- Kunya (Arabic)
A kunya ( _ar. كنية) is an
honorificwidely used in place of given namesthrough the Arab world. It is a component of an Arabic name, a type of epithetreferring to the bearer's first-born son or daughter.
"Abū" (father) or "umm" (mother) precedes the son's name, in a
genitiveconstruction (the "iđāfa"). The English equivalent would be to call someone whose eldest son is named John "Father of John." Use of the "kunya" normally signifies some closeness between the speaker and the person so addressed, but is more polite than use of the first name. The "kunya" is also frequently used with reference to politicians and other celebrities to indicate respect.
Mahmoud Abbas, the PalestinianPresident, is often referred to as " Abu Mazen". This refers to his first-born son, Mazen. Although Mazen died in 2002, Abbas still retains the name. His wife is accordingly called "Umm Mazen".
Men who do not yet have a child are often nevertheless addressed by a made-up "kunya". Most often the name chosen comes from a popular name in history, where he choses his kunya, sometimes it would be the name of their father. The kunya may also be totally made up, although less often.
When using a person's full name, the "kunya" will precede the proper name. Thus: "abū Māzin Maħmūd", for "Mahmud, the father of Mazen". In
Classical Arabic, but not in any of the spoken dialects, "abū" can change into the forms "abā" and "abī" ( accusativeand genitive, respectively), depending on the position of the "kunya" in the sentence.
The kunya is also sometimes used metaphorically rather than literally. A modern example would be the Moro
Islamistterrorist group Abu Sayyafoperating in Southern Philippines(Mindanao). The word "sayyaf" means " swordsmith", so "Father of the swordsmith" signifies the group's belligerent charter.
When westernized, the words "abu" and "abu'l" are sometimes perceived as an independent part of the full name, similar to a
given name. For example, professor Abul Hussamis commonly referred to as Hussam, as if under an assumption that "Hussam" is a family name. See more on westernization of Arabic naming practices and names.
Kunya as a nom de guerre
A special practice evolved among
Palestinianleaders, originally in the Fatahfaction (of which Abbas is part), to use real or fictional "kunyas" as "noms de guerre".
Yasser Arafatwas known by the name Abu Ammar("abū `ammār"), even though he never had a son named Ammar, it was based on Ammar ibn Yasir, a companion of Muhammadand a prominent figure in Arab history.
This usage of the kunya has gained currency outside of the Palestinian movement, and is now often used by Arab guerrillas and clandestine operators. Examples of this include the Lebanese leaders "Abu Anis" (used by
George Hawiduring the Lebanese Civil War) and "Abu Arz" ( Etienne Saqr).
* [http://www.sca.org/heraldry/laurel/names/arabic-naming2.htm Page on Arabic naming practices] .
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