In the Name of Allaah, the Most Merciful, the Ever Merciful…
I was asked about the following hadeeth:
Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullaah reported that the Prophet (S) decided to forbid names like Ya’laa (elevated), Barakah (blessing), Aflah (successful), Yasaar (wealth) and Naafi’ (beneficial) (Reported by Muslim)
 Firstly, as an obligation, we say ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) “sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam” when mentioning our beloved Prophet, which may be expressed in English with the phrase: May Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace. It is not permissible to change legislated phrases of thikr into abbreviations, like (S), (SAW), (PBUH), or the likes. Review the detailed verdicts of the scholars and further explanations here.
 Secondly, this prohibition has been collected by Imaam Muslim and others from two of the Companions, Samurah ibn Jundub and Jaabir ibn ‘Abdillaah, may Allaah be pleased with both of them. There are some slight differences in the wordings of their reports, and the wording mentioned in the question above seems to mix some of them together.
[A] Samurah’s wording is explicit, that he forbade four names: Aflah, Rabaah, Yasaar, and Naafi’. This is Imaam Muslim’s first narration (#2136). In another narration of the same report (#2137), Najeeh is mentioned in place of Naafi’, along with a reason for the prohibition, that a person might ask for someone by these names that linguistically refer to concepts of goodness, and it would be said, “So-and-So (a name referring to goodness) is not here.” (an unintended form of bad speech)
[B] Jaabir’s wording in Saheeh Muslim (#2138) is slightly different. He says that the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) wanted to forbid these names, but later remained silent about them, and then he passed away (without forbidding them). He mentioned five names: Ya’laa, Barakah, Aflah, Yasaar, and Naafi’, and added, “And others like them.” Some manuscripts of Saheeh Muslim mention Muqbil instead of Ya’laa (very similar in Arabic script). Jaabir also adds that ‘Umar (ibn al-Khattaab) wanted to forbid the names as well, but he left the idea. In al-Bukhaaree’s al-Adab al-Mufrad (#833) and Aboo Daawood’s Sunan (#4960), Jaabir adds the phrase (that means), “If I live (long enough), I shall forbid – in shaa’ Allaah – (the names),” adding the same reason mentioned in Samurah’s version.
 Regarding its authenticity, the hadeeth was collected in some of the famous compilations of saheeh (authentic) narrations, like Saheeh Muslim, Saheeh Ibn Hibbaan, and al-Haakim’s Mustadrak. The hadeeth is clearly authentic, and I do not know any of the scholars who ever doubted its authenticity. However, a Muslim TV personality recently published the following verdict, “This hadeeth doesn’t seem to be authentic as I couldn’t find it.”
In light of the above discussion, I would earnestly advise that we turn to the scholars of Islam, reliable students of knowledge, or at least capable researchers with our questions about hadeeth (and Islam in general). Quite honestly, TV personalities tend to have exaggerated reputations with little knowledge to offer.
 The scholars differed over the intended meaning of this hadeeth and the resulting ruling on the usage of the mentioned names.
[A] The early scholar and specialist at explaining what seem to be problematic narrations, Imaam Aboo Ja’far at-Tahaawee [d.321], may Allaah have Mercy on him, understood that the prohibition in Jaabir’s narration was not absolute, meaning that the resulting ruling on using these names could not be haraam (impermissible). Had it been haraam, he would have forbidden it, without delaying it for another time. Before he discussed the issue from other angles, his initial verdict was that the usage of these names remains openly permissible, since no prohibition was actually implemented (according to Jaabir’s reports alone). (Sharh Mushkil al-Aathaar, 4/441)
[B] However the wording of Samurah’s report seems to be more conclusive: “Do not name your boy… (the names)” This led at-Tahaawee to offer an alternative explanation, focusing on the rationale offered by the Messenger (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) in some of the reports, that it could be asked if Barakah (for example) is there, and the response would be, “There is no Barakah (literally: blessing) here.” This disliked wording, although unintended, could be taken as a bad omen by people of weak faith. At-Tahaawee concluded that tiyarah (giving consideration to bad omens) was then absolutely forbidden, which led the Muslims to pay no attention to these kinds of bad omens. He further strengthened this line of argument by mentioning historical uses of some of these names, like Rabaah, the Prophet’s servant, and al-‘Alaa’, his appointed governor in Bahrain. Thus, he concluded that prohibited names of this type need to be proven to have occurred after the prohibition of omens, otherwise they should be considered openly permissible. (Sharh Mushkil al-Aathaar, 4/441-447)
[C] In his explanation of Saheeh Muslim (14/118), An-Nawawee [d.676] concludes that it is disliked to use these names and similar ones, but not impermissible. He brings harmony between Samurah’s and Jaabir’s narrations quite effectively, saying that Samurah’s affirmation of a prohibition was a suggestive prohibition, not an absolute one, which would mean that using the names is makrooh (disliked), while Jaabir’s mention of refraining from prohibiting them referred to an absolute prohibition that would have made them haraam. So he did forbid the names suggestively, but not absolutely, according to this opinion, and Allaah knows best.
[D] Some scholars, like Ibn al-Qayyim in I’laam al-Muwaq-qi’een, considered the disliked names to be restricted to only those identified specifically in the text of the hadeeth, allowing no qiyaas (analogies) to be made. This is based on what seems to be Samurah’s statement forbidding anyone from narrating other than the four names in the report he relayed. See: Zaad al-Ma’aad (2/303) of Ibn al-Qayyim. In light of the different narrations and the names found in them, it is more likely that Samurah was demanding that his students be precise in how they narrated his report.
Other scholars, like al-Baghawee [d.516], mentioned some additional names that were considered by some scholars to be intended by the generality of the hadeeth, like: ‘Abdul-___ (with any name of Allaah), Haamid, Muslim, Mubaarak, Maymoon, Salaamah, ‘Aafiyah, and Maymoonah. While this might now seem very restrictive, excessive, and even contradictory to narrations encouraging some of these names (like ‘Abdullaah and ‘Abdur-Rahmaan), al-Baghawee identified the problem to be connected to the manners of talking about the absent person, and not his actual name. He offered the following solution: When people are requested and we need to reply that the person (‘Abdullaah, for example) is not present, then all we need to say is: “We are all ‘Abdullaahs (servants of Allaah, or the name being asked about, like Haamids, those who praise Allaah, or Mubaaraks, blessed by Allaah), but your friend (named ‘Abdullaah) has left!” (Sharh as-Sunnah, 12/339)
This is an excellent way to understand the issue – If the people are careful about how they would respond to requests for people with such names, by using responses like the ones suggested by al-Baghawee, then in such cases the names would not include the potential danger mentioned by the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace). Otherwise, they should be considered disliked. This approach to understanding the issue gives priority to the key piece of information found in the narrations – the reason for the prohibition mentioned by the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) himself.
I hope that these points are found to be helpful, and Allaah knows best. May Allaah raise the rank of our Messenger and grant him peace.
Written by: Moosaa Richardson