An American Editor

July 30, 2021

Indexing Arabic Names: Compound Names that Cannot Be Split

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:20 am
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© Ælfwine Mischler

Arabic names can be tricky to index and alphabetize in references. In previous posts, I discussed how to handle the definite article al- and family terms Al, Ba, and ibn or bint between names. Unwitting indexers and editors (and even authors) often err by inverting Arabic names that should be left as they are, or splitting compound names and inverting names in the wrong place.

Arabic has a lot of compound names that are identifiable by one of their elements. This column discusses the most common ones. Whether you are indexing or alphabetizing references, do not split these compound names. That is, do not invert — do not move only one element and not the whole thing. The identifiable compounds are based on the genitive construction (iḍāfa) and often, but not always, the second element begins with the definite article al-, which should be ignored in sorting.

I have collected these common compound names by recognizable elements. For the sake of simplicity, I have not used diacritics on the names.

Ibn + [something]

In pre-modern names and names of royalty, ibn (son of) or one of its variants may come between two names. These names are indexed as they appear and are not inverted (see Indexing Arabic Names: Family Terms).

However, when Ibn comes at the beginning of a name rather than between two names, it is capitalized in English, is not inverted, and is sorted on Ibn. Many medieval personalities are known simply as Ibn + [something]. The “something” might be the name of a father or ancestor, or the whole name might be a nickname. For example, the nickname of the 15th-century Egyptian hadith scholar Ibn Hajar al-ʿAsqalani means ‘son of stone’; al-ʿAsqalani indicates that the family originated in ʿAsqalan some generations before him. He is indexed as “Ibn Hajar al-ʿAsqalani,” sorted on I.

Here are some other names of this type — alphabetized as they should be, with the ignored al- shown in angle brackets (see “>Indexing Arabic Names: The Definite Article):

Ibn <al->ʿArabi, Abu Bakr Muhammad*

Ibn ʿArabi, Muhyi al-Din Muhammad*

Ibn Battuta

Ibn <al->Hajib

Ibn <al->Hajj

Ibn Hazm

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn <al->Tabban

Ibn Taymiyyah

*Muhyi al-Din Muhammad ibn ʿArabi (d. 638 AH/1240 CE) is a Sufi scholar who is known as Ibn ʿArabi or, sometimes, as Ibn al-ʿArabi (with the definite article). Follow your author’s practice to include or exclude the definite article. Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn al-ʿArabi (d. 543 AH/ 1148 CE) is a Maliki scholar and judge known as Ibn al-ʿArabi. Your author might refer to them as simply Ibn ʿArabi or Ibn al-ʿArabi, without the other names.

Bint + [something]

Bint (daughter of) is the feminine counterpart of Ibn and can occur as the first element of a compound name that is not split. Bint al-Shatiʾ (literally Daughter of the Riverbank) is the pen name of Aisha Abd al-Rahman. You should index it as written, without a comma and sorted under B. Your index might also include her real name (indexed as Abd al-Rahman, Aisha), with locators double-posted or a See cross-reference to her penname.

Abu (or Abū) + [something]

Abu + [something] (literally father of [something]) forms a type of nickname known as a kunya. The “something” is usually the name of the man’s eldest son, but the kunya might be used to indicate a trait. In the medieval period, people were addressed by their kunya and might be known primarily by it instead of their real name.

This form of name is still used in some Arab cultures today and may appear as a surname, nickname, or penname. Like other compound names, you should not split it, and if there is an article in the second element, you should ignore it in sorting. Thus, the Egyptian writer, poet, and historian Muhammad Farid Abu Hadid (1893–1967) is indexed as “Abu Hadid, Muhammad Farid.” The Palestinian Abu Nidal is indexed as written, possibly with a gloss of his real name (Sabri Khalil al-Banna), possibly with an entry at al-Banna, Sabri Khalil (sorted under B) with a See reference to Abu Nidal.

If Abu is preceded by ibn or bint, it becomes Abi (or Abī), and the entire sequence of Ibn/Bint Abi + [Something] should not be split.

Umm + [something]

Umm + [something] (literally, mother of [something]), is the feminine form of the kunya. Like the masculine form, it may refer to a woman’s eldest son, as in the case of Umm Salama (mother of Salama), or it may indicate a trait. The given name Umm Kulthum (also spelled Kulsum or Kalsum) means “one with chubby cheeks.” It was used as the stage name of the Egyptian singer Fatima Ibrahim el-Sayyid el-Batagi, whose stage name is indexed as “Umm Kulthum.” If the second element has the definite article, as in the case of Umm al-Qura (“mother of towns,” a nickname for Mecca), the article is ignored in sorting.

