The social media sphere in Indonesia has recently been heated up by an incident of the use of the names Muhammad and Maria, a variation of the name Mary, in a marketing campaign. Many people in this Muslim majority country felt upset by the use of the names of these religious figures to market something that is impermissible in Islam. What is the history behind these names, why are these names very popular among Muslims, and who are other significant historical figures who bear similar name? Keep reading to find out more!
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Why are the names very popular?
In the Islamic tradition, it is very common to name a child after religious figures such as prophets and Muslim scholars with the hope that these children will imitate their piety. For this reason, the name of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ remains very popular for ages as a boy’s name. In Arabic, the name means “The Praised One’.
By naming a boy after Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, not only that the parents hope that they will be able to imitate the Prophet’s characteristics, but it is also an act to show one’s love for the Prophet and a way to seek Allah’s blessing through the Prophet.
Another pious figure whose name is very popular among Muslims is Mary, mother of Jesus. Because Muslims don’t consider Jesus to be divine, his mother’s status is also not related to divinity.
However, this does not mean that she is nothing of significance according to Islam. In fact, there is a chapter in the Quran that is named after her. A portion of this chapter narrates how the angel visited her and gave her the good news of a son, i.e. Jesus:
And mention, [O Muḥammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel [i.e., Gabriel], and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.
She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allāh.” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy [i.e., son].” She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?” He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.'”
(Quran Chapter 19 verse 16-21)
Thus, the name of Mary in its Arabic variation Maryam is a popular girl’s name among Muslims because the mother of Jesus was an exemplary figure of piety, modesty, and chastity. In addition, her strength and patience in accepting Allah’s decree has also become a reason why her name is widely remembered by millions of Muslims through the girls named after her.
4 figures in Muslim history bearing the name of Muhammad and Mary
Due to the widespread popularity of these two names among Muslims, there are many significant historical figures who bore the name Muhammad and Mary. However, in this article, we shall learn four Muslim figures named after these two respected individuals.
Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi
Do the words algorithm and algebra sound familiar to you? According to Etymonline, the word algorithm was derived from Medieval Latin algorismus, a mangled transliteration of Al-Khwarizmi, the surname of the famous mathematician Muhammad bin Musa Al-Khwarizmi. Algebra was one of his famous inventions, with the word being derived from the title of his book “al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa al-muqabala” (“the compendium on calculation by restoring and balancing”).
Born in Khwarazm in modern-day Khiva, Uzbekistan, he later moved to Baghdad and was employed by Caliph Al-Ma’mun who was a patron of knowledge and learning. The city of Baghdad was the beacon of scientific advancement during the Golden Age of Islamic Civilization, and Al-Khwarizmi was one of the brilliant minds that emerged from the Bayt-ul-Hikma, a library and research academy built by the caliph.
Not only that he was famously credited as the father of algebra, he was also the first to introduce the use of Indian numerals to replace the alphabetic letters used by the Romans. In addition, he also contributed to the fields of Geography and Astronomy, making him one of the most well-known Muslim polymaths.
Muhammad II The Conqueror
The walls of Constantinople were once considered too strong to penetrate, making the city difficult to conquer. One day, on May 29, 1453, the young Sultan Muhammad II, or Mehmed II according to Turkish pronunciation, proved it wrong. His massive canon breached through the city wall, and the city was taken. He then earned the title Fetih, or The Conqueror.
Mehmed II was son of Murad II, one of the strongest Ottoman rulers. He ascended to the throne twice, from 1444 to 1446 and from 1451 to 1481. In preparing for his role as a leader, he wasis taught under the tutelage of Aksemsettin, a Sufi master and teacher. He was reported to be fluent in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Serbian.
He is considered a hero in modern-day Turkey and parts of the Muslim world, and his conquest of Constantinople had triggered the age of exploration. Many European nations decided to acquire spices from its direct sources after they could no longer access it from its previous trade center in Constantinople.
Maryam Mirzakhani was a mathematics professor at Stanford University. At the age of 27, he earned her Ph. D from Harvard University. She became the first and the only woman to date to be awarded a Fields Medal.
Mirzakhani’s work focused on the study of hyperbolic surfaces by means of their moduli spaces. Mirzakhani’s research involved calculating the number of a certain type of geodesic, called simple closed geodesics, on hyperbolic surfaces.
In 2005, she was honored in Popular Science’s fourth annual “Brilliant 10” for her work, being one of the top 10 young minds who pushed their fields in innovative direction. She died in 2017 at the age of 40 at Stanford Hospital due to breast cancer.
Maryam Al-Asturlabi, known also as Al-‘Ijliya bint al-‘Ijli al-Asturlabi was a Muslim woman from 10th century Syria who was well-known as a maker of astrolabe. She followed her father’s profession as an astrolabe maker in the court of Sayf-ud-Dawlah, the ruler of northern Syria.
Astrolabe is a device that was commonly used, especially by astronomers, to measure the heights of inaccessible objects, time of day and position on earth. Although it has a Greek origin, it was perfected during the Golden Age of Muslim civilization.
To honor her contributions to the field of astronomy, the main-belt asteroid 7060 Al-‘Ijliya, discovered by Henry E. Holt at Palomar Observatory in 1990 is named after her.
The Muslim community cherish people who made significant influence and contributions by adopting their names. Therefore, there might be millions of people named after Prophet Muhammad and Virgin Mary who have made their positive impacts on their surroundings.
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