What the Hell is a “Muslim-Name”?!!!/There is no such thing as a “Muslim-Name”!!!


Ramadhan 26th, 1432, A.H./August 26th, 2011, C.E., I had given the weekly Khutbah (Islamic-Sermon), for Yaym-il-Jumu`ah (The Day of Gathering/Friday), at Stony Brook University. After the Khutbah had ended, a Muslim man came up to me, probably in his early 50’s, telling me how great my speech was, then asked me what my name was. Naturally, I told him that my name was Gareth. But, for some reason, that wasn’t good enough for him. So, he asked me what my last name was, so I said my last name was Bryant. That still wasn’t good enough for him-Out of the blue, he asked me, “What’s your ‘Muslim-Name’?” And, I initially said to myself, “Oh, no!!! Not this again!!!” He then began asking me about how long I’ve been a Muslim & what not. So, we started having a discussion, that I have pretty often with other Muslims, that I really find annoying…..it’s called the “The ‘Muslim-Name’ discussion”.

I’ve been a Muslim since I was 15 (Islāmic-Calendar)/14 (Gregorian-Calendar). But, in spite of the fact that I’ve been a Muslim for this long, it’s still a pain-in-the-neck, to constantly explain why I don’t don an Arabic/Arabized name, to someone who’s born a Muslim or comes from a Muslim family and/or country; and, for some strange reason, they always find it so damn baffling that reverts to Islam, such as myself, do not change our names, when we become Muslims. It’s almost like people look at people like me as though we’ve done something wrong. Lately, I’ve been very stern about having people refer to me as Gareth Bryant, my actual name, as opposed to a pseudonym that many of my fellow reverts don as names, to fit-in as Muslims, as a result of some huge religious misconception. It’s basically like this: for the most part, people view you as not being really down, until/unless you have an Arabic name or Arabized name, which to be very honest is rather insulting.

I get really tired of people giving me those “You’re not Muslim-Enough” faces, when I tell them that my name is Gareth Bryant, as opposed to “Abu Uwais”, “Hatim”, “`Abbas,”, or the typical default name “`Abdullah”. It’s like people are saying that in order to have your Islam validated, you have to choose one of these pseudonyms, or you’re not doing something right. It’s also an indicator of cultural inferiority, sending the completely wrong message that only names of Arab origin are Islamically suitable names for Muslims. The person that I was referring to earlier, when we were talking actually asked me why I haven’t chosen a “Muslim-Name”.

It’s like a  typical “dog-chasing-its-tail” paradigm, having to explain over & over & over & over again, that a name doesn’t make a person a Muslim, rather their beliefs, statements & actions make them a Muslim. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough for most Muslims or people generally. In all honesty, this whole precedent of having a person change their name when they become a Muslim is actually a Bid`ah (a Religious-Innovation), unless the following conditions apply:

1. A person is only Islamically allowed to change their name, if their name has an Islamically unacceptable meaning (relating to polytheism, or blasphemy, for example), or a negative meaning generally.

2. A person is only Islamically allowed to change their first name, not their last, because of the issue of holding on to your family name, as a link to your own personal lineage, which is very important Islamically.(Noble Qur’an: Chpt.4, V.1 & Chpt.33, V.5)

Unfortunately, people get so caught up in this fallacy of wanting a “Muslim-Name”, as well as just wanting to fit-in, that they end up violating both of these conditions that I’ve just previously mentioned, to the extent of having all of their official documentation changed from their real names, to these unnecessary pseudonyms. This phenomenon is so extreme, that when people become Muslims, it is stressed that people choose these Arabic/Arabized pseudonyms, either right before or right after they becomes Muslims, insinuating that changing one’s name is in fact part of being a Muslim, when in fact a name has absolutely nothing to do with being a Muslim. This sends a very negative message:

1. It gives people the assumption that changing one’s identity as an individual, via changing one’s name, is the only way to become a Muslim.

2. It gives people the assumption that only Arabic/Arabized names are acceptable names for a Muslim to have, which goes back to something that I’ve already mentioned, about cultural inferiority, that Arab culture is the only valid culture for a Muslim.

The name-change is the stepping stone to all other unnecessary cultural changes that a Muslim partakes in, from what they wear to how they think, to how they generally behave. They begin to get programmed into accepting all-things Arab, fueling the fire of biased ethnic & cultural superiority, where in fact, Islamically, there’s no ethnicity/culture that is superior to another, or that takes precedence religiously over another. As a matter of fact, I know people personally, who have not become Muslims, just because they did not want to change their names, because they assumed, based upon the statements & actions of the Muslims, that conforming to Arab culture, via a name-change, was part of being a Muslim.

Some Fun-Facts:

Now, as per Name-Changing itself-There’s no Such Thing as a “Muslim/Islāmic-Name”, for the Following-Reasons-

a. The Concept “Muslim/Islāmic-Name” doesn’t appear directly/indirectly via at-Tanzīl/Revelation, not even prior to the Revelation of The Qur’ān.

b. This Concept doesn’t appear amongst as-Salaf: as-Sahābah/the Companions (May Allah be pleased with them altogether) and Generations-1&2 of at-Tābi`īn/the Followers, nor any Islāmic-Texts thus produced/authored by any of them.

c. Prior to the 18th/19th-Century, C.E. this Concept never existed anywhere via the Muslim-World (by the way the Muslim-World is anywhere on Earth where Muslims are).

d. This Concept was exclusively incepted/invented by Non-Muslims.

e. This Concept is literally simply a Euphemism for “Arabic-Name”.

My argument is very simple: being a Muslim is predicated upon defining & improving one’s status as a Human being, via worshipping Allah, the Creator of the Universe, not about conforming to a foreign culture & thus donning a foreign identity, via a pseudonym, which has no fundamental religious basis Islamically.

