Eh!  She did all the hard work and I got the name! 

Eh!  She did all the hard work and I got the name! 

I do not know if any Malay Muslim lady had ever got her name mangled into a rojak (food that has a mixture of various fruits and raw vegetables).  My daughter had. Her name is Munirah Binte Shaik Kadir and her name had been, from time to time, strangely moulded, even, horribly mauled.

Irritated, way back in 2007, I wrote an info-edu piece, “Clearing up confusion over Muslim names“, which was published not as a letter in the “Forum” page of The Straits Times but an essay in the “Review” section of the newspaper (26 May 2007).

Straits Times article

Munirah’s father, exasperated at the variance in his and Munirah’s names wrote an  article in Review/The Straits Times, 26 May 2007.

In the first five paragraphs of the article I wrote:

“Recently, I received a letter from an insurance company. It left me exasperated. Why? Because the company somehow managed to mangle my name beyond recognition.

My full name is Shaik Kadir Bin Shaik Maideen. This means my personal name is Shaik Kadir, and I can be called Shaik or Kadir. Bin means “son of”. Shaik Maideen is my father’s name.

Such a pattern in a Muslim’s full name is very common in Singapore and Malaysia. Nevertheless, in the letter the insurance company sent me, it somehow managed to address me as “Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir Bin”.

A few days after this letter arrived, my daughter received a letter from a well-known Singapore company. She was addressed as “Kadir Binte Munirah Shaik”. Binte means “daughter of”.  (In other words, the company, with abracadabra, has transformed my daughter, Munirah, into me, a man, who is the daughter of Munirah, herself! Confused? Well, blame the computer, the company would say.)

It is strange that even large, well-known companies in Singapore are unable to correctly write Muslim names. So allow me to try to explain how it goes.”

In another 17 paragraphs I explained “how they (Malay Muslim names) are written and what they mean”. As the sub-head of the newspaper article says:  “Names matter a lot to Muslims, so here’s a primer on how they are written and what they mean”. (The whole article is reproduced in the “Notes” at the end of this blog article.)

Well, but for now, let me talk about my name again which had gone into many mouldings like “Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir Bin” and “Bin Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir” and how I got the doctorate title.

My daughter, Munirah, who was a former Physics and Mathematics secondary school teacher went on to pursue her full-time 4-year doctorate program in a university in Sydney, Australia. Before going abroad for her studies, she had married an American in Singapore. A year later, (while studying in Sydney) she became pregnant and four months into her pregnancy, she and her husband came back to Singapore to be with my wife and me, and soon, a few months later, Munirah gave birth to Adam Rayan Dula. A year later, she went back to Sydney and restarted her studies from year one, with an additional member in the family. Credit must go to Munirah’s husband, Allen Dula, for taking care of their son when Munirah was on campus five days a week.

As a final-year PhD candidate, Munirah, who has had experiences in making conference presentations in Hong Kong and Helsinki, Finland, and was once attached to University of Washington, USA, presented “Analyzing the Effects of Managing Element Interactivity in Science Learning” at the International Conference in Florence, Italy, themed New Perspectives in Science Education, in February last year (2017).

Munirah’s Husband, Allen and their son, Adam Rayan, accompanied Munirah for the conference in Florence and even visited Rome for sightseeing.

Patience and hard work

Then, after four long years of being a wife, mother and student, her patience and hard work paid off. Her graduation ceremony was held on 10 May this year (2018) with her husband and son attending the grand function in which Munirah was the only person to be conferred a PhD amongst hundreds of candidates from Masters and Bachelors programs.

Munirah described her graduation ceremony as “very special” and different from her Bachelor’s and Master’s graduation ceremonies in Singapore. As a PhD graduand, Munirah got to be a part of the academic procession with the chancellors, mace bearer and others. And, instead of sitting in the audience, she was seated on stage with the academic processional gathering throughout the graduation ceremony.

“I am the first person to be conferred in the ceremony. Dr Stephen Weller, the Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Vice-Chancellor read out a brief of my thesis to the audience. Then, I walked up to Professor Margot Hillel, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), who happily congratulated me and presented my PhD certificate,” Munirah said.

Munirah receiving her PhD Certificate from Professor Margot Hillel, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

Remembering her professors

Dr Munirah flanked by her Supervisors, Prof Alexander Yeung and Prof Richard Ryan.

Dr Munirah flanked by Dr Stephen Weller and Prof Margot Hillel, and, in the photo on the right, with Prof Michelle Cambell, Faculty Dean.

Munirah’s friend, Dr Alicia Franklin, congratulating Munirah with a card made by her. And husband Allen and 4-year-old son Adam are proud to be with the newly conferred “Dr Munirah”.

I couple of days later, my daughter received an official letter addressed as “Dr”, the honourable title for which she had been working hard all these years. The letter began: “Dear Dr Kadir”.

Munirah WhatsApped to congratulate me: “In all official documents now, I’m known as Dr Kadir.  Abah, you are so popular here!”

Wow! That’s news!  She did all the hard work and I got the title!  I rest my case.

