Muhammad is No 2 in boy's names
Helen Nugent and Nadia Menuhin
Muhammad is now second only to Jack as the most popular name for baby boys in Britain and is likely to rise to No 1 by next year, a study by The Times has found. The name, if all 14 different spellings are included, was shared by 5,991 newborn boys last year, beating Thomas into third place, followed by Joshua and Oliver.
Scholars said that the name’s rise up the league table was driven partly by the growing number of young Muslims having families, coupled with the desire to name their child in honour of the Prophet.
Muhammad Anwar, Professor of Ethnic Relations at Warwick University, said: “Muslim parents like to have something that shows a link with their religion or with the Prophet.”
Although the official names register places the spelling Mohammed at No 23, an analysis of the top 3,000 names provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) puts Muhammad at No 2 once the 14 spellings are taken into account. If its popularity continues – it rose by 12 per cent last year – the name will take the top spot by the end of this year. It first entered the Top 30 in 2000.
The spelling Muhammad, like all transliterations, comes from replacing the Arabic script with what is deemed its closest Latin equivalent. There are many versions in Britain, depending on where the family are from and variations in pronounciation.
Muhammad, which means “one who is praiseworthy”, is often given to boys as an honorary prefix and is followed by the name by which they are commonly known. It is regularly cited as the most common name in the world, though there is no concrete evidence.
Mufti Abdul Barkatullah, a former imam at the Finchley mosque in northwest London, said: “Parents who name their son Muhammad believe that the name has an effect on their personality and future characteristics. They are saying that this boy will be of good character.
“Some people may not really understand the history of the Prophet Muhammad and the name but they still want the association so they can be recognised as one of his followers.
“In Arab countries, the name Muhammad is said when you don’t know the name of someone. On the sub-continent, it is different: Muhammad can be used either before or after another name.
“When you get to the UK, it is essentially about translating the sound of the Arabic into English. A nonArab Muslim would have the name ending in -ed while an Arab Muslim would adopt the -ad ending.”
Overall, Muslims account for 3 per cent of the British population, about 1.5 million people. However, the Muslim birthrate is roughly three times higher than the nonMuslim one.
Statistics from the ONS show that Muslim households are larger than those headed by someone of another religion. In 2001, the average size of a Muslim household was 3.8 people while a third contained more than five people.
According to data from CACI Information Solutions, men who are named Muhammad are 5½ times more likely to go on holiday in Asia and twice as likely to live in Yorkshire than most other people.
Additionally, a man named Muhammad is most likely to be aged between 25 and 34 and to have an average salary of £25,000.
The leading name for girls born to Muslim parents in 2006 was Aisha, in 110th place. Its meaning is “wife of the Prophet” or “life”.
How do you spell that?
The different spellings of Muhammad in 2006 and the number of occurrences
— Scholars and imams differ on why there are so many variants of the name
— Some say it is the result of phonetic translations by Muslims who moved here from abroad. Others say that it is merely down to the personal choice of the parents
The most popular names for baby boys in 2006
1 Jack 6,928, 2 Muhammad (all spellings) 5,991, 3 Thomas 5,921, 4 Joshua 5,808, 5 Oliver 5,208, 6 Harry 5,006, 7 James 4,783, 8 William 4,327, 9 Samuel 4,320, 10 Daniel 4,303, 11 Charlie 4,178, 12 Benjamin 3,778, 13 Joseph 3,755, 14 Callum 3,517, 15 George 3,386, 16 Jake 3,353, 17 Alfie 3,194, 18 Luke 3,108,19 Matthew 3,043, 20 Ethan 3,020
Source: Office for National Statistics/ The Times