In Arabic names, a nisba (also spelled nesba, sometimes nesbat ; Arabic: نسبة nisbah, "attribution") is an adjective indicating the person's place of origin, tribal affiliation, or ancestry, used at the end of the name and occasionally ending in the suffix -iyy(ah). Nisbah is originally an Arabic word that was passed to many other languages such as Turkish, Persian and Urdu.
A nisba "relation" is a grammatical term referring to the suffixation of masculine -iyy, feminine -iyyah to a word to make it an adjective. As an example, the word ‘Arabiyy (عربي) means "Arab, related to Arabic, Arabian". Nisba forms are very common in Arabic names.
Use in onomastics
Arabic names do not include family names or surnames, but rather patronymics (nasab), where the name of the person is followed by the name of his father, usually linked by ibn or bin ('son'). Patronymics may be long as they may include all known forefathers. When a name is simplified to one or two ancestors, it may become confused with other persons' names, so an additional specifier, a nisba, may be added as an attribute.
A nisba is usually prefixed by al ('the') and may be to almost anything:
- Al Baghdadi, related to the city of Baghdad, e.g. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, Junayd al-Baghdadi.
- Al Masri, related to Egypt. e.g. Taher al-Masri, Abu Hamza al-Masri.
- Al Najdi, related to the region of Najd in Saudi Arabia.
- Al Tihami, related to the region of Tihamah in Saudi Arabia.
- Al Hijazi, related to the region of Hijaz in Saudi Arabia. e.g. Amal Hijazi, Farouk Hijazi.
- El Djezairi, related to Algeria. e.g. Abdelkader El Djezairi.
- Al Kairouani, related to the city of Kairouan in Tunisia.
Tribes or clans
- Al Tamimi, from the tribe or clan of Bani Tamim. e.g. Modher Sadeq-Saba al-Tamimi, Talib al-Suhail al-Tamimi, Alaa al-Tamimi.
- Al Qurashi, from the tribe or clan of Quraish. e.g. ibn Kathir Al-Qurashi, Abû 'Uthmân Sa'îd ibn Hakam al Qurashi.
- Al Ta'i, from the tribe of Tai'. e.g. Hatem at-Ta'i.
- Al Maliki, related to Malik al-Ashtar. e.g. Nouri al-Maliki.
- Al Farouqi, related to Farooq the Great. e.g. Ismail al-Faruqi.
One can have more than one nisba, one can be related to a city, a clan, a profession and a person at the same time. Examples include:
- Ali ibn Abi-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi, from the tribe of Quraish and from Damascus (Dimashq).
- Abd al-Qahir ibn Tahir al-Tamimi al-Shaffi al-Baghdadi, from the tribe of Bani Tamim, from the city of Baghdad and a follower of Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i.
The nisba is optional but is quite widespread.
- Ansari — from Ansar, Medina people who helped prophet Muhammad
- Tabataba'i — someone who has two Seyyed as parents
- Bukhari — someone born in Bukhara
- Hanbali — someone following Hanbali Madhhab