A “haram” name



Natasha” said Ami, “it’s such a lovely name for a lovely, little girl.”

“Ah, certainly! Her dada would love that name, let’s go right at once and see what he has to say; I’m sure he would love it!” replied a happy Abi to his overly emotional, asthmatic wife.

Ami is my mother’s mother, which makes her my grandmother, but my maternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother died 4 months before my mother bore me life into this world. My mother is deaf (and not dumb); she didn’t really care for what name I had, as long as I had one, which she would dearly learn and love just as equally.

The man, the father and of course the father’s father is given more importance from where I come from. After marriage, when the bride leaves and sacrifices her family, friends, home (and not house); an entire way-of-life for someone she might never have seen, let alone marry, she is not given the respect she deserves. Hence, neither is her child’s mother’s mother or father for that matter.

“Are you sure gulab jamans and jalebis are enough? What about a cake from Bombay Bakery? Their famous Coffee Cake! Or the plain one? You don’t find those in Karachi, and there are plenty here!” said Ami so fast that even the baker was confused. Should he return the sweets back into their cool and take out a Bombay Bakery special, or should he just stand there waiting for more instructions? Clear instructions he should say. “Oho! Stop confusing the poor man, just get all. What does it matter? Our first grandchild is here, debating between delicacies should be the least of our concerns.”

“What are you saying!” squealed Ami. “Are you asking a question or boiling up?” joked Abi with innocence, “But really, anything you want, I know the details matter to you, take as much time.”

Ami tried to maintain her anger but couldn’t help blushing.

Finally, it was decided. Not only did they rob the baker of all his rare, imported Bombay Bakery cakes but also his pastries, Sub-continental sweets and cold drinks. One can never have enough pastries to give out on a first grandchild’s birth.


“Nonsense!”, “haram!” and “haram!” were the only things that came out of Dada‘s mouth when sweet, petite Ami excitedly suggested the name “Natasha” be my first and last name.

“Don’t you- oh, I forgot you don’t have the knowledge, but DON’T YOU know Natasha was the name given to Russian dancing girls back in the days? It would be such a disgrace to my kingdom and household of syeds for my granddaughter to be named anything nearly as disgusting as that.”

“A Muslim girl’s name must have blessed meaning behind it, knowledge and enough depth to lead her fate to the right path.”


That was the last of names, and Dada immediately named me “Syeda Zehra Jabeen.” It was derived from the Last Prophet (PBUH)’s daughter, Fatimah Zehra. The second name had a history behind the relationship between the Prophet (PBUH) and his daughter. This comprised of the Prophet (PBUH) kissing his daughter’s forehead as a token of affection and respect, hence “Jabeen” meaning “forehead.”

I do like my name and the history behind it… but, to be honest, I would have been equally happy with Natasha too.


A woman may be perceived by her name, surname and history of her ancestors. Her meaning may well as much affect her destiny and path in life. She may take great advantage of it.

She may not.

At the end of the day, it’s not the name that makes her, it is she that makes her name.