It's said that surah 80 of the Quran is revealed in regards to Ibn Umm Maktum.

My question is about the meaning of the name of this person.

I'm not Arab. As much as I know, Ibn means son, and Umm means mother.

So, this confuses me. Does his name literally means son of the mother of Maktum?

Is it a strange linguistic feature of classical Arabic?

  • The name of the sahabi actually is 'Abdullah ibn Qays ibn Zaidah ibn al-Assam ibn Rawahah al-Qurashi al 'Aamiri عبد الله بن قيس بن زائدة بن الأصم بن رواحة القرشي العامري however the people of 'Iraq named him 'Amr instead of 'Abdullah, he is known as 'Abdullah or 'Amr ibn Umm Maktum as a byname. As for his name before Islam a lot of names were mentioned. His byname means son of the mother of Maktum as you said, but what is strange about that?
    – Medi1Saif
    Jan 11 at 8:36
  • @Medi1Saif, it's strange because let's say John and Steve are brothers. Then imagine that people call John by this name: Son of Mother of Steve. Is this not stupid? I mean, many languages have stupid constructs. For example, French people say "80 16" for 96. That's also weird and stupid. Jan 11 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


Arab culture had a widespread concept of nicknames of the form Abu X (Father of X) or Umm X (Mother of X). It is often after the first child, but it could be for other reasons as well.

Many people would be known more commonly by the nickname rather than their actual first name. Sometimes so much more that the first name becomes lost to history! Abu Bakr is an example of that.

This is the same reason someone would be named "son of Abu X." Take Abu Bakr's son as an example. Would it make more sense to call him Ibn Abi Bakr or Ibn First_Name when no one knows the First_Name that much?

The same applies to Umm Maktūm, his mother. She was commonly known as Umm Maktūm, hence that is how he was called: "Son of Umm Maktūm." The Arabs would see Umm Maktūm itself as a name/nickname by itself. So, they wouldn't look at it as "Son of the mother of Maktūm."

  • Very informative. Thank you indeed. Jan 12 at 5:05

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