Shaik Kadir
8 May 2018

Note:  The full article:

Clearing up confusion over Muslim names

Names matter a lot
to Muslims, so here’s
a primer on how they
are written and
what they mean

By Shaik Kadir Bin Shaik Maideen
For the Straits Times, Review, Saturday, May 26 2007

Recently, I received a letter from an insurance company. It left me exasperated. Why? Because the company somehow managed to mangle my name beyond recognition.

My full name is Shaik Kadir Bin Shaik Maideen. This means my personal name is Shaik Kadir, and I can be called Shaik or Kadir. Bin means “son of”. Shaik Maideen is my father’s name.

Such a pattern in a Muslim’s full name is very common in Singapore and Malaysia. Nevertheless, in the letter the insurance company sent me, it somehow managed to address me as “Shaik Maideen Shaik Kadir Bin”.

A few days after this letter arrive, my daughter received a letter from a well-known Singapore company. She was addressed as “Kadir Binte Munirah Shaik”. Binte means “daughter of”.

It is strange that even large, well-known companies in Singapore are unable to correctly write Muslim names. So allow me to try to explain how it goes.

I will begin with some common names that should be familiar to people in Singapore.

First, there are Muslim names that are similar to Christian names. This arises because Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all Semitic religions. Historically, they come from the same religious line, from Prophet Abraham.

Of these names, many Muslim ones have small spelling variations to those of Christian names, like Ishak for Isaac and Yusof for Joseph; and Mariam for Mary and Supiah for Sophia.

Some Muslim names, in fact, are exactly the same as Christian names: for example, Adam, Benjamin, Martin and Daniel, for men; Alicia, Sarah and Sharon, in the case of women.

In addition, with some female names an “h” may be added to the end of the name, like Dianah for Diana, Ameliah for Amelia and Sabrinah for Sabrina.

Next, many male Muslims are named after prophets, like Musa (after Prophet Moses) , Ibrahim(after Prophet Abraham) and Dawood (after Prophet David).

Other male names take after the attributes of God, like Rahman which means “the merciful”. Hence, Abdul, which means “servant of”, is added to the name. Thus, Abdul Rahman means “Servant of the Merciful”.

It is strange that even large, well-known companies in Singapore are unable to correctly write Muslim names. So allow me to try to explain how it goes.

EXASPERATING
It is strange that even
large, well-known
companies in
Singapore are unable to
correctly write
Muslim names

Nur or Noor is a popular forename. It means “guidance” or “light” in Arabic. Thus, Noor Muhammad (a male name) means “Guidance or Light of (Prophet) Muhammad” and Nur Ain Saleha (a female name) means “Light of the eyes of a pious personality”.

When a man converts to Islam, it may be necessary for him to adopt a Muslim name. This is just for official documentation purposes. For instance, only Muslims are allowed into Mecca. Therefore, an official document is required to show that a person intending to enter Mecca is a Muslim.

An official conversion document also is important in a multi-religious country like Malaysia, where the official religion is Islam. Burial problems may arise, as has happened there, if the Muslim convert left no “convert certificate” when he died.

In Malaysia and Singapore, it is common practice for a convert to Islam to take a Muslim name with Abdullah (meaning “servant of Allah.”) added to his name. Some converts use their Muslim names and their original names separately, while other use their Muslim names together with their surnames. Islam does not object to this practice.

A few examples of names of converts (taken from various issues of The Muslim Reader, a periodical of The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore) are: Norashikin Abdullah alias Lim Ai Lin, Murliani Abdullah alias Janet See Kim Gek, Mazlan Abdullah Soh, Siti Aminah Han and Adam Abdullah Brown (the last three persons retained their Chinese or Western surnames).

Married Muslim women are encouraged to use their maiden names instead of taking their husbands’ names instead of taking their husbands’ names. This is a right given to Muslim women by Islam. Thus, if Miss Faridah Binte Ali marries Mr Jamil Bin Ahmad, she might not prefer to be addressed as Mrs Jamil or Mrs Faridah Jamil or even Mrs Jamil-Faridah Ali. She might prefer her maiden name: Madam Faridah Ali or Ms Faridah Ali.

Names of Muslims are often taken from the Quran. Islam advises Muslim parents to give their children meaningful names (and, of course, to bring them up honourably). Names that are distasteful to Islam are out. For example, Ah Kow, which means “dog” in a Chinese dialect, may not be retained by a Chinese man with such a name when he becomes a Muslim. Cat Stevens, the British pop idol of the1960s, when he embraced Islam, adopted the name, Yusuf Islam without retaining his former name, Cat.

The all-time boxing great, Muhammad Ali, dropped his former name, Cassius Clay, altogether. The well-known author of Islamic books, Margaret Marcus, became Maryam Jamilah. A convert is free to adopt any meaningful Islamic name of his or her choice.

Lastly, Islam disallows calling a person by a nickname.

So, as personal names matter a great deal to Muslims, it would be excellent customer service and a good public relations endeavour for companies to pay some attention to their names of their Muslim customers, clients and staff.

The writer is a senior lecturer at ITE College Central (MacPherson Campus) and author of Inside Islam: 101 Questions And Answers.

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