Kunyah

Assalam alaikoum wa Rahmatullaah wa Barakaatuh,

I’ve been asked by many people the reason for using ”Umm Khaleel’ when I do not even a child to begin with. Insha’Allah this article will give you a better understanding on why I use a kunyah 🙂

As for the choice of kunyah, I’ve considered many other names but decided to stick to ‘Umm Khaleel’ because I’ve always been amazed by stories of Prophet Ibrahim alayhi salam about his complete obedience and tawakkul to His Rubb which is why he earned the title of being a ‘close friend of Allah’ or ‘khalilullah’. This name serves as a reminder to myself of who I would like to be and my goal in this Dunya and aakhirah insha’Allah 🙂

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Definition & recommendation:

A Kunyah is a combined term consisting of a name preceded by the word Abu (father) or Umm (mother). Depending on its position in a sentence, Abu may appear as Abaa or Abee. Most often, the name used in the kunyah is the bearers eldest child. But, as we will show below, this is not a necessary condition.

Bearing a kunyah and addressing people by their kunyah is an old Arab etiquette that was condoned by Islam. It was practiced by the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), his companions, and the righteous Muslims through the ages. Addressing a person with his kunyah is a show of respect and esteem. Thus, it is recommended for a Muslim to bear a kunyah and to address other by their kunyah’s.

Bearing a kunyah before having children:

Contrary to common understanding, it is recommended for a Muslim to bear a kunyah even without offspring.

Hamzah bin Suhayb reported that ‘Umar (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) said to Suhayb: “How come you use Abu Yahya as your kunyah even though you do not have a son (called Yahya)?” Suhayb (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) replied:

“Allaah’s Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) gave me this kunyah of Abu Yahya.” [1]

Furthermore, a person’s kunyah should not necessarily contain the name of his (or her) children. Many of the companions (radee Allaahu ‘anhum) were known with a kunyah that did not derive from a child’s name. Examples: Abu Bakr, Abu Hafs (‘Umar), Abu Hurayrah, Abu Tharr, Abu Sulaymaan (Khalid bin al-Waleed), Abu Salamah, etc.”

Giving a kunyah to a childless woman:

Further to the above discussion, it is also recommended for a woman to take on a kunyah, even if she does not have any offspring.

‘A’ishah (radee Allaahu ‘anhaa) reported that she once said to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “O Allaah’s Messenger, why do you not give me a kunyah?” He replied:

“Take a kunyah after your sister’s son ‘Abdullaah. So you are Umm ‘Abdillaah.” [2]

Commenting on this hadeeth, al-Albaanee (rahimahullaah) said:

“This indicates that it is recommended to have a kunyah, even for those who do not have children. This is an Islamic etiquette that, as far as I know, is unparalleled by other nations. Thus, all Muslim, men and women, should adhere to it and drop what has invaded them of foreign customs…” [3]

Giving a kunyah to children:

It is also permissible to give kunyah’s to children and address them by their kunyah’s. This is part of the Arab and Islamic tradition that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) approved and practiced.

‘Anas (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) often visted ‘Anas’s family. On one of his visits, he saw a younger brother of ‘Anas sad. The Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) asked. “What is his problem?” He was told that he had a small bird that died. So he said to him:

“O Abu ‘Umayr, what happened to the birdie?” [4]

Umm Khaalid bint Khaalid (radee Allaahu ‘anhaa) reported that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was brought some garments among which was a small black khamisah [5] with green or yellow impressions. He asked his companions: “To which girl do you think we should give this khamisah?” They all remained silent. So he said, “Bring me Umm Khaalid.” She was carried before the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) wearing a yellow dress, and he the garment on her with his own hand while saying:

“May you wear it out and replace it. This is pretty, O Umm Khaalid! This is pretty, O Umm Khaalid.” [6]

The Prophet’s (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) kunyah:

It is not permissible to bear the Prophet’s (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) kunyah: Abul-Qaasim. It is further preferable to avoid naming ones eldest son as Qaasim because, by common tradition, the father would be called Abul-Qaasim.

Jaabir bin ‘Abdillaah (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that a boy was born for a man from among the Ansaar, so he named him Qaasim. The Ansaar said to him: “We will not address you as Abul-Qaasim, and will not please your eye with this.” When the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) heard about this he said:

“The Ansaar have done well! Bear my name, but do not use my kunyah. I have been made a Qaasim (distributor) because I distribute and judge among you. So, bear my name but do not use my kunyah.”

The Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) then said to the man: “Name your son ‘Abdur-Rahmaan.” [7]

Similarly, Abu Hurayrah and ‘Anas (radee Allaahu ‘anhum) reported that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:

“Use my name, but do not use my kunyah.” [8]

Some reports of this hadeeth from ‘Anas indicate that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said this when a man was calling another man saying: “O Abdul-Qaasim!” The Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) thought that he meant him and turned to look at him. The man then explained. “I did not mean you, O Allaah’s Messenger.” [9]

‘Alee (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that he said to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “O Allaah’s Messenger, if I am granted a son after you, may I give him your name and your kunyah?” The Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied. “Yes.” [10]

Commenting on the various views regarding this issue, Ibn Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said:

“The dislike (of using the Prophet’s [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] kunyah) has three reasons:

1) Giving the meaning of the name (Qaasim) to those who do not deserve it … because he (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) divided among the people according to Allaah’s command, and not the division of kings who give and deny according to desire.
2) Concern about confusing (between the Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] and someone else) when addressing or calling … as was the case when a caller said to the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam): “I did not mean you.”
3) Using both of the Prophet’s (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) name and kunyah removes the benefit of having a distinction (in name) for him.

The first reason makes it prohibited to use the Prophet’s (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) kunyah during his life and after his death. The second limits the prohibition to his lifetime. The third reason only prohibits bearing both his name and his kunyah (by the same person)…”

Footnotes:

[1] Recorded by Ibn Maajah, al-Haakim, and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albaanee (as-Sahihah, No. 44)
[2] Recorded by Ahmad, Aboo Daawood, and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albaanee (as-Sahihah, No. 132 and Sahih ul-Adab il-Mufrad Nos. 850, 851)
[3] As-Sahihah, Vol 1.1, P. 257
[4] Record by al-Bukhaaree, Muslim and others
[5] Khamisah: A light black or red garment made of silk or wool with little coloured impressions
[6] Recorded by al-Bukhaaree
[7] Recorded by al-Bukhaaree, Muslim, and others
[8] Recorded by al-Bukhaaree, Muslim, and others
[9] Recorded by al-Bukhaaree, Muslim, and others
[10] Recorded by Aboo Daawood, at-Tirmidhee, and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albaanee (as-Sahihah, Vol. 6.2, Pgs.1081-1082)

This article has been transcribed from the book ‘Our Precious Sprouts’, Pgs. 43-47 by Dr. Muhammad al-Jibaly

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9 thoughts on “Kunyah

  1. Masha Allah! Great post! I actually didn’t know that we’re not supposed to use the Prophet’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) Kunyah 🙂

  2. No biggie!
    Alhamdulillah. I don’t get 4 flat but, I’m going to do my best for this sem! Insha Allah I’ll be back at my campus this Sunday. I miss my friends lol.

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