Gareth Bryant/2011

92 responses »

  1. My Muslim name is David… My wife’s Muslim name is Sriwiyaty, and she was born into a Muslim family in a Muslim country…

  2. Bro – with all the respect we Muslims should not adopt anything similar to non-Muslims this is a Hadith also, prophet Mohammad SAW also changed non-Muslim names to Muslim names when any non-Muslim converted to Islam in his time.

    • Jeff, what do you mean by this statement of…..”we Muslims should not adopting anything similar to Non-Muslims”?!!! Also, what is the Islamic definition of a “Muslim-Name”?!!! There’s only one known report that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) told someone to change their name when they became a Muslim, he is the grandfather of Sa`id ibn-ul-Musayyib (May Allah mercify him). Both his father & grandfather had become Muslims during the conquest of Makkah, and meet with the Prophet (Peace be upon him). This story is mentioned in great detail, in the biography of Sai`d ibn-il-Musayyib. Oh, and by the way, I notice that you refer to yourself as “Jeff” in this comment. So, does this mean that “Jeff” is a “Non-Muslim-Name”?!!! If so, then what’s your so-called “Muslim-Name”?!!!

      • Abdul Rahman Ibn Awf was first called Abdu Amr, but the Prophet(SAW) asked him to change it.

      • Yeah, but, that was done after he became a Muslim, not before, and not during, his Shahadah. Also, `Abd-ar-Rahman ibn-`Awf (May Allah be pleased with him) was actually taught the most basic, important elements of what Islam is first. Furthermore, the only reasons as to why Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had told him to change his name is because his name had a Non-Islamic meaning, a meaning related to ash-Shirk. Moreover, `Abd-ar-Rahman ibn-`Awf wasn’t Islamically required to change his name to a name from a language other than his respective mother-tongue. Also, he was only required to change his personal, first-name, not his family-name. So, in summation, unless a name has a Non-Islamic meaning, unless a name is the first-name that’s being changed, there’s absolutely no Islamic justification to change one’s name…period.

    • He’s not actually adopting anything this man has reverted to Islam and was given the name from birth it has become a part of his identity and as long as his name has not got a bad meaning to it then this is fine also I read it is makrooh to have a name which does not sound Islamic otherwise said a name sounding like a non belivers name but not haraam and it also goes into the fact he was born into a non Muslim family so the choice was not made from a Muslim prospective

    • you are wrong there is no such thing as a Muslim or a non-Muslim name, the name can be a Arabic, Urdu, Hindi or whatever name, but calling a name, a Muslim name is absurd. But you are right that the prophet use to give people new names when they converted to Islam, but those names were NOT Muslim names, those names were names that did not have a violent meaning, most of them were titles. The holy prophet (pbuh) only changed the names of the people that had a violent or a dis respectful meaning e.g servant of the ka abah(not god), or WAR. A name can be of any type, any origin, any language, you can name your child anything you want as long as the name you’ve given them doesn’t have a violent or a disrespectful meaning. there are a few other rules for giving a name or changing it but i bet you people can search it up by writing something like: Does a muslim have to have a Muslim/Arabic name. the rest i will leave you to figure out.

      And GARETH you have a great name just stick with it, along as you like it.

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  4. As Salaamu Alaikum Gareth. I’m an African American Muslim, born and raised. My name is and always has been Masood Abdullah Abdul-Haqq. I have a great sense of my cultural identity and am very proud of my heritage. But your article belittles and undermines those facts. You make good points, but your words are tainted by bias, which is ironic because sweeping judgements and biased comments are the very source of your frustration. The opportunity to educate the ignorant is lost when you become as insulting as your provocateurs.

  5. Salam!!!

    Masood, what did I say exactly in my article that’s so belittling and/or undermining?!!! I really would like to know. The only thing that I’ve done is present facts about a recurring issue in the Muslim-Community, both domestically, in Non-Muslim countries, as well as world-wide, in Muslim countries. Also, how is my article tainted with biases, I’ve only mentioned an argument based upon personal life-experience, along with the experiences of other Muslims, who are even in the same generation as your own parents or grandparents. There are so many reverts who share my concern, and frustration about this issue. My reservations about adopting Arabic/Arabized names are in no way unique or exclusive to me alone.

  6. “I get really tired of people giving me those “You’re not Muslim-Enough” faces, when I tell them that my name is Gareth Bryant, as opposed to “Abu Uwais”, “Hatim”, “`Abbas,”, or the typical default name “`Abdullah”. It’s like people are saying that in order to have your Islam validated, you have to choose one of these pseudonyms, or you’re not doing something right. It’s also an indicator of cultural inferiority, sending the completely wrong message that only names of Arab origin are Islamically suitable names for Muslims.”

    As I stated brother, Abdullah is one of my names. So the paragraph above mocks that fact by calling it “typical” and “default.” It is, however one of the most beloved titles in Allah’s eyes and I wear it proudly despite the fact that it is Arabic and I am American. Similarly, the term pseudonym can be construed as condescending if a person has chosen to take a new name.

    A Muslim can argue just as vehemently against keeping a slave owner’s name as you have against taking Arabic ones. At the end of the day, there is no compulsion in religion, and I believe every person will be judged according to their intentions. All I was doing was pointing out that we can fall into similar missteps as our agitators if we are not careful. I enjoy your writings and by no means am I trying to come across as adverserial. I just wanted to share my immediate reaction to this article. Insha’Allah, you see where I’m coming from.

    • @Masood

      I’m glad that you brought up the whole Slave-Name argument, because a lot of Muslim brothers, those particularly that I know personally, have brought this argument up. I have a clear cut response for this argument. let’s look at the name Khan. This name is a common name for millions of peoples of Subcontinental descent, who are both Muslims & Non-Muslims. These people in the Subcontinent got this name, as a direct result of the Mongols, the descendants of Genghis Khan (whose actual name was Temujin & later on adopted the title Khan, which means supreme ruler in Mongolian, which became the official surname of his latter descendants who would rule most of Central Asia for about 200 years) conquering various peoples in this part of the world.

      Now, If someone with the last name Khan becomes a Muslim, they’re not gonna be told to change their name, even though they’re not Mongolian ethnically or culturally. furthermore, they wouldn’t tolerate changing their name, regardless of how their family inherited this name historically, because the way that their ancestors acquired this name is part in parcel of their heritage in and of itself. But, for people’s of African descent, who’ve been taught to a large degree, either directly or indirectly that we have no cultural identity of our own, this fallacy is used as a justification to change everything that we know about ourselves, starting with our names that we had previous to accepting Islam. Like or not the names that we are born with do in fact hold the keys to our historical heritage, and it is a crime, Islamically, to throw that all away as soon as we become Muslims.

      I mean, it’s very ironic how we change our names, to call ourselves liberated from the White man, and choose names that make us slaves to the Arabs. Most of us in fact choose names that we don’t even know the meanings of, we just accept these pseudonyms, because someone said so. And, it’s not like we attempt to seek out the ancestral names of our African ancestors, or the ancestors of wherever one may come from originally, I can respect that totally. But, what I don’t respect is that a person who’s just become a Muslim (before they’re told about the conditions of the Shahadah, before they’re taught Islamic-Hygiene, before they’re taught how to pray) is told to change their name…..that’s a Bid`ah & that’s wack, point-blank!!!

  7. The Prophet(saw) changed the name of two people whose names were AbdusShams(Slave/Servant of the Sun) and AbdulUzza (Slave/Servant of Uzza) both of which are false dieties and the names were actually references to those false dieties. Besides that, how did Umar, Khalid, Abbas become muslim names? They were all people who were “non-muslims” before. The Prophet (saw) didn’t give each one a new name. Or did he?

    Gareth is right. We shouldn’t just disagree with someone because we felt unconfortable with what he/she was saying, we should even question ourselves until we can find evidence from the Quran and Sunnah about that.

  8. As someone who has been around the Muslim community for a while honestly one of the things I find very annoying is when a brother/sister take their Shahadah (Bearing witness to the oneness of Allah(swt) and the Muhammad (saw) is His(swt) messenger.) and the first a brother or sister will ask is so what do you want your name to be? To me honestly it feels as if you are telling the person that “the title you carry isn’t good enough to be Muslim”. There is no where in the Quran or Sunnah of Rasool Allah (saw) or the actions of the Sahabah (ra) that say it is mandatory for one to change their name when they convert. Actually pretty much ALL the Sahabah (ra) kept the same name before and after Islam and their names were certainly not “Islamic Names” they simply kept the name that was given to them by their parents which they (the parents) got from their culture or history. The only exceptions that I know of to this are the grandfather of Sa`id ibn-ul-Musayyib and Abdullah Ibn Salam (ra) who before Islam used to go by Abdullah Ibn Shalom which is the Hebrew word for Salam so all Rasool Allah (saw) did was replace the Hebrew with the Arabic.

    This is not to say that it is wrong for someone to change their name after they accept Islam but that doesn’t mean that you HAVE to change your name either. Basically to each his/her own but as far as the attitude that people have towards brothers/sisters who don’t change their name, that’s gotta go. Someone else’s name is none of your damn business give them their Islamic rights of Salam and take your right of Salam from them and talk if you have something productive to talk about because honestly if you spent hours convincing a brother/sister to change or keep their name at the end you wont have made a DAMN difference except that now you have a few hours less in life to do stuff that actually matters.

  9. Massood we know your proud of your heritage but the writer I saying that people believe that a name makes you muslim that people say muslims have to have an arabic name and are constantly relating them to religion

  10. I’m struggling with this issue. I’m a white revert married to a Pakistani woman. We’re about to go to Pakistan to visit relatives but at least one in-law is making a fuss and refusing to use my name.

    My name’s Jason, which is the Greek spelling of Joshua. It means “healer” so has positive connotations. Joshua and Jesus are variants of the same name. Jesus is a prophet in Islam and Joshua is considered either a prophet or at least a great man. So what’s wrong with being called Jason?

    Apparently being named after a prophet isn’t Islamic enough. The name needs to be Arabicised before anyone in Pakistan considers it Muslim. This seems utterly daft. The imam who heard my shahada even told me there was no need to change my name and said there was not really any such thing as a muslim name, but most born muslims seem unaware of this.

    So I’ll probably end up being called Yushwa for a while, just to fit in. Which is frustrating, because I’d like to be respected as the person I am, with the identity I already have as an English muslim called Jason.

    I’ve used a different name before, in Slovakia, where people called me Janos (pronounced Yaanosh). But that was only because Slovak people couldn’t pronounce the J.

    • I appreciate your feedback. The only ting that I can add is to fight for your right to be a Muslim, who is not dominated by any cultural bias. Your name is Jason King, and that’s that. If people can’t deal with it, then that’s their problem, in-laws, or other wise. Don’t let anyone impose, or attempt to impose anything upon you, which is not Islamically mandated, based upon authentic, non-abrogated evidence, from the Qur’an & Prophetic-Tradition. Also, another thing to note: Make sure that your wife doesn’t change her last name to your last name. In the Muslim-World, as well as the secular-world, this is very standard, for a woman to changer her family name, to the name of her husband. But, this is actually a Bid`ah, for several reasons: One, Allah specifically says, in the Qur’an itself, “Address them (people generally) by their fathers names.”(Chpt.33, V.5), which denotes the importance of addressing a Human being based upon his individual lineage. Now, since we live in the modern-world, we use surnames/last-names, but, the same principle applies. Then, there’s the issues of the origin of a woman taking the name of her husband: It primarily started, based upon surviving historical records, from ancient Chinese, Greek, and Roman culture. In these respective cultures, whenever a woman got married, she was socially obligated to take the name of her husband, because she was considered the property of her husband. But, in Islam, a woman is not the property of her husband.

  11. I agree, I am a muslim-born arab, with an arabic name, but still, I agree! Its good enough that your muslim names don’t really matter 😀

  12. This is a great post. I had a similar issue as Jason, although my name is also one of a prophet. And my wife and I are dealing with these problems again, when it comes to giving our children names that, while Muslim, are not Arabic.

    • Im in a similiar situation, Im pregnant and if its a girl i want to call her Victoria after my grandmother and plus its a lovely meaning, and for a boy Alexander after my grandfather and again lovely meaning… Im already have questions and faces looking at me like i have two heads when i say this..Its so annoying people follow culture and not Islam sometimes.. Subhanallah, Allah guide us all.

      • Dear Aaron and Catalina
        I’m in the same situation!!! We still haven’t decided on a name, and the ‘what is the hell is a muslim name’ issue is not helping at all!! I would like to know what did you decide?? I know that if I chose something that’s not Arabic a lot of people including my own family will have a huge issue with and I will constantly have to be justifying it to them and it will probably lead to all sorts of arguments, which I really don’t want with a new baby! However, I don’t want to chose a name based on what they think either… sometimes I feel I should just give my baby a secret name and not tell anyone!! To me a Muslim name is any name in any language that has a good meaning and is the name of someone who is Muslim. I don’t see any evidence to say otherwise… I have a ‘muslim name’ but my husband does not. He’s faced the whole why haven’t you changed your name issue but his name has a good meaning and it’s the name of a prophet (just in different language) so I don’t see what the problem is. People have even asked in the mosque if he’s even Muslim (well why the hell would he be in the mosque praying if he wasn’t?!?). I think people just are not comfortable with the thought of someone not having a name they are used to…. anyway, any advice would be great! Thanks and salam =)

      • I would simply advise that you name your child whatever you want-As long as the name of that child is Islamically-acceptable, with a positive-meaning, who cares about the personal, ethno-cultural biases of others?

        This is Islam, after all-As Muslims, we must really change the posture of unjustifiable cultural-dominance of others over others, in the name of Islam. Basically, we need to educate people, to let them know that it’s okay to be Muslim, yet Non-Arab, or Non-African, or Non Middle-Eastern, or Non-South-Asian, etc. It needs to be known that Islam respects cultures of the other, and we do not need to change our names, ethnicities, cultures, histories, narratives, etc., just to conform to a twisted misunderstanding of what a proper-prototype of a Muslim should be, according to a very minor fraction of the Muslim-World.

        My advice is simple: You can’t please everybody, so why try to. Concentrate on pleasing Allah, and that’s all that we need to do, anyway. Also, just name your child whatever name that you view is most-suitable, regardless of language, or criticism of others, who won’t even be the parents of YOUR child.

  13. I completely see where your coming from Gareth, I also was told to change my name when I reverted to Islam and because i was young i didnt know better so I changed it to Maryam, and so people got used to it and called me by that, altho my name is Catalina which I really love but now its difficult for people to start calling me that, and i decided to use it again in legal documents ect.. My biggest regret it changing my name, altho the name Maryam is a lovely name but i prefer my birth name. And i get the same reaction as you do nowadays when i meet new people i go by Catalina and if their muslim, their like ,oh how come you didnt change your name… There is no such thing as Islamic or muslim name, Islam is universal!!!! And one more thing, Omar , Ali , Mohammed ect are not islamic names, they are just arabic names.. And musa ibrahim ect are just translated names to arabic..

  14. As salaamu 3alaykum wa ra7matullah,

    I agree with some of your statements, however not all but I do respect your opinion in this matter and believe that it is something that should be discussed amongst our communities. We shouldn’t develop an opposing extreme to the article of changing names. It should be expressed that it is merely a choice (with conditions) and not a requirement (unless those conditions apply).

    It is clear that the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wa salaam changed the names of people whose names were evil, indicated shirk, or indicated an attribute that only should be attributed to or determined by Allaah.

    However, you do mention that someone “violates” a rule by changing their first names. There is no proof that this is impermissible. Only changing the last name (attributing you to someone else’s lineage or breaking ties with your lineage). While we expect other people to understand our positions, at the same time, we have to be willing to accept their positions.

    It could be, that they change their name to an Arabic name solely for a personal choice. Which is seen done my some people in the West, even outside of the religion of Islam, if they feel their name is inappropriate or does not apply to them. In their eyes an Arabic name is more befitting for them (as a decisive choice on their behalf) than their original name. For example, many names in the African American communities that are developed, that have no real meaning at all.

    Otherwise I agree with your stance that it is an implied obligation that has recent development in our religion, while it is not, and this should be the fight. Not necessarily the decision of changing the name, but certainly the reasons for doing so.

    • Salam

      When you had mentioned that, “There is no proof that this (meaning the changing of the first-name) is impermissible.”, I can prove that there is. It’s actually proven in the way that people conduct name-changes. Firstly, the Shahadah (Islamic testimony of Faith), is an act of worship & any/all acts of worship must, at all times, be specifically approved by non-abrogated textual-proofs, from either the Qur’an or Prophetic-Tradition, before it is allowable to be committed; this general-rule also applies to things which are associated with or attached to acts of worship, as well. But, in the case of name-changes, there is absolutely no evidence to Islamically justify the manner in which name-changes are committed by the Muslims. It’s actually to the point where people are given the impression that you have to pick a “Muslim-Name”, even before one becomes a Muslim, or that one cannot become a Muslim, until/unless one picks a “Muslim-Name”. In fact, I know Non-Muslims, personally, who didn’t become Muslims, solely because of this misconception, that a person has to change their name, before they become a Muslim…no joke…dead-serious-Usually, typically, almost always, when a person wants to become a Muslim, before they are told or taught anything about Allah, or anything about the regular obligatory actions of a Muslim, they are subsequently told to pick a “Muslim-Name”, and even directly after one becomes a Muslim, this is the fallacy that the people are force-fed. And, not only is this something that I’ve personally experienced, as a Revert-Muslim, when I had first became a Muslim, but, all throughout my life as a Muslim, and even til the present-day, people are still pressured, told, to pick a “Muslim-Name”, and the clear fact is tat there is no such thing as a “Muslim-Name”. In fact, this concept of a “Muslim-Name” is a very recent invention, a Bid`ah, I may say, myself, made-up (without any concrete basis, from neither the Qur’an, nor the Prophetic-Tradition of Muhammad [Peace be upon him], nor the way of the Salaf), completely by Foreign-Muslims, in the 20th-Century, which has been, very unfairly, imposed upon Revert-Muslims, living in Non-Muslim countries, or outside of the Muslim-World, generally, during the past century.

    • Furthermore, there’s even proof that even in the case of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) telling people to change their first/given-names, for an Islamically valid reason, there’s a report of even one of the Companions, refusing the advise of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), in regards to him changing his name, this Companion was the grand-father of Sa`id ibn-il-Musayyib (May Allah mercify him), one of the first scholars of Prophetic-Statements/Hadith, from among the 1st generation of the Tabi`in. Both the father & grand-father of Sa`id became Muslims, during the “Conquest of Makkah”-They had meet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), while in Makkah & he had asked them about their family lineage & what-not; then, he had asked them their names; well, the grand-father of Sa`id had the name Hazn, which means hazardous or problematic, in Arabic; so, when Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that he needs to change his name, he quickly refused & he was left alone. This what people don’t teach us, that we must seek-out & learn ourselves. This is mentioned in a very well-known biography of Said ibn-il-Musayyib (May Allah mercify him), titled, “Imam Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyab”(Dar-us-Salam Publications)

  15. Wa salaam,

    Part of what you say is correct. As I stated before, the reasons for people changing their names must be changed and the implication that the name MUST be changed, needs to be removed. We agree that only with the conditions of the name being evil, having foundations in or implying shirk or an attribute that is for Allaah or for Him to determine, requires a name change. Whether it is a name change to an Arabic name or a name within their culture. I’m not sure where you believe I differ in this point?

    In regard to your proof, wouldn’t this only be conjecture and a personal deciphering of the text and not necessarily upheld by any true evidential stance? We both agree that the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wa salaam changed the names for Islamic reasons, but there is no proof that states that a person can not change their names for non-Islamic reasons. And when there is no proof then we must default that it is permissible until it is proven impermissible (a very loose interpretation of fiqh).

    Mind you, when I reference, it is specific to first names alone. We are not referring to last names, because we have both agree and have stated the same point, that this is shown to be impermissible through textual evidences in Qur’aan and Sunnah.

    As far as non-Muslims not becoming Muslim because of the “name-change” issue, then it needs to be explained to them that this is merely a cultural and personal choice and not a requirement, with the evidences above. If they further refuse the dawah that you are giving them, then I would doubt that name changes are the sole reason for their denial of Islam. I understand the point you are trying to convey, but we have to see it through the eyes of being even and fair, not opposing an extreme with another extreme.

    I also am not sure if I would go as far as titling it as a bid’ah, because it is not reflective of involving acts of worship, this to me would be more reflective of imitating the Prophet or the sahabah in their dress, walk or how they ate, which is more along the lines of the natural Sunnah or Sunnah Tabeeya3… no sin or punishment for not performing it, but accruing reward if emulated.

    The point is to fight culturalism and misconceptions in Islam that people interject on a social level. To distinguish that this is not an obligation or requirement (unless the conditions apply) when one takes the shahadah, but they do have the choice to do so.

    • My issue is simple: If people, uninfluenced by Muslims, were to make the decision to change their first names, that’s a totally different issue, altogether. But, we’re not talking about that. We’re speaking about a practice, that has evolved into a religious-practice, that’s the issue I’m referring to, exclusively & really nothing else.

    • It’s just merely the fact that the concept of name-change has been religiously imposed upon Revert-Muslims, while if you go to places with the Muslim-World, like the semi-autonomous Xinjiang Provence, China, where Islam, relative to the revelation of the Qur’an, has existed for 14-Centuries, you can’t run-up in Xinjiang Provence & tell the Hui Zi (the Mandarin term for Chinese-Muslims) that they must, or should, change their names, leave-off their “Kafir-Names” (as many ignorant Muslims refer Non-Arabic names as), and then change their names to “Muslim-Names” (which is almost exclusively a euphemism for just a run-of-the-mill Arabic-Name)…they’ll simply look at you and say “Nigga…please!!!”, in Mandarin or Cantonese, or any other respective Chinese-Language. And, on the point of “Muslim-Names”, still, I have yet to hear from anyone, whether they be an Muslim religious-academic or a Muslim-Layman, give me a definitive, textual, intelligent, definition of a “Muslim/Kafir-Name”, in all of my nearly 20 years as a Muslim.

    • One of the things which I always point-out to people, when it comes to the “Muslim-Name” issue, is the name, “`Abbas”. Now, by and large, most Muslims, people, even native Arabic-speakers really have no clue as to what `Abbas really means. When a person becomes a Muslim, “`Abbas” is just one of the common, run-of-the-mill, Arabic-Names which people are suggested, told, or even pressured to take as a “Muslim-Name”. However, the name, “`Abbas” actually means a Miserable-Person-“`Abbas” is from the Arabic verb, “`Abasa”, meaning to frown/he frowned, in fact, there’s a chapter of the Qur’an, name Surata-`Abasa/The Chapter of “He frowned”.

      • Here I always thought Abbas عباس meant to describe a lion, it can also mean stern… which is not necessarily the equivalent of miserable but eh. Allaah is All Knowing. That would imply that no one should name their child Abbas… I’m not seeing your foundation of discussion here.

        People take on the names as an emulation of one of our noble sahabah… I personally feel this is not something that should be mocked but rather encouraged, if the person is doing it sincerely. Like the sahabah who would imitate the Prophet in his walk and his gait. This is something that is commendable in Islam.

        I understand your point of view.

        What I was discussing was the matter where you said that it is a violation of conditions for the Muslim to change their first name, whether it be through choice or influenced Islamically. And this is not true. There are no evidences to support that it is not allowed, other than personal conjecture. And there are in fact evidences to support that it is permissible to change our first names. We should remain upon the middle way, to discourage the implication that it is an obligation, while not removing the option of choice for some Muslims.

