ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Personal Names in Pakistan

Onomastic Beliefs, Naming Practices, and Islam’s Influence

The choice of personal names of Pakistani Muslims is discussed along three parameters--beliefs about names, naming practices, and the influence of Islam on both--while the religious orientation of society is manifested by the people's desire to choose names from Arabic and Persian. These names do not necessarily conform to strict Islamic norms. Such names, as well as names based on natural objects and phenomena, still remain in vogue, especially in the rural areas. The most widely held belief is that names have an effect upon personality or that they can be inauspicious.

Pakistan is a predominantly (96.28%) Muslim country (Census-R 2004) carved out in 1947 by partitioning British India. As the naming process in Pakistan is strongly influenced by Islam, high-ranking clergy and religious scholars (ulema) play an important role in selecting children’s names. They also determine whether a name is Islamic or not. In some cases, especially with increasing emphasis on Islam in Pakistani society, traditional names are changed to conform to the clergy’s definition of what is an appropriate Islamic name. Names are also changed if they are believed to be inauspicious and some names are chosen for their supposed mystical influences on personality, life chances, and even one’s unborn siblings. Considering their importance in Pakistani society, it is regrettable that the number of scholarly studies addressing this phenomenon is limited.

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