Monday, 16 March 2020 05:55

How To Spell My Name: The Misadventures Of One Named Hafiz

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The other day I was at a friend’s house, we were doing some projects together. It was a video project and I was supplying the script, while I dictated the words he wrote them on his diary book, the huge corporate type diaries. Everything was going along fine until my name came up in the script.

I nonchalantly said my name, waiting for him to write it down. He began with the first three letters then stopped, I could see he was thinking, rationalizing, how to spell Hafiz. When he finally decided the correct spelling he wrote down “Hafizh”, I swooned to the side of the bed. For all the twenty-five years I have been on earth, this is by far the weirdest spelling of my name, this is coming from someone whose name has never been spelled the same way twice in a row.

My name has seen some action on the documents of many official records and registers, from receipts issued to me with a maimed version of my name on it to actual school ID's that contorted it beyond saving. A lot of the misspelling happens as a result of cultural influence, every tribe has a way of pronouncing it which means my name is like a weather forecast, it changes with every geographical location you go to.

Meaning Of Hafiz

Hafiz is a boy name of Arabic origin, derived from the word hāfaza, which means to preserve or guard in Arabic, so Hafiz literally means guardian or preserver. For the benefit of sounding cool, we are gonna stick with guardian.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Hafiz is “a Muslim who knows the Koran by heart —used as a title of respect.” This meaning of Hafiz is the general meaning and the one intended as a name, just like mine, except I haven’t memorized the Koran yet.

As if having my name misspelled every time isn’t enough, I am a fake Hafiz too?

It has been spelt hafeez, hafis, hafith, hafez and most recently, Hafizh. Elements on the periodic table are not spelled that bad.

Hafiz and the 99 names of Allah

Spelling: Abdul-Hafiz

We have just established Hafiz is a title, but if we backtrack just a little bit you will remember Hafiz is literally a guardian, and among the attributes of Allah (SAW) is The Guardian. Now, some people argue my name is actually Abdul-Hafiz, meaning the servant of The Guardian. In Islam there are some names you cannot attribute to a human, like Al-Khaliq (The Creator), those are only reserved for God. You can only say Abdul-khaliq, servant of The Creator.

Because of this, I am caught in the middle of a theological warfare, what the opposition don’t know is that some names among the 99 names of Allah can be attributed to a human without the Abdul attached, like Malik (King), or Hafiz (Memorizer). Many famous scholars of Islamic jurisprudence bear the name/title Hafiz, or Al-Hafiz, the most famous of which is Hafiz Ibn Qayyim Aljawzy. If there was something wrong with that, they would be the first to let you know.

How The Yorubas Spell My Name

Spelling: Hafeez

Usually, when the Yoruba people name you Abdul-something, they omit the Abdul and just call the second name. So Abdul-kareem becomes Kareem, they just go like Hameed, Maleek, Lateef. And one of the names of Allah is Hafeez, it is actually a derivative of Hafiz.

The Yoruba being Yoruba they just call Abdul-hafeez as Hafeez. And thanks to them, the two names are often confused. The majority of the other southern tribes who live side by side with the Yorubas are non-muslims, so they don’t know weird Muslim names like Hafiz but are familiar with Hafeez and thought it’s the same thing, so that whenever I say my name is Hafiz, pronouncing it without prolonging the end, they try to correct me. They go like “Oh you mean Hafeez, Oh I get it now.” I am a 20+ year old dude, I should know how to say my name by now.

One time I entered my teacher’s office. She asked me my name and I replied “Hafiz.” She said “What?”, like she didn’t get it the first time, so I repeated myself, but she kept saying “what?!” After the third attempt I said “Hafeez”, she went like “Ohhhh!, you are Hafeez” and wrote it down. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me. And so, whenever I find myself in the office of a Yoruba, I simply say my name is Hafeez.

The Lazy Spelling Of Hafiz

Spelling: Hafis

Some people are just too busy with their lives to notice I am suffering from a traumatic experience from all the misspelling of my name, they had to go ahead and spell it hafis, with an 's'.

You would think a prestigious university would care about its reputation, but apparently not this one. During my remedial program at the unnamed university, they gave us ID cards, and my name, permanently printed on this plastic identification card was ‘Hafis Mahmud'. When I read the name I felt dizzy with despair. How could they?

For more than one year, I carried Hafis Mahmud around on my person and showed him to security at the gate every time before I pass.

How The Ustaz Spell My Name

Spelling: Hafith

My name in arabic is written with the letter ظ at the end, which makes it sound something like a 'tha' in English, hence, some people spell it Hafith. This version is actually a well-accepted spelling of the name in Arabia. A famous Saudi football star spells his name Hafith. I appreciate the authenticity but the spelling is still wrong.

How To Spell Hafiz

Hafiz is wrong. I spell my name incorrectly, that’s right, wrong spelling. Hafiz ends with the ظ letter of the Arabic alphabets, which is pronounced something like /zhaw/, like thaw but with a zee. If you want to spell it, you write 'dh' at the end of the name, so it is Hafidh.

This is the closest adaptation of the spelling of Hafiz. The actual pronunciation doesn’t exist in English, just as the 'Ha' in Hafiz also doesn’t exist in English. There are two types of Hā in Arabic, the big Hā and the small Hā, my name is originally spelled in Arabic with the small Hā, which, to be totally honest, I don’t think it is remotely possible to explain what it sounds like, unless you are learning the Quran or Arabic, you can’t get the pronunciation right. End of story.

So, there is no such thing as a correct spelling of my name in English, Hafiz is just a proxy name, a convenient placeholder. Easy to say, easy to spell. You will have to be an expert Qurra'i (Quran reciter) to say my name right.

I got so used to many people not being familiar with the spelling of my name that whenever I am in a situation where my name is required, when I say it I instantly follow it up with the spelling, “Hafiz Mahmud. . . H, A,   F  I  Z.” As if this wasn’t enough, my family name Mahmud is another piece of work, some spell it Mahmood, some Mahmoud, some even Muhammed. Don’t even ask me how Muhammed got involved.

Back when I was in Junior school, my ID card read Hafiz Maimudu, in Hausa, mai mudu translates to 'the one who has mudu'. My father fumed for days. . . . I did not show him the university card after that.

My name has gone through a lot obviously, when I googled ‘how to spell hafiz' I realized the struggle was real, I mean Wikipedia had 6 alternate spellings of Hafiz, and baby name websites have at least 3 different spellings, each. This is a tribute to every Hafiz, Hafiez, Hafeex, Hafix, Hafeez, Hafith, Hafez, Hafidh, Hafeedh and Hafis around the world. We will probably need therapy, but in the meantime, let us bask in the fact we have a name only Quran reciters know how to say, and no one seems to know how to spell, don’t even begin me on my middle name, Mukhtar.

Read 1430 times Last modified on Monday, 16 March 2020 06:41
Hafiz Mukhtar Mahmud

Hafiz Mukhtar is a Muslim freelance writer and blogger, born in 1993 in Bauchi-Nigeria. His work focuses on content writing for blogs and startups. He is a techie, enthusiastic about developing and building Arewa, through smart, innovative, and sustainable means. Instagram: @reallyhafiz.

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