My Name is Too Prophetic, I Want A Generic Indonesian Name

More than five decades ago, in the town of Watampone, South Sulawesi, a high school boy named Sulaiman dreamed of getting into a university in Makassar. Watampone is a small town in the Bone region, a four hour car ride from the center of South Sulawesi, Makassar. Sulaiman thought university could change his fortune, from a country boy from a poor farmer family to a respected city man.

He prayed and prayed that God would grant him the wish, but he realized that it was a nearly impossible dream. Until his friend Idris offered him to take his place instead in the very university.

Unlike Sulaiman, Idris was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was accepted at the Faculty of Social and Political Science but he had no desire to study. He wanted to enter the workforce straight away. The two long-time friends then hatched a plan that would not fly if it happened today in the internet era. Like a plot in a Hollywood teen flick, both exchanged identities. To be exact, Sulaiman changed his name legally into Idris, but Idris still keeps his.

The plan went smoothly. Sulaiman, now called Idris, went to the provincial capital four-hour drive away. He studied hard, befriended popular students who later turned into powerful government officials, and became a diligent civil servant. Sulaiman/Idris went on to have a steady career and become a lecturer in political and development studies.

Idris met a nice, young woman who loves to sing. They built a semi-warm but dysfunctional family of three children. The youngest is writing this essay

The Holy Koran is The Baby’s Name Book

My dad never admits that he changed his name from one prophet name to another. But, in our family it wasn’t a secret. Even my uncle, aunts, and elder cousins still call him by his real name. Dad, however, never discloses this part of his life to us, the children.

We never know the reasons, but I believe it’s because he thinks names are sacred and people should live out their name. By changing his name, he sort of reduces its sacredness. He didn’t live as Sulaiman, but as Idris. He felt guilt because he didn’t live up to his values. And that is exactly why, I thought, he gives his children ‘prophetic’ names from the Qoran, so they can live up to their names. It applied not only to my siblings and I, but the entire Idris family.

It goes without saying, the holy Quran is the official baby’s name book. When my sister gave birth to his first child, my dad would read the Quran like it has a list of name suggestions.

My sister’s full name is Thathmainnul Qulub, which means a peaceful heart. True to her name she’s indeed an extremely relaxed person and rarely holds a grudge. Inul, as we usually called her, is like the stoner turtle from Finding Nemo, an extremely calm person even when trouble arises.

While my brother, named Islah, means to reform or improve. He did get better easily on the things he was interested in. Playing ‘Fantastic Impromptu’ by Chopin on the piano, for example, he learned and perfected it for less then a month by himself. Such a gifted and dedicated person in the name of improvement.

And surprise surprise, the last child-yours truly-live up to her name too. Tabayyun means verification, such a fitting name for a journalist like me. My old homeroom teacher even used to joke around that I should be one. What are the odds that I eventually chose it as a profession. I actually never thought to be a journalist. Truthfully, I didn’t have a dream job because I never dream of labor. But here we are now.

Is Prophetic Name A Burden?

Personally, I don’t have any objection using a word from the Quran for naming someone, but prophetic names leave a baggage. Having Tabayyun as a name and how it is closely linked to journalism sometimes gets into my head.

I often think about what would happen if I didn’t live up to it and write an article that isn’t verified. My reputation would go bad and in the era of cancel culture I probably would be unemployed. I’m not a mega popstar such as Taylor Swift that can make a whole album about bad reputation and be praised for it. Those thoughts kept me awake at night. Oftentimes brings me anxiety that makes me ponder whether I should leave this field for good.

As a journalist, having Tabayyun as a name is a burden. Sometimes I think that life would be easier if I had a generic Indonesian name like Bulan, Mita, or Dewi. Those names have no correlation to journalism and I didn’t have to think of myself as a failure if I didn’t live up to it. Or become a great journalist such as Najwa Shihab like my grandmother expected me to be.

Nevertheless, our names are our identity, just like what being said in the dystopian feminist novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Without it we would be none. Tabayyun is extremely fitting for a journalist and it is my identity even though it still makes me wary when I write.

Sometimes I think I should be like Brook Maurio, an American scriptwriter for Juno and Jennifer’s Body, whose pen name is Diablo Cody. She used that name for work and it creates wonder to her life. She’s getting more respected and brave. Unlike Brook Maurio who is shy and timid.

The idea of creating an alternative name for my work so I didn’t have to constantly feel burned by how prophetic it is. But, I haven’t thought of a pen name that could ‘change’ my life, so I have to stick with Tabayyun for a while. And actually I (kind of) didn’t mind.



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