I was named Zainab by my father and although it very appropriately means “a father’s precious jewel” or “the one who glorifies a father” in Arabic, I was given this name more for it’s historical significance and it’s popularity among Muslims. The daughter of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) was named Zainab as well as one of his granddaughters. Another meaning of Zainab is “blossoming flower” or “fragrant flower”.
My father went a step further and also kept a nickname for me and for each of his three children. To this day, many of our relatives know us by our nicknames and not our real names. It’s a shame really because I love my name. I couldn’t think of any other name that would suit me better.
When I got married I didn’t change my surname to reflect my husband’s name because we thought it was too much hassle to change bank accounts and other records. My husband didn’t have any hangups that his wife should adopt his name so I just kept my maiden name. This is something a bit strange in my country where married women are addressed as Mrs. XYZ and not Ms. Many times I get called Mrs Javid which is my mother’s name (she did change her maiden name to my father’s surname) because they think my husband must be called Javid and they can’t understand why I didn’t change my name. For some women it’s a matter of honor to be associated with their husband’s name. For me it just shows that I am an independent woman with my own identity and don’t need to change the name I was born with.
I think names are very important and should be kept with the meaning in mind. When I named my son “Nadir” which means exceptional in my native Urdu, I had these considerations in mind; that it should have a good meaning, it should be something resembling his father’s name Naseer and it should go well with his surname of Ali. Although I had vowed not to give him a nickname I have ended up calling him Nadoo. When some of his friends from the park where he plays came for his birthday party, they asked me why I had written Nadir on his cake and not Nadoo. When I have to scold him I always address him as Nadir.
Last year I got my son an aquarium with different kinds of fish. They were about 10 of them and mostly in pairs. My son named them after all his relatives. Then one by one they started dying. It was more devastating for me than for my son. Somehow he had not got attached to them maybe because you don’t get to hold fish or feed them directly in their mouth. Anyway I replaced the fish with fewer bigger fish of the same kind and we decided never to name them after someone. They are still doing well today.