Many moons ago, when I was studying Assyriology at university, I learnt some Arabic.
Not enough, sadly, to read some of my favorite Arabic literature — The Thousand and One Nights — in the original, but enough to get by well enough on a trip to Syria a few years ago.
For many people Arabic is almost synonymous with Islam.
But while Arabic is the langauge of Islam and most important Islamic texts (the Qu’ran, of course, first and foremost among them), the Arabic language itself is not exclusive to Islam.
It is actually spoken by those of other faiths too.
And Arabic language and culture has had an immense impact on European and Western culture too. A great many words in the English language owe their existence to Arabic.
I first encountered Nasir as a child in Robin of Sherwood.
I’ve probably mentioned this iconic TV show before, and I daresay I shall do so again!
Nasir was the name of the silent and mysterious Assassin (with a big “A”), a “saracen” brought back from the Crusades by the evil Baron de Belleme as a bodyguard.
No-one could wield a blade (frequently two of them) like Nasir could.
Robin was yummy, to be sure, but if Nasir had turned up on his Arabian stallion and offered to whisk me away to his desert tents, I’d have been off in a shot.
Nasir means “helper,” “supporter,” and “ally” in Arabic, deriving from a verb meaning “to render victorious” — very apt for the character in Robin of Sherwood, and a great sentiment for a name in general.
It is also transliterated into English as Naseer, and there is a feminine form too — Nasira.
A related name is Nasar, meaning “help” and “support.”
And it shortens to the very cool Nas, as borne by the American rapper, Nasir Jones (b.1973).
And, of course, another brownie point for an Arabic name is the fact that the Arabic script is arguably the most beautiful in the world.
Nasir in Arabic is written: نصیر.
While Arabic names are popular in the Islamic community, they are unusual in the English-speaking world at large. Nevertheless, the precedent has been set and there are Arabic names in general circulation, such as Layla, while in France and a number of South American countries Arabic names do see wider use generally.
Why not, then, plum for something a bit more different, a bit more cosmopolitan, and consider an Arabic name, like the wonderful and dramatic Nasir?