Muslim. Since Mohammad is the first name of every Muslim in these parts of the world, a person will often be referred by their second name.

Since many Muslims don’t know the Arabic language, they don’t understand the actual meaning of the name, and sometimes their names are not actually suitable in any way. Since the structure of Arabic is complicated, they misunderstand the actual meaning of the word. Knowing basic Arabic can be of extreme help in naming a person.

Surname (Nisbah)

The surname of most Muslims usually refers to their ancestors, or to the tribe, city, country or anything of relevance. It usually runs for generations and many people keep track of their lineage for thousands of years.

“Syed” is usually used by people who track their lineage to Caliph Ali, the son in law of Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him). Qurayshis are the people whose forefathers belonged to the Quraysh tribe, the tribe the Prophet was born in.

Father’s Name

Many people, especially in the Arab World, have Father’s Name as their middle names. Most Arabs use “bin” and “ibn” before their father’s name which means son of. So if someone’s name is “Mohammad bin Ahmad Qurayshi” then the name “Ahmad” is the father’s name, Mohammad is the first name, and Qurayeshi is the surname. “Bint” is used for daughters name and is used after father’s name.

Use of Al

“Al” is used in Arabic to denote proper noun, and in case of a name, it is used to denote a well-known dynasty or family. You might have heard of the Al-Saud (The family of Saud) the rulers of Saudi Arabia, and the use of Al denotes a well-known family name.


You might have heard of names like Abdur Rahman, Abd Ullah etc. The word “Abd” is used to mean “The Slave of” and is followed by any of the names of Allah. Many people confuse Abd for the first name when it is a prefix of the first name.

That’s all about arabic names. Knowing the basics of Naming conventions is very important as it helps us in understanding the names and helps us avoid some very basic errors. It is not very uncommon to hear names that are technically wrong and have a very wrong meaning, and the error is caused by people not knowing Arabic. At SAIOI we ensure that you learn enough basic Arabic to help you understand basic conversational or Quranic Arabic. You can Register now at SAIOI and get a free one on one Arabic online tuition with our trained tutors, and we ensure that you will love the interactive session.