Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
I got married back in 2015. I live in the U.K. of Bangladeshi origin. My surname was Rahman, and my father’s surname is Rahman. However, throughout my life, numerous people told me (especially Middle Eastern passport check people) that my surname is haram and should be amended with a suffix. When I got married, my wife’s surname was `Ali, and we decided to double barrel, so it’s now Ali-Rahman. I figured it was a good solution. I wanted to check if this has fixed the issue, as we have been using it for eight years. I recently discovered that my grandfather’s surname was Ahmed, but he decided to give all his children the surname Rahman! I am in my 40s, so this was a long time ago.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
May Allah reward you for your desire to please Allah and not approach the limits of what is prohibited.
Your ancestors may have meant “Rahmani,” which would be fine, but it is best to change the name “Rahman” as it is exclusively for Allah. Unfortunately, adding “Ali” does not resolve the issue, and Allah knows best.
Names of Allah – Shared and Exclusive
The scholars have clarified that the Names and Attributes of Allah fall into two categories concerning their applicability to others and their exclusivity to Allah:
The first category includes the Names that are exclusively attributed to Allah, such as “Allah,” “al-Rahman” (The Most Merciful), “al-Awwal” (The First), “al-Akhir” (The Last), and similar Names. These Names can only be attributed to Allah (Most High).
The second category comprises Names and Attributes that can also be used to describe humans. There is no harm in using these Names to describe people. Don’t you see that Allah, glorified and exalted be He, described His noble Prophet as being “Ra’uf” (compassionate) and “Rahim” (merciful) towards the believers [Surah At-Tawbah, 9:128]? Allah described humans as “Sami‘“ (hearing) and “Basir” (seeing) [Surah Al-Insan, 76:2], even though these are attributes of Allah. However, when these attributes are applied to humans, they reflect their limitations and weaknesses, whereas when Allah attributes them to Himself, it signifies absolute perfection.
Among the Names of Allah (Most High) that are specific to Him, such as the Name “al-Rahman” (The Most Merciful). It is not permissible to apply this Name to any created being, whether an individual or a place, because it is one of the Names exclusive to Allah (Most High).
The same applies to “Rahman” without the definite article “Al.” In Lisan al-Arab, it is mentioned that Imam Zuhri (Allah have mercy on him) said, “It is not permissible to say “Rahman’ except for Allah, the Mighty and Majestic.” It is also found in linguistic forms that magnify His description, like “ar-Rahman,” which means the One whose mercy encompasses all things. It is not permissible to say “Rahman” for other than Allah (Most High).
Imam Hasan Al-Basri said, “Ar-Rahman is an exclusive Name that should not be used for other than Allah. However, one can say ‘Rahim’ (merciful) for a person.” Al-Jawhari said, “Ar-Rahman is a specific Name for Allah, the Exalted. It is not permissible to name others with it or describe them by it. Do you not see that Allah, Mighty, and Majestic is He, said, ‘Say, Call upon Allah or call upon Ar-Rahman, by whichever name you call upon Him, to Him belong the best names.’” [Quran, 17:110]
He made the Name equivalent to the Name that no one else should associate with Him. Both are forms of magnification. “ar-Rahman” is more encompassing than “Rahim.” “Rahim” is an attribute that can be attributed to other than Allah, like saying, “A (Rahim) merciful person,” but “Rahman” cannot.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The most awful name in Allah’s sight on the Day of Resurrection will be (that of) a man calling himself Malik al-Amlak (the king of kings).” [Bukhari; Muslim]
The Shafi‘i Muhaddith, Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Allah have mercy on him), said:
“(…) It also indicates a prohibition of using names unique to Allah, such as ‘ar-Rahman’ (The Most Merciful), ‘al-Qudus’ (The Holy), and ‘al-Jabbar’ (The Compeller), should not be used in this manner.” [Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, 10/590]
Based on this, one should not address someone named “Abdus-Samad” by saying “Ya Samad,” nor should one address someone named “Abdul-Ahad” by saying “Ya Ahad,” and similarly, one should not address someone named “Abdur-Rahman” by saying “Ya Rahman.”
Scholars of the Hanafi School offer similar guidance:
It is permissible to name someone with any name of Allah except those specific to Him, such as Allah and Rahman. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya]
May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.