According to the Dictionary of Islamic names, this is a personal name which has been adopted by a number of mainly Turkish famillies as an Islamic surname. It is said to be a western version or spelling of the word 'amir or emir', themselves developments from the original Afgan 'ameer' meaning ruler. The name as a personal name in the western tradition, has been greatly popularised by the Egyptian Ismaili actor Omar Sharif, and is now found amongst other ethnic groups including Christians. In fact even within Islamic families the worship of film stars and the adoption of their sometimes idiosyncrastic spellings, is now very popular.It is not easy to use general terms when describing the make up of Muslim (sur)names. The religion crosses many borders, is recorded in at least twelve different languages, and is sub divided by individual sects or tribes, all of whom, to some extent, pursue their own individual form of Islam. Although many name holders do make claim to be descended from the prophet Mohammed 570 - 732 a.d, this is often through, what might be described as the tribal association. Furthermore although Islamic names are hereditary, what is often used in the west, are almost ciphers of the original forms. These have been rather crudely described as 'Telephone Names' as they are often short, and make for easy communication, even though they may not even be recognised in their own country. As the dictionary states (quote) 'The further we are from the source of the name in the heartlands of Islam, the more difficult it becomes to identify the name.'
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