Changing your name when you become a Muslim
Do you have to change your name?
One of the first things a new Muslim is usually asked by someone in the mosque or Muslim community, is what is going to be their new Islamic name.
In the vast majority of cases there is no requirement to adopt an Islamic name. You can keep the name you have.
Changing your name only becomes a requirement if your name has some sort of bad meaning or goes against the teachings of Islam.
What constitutes a bad name in Islam ?
- If your name implies servitude to other than Allah
- If your name has a meaning which goes against Islamic beliefs
- If your name implies something that is offensive or immoral
If you want to change your name to mark your new life as a Muslim, then you are free to do this.
What if someone says you have to change your name?
Please, do not be pressurised into changing your name if you do not wish to change it.
If someone tells you that you need to change your name, to choose an Arabic or “Islamic” name, point out to them the example of the believers at the time of the Prophet Muhammad salallahu ‘alaihi wa salaam. They didn’t change their names – except in a very few cases – they just became Muslims and kept the name they already had.
These principles – that it is not mandatory to adopt a new name -are backed up by Islamic scholars.
Keep on good terms with your family
Islam teaches that you must have the utmost respect for parents. A way of marking that respect can be to keep the name your parents gave to you. It is a way of honouring your parents. After all, your name was carefully chosen especially for you by your parents.
Some people ask their family to help them choose a new name for them. Keep your family close and involved if you can.
When you embrace Islam, it can be quite a shock to your relatives and friends. Changing your identity completely can have the effect of alienating those closest to you and turn them against both Islam and you.
So think carefully about what you do.
Why not take some time to learn your new religion first? Then, if you still want to adopt a new name, change or add to your name later.
This will also give you more time to think about what name you would like to be called in order to celebrate your new life as a Muslim.
Choose a name you like
Do not allow someone to choose a name for you. Select a name that you like for yourself.
Good advice on changing your name as a Muslim
Here is a 25 minute video where Ustadh Adam Kelwick and his guests discuss the issue of changing your name as a convert to Islam. It gives a good, well-balanced view of the subject and explains the pros and cons of changing/not changing your name. Adam does tremendous work supporting and advising new Muslims in the UK and internationally.
Something to consider is that, God willing, you will want to go to Makkah on Hajj and Umrah at some point. You may need to have a Shahadah Certificate certifying that you have embraced Islam when booking your trip – some Hajj travel companies will ask for one.
The Shahadah Certificate has a space where an Islamic name you have adopted can be inserted – the certificate will point out that this is optional.
When you ask your local mosque for a Shahadah Certificate you could use this as an opportunity to perhaps choose a new or additional name.
You can still go on hajj if you have a “western” sounding name or non-Arabic name, the Certificate proves that you are Muslim by faith.
Choosing a Name
You may wish to keep your existing name but add some Islamic names.
That way, friends and family can still refer to you by the name they have always known you by, but your Muslim sisters and brothers may use your new Islamic name.
Good names to choose may be :-
- a name of the Prophet salallahu ‘alahi wa salaam
- a name of one of the other prophets of God
- a name of one of the companions of the Prophet salallahu ‘alaihi wa salaam
You could decide to choose a name that indicates your servitude to Allah. These are examples of names that are highly recommended to adopt :-
- Abdullah – slave of Allah
- Abdur-Rahman – slave of the Most Gracious
Have fun and explore your options.
But remember that the name you choose to adopt will also reflect who you are and how people see you.
Above all, choose a name that will be pleasing to Allah subhanu wa ta’ala.
Keep Your Family Name
In Islam you should always preserve your heritage – the lineage from your father. For this reason you should not change your family name/surname.
You can look at the rulings of various scholars on Islamic naming principles to help you in your understanding of preserving your family name.