Remona Aly
Monday 17 July 2017 BBC Radio 2

99 names… and mine

Names: The beautiful and the bizarre

My cousin was recently blessed with a beautiful, big-eyed baby girl. “You can always name her after me!” I suggested. He wasn’t keen to take up the offer. He wanted a name that was unique, true to her loveliness, and above all had a good meaning.

To be honest, I’ve always thought my own name was a bit odd.  When I introduce myself, some think I’m Spanish, others sing the Bob Dylan song ‘To Ramona’, and Arabs re-name me ‘Rummana’, which means in Arabic – a pomegranate. ‘I’m not a fruit’, I decry. A fruitcake maybe.

My name, Remona, doesn’t make sense. It was a compromise to please two aunts  – one liked Reem, the Arabic for gazelle, the other liked Mona, meaning wishes. So my dad the diplomat, said ‘let’s stick them together’. So I am Gazelle Wishes.

I should be grateful. As somewhere deep in the Indian subcontinent, another set of excited and proud new parents decided to call their newborn child, Lozenges. They heard it, or perhaps read it on a wrapper, and thought “what a beautiful, English sounding name”. Lozenges.

I’ve heard of other Asian parents calling their child, Comrade,  Dollar – as in dollar bill and meanwhile in middle Britain, three sisters are called, Pinky, Dinky and Winky.

For me, names carry meaning, and meaning is the essence of who we are. Nothing is more beloved to our ears than our own names, it’s the sound we hear the most from birth. And what is beloved to God is His 99 names that Muslims call upon their Creator with, as mentioned in the Quran. For example, God is The Most Compassionate, The Most Kind, The Most Wise, The Most Loving.  

“The most cherished creation to God are those who take on the implied characteristics” wrote the medieval Muslim theologian Ibn Qayyim Al Jawziyya. “God is beautiful and loves the beautiful, is merciful and loves the merciful, is generous and loves the generous.”

Our names can set the very ideals we aspire to and see in others, so maybe I can aim for the grace of a gazelle and hold a heart full of wishes to do good and be better. And I can thank God in His mercy, that at least my parents never called me Lozenges.