On Muslim Converts Changing Names And Why I Did Not Change Mine

11 03 2008

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

On the Day of Resurrection you will be called by your names and by your father’s names, so give yourselves good names. (Bukhari)

It is a common practice for Muslim converts to change their name upon converting to Islam. Some do this legally thus changing all their paperwork (social security, id cards, licenses, passport, etc). While others choose to do so more informally. For example, a sister named Kate may be known to the women at the masjid as Amirah while for all business and formal purposes she will use her birth name,Kate.

I have known women converts who have taken both routes. For some, changing the name is important because their birth name had a bad meaning. It is known from hadiths that the Prophet (saw) would change people’s names if they had bad meanings. For example:

Imam al-Bukhari mentioned that Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib said that when his grandfather came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), the Prophet asked him about his name. He said, “Hazn” (meaning Hard). The Prophet said, “You are Sahl. (meaning soft, easy).” The man said, “I do not want to change the name that my father gave me.” His grandson Sa`id used to regret and say afterwards that they kept on experiencing the hardness in their family. (Reported by al-Bukhari)

While other Muslim converts may change their name because they feel that they want a name that more reflects their personality or what they would like their personality to become. Such as Aminah (the trustworthy, truthful) or Amatullah (the female servant of Allah). 

Most Muslims undergo many lifestyle changes once converting to Islam. Much of their pre-Islamic life will be changed or altered. They are opening a new chapter of their lives and what better way to signify this than changing your name to fit your new identity?

Still others may read a biography of the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), a story of a great Prophet in the Qur’an, or a story of the many great women in Islam. A Muslim may be so impressed and touched by the story they read that it prompts them to change their name and use that particular person as a namesake and a example of what they would hope to be.

Many Muslims and Non Muslims are a little surprised when they hear my name. When I converted to Islam, I wrestled with the idea of changing my name. On the one hand, I felt that it would be a good way to start my new life. I knew that my name did not have a bad meaning. So, that wasn’t an issue for me. I perused books of Muslim baby names thinking one would just pop out at me or I would find one with a particularly good meaning. One day, I came across a name that had the exact same meaning as my given name…..only my name is western and that name was Arabic. This really made me think. What is it about the name that sounds Arabic but has the exact meaning of my name that makes it so superior? Is it the language?  I understand when people name themselves and their children after specific people in our history (ie. Muhammad, Umar, Maryam, Khadijah, Fatimah, Aisha). But as for the other names, I don’t think it makes a difference what language or country the name is associated with as long as the meaning is good. I read the biographies of the companions and the great women in the Qur’an and I marvel at their excellence and devotion. I am very impressed by them all, Mash’Allah. I try to take their examples and apply them to my life. Though, that doesn’t extend to my name. To me, my given name is enough and it has a very positive meaning.  I like my name and I like my identity as a Muslim with a western name. It has been an ice breaker when giving da’wah because most all non muslims want to hear how I became a Muslim after hearing my name and reaching the conclusion that I converted. So, I feel, keeping my name was the right choice, for me.

On the internet, obviously, I use a pseudo name because I am not comfortable displaying my name on the internet. Old fashioned? Probably.

Basically, changing names is a very personal choice that every Muslim should make for themselves. New converts should not feel pressured to change their names. Yet, they should be supported if they choose to do so. For many it may cause friction in the family. If you suddenly inform your mother that, from now on, you are to be known to her as Amirah rather than Kate, you can  probably expect a reaction.  So, like every major change, converts should remember to inform those around them in the best manner and with  patience.

**This is of course talking about first names as Muslims do not change their surnames( last names, family names). As Allah tells us clearly in the Qur’an to be known by the names of our fathers: “Call them by (the names of) their father’s, that is more just in the sight of Allah…” (Al-Ahzab 33:5)


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18 responses

11 03 2008
hazm

peace be heaven
visit my blog

11 03 2008
baby names » Blog Archive » On Muslim Converts Changing Names And Why I Did Not Change Mine

[…] Read the rest of this great post here […]

13 03 2008
Safiyyah

Salaams Sis:

I didn’t change my name legally, but do use the name “Safiyyah”. I came to Islam from Judaism. When I read that our Prophet (saw) had a Jewish wife named “Safiyyah” I decided to use that name because I was inspired by her. I never asked my relatives to call me Safiyyah though.

As to my husband’s name, I stuck his last name before my father’s name. This way I still maintain my father’s name.

I use my real name on my blog, mainly because I have posted essays and articles that I have had published on websites and in magazines.

But Ya Allah … lately I am attracting the Zionist crowd. I’m surprised it took them so long to discover me. Some of their comments are a bit disturbing.

14 03 2008
adikbongsu

Assalamu’alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Masya’Allah UmmYusuf, i truly enjoy this post…
thk you forsharing with us your experience *hugs*

16 03 2008
Shahrzad

Its what i also believe in. My husband didnt change his name after reverting to Islam, nor he chose a nickname or something. His name is his westerner name. I like the idea he had for it. Bcs he says its better we have American muslim, British muslim, Iranian muslim, Arab muslim, Indian muslim blah blah. It shows that Islam is a universal religion and not just Arabs’ religion.

24 10 2008
gw

@Shahrzad
yup thats true….
no need to change to same niche arabic name…..
islam is not only arabic……its universal….

