Personal Names and the Islamic Identity in Pakistan

TARIQ RAHMAN

Abstract


Names are connected with several societal variables such as identity, power and the belief-system. This study examines the association of the personal names of Pakistani Muslims with perceptions of their religious (including sectarian) identities. Large data bases of names of Muslims in order to find the frequencies of Islamic components in their names will be examined so as to provide an index of religiosity and its type (Shi‘ah/Sunni/fundamentalist/radical etc). It is suggested that the occurrence of names like Osama [Usamah], Saddam [Saddam] or Arabic components like—umm (mother of),—ibn (son of) suggests radicalisation. Derivatives from Arabic, whether considered Islamic or not, will also be examined. This analysis along the chronological dimension will suggest whether Pakistani names have become more Islamised from the early years of Pakistan (1947–57) in comparison with the post-Zia ul Haq period (1980–90s). Names may be changed with a view to flagging the desire to take up a new religious identity. Thus the Islamisation and Arabisation of personal names in Pakistan may be an indicator of identity and change in identity construction.


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