    • And, even a name like “`Umar”, this name is from the Arabic verb, “`Amara” means, to age, and “`Umar” means an Aged-Person. Now, ironically, neither of these names have inherently positive meanings; yet are among some of the most popular “Muslim-Names” around.

      • Yes, as I mentioned before, it should be distinguished that these are Arabic names and not Muslim names, therefore applying the cultural aspect to it and distinguishing the Islamic one.

      • Also, ironically those people “Arabs” kept their names for both situations being “infidel” and then becoming “Muslim”.
        So why shouldn’t others keep their names too!!?

  16. When your name tag says John…and you wish me salaam…and we are meeting for the first time even in an Islamic finction…it would make me reluctant to reply…! One should be proud of being and displaying oneself as a Muslim…outward ‘uniform’ of skull-caps and jubbas helps identify individuality…even a well to do man has to dress up to identify oneself wealthy…the purpose…not to show off …but to send the message to the needy that he may be able to help…!
    In a foreign land…a Muslim would look-out for any sign to identify the seller being a Muslim selling halal food…the display (can be in any form or words)…! This will help remove his anxiety and curiosity…and if he still insists he would offer his greetings and wait for a reply before committing himself any further…!
    The purpose remains…identifying oneself a Muslim…be proud to be called by a Muslim name…! Name your child with beautiful names of the Creator – hadith…!
    People long to be respected as a human being or to be accepted as who they are…but are unwilling to announce a Muslim name…gives a wrong impression and perception…! This ain’t a matter of another imposing it on you…but acceptance and agility to facilitate communication…amongst Muslims ourselves…HE knows Best…!

    • This is exactly what everyone says, who justify the Islamically unwarranted phenomenon, that has been converted into a religious-practice, called the “Name-Change”. A lot of what you’ve mentioned are what everyone else says. But, tell me this, what does the term, “Muslim-Name” actually mean? Also, if there’s such a thing as a “Muslim-Name”, then there must also be such a thing as a “Kafir-Name”, and what makes a name a “Kafir-Name”?

    • In all of my years being a Muslim, thus far, no one has yet to give me an Islamcially textual meaning, nor even an intelligent meaning of the concept Muslim-Name” & “Kafir-Name”.

      • I’m a Muslim from an Asian country and I named my daughters Rose and Lily. Not exactly a Muslim name isn’t it? I guess Muslims in Asia are more tolerant and we believe that as long the meaning of the names are good, we are fine with it. It doesn’t make us less of a Muslim by having a non-Arabic name.

      • Thank you, so much for your feedback. By the way, which country are you from, may I ask? And, for the record, Rose & Lily are beautiful names, they are names of beautiful things which Allah has created: the Rose & the Lily, two different types of flowers which look beautiful & have beautiful purposes. 🙂

  17. Assalamelykum, I have very little knowledge on the subject. I have a baby on the way inshallah, I was researching some names for the baby and came across this article. My limited knowledge and common sense tells me that it may be “preferred” to have a name that identifies you as a Muslim right away. However, it seems that people may have a misconception between a “Muslim” name and a “Arabic” name. We have to understand that not all the Muslims in the world are Arabs therefore it does not make sense to give a caucasian, african, asian, etc brother/sister an Arabic name. Is islam only about Arabic language? Of course Allah knows the best.

  18. It all goes back to the days of Prophet Mohamed; rather for Arabs to become humble that God HAD TO send a messenger to correct them they changed to feel proud that the messenger HIMSELF is of Arab ethnic origins!!!
    Nowadays, “Muslim Arabs” can hardly accept other cultures beside their own. Names have nothing to do with belief, otherwise Arab themselves HAD TO change their names to some so called “Muslim-Names”.

  19. If you want to ‘look’ Muslim grow a beard, or wear a Hijjab and act like a Muslim? Your ‘title means little, just as long they are ‘Good’ names.

  20. You make a good point about the name issue. First, changing your name to a more Islamic name is one thing, but we have hadith where the Prophet SAW told people not to change their last names, because family ties are important.

    When I went abroad, I met people who had their local Swahili name, and their “Christian” name. Think of someone who had the name Ajabu, but their “Christian” name was James.

  21. Dude, I love your article. Great argument.
    I’ve had a few misinformed obstinate fools tell me the same thing when my fiance (Michelle) was planning for her reversion.

    My argument was pretty simple. We have 25 prophets (peace be upon them) – a fact many seem to forget-, and apart from the first, the rest are technically reverts cos they were not born into Muslim homes. Did prophet David change his name to Daud? Did prophet Noh decide to drop the A cos it was non-Muslim? No. Nuff said. Sadly, logic evades many people.


  22. Your article is really genuine. I feel your sentiments my friend. Take it easy.


    In my culture, I’ve seen people saying that names have impact on one’s personality.That is one reason they try to change names. Not sure where this concept comes from though. Astrology may be?

    Second, If you have an ‘alien’ name, their unconscious tribal instinct dictates that something is wrong. This will change with time, exposure and globalization.

    Or perhaps they think that having an alien name mean loosing identity. Nonetheless, its fascinating to see that Arab social values still rules big in this world in a way.

  23. I agree.
    There is no such thing as a “Muslim Name”.
    There are Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian and Indian names.
    But there are no Muslim names.
    The concept of a name is based on which language uses said name as a word.
    Example, Habeeb can be seen as a “Muslim Name”, but it is just Arabic for Love.
    Ashaq can be seen as a “Muslim Name” but it is just Persian for Love.
    Daoud can be seen as a “Muslim Name”, but it is just Hebrew for Love.
    There is no “Muslim Name”. And that is a fact.

  24. One more thing.
    All of those names (every single one, even the one with Allah is referencing the Jewish peoples of Ancient Arabia) all of them existed LONG before Islam existed.

