Skip to content

LegacyW

July 1, 2018
Naming a baby after her grandmother or his grandfather seemed silly to me, if not selfish. We risk denying this child the chance to carve out her own legacy, by imposing her familial one onto her. A case of the past drowning the present.

However, when I fell pregnant with my first baby, my partner requested that, if it’s a boy, we name him after his own father (baby’s grandfather).

I found it hard to refuse and chose to surrender to his wish.

Our daughter was born and named, and when our son followed, I felt quite relaxed into his predestined name, which luckily I have always loved. Still, I feel we impose much of ourselves onto our children, and most of these we aren’t even aware of, that their name at least, I believed, should be unique to them.

Having spent the past month on my father-in-law’s farm, just outside of Amman in Jordan, I have had the chance to assimilate the meaning of this tradition.

Now, all I’m about to say is greatly aided by the fact that I am a big fan of my father-in-law, as well as my in- laws in general. I imagine naming your most precious being after people you do not particularly care for would be an incredibly hard pill to swallow.
From the moment we first arrived at Amman’s Queen Alia Airport, way past midnight, when my father-in-law carried his namesake, something inside me clicked.
Though I couldn’t articulate what felt.
And when we first made it to the farm, around 3am, I came into the living room, having tucked my daughter into bed, to find junior on his tummy flaying his chubby legs in an attempt to crawl towards senior, who lay in a semi supine position, watching with admiration.
I enjoyed the two Ali’s, and felt warm, though the penny hung in the air.
It was last week, on a Friday family luncheon at the farm, surrounded by aunties and uncles, as they reminiscing about the olden days when the older generation was around, that my father-in-law’s cousin stopped mid-sentence, looked at me and said:
‘Wow, you’re Umm Ali! I mean, it’s obvious, but I hadn’t realised it before. You are Umm Ali.’
She looked around to my husband’s aunties, who also stopped when their own mother’s title was mentioned, and nodded in acknowledgement, as if in a dream. As if the reminiscence continued silently in a difference form.
Maybe I should mention the Arabic tradition of Kunya, as in referring to someone as Umm and Abu, ‘mother of’ and ‘father of’, followed by their eldest son’s name. If the individual has no sons, then the daughter claims the privilege.
And what happens with the absence of children?
All that stigma aside, I sat on that Friday luncheon, suddenly heavy with the realisation that I now carry the title of my father-in-law’s mother.
A formable matriarch, pious and kind, mother of six- three of whom I was surrounded by on that day- I felt the responsibility and privilege of inheriting her name.
I also became aware that my son carries the same name as his grandfather, as my husband his etc… the legacy was glaring.
I’ve never been particularly quick on the uptake, though this realisation really has taken me a silly length of time to fully appreciate.
I knew all this in my head, though now, I feel the penny has finally dropped straight into my belly.
My father missed his namesake, because his grandfather discarded this tradition last minute.
Story goes, my great grandfather sat listening to a recitation of the Qur’an, awaiting news of his grandchild.
When news came of the birth, the story of Zakariya was being recited, which sits in Surat Maryam, Chapter 19 in the Qur’an:
“O Zakariya! We give thee good news of a son: His name shall be Yahya.’
As a result, my father was named Yahya, the Arabic for John. So my uncle, the second eldest, carried on the namesake tradition. I always admired the spontaneous and intuitive way my great grandfather discarded generations of naming.
The story of my father’s name, to me, is as meaningful as the legacy of naming after family members.
My own name is a result of a legacy, though one my grandmother began by giving my mother and then me Kurdish names, which I mention in this article. Our way of safeguarding a part of our heritage that otherwise can easily be lost.
Then there are life’s crazy coincidences, or moments of fate, when my cousin, our own grandmother’s namesake, Saniha, gets engaged to a Mohamed, our grandfather’s name.
Though this seems the beginning of another story altogether. .
Still, namesakes are namesakes, and perhaps these legacies are the frame for whatever the new generation chooses to bring forth.

From → Community

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: