Ibn Arabi said "Beings come and are mirrors of the Divine names; they are seen and then disappear." Reflections of the Divine world can be found in names. Names like Abdurrahman are chosen from the Names of Allah for new arrivals in this world so that closeness to Allah can be expressed. People who are given such names become frequent reminders of the infinite mercy of Allah in this world.
Names have other purposes as well; they allow us to differentiate between the people around us and, in one way, we exist with them. We learn from a hadith that not only will our names leave traces in this world, but that we will be called by the same name in the other world: "On the Day of Judgment you will be called by your name and by the name of your father; for this reason give yourselves good names." The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) concerned with naming people are not limited to these. The Companions would bring a newborn child to the Prophet to be named even before the child experienced its first taste of its mother's milk. Also, our Prophet changed the names of those whose names had negative connotations.
Names Chosen by Prophet Muhammad
It is reported that when Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa Salaam) named children he acted in a way that showed he expected the best for the child. When we examine the names that the Prophet gave to newborn children, the majority were either the names of other Prophets, like Abraham, or names like Abdullah and Abdurrahman, which referred to the attributes of Allah. We know that in general when a child is given the name of a Prophet it is because there is desire that the child will, in some way, follow in the footsteps of that Prophet. Those who carry the name of a Prophet at the same time will act as a means of commemoration, as names are not merely words, but they become a way that a "connection" is established between the person or meaning that they represent and the world.
Meanings Behind The Name
It can be said that the secret behind the increase in the use of the name Muhammad (sal Allahu alayhi wa Salaam) in recent years can be found in this mentality. One of the most frequently chosen names by parents is Muhammad; this name is chosen by parents to commemorate the Prophet and with the aim that the person carrying the name will take the Prophet as their example.
There is a common belief that the name a person carries has an effect on their character. Although this is of course debatable, what interests us here is that people who believe this frequently choose names like Muhammad, or other names that were used to refer to Prophet Muhammad, like Ahmad, Mahmud or Mustafa. We only need to look around us to discover that today the names of Prophet Muhammad (Asma-i Nebi), in particular the name Muhammad, have taken their place among the most common names given to boys today.
On the other hand, it is known that there are different opinions on this matter. In particular, in countries like Turkey, it is thought that the responsibility of carrying a name like Muhammad is very great, that it is not possible for everyone to live up to this responsibility, and that one cannot shout at a child who carries the name of Prophet Muhammad, as when one shouts at them they are being disrespectful to the Prophet. For this reason, the practice has become common in Turkey to call children Mehmet to still honour the Prophet's name, but to avert from accidental offense against our beloved Prophet's name. However in recent years the name Muhammad has once again started to be more common.
When we asked the opinions of some parents who named their sons Muhammad and those who are called Muhammad (shared below) we found that they have the same worries. However, when we examined the reasons why the parents who stated their views had chosen this name it becomes apparent that they acted on the principle that Prophet Muhammad should be taken as an example in life.
Opinions about Naming a Child after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
In our brief summary about the use of the name Muhammad we have already come across two opposing views. Although both are results of the respect for Prophet Muhammad, what is important here is what Allah's Messenger has to say on the subject. The following hadith, reported by Muslim, is in connection with this.
Once when a man named his son Muhammad the tribe told him not to give the child the name of the Prophet. The Prophet replied "Name yourselves with my name (use my name), but do not use my kunya name (i.e. Abu-l Qasim)." In this hadith it can clearly be seen that Prophet Muhammad is not opposed to the use of his name.
Those Who Chose the Name of Muhammad
When asked why they chose this name and the reactions they received, the parents who had chosen the name Muhammad answered in the following way:
Hatice Tarhan: There are a number of reasons why I chose the name Muhammad, but the most important is that it is the name of our Prophet. I always thought that "All children who come to the world should carry this name; no other name is as suitable and every family should have one Muhammad." A person who carries the name Muhammad should be of good morals, a beneficial person.
The name Muhammad reminds me of beautiful things. First of all the feeling of trust...good morals, depth of character, human love and the beautiful life of our Prophet...
I received both positive and negative reactions when I chose this name for my son. For example, some people told that whenever you say this name you need to send blessings to the Prophet, you have to be careful about getting angry or shouting at a child who has such a name, and that carrying this name requires too great a responsibility for a child to bear. But I did not pay too much attention to these opinions.
I am very happy right now, because my thoughts when choosing this name, thanks be to Allah, were not in vain. May Allah increase the number of Muhammad's who perceive the significance of this name and live their lives in this way.
Zubeyde Cukuryurt: I chose the name Muhammad for my son on purpose. I would like to list the reasons why I chose this name: Muhammad is the name of the Prophet and it means one who is praised on earth and in the heavens. It is the most beautiful exemplary name in the world...I would like my son to take the person whose name he carries as an example. I would like him to follow the Prophet and to try to be like him. I gave my son this name due to my love and admiration for the Prophet. I wanted to keep his way of life alive and to remind others of this beautiful person.
The name Muhammad brings to mind justice, love and all good moral behavior. The life of the Prophet comes into my mind, and I remember episodes from it. My son Muhammad brings these emotions to me from time to time and thus, even if it is only a little, the emotions I feel for the Prophet are kept alive.
When I chose this name for my son I received both positive and negative reactions. I received criticisms like, "the name Muhammad is a great responsibility for the child", "you will become angry with the child", "people will insult him and this will be a sin for you," "whoever says his name needs to send blessings to the Prophet" and similar comments. But I was aware that these are incorrect beliefs. I believe that it is necessary to keep this name alive. Of course, I also received positive reactions.
If a concise answer is necessary I am very very happy that I chose this name. I have a second son, Yusuf, but if I have a third son I will probably call him Muhammad as well, with another name as a second name. My son is now 11 and I have explained to him why I named him Muhammad. I pray that he will be someone worthy of this name.
And we spoke with two people who had been given that noble name of the Last Prophet:
Muhammed Salih Tarhan (High School Student - 17): I am happy that my name is Muhammed. Above all else, Muhammad is the name of the Prophet of Islam. To have this name is a wonderful thing, but one must be deserving of it. The morals of one who is called Muhammad should be like those of Prophet Muhammad, because today, after everything the Prophet did, the significance of the name Muhammad is of even greater importance.
The responsibility of having such a name is great. First of all it is necessary to represent this name well in order to change the perspective that non-Muslim people have of Prophet Muhammad. Whenever one hears the name Muhammad, the first thing that comes into their minds is Prophet Muhammad. It is for this reason that one must be very careful in order to prevent people associating the name Muhammad with negative things.
People today are in need of the moral character of Prophet Muhammad. In order to remind people of his morals one must first remind them of the Prophet. People will be reminded of the Prophet to the degree that his name becomes widespread; in short, the behavior of other Muhammads reminds people of the Prophet of Islam.
Muhammed Kalyoncu (Businessman - 26) Being named Muhammad did not affect me very much at first. By at first I mean when I was a child. When I began to mature and understand the world better I began to realize the significance of my name. Particularly when I began reading books about the life of our Prophet and when I understood what a wonderful person he was, I began to have different feelings. As a result, today I am very happy that I have this name. But I am also aware of the great responsibility of being called Muhammad. I now know that it is necessary to be someone who is deserving of this name.
The name Muhammad first of all brings to mind the beautiful things that occurred with the advent of Islam. It reminds me of Allah because our Prophet was someone who was sent by Allah.