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Ask A Muslim: Conversion and Changing Names

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Ask A Muslim: Conversion and Changing Names

What do you want to Ask a Muslim? Submit your questions online or fill out the form below.

By Maimoona Harrington

When you join Islam, why do you have to change from mother-given names to Arabic?

I am answering this question from my own personal experience. My husband is a revert — someone who converted to the Islamic faith — so some of my close relatives raised the concern that his name should be changed. 

This notion of name change is strongly believed and practiced in most Muslim cultures. Because this question was raised for my husband, I researched and found that, from a religious point of view, simply changing someone’s name after they accepted Islam is not mandatory. It’s not an obligation and is permissible, if desired.

However, there are a few exceptions to this. Name change is only required and recommended if it conflicts with Islamic teachings and has an inappropriate meaning. If the name is one of the attributes of Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala (God), then it should also be changed. For example, a person can’t be named and called Al-Rahman only because Al-Rahman (Most Gracious) is an attribute of God. However, if the word Abdul (slave of) is added before Al-Rahman, then it’s acceptable to name someone Abdul Rahman, meaning “Slave of the Most Gracious.”

About Maimoona Harrington

Maimoona Harrington was born and raised in Pakistan moved to the United States with her family in 2008. She is married and a mother of two sons. She has a bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies and sociology from Pakistan and a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from United States. Along with her career as an interpreter, translator and monitor she is also an Islamic and Pakistani Culture Adviser.

As a practicing Muslim with the extensive world travel and living in the West, she has devoted herself to spread awareness of Islam as a goodwill gesture. In an effort to do this she started writing from her own personal experiences with religion, beliefs and life in a different culture. She also has special interest in all the religions and how and why they are all important to its followers. Her primary focus is on the co-existence and harmony between all human beings. Her message is to spread peace not division. She strongly believes that if you want to be closer to your creator then love His creation unconditionally and expect nothing in return for He loves us unconditionally and forgives us no matter how sinful we are!

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