Muslim conventions

+12 votes

When looking at the [[Category:Unsourced Profiles]] (Thanks, Gaile, for raising another mess to our collective consciousness) I found the following three profiles listed there:

and there are plenty more from the same import from January 24, 2012. These are members of Imam Ali's family. If we follow WikiTree naming conventions they would be  ابو طالب بن عبد المطلب‎,علي بن أبي طالب, and الحسن بن علي بن أبي طالب ‎. The 'Syed' in the name is a honorific more commonly anglizised as Sayyid signifying descent from Muhammad through his grandsons, Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali. The A.S. stands for the phrase ʿalayhi as-salām (عليه السلام), translating to "peace be upon him", most commonly reserved for prophets and archangels.

These names pose numerous problems for us but, since they are on the tree we need to come to some agreement how to proceed.




in Policy and Style by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (545k points)
You know, Helmut, when I looked at that, I saw the three profiles with LNAB of 'Syed'  (the apostrophes are part of these LNABs).  I also noticed something that I though strange - the profile manager's LNAB is Syed - without the apostrophes.

Of course, I know less than nothing about naming conventions outside of my very narrow world of experience, although I am aware that the WikiTree name model has problems meeting conventions in use in other times and/or other cultures from the Americas and Western Europe, to say nothing of the other alphabets.  Thank you for bringing this up ... it's starting to seem like we have no end of anomalies yet unfound out there on our tree and it also seems like nearly every one raises another whole problem with conventions.
Sayyid or Syed or any of a multitude of other spellings basically means "lord" or "master" and should probably be dealt with in the same way as EuroAristo is dealing with titles of nobles. Husayn and Hasan were quite prolific, there are an estimated 10 to 20 million people around that can legitimately claim that title.
What should the LNABs be then?
1. Abū Ṭālib ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib: First name ابو طالب Abū Ṭālib, LNAB بن عبد المطلب‎ ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib

2. Ali ibn Abi Talib: First name علي Ali, LNAB بن أبي طالب ibn Abi Talib

3. Hasan ibn `Ali ibn Abi Talib: First name الحسن Hasan, LNAB بن علي بن أبي طالب ibn `Ali ibn Abi Talib

Arabic names with ibn or bin are essentially patronymics.
I noticed that two out of three of the examples that Helmut has given us indicate "Imam" as the first word. Is this the Islamic equivalent to showing a status indicator rather like the use of the word "Rev." or perhaps "Deacon" in front of the given name?

Helmut is right that we need to have some sort of standardized procedure for addressing these examples. Is there a group of Wikitreers who are conversant with written Arabic that would be willing to create a review process for each of these entries as they arise?

I doubt that it will be me…I'm still busy memorizing the intricacies of surnames of the British royals. And unscrambling the wildly improbable Coakley family tree which seems to be written in invisible ink.

But I'm with you in spirit. If we are going to set the goal of "One Family Tree" we need to get a grip upon Arabic naming practices.

First, let me say clearly: I'm an amateur on this turf. 

Second, we should probably wake up this 4 year old comment because I think the comment above is wrong in an important way. And since this topic is going to live on literally forever in controversy (like all naming convention policy debates that make style guide rules) we had better get it right, and avoid misunderstanding each other or the reality of how Arabic/Islamic names work. 

Especially when we are using the prophet's family as our policy-debate examples. Which is a bad idea for many reasons.

If what you meant Dorothy, was that "Abu" means father, you're right. But if I understand you correctly, you're also wrong to think it's Father, like a Catholic priest, or thus needs to policy handling like Rev./Reverend or Dea./Deacon etc. Because abu is literal. It's a form of patronymic. It's a multi-generational patronymic, where the grandfather is naming his son and his future grandson at the same time. (I think.)

Arabic uses a varsity patronymic. Personally, after researching a lot of ancient ancestors of mine, via Andalusia etc, I really love working with -- learning and using -- the Arabic naming system for genealogy. It's ideal for our purposes here. And the names are vivid, and even the long combinations roll off the tongue once you get the hang of it. 

On the down side, people can be identified inconsistently. Because the names can contract or expand by multiple generations (going up one, two, or three-- sometimes more); and/or down one generation (to name parents via children), and often do both; and sometimes tack on a tribal name too, which can also be a de facto place name. (I think.)

So you can find the same person named really differently over time, or in different contexts. But it's all very logical. Of course with super duper famous people, very-short shorthand works. This turns into one of those cases with Muttalib. 


Given name. Abu Talib means he's the father of his son Talib. It may also mean his dad is naming his unborn grandson. And the man in the middle in essence has no given name of his own. (I think.) 

The important point is he's not Father Talib, an Imam. (Whether he's actually an Imam or not is irrelevant in this context.)

Family Name. His LNAB is arguably presented incorrectly above as ibn Abd al-Muttalib (which means son of slave-of-Muttalib), which might actually want to stored as an AKA name; because Abu Talib's father was actually Shaybah (ibn Hashim). So his LNAB should probably be ibn Shaybah. 

So his basic given+family name is: Abu Talib ibn Shaybah. But that's encoding three generations. If we add his dad's patronymic (ibn Hashim) then this man would have four generations of names in his own. Pretty cool! 

So perhaps: Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib formerly ibn Shaybah ibn Hashim. Is that how we should store and display his name on WikiTree? (As an aside, I truly dislike 'formerly' and hope we can get rid of it soon.)

Or perhaps it's: Abu Talib ibn Shaybah ibn Hashim aka ibn Abd al-Muttalib. That might work too, and avoids formerly. (Perhaps this depends on why Shaybah was raised by Muttalib and not Hashim, or at what age that started ie was Hashim even alive when Shaybah was born, or was he in the care of Muttalib at birth? I don't know.)

Any experts care to weigh in on? 

But this gets better! 

And a kind of worse too.

Since Abu Talib's father (Shaybah, son of Hashim, so Shaybah ibn Hashim) was raised by his uncle Muttalib, and Muttalib was the grandfather of the prophet Mohammed... Muttalib becomes the de facto family name for two very good reasons. First, he's foster-fathered by his uncle, in a patronymic society, that's that. (As it might have been in a dozen European patronymic cultures at the same time.) And secondly, because he's close to god.

Too close, in my opinion, for us to use these examples for our policy debates or style guide examples, for Arabic or Islamic naming conventions. Because it might anger people. I'm risking that now (I don't know either way for sure) because I think this is important, and I'd like future WikiTreers to find this thread, the way I did, but have more to think about. And I'd like our current project leaders to better figure out how to support complex names from outside the Anglo-American origins of this site. And outside our parent languages.

Because we should follow "their conventions, not ours." And we should mean that, and do it. And do it better. 

Because genealogy is impossible without humility and empathy, and in my opinion, an earnest dollop of humanist globlalism-- and all the fraternity and egality that comes with that. The French had that right, back when they were chopping off too many heads. Ironic.

1 Answer

+3 votes
We are struggling with some of these issues in the nascent Indonesia Project.  The Dutch colonialists provided us with a convenience in that while Indonesian was originally written in Arabic script, it was romanized by the Dutch and now uses roman script -- so if you can read English, you can read Indonesian.  

Many of the same issues are the same, however.  Names containing "bin" (or "binti") are patronymics.  We have a good precedent in Cymru (ab, ap, ferch) for handling that.  Indonesian names also contain groups that used only a single name (President Sukarno, for instance), groups of Chinese background where the family name comes first, and ethnicities using other naming conventions.  

Hopefully as we struggle through these, we will both employ discussions and decisions that have already taken place in other contexts, and perhaps also break some new ground that can be of help to others.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (367k points)

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