New to Islam: Do I Have to Change My Name?

Name of Questioner: Clare

Date: 23-6-2019 06:45:35 PM

Consultant: Ask About Islam Editorial Team


When a person converts to Islam, is it necessary to change his name? What are the logical steps to follow for one that wishes to convert?

Dear questioner,

Thank you for your question.

Answering your question, Dr. Jasser Auda, a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, states:

"Despite the fact that the issue of names is not a core issue in Islam but rather a peripheral one, I think that bringing it up opens a very important subject, which is the issue of language and Islam.

Islam did not come for Arabs only! Yes. God Almighty chose Arabic to be the language of the final revelation He sent to humankind, the Quran. However, Islam, as a way of life, does not assume that every Muslim is Arab or even Arabic speaking.

In the Shariah (Islamic Law), the only wordings that all scholars required to be in the Arabic language is the reading of the Quran in the daily prayers. And this is because every translation – as you know – is a sort of interpretation. And given the holiness of the Quran, being God's word itself not just a narration of it, accuracy is required.

Therefore, a translation is not enough because there is no sentence in one language that is absolutely equivalent to a sentence in another language! The choices of words will always be dependent on how the translator understands both languages. Even a literal translation (i.e. word for word) is not going to be accurate either.

Of course, a new Muslim is allowed to read the Fatihah (The Opening Chapter, required to be recited in every prayer) in his/her language until he/she is able to learn it. Every Muslim should try his/her best to learn the Arabic language so that they have their own first-hand experience with the word of Allah (the Quran), without interpretations.

Other than the reading of the Quran, every nation should go about their life in their own language.

Regarding the name change for new Muslims, according to the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is not required Islamically, except in the following two cases:

1- If the name implies a form of disbelief, like Abd-Shams (the slave of The Sun), or "Saint" Clare, etc. I would suggest that the person keeps the part of his/her name that does not contradict with his/her Muslim belief. For example, Abd-Shams should be changed into Shams, and Saint Clare should be changed into Clare, etc.

2- If the name implies a form of aggression or being a shameful name (according to one's culture). The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked a few companions to change their name, such as Harb (which means war), Sa`b (which means difficult), etc.

Some new Muslims, however, consider the matter of changing their name a mark in their lives between one stage (before Islam) and another (after Islam). This is something that is totally according to the individual.

However, in my view, I think that new Muslims should NOT change their names. What is the difference between Iman and Faith, David and Dawud, Rose and Zahra, etc.? In fact, this name change to an Arabic name that does not sound familiar to one's people will:

1- Confirm the misconception that Islam is an Eastern/Arabic religion, not an international message.

2- Alienate the new brother/sister from his/her own family and people, which is not good for the sake of dawah (Call for Islam).

Regarding your question about "logical steps" for conversion, it is actually just one step: To declare that there absolutely is no god but ONE and to declare belief in all His messengers, including the final one, Muhammad (peace be upon him)."

We hope this answers your question.

Keep in touch.