9 12 2008
hussein

plz share with us ur link, so that we can read mo on ur progress. Salaam

8 01 2009
Muhammadyasin

Salaams to all;

I am 18 years old and (from birth) a muslim, and am very touched by, and respect anyone who reverts to Islam (It’s not easy to make such a large but positive change).
I have an inner conflict about naming of babies because I have cousins arriving to this world in droves and often there is a constructive debate about the name.

Recently, with the unfortunate negative outlook suffusing over Islam, I wondered if it would be okay to give babies a name which is not too dissimilar to a western name; even though they represent the same meaning, or (more controversially) slightly alter an already Arabic name in terms of pronunciation and/or the way it’s written to appear more western?
For example: My cousin is called Sakira, which is recognized as a muslim baby name, but at school she writes it as Shakira (after the singer) to fit in more. Is this allowed?
Other examples I can think of include:
Mishal –> Michelle
Mikaal –> Michael etc.

Although the new names do differ in meaning, in the current climate, they may be more welcomed?

22 02 2009
Tazkal

We have be careful to choice names for our baby. The meaningful it must be.

4 04 2009
michael quay

I am a convert 3 years ago, and have adopted Mikail as my muslim name. If there any one out there, who can tell me do I have to change my name in my ID or IC. Someone told me that I have to have a ……bin abdullah like all previous converts. he is not my dad for Heavens sake.

can I just be the michael quay i used to be but a muslim.

Pls help me as i am expecting a baby girl and the registra dept might give me hell instead of heaven. One day, out of curiousity, I showed them my muslim convert ID card to asked them what is the procedure to change my National IC since I am now a muslim, the counter girl freak out and ask me why i have not change my IC to the muslim name (Mikail) loudly in front of a crowd….and the story goes. I just told them tq I’ll be beck next week and never return after that. This was 1 year ago.

4 04 2009
michael quay

ooooopppss……I am a malaysian

5 04 2009
Umm Yusuf

Assalaamu Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,

Thanks for stopping by my blog🙂

In Islam, you are NOT required to change your name unless it has a bad meaning (such as harsh, dirty, or a name of a thing that is worshipped such as buddah).

However, I am not sure about your COUNTRY restrictions and policies regarding name changes. It seems very strange to me that they would require you to change your name but again, I have no idea about Malaysian policy.

Insh’Allah another Malaysian here can answer you…..

30 04 2009
Benedict (Bilaal)

Assalaamu Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu All Brothers and Sisters,

I have recently accepted ISLAM and have adopted the name Bilaal. Few questions:
1. Can I change my name and surname given by my non-muslim parents to Bilaal something, something? If I can, what about my ID as it is still reflecting my non-muslim name and surname?
2. My wife is in a process of converting as well. If she adopts the islam, can she go through the same process as outlined above?
3. Allah has just blessed with twins and I have named them Neema and Gamal. I do have other children with non-muslim names, can I also go ahead and change them to muslim names?
4.

4 05 2009
Umm Yusuf

Assalaamu Alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh brother Bilal,

Thank you for stopping by the blog and Alhamdullilah on your conversion to Islam! Allahu Akbar May Allah always keep you and your family on the Sirat Al Mustaqeem (Straight path) ameen.

The answers I recieved to your questions are as follows:

1.) As long as your name doesn’t have a bad meaning or isn’t the name of something people worship (example Buddah). Then you are not required to change your first name. However, If you choose to change it there is nothing wrong with that. It is up to you how you change it and whether you change it on your ids etc.

As for your last name (YOUR FATHERS NAME-SURNAME), you should NOT change that at all. Because Allah clearly says in the Qur’an “Call them by (the names of) their father’s, that is more just in the sight of Allah…” (Al-Ahzab 33:5)

2.) if your wife chooses to changer her name she can change it however, as mentioned above she needs to leave her last name (surname) as her father’s name.

3.) that is up to you and your family but as with all the previous situations, they should have your last name.

13 07 2009
waseem

my wife is having a baby soon and we both like the name mikail. pls can u advise us if it is ok to name our child with an angels name??????? What does the quran say on naming ur child with a name of an angel???

17 07 2009
Umm Yusuf

I have never found a hadith or ayat of the Qur’an that says it is haram to name your child mikail or any other name of an angel. Anyone who says it is should bring the proof to you from the Qur’an and Sunnah.

The Prophet (saw) said: “The best names in Allah’s Sight are `Abdullah and `Abdur-Rahman.” (Reported by Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah)

6 08 2009
zara aina

hi..im a malaysian.. i think if you want to keep ur name u should..it’s just that people can be quite ignorant and they think that they are superior because they are born muslims. and believe me, i don’t think they even know that you can have any name as long as it has a good meaning. most muslims in malaysia rarely goes to the root of the teaching.. they just follow whatever thought to them blindly. so if maybe their teacher taught them that a muslim name has to be arabic to has meaning, then they will follow that. i have been taunted by these kind of people because my name is different, when in fact zara aina means flower in my eyes and it is a muslim name. FYI, there is no law in malaysia that requires a muslim to have a certain name. at least there is no such law in the federal constitution =)

4 10 2009
muslim baby names

changing name is needed only when it contains shirk.

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