    • Correction: while it’s very true that there’s no such thing as a “Muslim-Name”, at the same time, there’s no such thing as any religion predating Islam, by virtue of the fact that Islam is the religion of the 1st Humans: Adam & Eve, the Parents of Humanity (Peace be upon them both).

      • What??
        Islam roots from Judaism.
        Judaism from Mazdaism.
        Islam, as in the teachings of Arch Angel Gabriel to Muhammad is one of the youngest religions in the world.
        Given, ALLAH and those following Him have existed for all time. But, specifically the beliefs, laws and customs of Islam (while based on more ancient practices and beliefs) is quite young.

      • Palavon you are right in that Islam with the specific rules and customs that we know today did start with the prophet Muhammed (pbuh) but Gareth is right to say that ‘Islam’ as in ‘submission to God’ existed long before as all the prophets were ‘Muslims’ i.e. they all followed God’s rules even though they may not have called it ‘Islam’. At some point the Jews and Christians etc all started with the same message as we follow today, only they were corrupted along the way and as they were more prophets (all ‘Muslim’) were sent to correct the message again. At least, this is my understanding of the subject.

      • Again, Pavalon: Adam & Eve, the Parents of Humanity (Peace be upon them both) were both adherents to Islam, they were (voluntarily) submissive/obedient to Allah (which is exactly what Islam means: Obedience to Allah) by virtue of the simple facts that:

        1. They were the 1st Human beings, and it would copletely defy Divine-Wisdom for Allah, the Creator/Lord of the Universe, to create the 1st of anyone/anything whom were not obedient to Him, submissive to Him, in summation.

        2. They both conversed with Allah & Angels, during their respective lifetimes. And, by virtue of that, this is what made them Recipients of Revelation, because, only Re3cipients of Revelation would be privileged to be able to converse with their Creator/Lord and/or Angels.

        Now, I know that you’re probably thinking of the whole Garden of Eden incident, when they were both evicted from the Paradise. Well, so what? Obedience & Perfection are not the same thing: By virtue of the fact that we are Human beings, we are this destined to error, sin, etc. But, erring and/or sinning doesn’t by default take someone outside of the fold of Islam, depending upon what error/sin they do & depending upon whether they apologize to Allah for that error/sin.

      • As for Hafsa.
        I am not going to get into the term ‘corrupted’ and how wrong that is to say (being myself quite familiar with the Tenach, Gospel and the Qur’an, as well as Middle Eastern history). So I will leave you to your opinion.
        As for Gareth, I agree with what you are saying all of the way. I am just calling on the technicality that Muslim (by its definition) is what Adam, Eve, etc. were.
        But Muslim (as it is known today), meaning followers of Muhammad and the Qur’an did not exist in that time.
        But please settle that I do not actually disagree with Adam and Eve being Muslim (by the original definition of Muslim). So be at peace.
        : )

      • Absolutely: al-Qur’an didn’t exist in Human hands, prior to the Prophethood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him). However, as you’ve already agreed with me on, Islam had existed prior to the revelation of al-Qur’an. And, to me, that’s all that matters, pertaining to this convo. 🙂

      • Pavalon please explain what you mean when you say it is so wrong to say the other books of God have been ‘corrupted’? Maybe I used the wrong term but what I meant was Muslims believe these books are no longer ccompletely true and have been influeced by humans so that they are no longer the pure command of God, this is something only the Qur’an can claim. That is not to say the Torah and Bible are totally wrong and we can’t learn anything from them (of course there are many things in there we do believe) but when it comes to religious law etc we only use the Qur’an. I did not mean to offend.

  25. Salam brother, I am a revert of 2 years now alhamdulillah and I can relate. My name is Brynna which is celtic in origin and people have asked me why I did not change it, mostly out of respect for my mother (in the fact that she chose that name for me) and that I do not feel it needs to be changed. Your name does not define your amount of deen 🙂

  26. What the hell is a muslim name?your words insulting not just our religion but our creator our rabb!Allah u Akbar Allah U Akbar.Islam teaches us humbleness patience n not anger brother in Islaam.As I don’t understand your anger and darkness in your heart as you start you topic with such hate!!Rasullulaah u alyhi wasaslaam has mentioned don’t give yor children meaningless names as it was changed by our prophat muhammad sallallah u alyhi wasalaam for a reson.Our messenger of Allah was send to teach his umaah the rite path in all we do.But wat do we do we rather choose to ignore cause we know better little do we realise don’t question what Allah send our prophat muhaamda salallah u alyhi wasalaam has said or did.we shud be following it all.You have deep anger and you must becareful on what u say and what u teach as only Allah knows better if u say things with hatred nobody can respect u!!Islaam is beautiful and for me I am proud to use my arabic name,its like greating hi instead of assalaam u alaikum..If u a muslim spread the word use a name that is most liked by Allah as Allah luvs those who does things for the sake of Allah.So brother What the hell is a muslim name is somthing that Allah cannot like u saying!If u always give thanx to Allah u will do things to please our Rabb and then this topic of yours will then seem so worthless.Remember we one umaah and we should be giving and taking advise from others but at the same time we need to please Allah and watch how we come across cause its only shaytaan that gets the benifits of us!May Allah guide and protect us all Ameen.May Allah keep us as one umaah and not questioning who’s better .May we all do things only for the sake of Allah!Ameen.If Allah is happy with u then u will always be happy.

