In many countries it is common practice to list and rank the most popular names given to newborn children. In the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however, that list is dedicated to the names that young parents are banned from giving their babies on cultural and religious grounds.
The name lists are issued on a regular basis by the civil registry agency, which reports to the country’s interior ministry, so that agency staff easily can spot when a baby carries an illegal name. The most recent list contains 50 names.
The list, shown above, clearly states that no name mentioned on it should be given to a newborn.
Many of the banned names are of western origin, which in itself makes them illegal in the eyes of authorities. Other names, such as “Abdennabi” or “Abdel Rasoul”, are Arabic, but are considered heretic because of their religious references. The literally mean “Servant of the Prophet” and “The Messenger”, respectively. And according to Islam, only God can be served. One of our Saudi Observers, Mohamed Al Saeedi also notes that some names are struck off the list because of a too-rigorous interpretation of Islam as well as political sensitivity:
Names that refer to angels, like “Malak” (Angel) or “Jibril” (Gabriel) are most likely banned because the authorities view them as a sort of comparison with these celestial beings. The same goes with “Naby,” which means “Prophet”. Their sensitivity is pushing them to ban some names simply because they sound religious – despite them being widespread in the rest of the Arab world, such as “Abdel Nasser” (Server of the Victorious, a reference to God) or “Imane” (Faith). Names like “Amir” (Prince), “Soumouw” (Excellency), “Malaka” (Queen) or “Mamlaka” (Kingdom) are banned for political reasons, because there should be no rivalry with the royal family.