ʿAbd + [something]

This compound, meaning “servant of” or “slave of,” is probably the most common. The second element is usually, but not always, one of the names of God, and there is usually a definite article in the second element, which leads to various spellings in modern names. To bring common spellings together, sort word by word and ignore the definite article if it is not attached to the first element:

ʿAbdallah, Jamil

ʿAbd <al->Hamid II

ʿAbd Rabbihi

ʿAbd <al->Rahman III

ʿAbd <al->Rahman, Sayyid

ʿAbd <al->Samad, ʿAbd al-Qadir

ʿAbdel Ghani, Mahmoud

Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem

The one exception to this, by convention, is the name of the Egyptian president Gamal ʿAbd al-Nasser, who is usually referred to in text as Nasser and indexed as Nasser, Gamal ʿAbd al-, rather than as ʿAbd al-Nasser, Gamal. If your author ignores this convention and refers to him as ʿAbd al-Nasser, index him as the author has him, but also put a See cross-reference under Nasser.

It is common practice for an author to use only a surname on subsequent mention. However, twice I have caught an author using only the second element without ʿAbd; for example, referring to Sayyid ʿAbd al-Rahman as al-Rahman rather than ʿAbd al-Rahman. Al-Rahman is a name of God and cannot be used for a human. If you come upon such a mistake in a book, index the name correctly with ʿAbd and tell the client to correct the text.

[Something] + al-Din

Several compounds made of [something] + al-Din ([something] of the faith) are common names in modern Arabic, and served as a form of honorific in medieval names. In modern names the al- might be spelled ad-, ed-, or ud- to show the assimilation of the letter l, and the article might be attached to the second word. Din might be spelled Deen or Dine.

Common modern compounds are Nur al-Din, Saif al-Din, Salah al-Din, and Shams al-Din, all with various spellings (see “Romanized Arabic in English Texts: Sources of Variation” and “Romanized Arabic in English Texts: Other Challenges for Editors”).

[Something] + Allah

A few names, now primarily surnames, are formed with Allah as the second element: Farag Allah, Faraj Allah, Hasab Allah, Khair Allah.

Dhu (or Zu) + [something]

Dhu or Zu is a combining word in a few names. The u is a long vowel here, so the vowel of the article elides in pronunciation and this might be shown in various spellings, or the names might be written as one word: Dhu ’l-Qarnayn, Dhu’l-Qarnayn, Dhu-l-Qarnayn, Dhul Qarnayn, Dhu al-Kifl, Dhul Kifl, Dhu al-Faqar, Zulfaqar.

Miscellaneous genitive compounds

I have seen a number of names of prominent people incorrectly indexed. These names are also genitive constructions and should not be split.

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, a former president of Pakistan, appeared in one index as “ul-Haq, Zia” with no sign of the first name. I could not access the text to see how the author had written the name, and I always see the surname hyphenated. This should be indexed as Zia-ul-Haq, Muhammad.

The former president of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has Ben Ali as his surname. His given name is also a genitive-construction compound, which I have also seen used for other people with different spellings: Zine El Abidine, Zain al-Abidin, Zayn al-ʿAbidin. These should not be split.

Examples of Modern Names

A modern name might have two or more given names rather than a given name and a family name. The second name is usually the father’s name; the third name, if there is one, is the grandfather’s. Look at the last element and determine whether it is part of a compound name that cannot be split. Treat any compound names as a unit, then use the final name (simple or compound) as a surname and invert. Ignore the articles in sorting, as shown by the angle brackets.

ʿAbd al-Rahim ʿAbd al-Jalil >> ʿAbd <al->Jalil, ʿAbd <al->Rahim

            NOT <al->Jalil, ʿAbd <al->Rahim ʿAbd

Abu al-Hasan Kamal al-Din >> Kamal <al->Din, Abu <al->Hasan

            NOT <al->Din, Abu <al->Hasan Kamal

Aisha ʿAbd al-Rahman >> ʿAbd <al->Rahman, Aisha

            NOT <al->Rahman, Aisha ʿAbd

Ali Samir al-Dumyati >> <al->Dumyati, Ali Samir

Ali Moustafa Mosharafa è Mosharafa, Ali Moustafa

Mohamed Salah Eldin >> Salah Eldin, Mohamed

            NOT Eldin, Mohamed Salah

Mustapha Zine El Abidine >> Zine <El> Abidine, Mustapha

            NOT Abidine, Mustapha Zine El

Nasr Abu Zayd >> Abu Zayd, Nasr

            NOT Zayd, Nasr Abu

Noura Ahmad Dawud è Dawud, Noura Ahmad

In a recent book about Yemen, I found several modern, nonroyal names with “bin” between two names (for example, Ahmad Hani bin Dawud). I had to query the author about them because modern names don’t usually contain “bin” unless the person is royal. She replied that “bin” was part of the family name, so I told her to mark it to be capitalized and I indexed them on Bin: Bin Dawud, Ahmad Hani. If you find similar modern names, query the author.   

Titles and honorifics can appear in both medieval and modern names, and cause more problems for indexers. That is a topic for another post.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books about Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology. She has presented a webinar on indexing Arabic names for the American Society for Indexing (https://www.asindexing.org/webinars/mischler-arabicnames/). This post is based on the submitted version of “Indexing Arabic Names: The Basics,” published in The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing, March 2021, https://doi.org/10.3828/indexer.2021.7.

