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05.12.2015
Question: I have a question regarding Muslims changing their entire name after coming into the faith of Islam. Islam does not consider it an obligation for any new convert to Islam whose mother tongue is not Arabic to change it to an Arabic name or other language. Assallamu Alaikum, I became Muslim in June 2011, and just wanted to know that even if it is not mandated to change your name, can you do this as a symbol of such a total life change?
As a convert of 10+ years myself, I can tell you that part of the conversion process is the eventually recognition that you are the same person that you were before and that Islam is a natural part of life.
When I converted to Islam, I did not embrace Arabism, neither did I reject my parents, close friends nor the teachers and other adults in the community who helped raise me and make me who I am.
The Lamppost Education Initiative (LEI) offers expert analysis of current events which impact Muslims in the West as well as offerings in the classical Islamic disciplines in written, published, and audio-visual formats. Even those that are second, third generation Muslims when their parents became Muslim they changed their last names. Rather, it is only highly recommended for one to do so when the meaning of one’s name is something offensive or overly presumptuous in sound, like one indicating that one is pure or the like.


Rather, their last names were connected to tribal affiliations or titles attaching them to certain tribal or regional sectors, like Qurashi, Khazraji, Makki, etc. I feel as though I want to share with everyone what for me is the most wonderful thing that happened to me.
But I do think that there is something to converts adopting new identities as a way of breaking with our past.
African-Americans, we have our own issues with names, but until we can be recognized as legitimate Muslims with names like Keith, Crystal and Michael, Islam is always going to be viewed as a foreign religion.
So with all due respect, I generally advise new converts not to change their names unless they fall within the above clarifications Ustadh Abdullah gave in the original answer. Our commitment is to establishing an authoritative voice for American Muslim scholarship reflective of the historical tradition and contextualizes Islam in light of the challenges and cultural particularities of Western societies as was the case in all societies where Islam spread historically. I understood that to change your first name is okay, but to change your last name is not permissible. During the Prophet Muhammad’s (saws) time, he changed the names of a number of women whose names were too pious sounding, like the name Barra (ultra-pious).


This, I think stems from a number of things, but something that I suspect is unique to the contemporary Western mindset. I have two children whom now carry my last name now, and I am bothered that I may have made a mistake in giving them my last name. I believe that we assume that there is something anit-Islamic about our past, when that simply is not the case. The Companions, as Ustadh Abullah said, only changed their names when they implied something pretentious or idolatrous.
This same trend can be detected in the European and other traditions (although I plan to exhaust more research on the matter) such that last names that are familiar today originate in some sort of occupation, tribal affiliation, or regional ascription. So, in the end, you have not done anything inappropriate by giving your children your last name unless they are not biologically yours.



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