Secret of Maldive Names:  The Personal Name


18th Century German Naming

Chinese Naming

State control
All aspects of life in a totalitarian society are controlled by the state. The name that parents are able to choose for their child does not escape the long arm of totalitarian regimentation. Maldive birth registrars (described by some as "Name Nazis") are under strict orders not to approve "kaafaru" (infidel) names.

In the Maldives, an ancient culture with a proud and independent heritage, the current definition of a name that is permissible is that it has to be:

  1. Arabic or
  2. Urdu or
  3. Farsi

Approval of Divehi (Maldive language) names is left to the vagaries of the discretion of the "Name Nazis". In a system where rules are made by mullahs trained at the el-Azher Islamic seminary in Egypt, the Jamia Salafiyyah Islamiyya in Pakistan and others such as the Nadwatul Ulema Deobandi in India, this all makes sense. The mullahs are bent on obliterating the ancetral heritage of Maldivians and replacing it with that of their Arab colonialist masters.

Given this, one would think it would make more sense to permit just the Arabic names. Why Farsi and Urdu names are permissible can only be explained by the fact that many Maldive mullahs receive their basic training in Islam (including jihad combat) on the Indian subcontinent where some Muslims have both Farsi and Urdu names.

Traditional rationale

A generation ago, most people were not commonly known by their birth names. Instead they were called by an alternative name such as Dohuttu, Lahuttu, Tutteedi, Kudamaniku, or Don Goma.

Sri Lanka Naming conventions: The traditional Maldive naming convention seems to be remarkably similar to the Sri Lankan Sinhala naming convention. As a result of contact with other Sri Lankan peoples and various Indian ethnicities such as Chola and Bengali, what Maldivians have as a naming convention can best be described as a lack of a uniforn convention.| details |

The rationale behind this practice was that if the evil spirits did not know oneís real name, one would be free from their spells. On occasion there had even been the odd child who was called Maraduru (Death-distant) or Rakkalu (Protection), reflecting the high frequency of infant mortality and a superstitious, yet ingenious and thoroughly Maldive solution to the problem.

Maldivians seriously believed in a whole pantheon of pre-Islamic spirits until quite recently. Chief amongst them was Rannamaari, the supreme goddess of the sea. Others included Kissaddevi, Buddevi, Kaddevi Muladevi, Kafikolu, Miskiyddaara, Badi-Edurukaleyge, Afirinfaara, Haamundi and Oditaan.

The terms devi and deo, suffixed to some of these names, in classical Maldive meant god or goddess, as they do in many other tongues of the Indo-European family of languages. No doubt, at one time these spirits would have been worshipped as gods.

Although still secretly feared, and clandestinely supplicated by sorcerers, this pantheon of spirits has long been officially superseded since the imposition of Islam eight and a half centuries ago and with it, the worship of Allah commonly known in the Maldives as Maaiy-Kalaange (Respected Deity) prior to the mullahs gaining absolute power.

Until recently, only a handful of birth names have commonly been used. These have included those of the prophet Mohamed and his better-known disciples and kin. Eg.: Mohamed, Ahmed, Ali, Fatima, Aysha, Omar, Hussain etc. In addition to these names, a few of the apocryphal and canonical Judeo-Christian names mentioned in the Koran have also been used. Eg.: Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Moosa (Moses), Isa (Moslem Arabic name for Jesus; the Christian Arabic name for Jesus is Yeshua), Adam, Sarah, Hawwa (Eve), Maryam (Mary) and so on.

Exotic names

Towards the middle of the Twentieth Century, Maldive parents gathered enough courage, spiritual and political, to call their children by more exotic names, which were nevertheless thought to be Islamic because they were either Arabic (eg.: Majid) or perceived to be Arabic. In fact many of these names were pre-Islamic Persian (eg.: Iqbal or Sheereen) or even Greek (eg.: Sophia).

Most Maldive parents do not seem to realise that orthodox Islamic laws and traditions have always been fairly liberal as to oneís personal name. The only sanction is against names of polytheistic gods and goddesses. This rules out such names as Laat, Uzzah, Janice, Diana, Thor, Maya, Shiva, Oditaan and Rannamaari as possible names for oneís child if one were a law-abiding Moslem.