July 7, 2021

On the Basics: Marketing while uncomfortable

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 8:47 pm

© Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner

An American Editor

A journalism colleague recently tagged me in a Facebook post about his discomfort with marketing his freelance services, saying he believes in “privacy, humility and discretion” and that posting about his work distracts him from doing the next project. He’s reluctant to post social media messages because he finds most of them “banal and narcissistic,” but he knows that at some point, he’ll have to market his business to succeed.

I suggested that he “think of social media posts as advice to and support of colleagues, and it might be easier to use that resource to promote your freelance business. Privacy, humility and discretion are valuable principles, but we have to do at least some marketing to be found and hired for projects!”

How does using social media to advise and support colleagues play into a marketing plan? When you answer questions, suggest resources, present solutions and otherwise come in handy in LinkedIn, Facebook and related platforms, including discussion lists and other forums, you establish yourself as professional, skilled, knowledgeable — and the people you help will remember you that way. They’ll think of you when a project comes up that they can’t take on for some reason. They’ll contact you to subcontract or refer you.

This colleague’s post, and my response, got me thinking about how hard it can be to take a business-like approach to freelancing and engage in marketing when we’d much rather be writing, editing, proofreading, etc. We like to think of ourselves as creative types (especially those of us who are writers or graphic artists), and the idea of being businesses or business-like is antithetical to that creative self-image.

But as freelancers, in business we are and market we must. (And even some in-house colleagues have to market themselves — to get promoted, to have their work recognized and appreciated, to find a new in-house job.)

Your first step is to create a website. Once that’s up and you remember to refresh it regularly (which I admit I’m very bad about doing), it will do a lot of your marketing for you. Potential clients will find you before you have to go looking for them. Add the URL for your website to your “sigline” (the contact info at the end of every e-mail message you send), and it becomes even more powerful as a marketing tool.

As colleague John H. Meyer said in a post to the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) discussion list, “Think of your online presence as a wheel, with your business website at the center, and everything else (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., etc., etc.) as spokes. Whatever appears on any of the spokes can bring attention back to the hub, which is the permanent repository for all essential info about you and your service.” He has found that “even a non-business presence on various media has brought me clients.” As a result of having several opinion pieces published in local news media with a tagline that identifies him as a “free-lance editor,” several authors “went a-Googling,” found his website and are now clients. “Even if you’re not directly marketing, how you present yourself publicly can still help build your brand.”

(For tips on creating a website, see … or order a recording of my webinar about that topic from the EFA.)

In that online conversation, I also noted that “Cold queries do still work, though.” And they do. If marketing makes you uncomfortable, don’t think of them as marketing. Think of them as pitches or leads for new work. The advantage of cold queries is that you initiate contact with a potential client: You do some research, through Writer’s Market, library or bookstore visits, Literary Marketplace, LinkedIn, etc.; come up with an idea for an article or a perspective on how your skills and experience might meet their needs; and send your message. It’s essentially one on one, which doesn’t feel as much like marketing as being visible in social media. It doesn’t feel promotional. It is business, but it’s on a smaller scale. It’s, well … private, humble and discreet.

You can also create a blog, although finding new things to say on a regular basis might be a challenge.

You can write a book or booklet, which provides credibility and passive marketing backup and income.

You can set a schedule for social media posting and activity, or simply remember to scan groups and colleagues of interest occasionally and respond to some of their posts. I’m a big believer in answering questions in social media groups not only of colleagues, but of potential clients — people looking for editors, proofreaders, writers, etc.

You can also set a schedule for more-direct marketing activity, such as sending out query letters/messages on the first Monday of every month.

You can join and be active in professional associations, show up at events, speak up in discussions, present webinars, write for their publications, etc.

It’s all marketing. Resign yourself to the necessity, find a level of activity that you can live with and go for it. The results might not only be a pleasant surprise for your bank account, but more manageable, and eventually more comfortable, than you ever expected.

Above all, tell yourself that marketing isn’t bragging, posturing, being indiscreet or overly public about your life. It’s good business. Marketing is about letting the world know who you are and what you do, which you can do quietly and with subtlety, while still being effective in bringing clients to your door.  

Even rock stars — literal rock stars, that is — do marketing. Think about the rock band Kiss and their multiple commercial projects, which I just learned about: 5,000 licensed products that have nothing to do with music! We should keep our marketing efforts focused on our editorial business skills and services, but that’s not a bad example to follow from the perspective of marketing as a core element of a successful business.

What have you done to market yourself and your work effectively, whether you’re a freelancer or in-house employee? What have you overcome to make yourself be more marketed and marketable?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the owner and editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning creator of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide. She also created the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues, now cosponsored by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.naiwe.com) and An American Editor. She can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com or Ruth@writerruth.com.

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