"Call for Mr. Mohamed, Will Mohamed please report to the front desk"

It seems like a very large portion of men in Muslim countries of Mohamed as their first name, does this not cause a whole lot of confusion? Or is Mohamed more of a prefix, like Sir, or Mr? Or, rather, since so many people have named their children after the prophet, has his name really become more of a term of respect then a true name? Is this like the name Cheb?

I don’t seem to be able to locate any statistics for non-English-speaking countries, but could it possibly be as popular as certain boys’ and girls’ names that are more familiar to Americans? I’m thinking of Mary and John, personally, although the Jasons and Jennifers might have something to say about that, too.

Two of my co-workers have the first name Mohammed, but both go by their last name. I’ve never asked whether they use their last name mostly outside of work as well, since I don’t know either of them very well.


I think most people with “Muhammad” as a name have a second name to make it more distinct. Or ofcourse they’d probably use their last name.
I’m sure no one in an airport would page “John, please come to Gate 18” either…

I have a very common last name. It’s happened once in high school that I had someone with the exact same name as me. Only he wrote his first name Stéfane and I write mine with a ph, but it did create confusion a couple of times in class.

I remember once going to the principal`s office and the principal chewing me out over some fight, but I wasn’t the one involved. Not too hard to prove as the other one had scraped knuckles and a split lip, but still annoying…

Also, in college there were three people with my name (first and last, and not the other guy from high school) that had lockers in the same area. Found out when I needed my lock cut because I had locked the key in with my coat. At least we had different student ID numbers! Scary when you actually need a number to prove you are not someone else with the very same name.

forgot to adress the OP. When paging someone it is common practice to use the last name, not the first.

I know, I know. It was just supposed to be a funny example. You then Imagine several dozen Arabic men all turning their heads towards the counter.

PS, What is the correct spelling? I have seen Muhamed, Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohammad, etc.

I’ve wondered the same and just did a quick google.com search, coming up with this: “Muhammad, which is the most widely-used first name in the world means ‘revered’.”

Although there are several spellings, the meaning is the same - they’ve been named for the great Prophet and I suppose you can’t have too many of 'em.

This site lists the most popular Muslim names and their meanings. There is a hierarchy in naming.

In my Catholic grammar school we had several families who named all their girls Mary followed by a unique name (Mary Catherine, Mary Elizabeth, etc.). The girls were usually called by their middle nicknames: Cathy, Lizzie, etc. Some Hispanics named their girls in the same way (Maria Carmen, Maria Luz, etc.)

I have a feeling that the names Muhammad and Mary, with their spelling and cultural differences, will long outlast Jennifer and Jason.

Ooh! Excelent point! I can’t believe that I forgot the example of “Mary”.

Assuming that paging systems use last names, one would think that the biggest confusion would be at the Beijing airport, where they’d be paging “Mr Chang” quite a lot. Or maybe paging “Mr Kim” in the Seoul airport.

Probably this is why they tend to use both first and last names.

What I’m wondering is: given that the world’s most common first name is Mohammad, and the most common last name is Chang, why they never ever page “Mohammad Chang.” I guess Muslim women marrying Chinese men, who then convert to Islam and name their sons after the prophet, doesn’t happen much.

I think one can spell an Arabic name in many ways, since our “latin” letters don’t correspond exactly to Arabic sounds. Also “Araic” has many spoken dialects, so an Iraqi may say it differently than a Moroccan.
I have seen Muhammad, Mohammad, Mohammed, Moamad, Mahomet (Spanish), …and I think even Mehmet (Turkish form of the name?).
Also theres Muslim, Moslem, Moslim, Mussulman, etc.

Actually, China has more Muslims than many “Arab” countries.
I don’t know how they would write Muhammad, but I can bet there are many people with names like Muhammad Chang somewhere…
Wasn’t Alladin depicted as Chinese?

Right, I’ve heard that Western China has lots of Muslims. But are these ethnically non-Han folks still named Chang? I suspect that they’re isolated, ethnically and culturally (even though they’re still in Beijing’s time zone).

Anyone know of a Uigar named Chang?

And no, Aladdin wasn’t Chinese that I know of. Not in my copy of Arabian Nights, anyway.

The names Ahmed and/or Mohammed are given as a token of respect to the Prophet, and many Muslim converts will change their names as a sign of their conversion. Among the Muslim community in Capetown, from whence I hail (the town rather than the community), there are many Mohammeds (and Mr. Mohammed) around…

A collegue of mine married a man called Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed :slight_smile:


Also, IIRC, Arabic names can be used as a given name and also a surname. They are pretty much interchangeable. I work with a guy named Ali Jaffar, and another guy named Hassan Ali.

Well given I work in the Arab world, let me cast some light on this.

(a) Actually yelling out Mohammed is a popular guess to get someone’s attention. Also a bit of a joke.

(b) Typically in occasions like the airport one is paged by full name as given in one’s passport/official ID card, e.g. Sidi Mohamed Abdelqasim Abu Jaafar

© You see various Roman character versions of Arabic names because there is no standard transcription system and sometimes the transcription reflects, as someone mentioned, local pronuncuiation – e.g. yes Mehmet is a Turkish language deformation of Mohammed. Sometimes what you see in print, e.g. Khaddaffi, is just pure nonesensical rendering by someone w/o a clue in Arabic.

© In re Arabic naming systems. There are many. And then there are names used by non-Arab Muslims, such as Pakastanis or Iranians. Try not to get the two mixed up. The first name as last name thing of course existed in English also, and the Ali Mohamed things you’ll see largely derive from, it appears to me, contractions of one of the old traditional naming practices of saying Ali son of Mohammed etc etc Of course you can find the sale thing in English, I’ve met a good number of John Williams types in my day.

“Mohammed” was the third most popular name given to baby boys in Oslo, of all places, in 2001. Most of the little boys who were given that name were born to parents of Pakistani extraction. Most of the boys received several given names and will go by another name on a daily basis, but the Norwegian registrars only keep statistics for the first given name.

When I worked in Saudi Mohammed was common, but not so much so as to cause confusion. I worked with Bilal, Ahmed, Mahdi, Hamed, Abdalla, Ali, Omar, Yasir, Taher and Mohammed.

Of course, I later found out that at least two of these was also a Mohammed (Hamed for one) and that they kind of change the names around to keep it simpler. Sort of like if you had 5 guys named John, you might name one Big John, Little John, Stinky, Johnny, John-John, etc.

Some of them are ethnic Hans. While China’s official stance on foreigners and religions of foreign origin (or religion at all) has varied a lot over the years, Muslim presence in China dates back at least to the T’ang Dynasty. In the centuries since then some Arabs have intermarried with Chinese, and some Chinese have converted to Islam.

You should try to get your money back, then. The first line should say something like “A long time ago in a city in China…”

Not that this has anything to do with Muslims in China. “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” is a late addition to The Arabian Nights, and is set in China simply because China seemed like an exotic location.

For proof that there is no standard transliteration from Arabic to English, see Cecil’s column How are you supposed to spell Muammar Gaddafi/Khadafy/Qadhafi?. There are at least 32 ways of spelling his name in English.

I’ve got to back this up. My (old) copy of The Arabian Nights depicts Aladdin as Chinese. The illustration even place him in formal chinese dress, pointy hat with a button on top and everything.