Today is my nephew's first birthday. He is my father's namesake as Arab tradition and his daughter-in-law's good spirit would have it. It always takes good spirit to follow a tradition, especially when naming a child.
In most Arab countries, the eldest son endows his eldest son with his father's name, and so on and so forth, from generation to generation. This system takes carrying the family name to another level, reminding generations to come who the patriarch of the family was. My father's name was therefore preserved till he had his seventh grandchild. The birthday boy today is the son of my brother, who was born after me, the eldest male in our family of four. My brother has become Abu Saad, a tribute he had earned as early as birth but on the one condition that he would one day have a boy.
Unless you are born the eldest son in the family, you are free to choose your children's names. Often, parents seek a fashionable name, or one appropriate for their times. Subconsciously they follow a trend, a name that sounds contemporary. That being said, once the name is placed upon that child, it magically suits that person, and literally becomes him or her. A name is a gift parents honor their child with, especially if their little one is named after someone special.
The honor is also for to the one whose name was chosen. My father waited a long time! When I was pregnant with my first baby and didn't know the gender of the baby, my husband and I lied about our choice of male names. We would say Omar instead of Abu Torab, lest we have a girl and disappoint the original Abu Torab who didn't expect it at all. Unlike the Arab world, Iranians do not follow the tradition of naming after their father. Until our child came along, there hadn't been a second Abu Torab in the family, many believing it to be a difficult name in the West or too old fashioned. When we did have a boy, and named him after my grandfather, we certainly surprised everybody, especially our son's namesake. My grandfather, incredulous, would jokingly ask: "So what did you name that son of yours?"
That same son was also named after his paternal grandfather, when we gave him the middle name, Amine. Our other son is named after a talented Afghan DJ, and his middle name is that of his paternal great-grandfather. It was my husband who named our daughter Amira, after my sister. I was surprised by his choice, and initially couldn't fathom loving two women with the identical name. But that was the whole point, my husband told me. He then accepted to add a unique name as her middle name.
My daughter sometimes asks us why we chose such a unique name for her, given that she goes by that middle name. "It was inspired by a prayer", I tell her. "And perhaps one day you too will have namesakes"...