Mohamed, after all, was not fussy about "Islamicising" or Arabicising the names of his non-Arab disciples, converts and concubines. Both his Ethiopian disciple Bilal and Persian disciple Salman kept their foreign names, as did his Greek-Egyptian concubine Maria, sent to him as a gift by George son of Muttaq el-Mukoukis, governor of Alexandria. The sultans of Constantinople who were the last of the caliphs (temporal successors to the Prophet Mohamed) regularly married women from amongst their Christian subjects. They were allowed to keep their native names and even allowed to pass them on to their descendants, eg: Roxelana or Roxana.

A generation of tentative experimentation with exotic "Islamic" names demonstrated that Rannamaari, Oditaan and company have clearly spared the Majids, and Sofias of the Maldives - although it is unclear if some of the Majids have in fact been spared by Rannamaari.

This and increased contact with "infidel" peoples through travel, English education, Hindi movies, tourism and television has resulted in children whose names are obviously not Koranic, Arabic or even Persian or Turkified Greek. Such names include Maria-Teresa, Sunil, Shizni, Sheena and a whole host of others. The most obvious "infidel" names such as Maria-Teresa, Roy, Philomena, Jennifer, Susan and Daniel were registered before the institution of the mullah-led "Name Nazis" in the late 1970s.

The Dual Name

With the advent of these names, a practice that was first introduced at the time when people started using the non-traditional "Islamic" names, have become institutionalised or even, by some peopleís reckoning, mandatory. This is the practice of giving a child two names. The original motive behind the dual name was probably taking precaution against any negative spiritual consequences.

For instance, the boy who is commonly known as Ameetabh (an Indian name adopted from Hindi movies) would have been registered at birth as, say, Ahmed Ameetabh; only not many people would know or would be encouraged to find out that he is also called Ahmed. Ahmed is an old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy name. Instead of manipulating Oditaan or Kissaddevi, the sly Maldive parent is, in this case, trying to deceive Naakir and Nakeer.

In Islamic mythology, when Michael, the Archangel of Death departs after performing his macabre duty, each of us will be visited by the two angels, Naakir, the Recorder of Virtue and Nakeer, the Recorder of Vice.

When this celestial pair visits Ahmed Ameetabh in his grave, Nakeer will gleefully say to Naakir, "He is mine! Isnít he an infidel Hindu, a worshipper of idols?" Naakir would confidently reply, "No, he is mine! Isnít he Ahmed, a follower of the Prophet of the Almighty (Allah)?"

A quick check of the heavenly database would confirm that Naakir was in fact right. A couple of Maldive parents have yet again beaten the system!

Jewish Names (May Allah perish the mere thought)!

The "Name Nazis" are paranoid about even a remote hint of Jewishness in a name. However the paradox lies in the fact that Ibrahim (Abraham), Shamoon (Shimon) or Ishag (Yitzhak), all Jewish names are acceptable while Cain, Rebecca and Haïm are not, because they are Jewish!

The resourceful and politically unconnected Maldive parent will, no doubt, find a way around this minor problem!

An acquaintance recently pointed out that even the mighty "Name Nazis" appear to bend to those with political connections. Special dispensation is given to those with political connection to adopt names such as Jude. The acquaintance said that those with the right connections with the mullahs know the direction of Jannah, the Islamic paradise. The unconnected do not have the means of steering clear of Jahannam, the Islamic hell at the last moment and cannot be allowed to bend the rules.

Tongue Twisters

Maldive parents have sought actively to have fellow Maldivians embarrassed by having to pronounce tongue-twisting names.

Until fairly recently, Maldivians could not pronounce several Arabic and other foreign consonants adopted into Maldive. Sheen was pronounced as seen and javiyani and zaviyani were pronounced as daal.

Today, names with combinations of these consonants are highly sought after with pride. The zaviyani- sheen combination seems to be a particular favourite. There is no doubt that all the permutations and combinations of these two consonants have nearly been exhausted as personal names. Eg: Shizni, Zishni, Zishaan, Shinaaz, and so on.

Acquiring copyrights over the remaining combinations could well be an enterprising money-maker. There is bound to be a lucrative market for these names- but then respect for copyrights, patents and other intellectual property is a decadent foreign conspiracy.

The Surname