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A New Muslim Asks: Should I Change My Name?

Questioner

Debbie

Reply Date

Oct 19, 2017

Question

Salam, I am a new Muslim and I was just wondering do I have to change my name? I mean, is it imperative - or is just if your name offends Islam in some way that you have to change it? My name is Debra. Thank you.

Consultant

Answer


Muslim Name Change

Short Answer: No! You are not required to change your name when you become Muslim. Your name is part of your identity, and there is nothing in Islam which requires that you change it. The only situation in which changing it is important is if your name has an evil connotation in your own culture, or if it is the name of a god or goddess of another religion. Allah is primarily concerned with the condition of your heart, above all else. Submit to Him and He will change what does need to change about you.


Salam Debbie, 

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

First, I need to express my appreciation for your sincerity in learning how to be a better Muslim.

Your question simply reflects that.

So, you have not only converted to Islam for the sake of Allah, but you are even ready to give up your personal name for His sake!

This is despite the fact that we all get attached to our names, which, in time, becomes part of our very personal identity. 

Usually, There Is No Need To Change Your Name!

But you may not need to do that, Debra.

Islam does not oblige a person to change his/her name when he/she reverts to Islam.

What Islam requires is that a person submits peacefully to the One and Only God, and Creator of the universe.

Many of the beloved companions kept their names after reverting to Islam.

When Changing Your Name is Good

It was only if the name had tribal connotations of disbelief or was an ugly name (as in some cultures ugly names were believed to protect one from evil) that the Prophet Muhammad asked people to change it.

Another case is that if the name offends the creed of Islam, such as a name of a false god or goddess. 

So, it’s only if your name has such connotations in your original language or culture that you are advised to make such a change.

Examples from Islamic History

An example of this is the story of Abu Hurairah, the great hadith narrator.

His original name was `Abd Sakhr, which means “the servant of the rock”.

This is because Islam does not permit the concept of being a servant except to the One Who created you–that is, Allah Almighty.

So, the Prophet (peace be upon him) changed this companion’s name to `Abd al-Rahman, which means “the servant of the Merciful”.

As for his famous nickname; Abu Hurairah, it was given to him later by the Prophet because he used to keep a small kitten (hurairah in Arabic). 

Allah Looks At Your Heart

The name ‘Deborah’ is explained in Merriam-Webster’s as being the name of a Hebrew prophetess, who rallied the Israelites in their struggles against the Canaanites.

Here, I need to remind you, sister Debbie, that what really counts in Islam is not names. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said that Allah looks to our hearts.

So, the identity of the true and sincere Muslim is determined by the faith in one’s heart and how far this faith affects his or her actions and attitude.

The best example I can provide you, expressing this true identity of a sincere Muslim, is the way God describes `ebad alRahman (servant of the Most Merciful) in the Quran:

And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!”; Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing; Those who say, “Our Lord! avert from us the Wrath of Hell, for its Wrath is indeed an affliction grievous,- “Evil indeed is it as an abode, and as a place to rest in”; Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just (balance) between those (extremes); Those who invoke not, with God, any other god, nor slay such life as God has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; – and any that does this (not only) meets punishment. (But) the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy,- Unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for God will change the evil of such persons into good, and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful, And whoever repents and does good has truly turned to God with an (acceptable) conversion;- Those who witness no falsehood, and, if they pass by futility, they pass by it with honorable (avoidance); Those who, when they are admonished with the Signs of their Lord, droop not down at them as if they were deaf or blind; And those who pray, “Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” Those are the ones who will be rewarded with the highest place in heaven, because of their patient constancy: therein shall they be met with salutations and peace, Dwelling therein;- how beautiful an abode and place of rest! (Quran 25:63-76)

God selected these traits and attributed them to those He declared as being His servants. One common trait in all these descriptions is the trait of having a heart that submits peacefully to Allah. 

I hope this answer is satisfactory to your questions. Please keep in touch and do not hesitate to contact us for any further queries.

Salam.


(From AboutIslam’s archives)

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About Sister Dalia Salaheldin

Sister Dalia Salaheldin is: - An instructor and consultant of interfaith & intercultural Dialogue - A speaker and orator on interfaith and intercultural discourse - An instructor of Arabic and Quranic language at the American University in Cairo - A trainer of interfaith and intercultural discourse and dialogue - A founder of Reading Islam Website - A bilingual writer and proem poet - A social and political activist who has traveled through the world widely - A human development adviser and alternative medicine practitioner

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