Format of Traditional Arab Islamic Names
(The following is an extract from an introduction to Imam an-Nawawi.)
A traditional Arabic name consists of many things. The parts are:
1 . Your name and the name of your fathers before you.
The name of Imam Al-Nawawi is: Yahya ibn Sharraf ibn Mooree ibn Hasan ibn Husayn
2 . A kunya, which means nickname.
The kunya of the Prophet (saI AIIahu alayhi wa saIIam) was Abu Qasim.
Every person of the Arabs will take a kunya even if he did not have a son or child by that name.
Generally speaking, some names have intrinsic kunyas. For example, the name Ali is generally given the kunya Abu Hasan. If your father called you Ali, it was understood you would take the kunya Abu Hasan when you grew up. Why? Ali ibn Abi Talib’s son was called Hasan. Sometimes people with the name Ali are called Abu Husayn or Abu Hasanain. Similarly, the kunya of someone named Yasir is Abu Ammar because of Ammar ibn Yasir.
What do you think the kunya of Imam AI-Nawawi would be? Abu Zakariyyah. Yahya was the son of Zakariyyah, but the Prophet Yahya did not have any children. Imam Al-Nawawi himself approved of this kunya and called himself by that name.
3 . An honorary title.
The students of a scholar would give this title. Ibn Taymiyyah was called Shaykh Al-Islam, and very few people reached this status.
The title of Imam Al-Nawawi was muhyadeen, which means the reviver of the sciences. He was given this title during his lifetime, but he did not like it and said: “Anyone who calls me muhyadeen
I will not forgive him. ” His statement shows how strict he was about this title. He was strict with this because of his modesty. Muhya means someone who revives something that was dead, and Al-Nawawi did not like the connotation that the religion was dead and he brought it back to life.
4-. لقب (Laqab): where you are from / place of origin / profession
Sometimes it includes both the profession and the place of origin.
Imam AI-Nawawi was given a Iaqab for the place. He was born in a village called Nawa, which is a village outside of Damascus.
[Taken from: Class Notes on Sacred Scrolls, 40 Hadeeth Nawawi, Qabeelat Hosna, July 2008]