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Should My Friend Change His Surname After Converting?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jan 09, 2018

Question

Assalam-0-Alikum. I've read your article in which you've discussed the topic of "Changing name after accepting Islam". Actually, a friend of mine has name "Louis" and Alhamdulillah he has accepted Islam, so, I wanted to ask if there's a need to change the name. "Louis" is a French name meaning "warrior". And what about his surname as his father is a Christian?

Consultant

Answer


Change Surname

Short Answer:  Having an Arabic name does not make you any “more” Muslim. There are few cases where a new convert to Islam would need to change his or her name. As for changing his surname because his father is Christian, he should absolutely not change this name.

_________________________________________

Salam, 

Thank you for contacting Ask About Islam with your question. And thank you for your concern for your new Muslim friend. 

There are some Muslims who believe that one must change one’s name to an Arabic name once one converts. This is simply not true.

In fact, there were Muslims at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) who had non-Arab names and were themselves not Arabs.

Someone who coverts to Islam can keep his/her name as long as it doesn’t mean something bad, denote shirk or that he/she is from another religion.

For example, someone with any iteration of the name Christopher, Christiana, etc. would be advised to change their name after converting to Islam since it means Christian, and they are no longer Christian.

Or someone with a name that means something like evil, should change their name out of respect for the good nature that Allah created all humans with.  

But having an Arabic name does not make you any “more” Muslim.

The Arabic language has significance in Islam since it is the language in which the Quran was revealed and has been preserved, but the Arabs or Arabic names in themselves hold no superiority to other ethnicities or languages.

We are only superior by way of piety and this is for Allah alone to determine. 

From the article on name changes, Dr. Jasser Auda recommends that one should change his/her name if:

  • If the name implies a form of disbelief, like `Abd-ush-Shams (the slave of the sun) or Saint Clare, etc. I would suggest that people keep the part of their names that do not contradict with their Muslim belief. For example, `Abd-ush-Shams should be changed into Shams, and Saint Clare should be changed into Clare, etc.
  • If the name implies a form of aggression or is a shameful name (according to one’s culture). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked a few companions to change their names, such as Harb (which means “war”) and Sa`b (which means “difficult”), etc.

I can understand how a name that means “warrior” (or famous warrior by other sources) might cause some confusion. But the word “warrior”, meaning one who fights war(s) can mean something good or bad, whereas the word “war” is disliked because war itself is disliked and only an absolute last resort in Islamic law.

The warrior however can be fighting for a good cause or not even fighting in a war per say, but fighting to solve a societal problem or fighting against one’s own base desires. In this way, the warrior can be associated with one who strives for the good.

Also, very few people actually know that Louis means warrior. So, it would go unnoticed anyway for the vast majority.

However, this is my opinion only. And I am by no measure a scholar.

Whether your friend should change his given name depends on how he perceives his name’s meaning i.e. what he dedicates the struggle of his life to.

If he wants a more scholarly answer, he can send in a question on this matter to Ask the Scholar for more clarification.

Family Ties in Islam

As for changing his surname because his father is Christian, he should absolutely not change this name.

His father is still his father, his family is still his family no matter what faith they or he ascribe to. And changing his last name would be considered disrespectful to his father and disassociating from his family, both of which are grave sins in Islam.  

Allah says in the Quran:

{[…] Call them by (the names oftheir fathers; that is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, they are your brothers-in-faith and your wards […]} (Quran 33:4-5)

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

Allah has cursed the one who claims to belong to someone other than his father. (Reported by Imam Ahmad and others).

It is forbidden for any of us to change our family name. And even more so for the convert to Islam. As he is new to Islam, this is a very delicate time for his family ties as it is. 

His family ties might already be strained by his conversion. Many Christian parents see their children adopting another faith as leaving the family. Even though this is not true, him changing his surname will add insult to injury.

He must be very gentle with his family at the tender stage of transition and make them understand that Islam does not take him away from them. 

In fact, he must help them to understand that in Islam he is obligated to keep ties of kinship and give respect to his parents.

He must show them that he still loves them and is a part of the family. 

I hope this helps. Please keep in touch. 

Salam. 

(Answer from Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

5 Ways for New Muslims to Strengthen Their Faith

Do I Have to Change My Name Now That I’m Muslim?

Should I Change My Name?




About Theresa Corbin

Theresa Corbin is a New Orleans native and Muslimah who converted in 2001 after many years of soul searching and religious study. She holds a BA in English Lit and is a writer, editor, and graphic artist who focuses on themes of conversion to Islam, Islamophobia, women's issues, and bridging gaps between peoples of different faiths and cultures. She is a regular contributor for AboutIslam.net and Al Jumuah magazine. Her work has also been featured on CNN and the Washington Post, among others publications.Visit her blog, islamwich, where she discuss the intersection of culture and religion.

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