  27. What the hell is a muslim name?your words insulting not just our religion but our creator our rabb!Allah u Akbar Allah U Akbar.Islam teaches us humbleness patience n not anger brother in Islaam.As I don’t understand your anger and darkness in your heart as you start you topic with such hate!!Rasullulaah u alyhi wasaslaam has mentioned don’t give yor children meaningless names as it was changed by our prophat muhammad sallallah u alyhi wasalaam for a reson.Our messenger of Allah was send to teach his umaah the rite path in all we do.But wat do we do we rather choose to ignore cause we know better little do we realise don’t question what Allah send our prophat muhaamda salallah u alyhi wasalaam has said or did.we shud be following it all.You have deep anger and you must becareful on what u say and what u teach as only Allah knows better if u say things with hatred nobody can respect u!!Islaam is beautiful and for me I am proud to use my arabic name,its like greating hi instead of assalaam u alaikum..If u a muslim spread the word use a name that is most liked by Allah as Allah luvs those who does things for the sake of Allah.So brother What the hell is a muslim name is somthing that Allah cannot like u saying!If u always give thanx to Allah u will do things to please our Rabb and then this topic of yours will then seem so worthless.Remember we one umaah and we should be giving and taking advise from others but at the same time we need to please Allah and watch how we come across cause its only shaytaan that gets the benifits of us!May Allah guide and protect us all Ameen.May Allah keep us as one umaah and not questioning who’s better .May we all do things only for the sake of Allah!Ameen.If Allah is happy with u then u will always be happy.Ayesha

    • Salam…by the way, this what you didn’t do, grant me Salam, which is the treating of Islam, and you have the nerve to pontificate what is nearest & dearest to Allah. Firstly, how do you know that Arabic-Names are most appealing to Allah? Who gave you Prophesy/Revelation, what text do you have at your disposal, which can/could possibly give credance to such a claim?

      • All of your words sound very hostile and negative, where’s the peace? Why don’t you just let it go? Ignore people when they are rude don’t dwell on it
        Allah knows best

  28. The prophet (peace be upon him) happened to be an Arab, he was sent to all mankind, not just to Arabs. Many of the prophet and his companions characteristics were related to their culture (being Arabs) not to their religion (being Muslims), their names, clothing, food, professions etc… . All around the world Muslims wear “Thobe and Emamah” thinking its “Muslim clothes” but its not, its an Arab clothing and the prophet (being an Arab) wore something similar to it.
    People have been mixing Arab culture with Islam for 1400 years, and we got all these misconceptions about Islam. You can not claim Islam is global and meant for all mankind if you’re going to force them to give up their cultures and adapt another.
    It saddens me to see in my country Somalia all Imaams wearing thobes and giving most of their khutbahs in Arabic! Almost every Somali I know has an Arabic name (including myself) I only know about 20 true Somali names, the rest is gone. This is not true global Islam, its an Arabization of Islam.

  29. Arab=Black Skinned…like the prophet’s(pbuh)grandfather..Al-Akhdar=the black-skinned one..nothing racial but prophet’s family came up out of Africa..Black people..the original man whose original religion=ISLAM

  30. Man, Muslims are so judgmental (haraam, no?). Gareth, rock your name with pride! Although born with a muslim name, I adopted the name James, simply because I wanted to. I named my son Gabriel (not Jib-rail or whatever) and my family gives me slack or tries to call him Jib’rail. Get a life to those who care so much about the muslim name crap, a lot of those names existed before Islam anyways. Love your non-muslim brothers and sisters, we are all equal in His eyes.

    • Well, in all fairness, there’s no such thing as “before Islam”. Islam was always here, by virtue of the fact that the 1st-Human, Adam (Peace be upon him), was the 1st Human-Muslim, 1st Human Recipient of Prophecy. Because, as we know, even among the Jinn, Islam existed, and Allah created the Jinn, before the Human. Also, Muslims & Non-Muslims are the same, by virtue of the fact that we’re all Humans. But, Allah has definitely favored the Believers over the Disbelievers.(Surah-Hashr) And, Allah doesn’t state that He has Eyes. But, great feedback all-around.

  31. I find it strange that we were given the Holy Quran for guidance, yet there are 72 different sects in Islam, why is that? I’ve been asked whether I’m Shia or Sunni or whatever, I just say none of your business. Islam is internal, when religion goes public we’re all screwed.

    • Islam is both Internal & External, as Allah always, in the Qur’an, laudes those who believe & do Good. So, Belief & Positive-Actions are one in the same: you can’t/shouldn’t try to separate them…that’s like trying to separate Heat from Fire. However, People need to just do what Allah states, “Save yourself & your Family.”, as opposed to attempting to impose Non-Islamic concepts, such as “Muslim-Names”, upon fellow Muslims.

  32. Salam brother.
    I can imagine your frustration. I don’t want to say understand because I was born a Muslim and have Muslim name. So I’m going to say imagine. All I’m going to say is that do what you feel is right in your heart. If your heart is in the right place, following your deen, praying 5x a day, giving to charity, basically following the 5 main pillars of Islam then forget having to change your name. If you’re not ready to change your name then don’t, don’t feel like you’re changing it because you’re being forced to by other people. Just keep your heart pure and always pray to Allah. That’s all I’m going to say, I believe that’s more important, having your heart in the right place.

  33. Call them after their fathers. That is most just in the sight of Allah. If you know not their fathers, then call them your brothers in faith and your patrons. There is no blame on you if you make a mistake but you are accountable for what is done intentionally. Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an 33:5]

  34. Preach brother! Atleast you’re a first generation muslim who’s eyes are opened. I’m a muslim of an indian descent and our families in south asia have been giving us arab names since ages…Eventhough I’m not arab and having nothing to do with the arab ethnicity. Which is why I’ve decided that the day I have children, I’m going to give them sanskrit names, which more accurately describes our ethnicity.

  35. I pray salaah, I read quran and follow hadiths, and even wear niqab. But none of that is good enough to some backwards thinking muslims because my name is Regina. Very silly thinking and im tired of being asked this since there is no textual basis for a person to have to change their name if the meaning is not haram. It is very insulting. As if taking shahada and changing my entire lifestyle is not good enough until I have an Arab name. It can be really alienating to reverts who are already discriminated against for not being born in muslim families.

  36. I’ve had this exact argument with so many as it really confuses non-muslims. It makes them think that to be muslim you must adopt a ‘Arab’ way of life, instead of a Islamic way of life. It sends out the wrong message to the world. I can feel your frustration, but a least you understood, and try to educate others. There is no real such thing as a ‘muslim’ name, just an acceptable name within the islamic requirements.

    I went to a lecture once where the sheikh was explaining this concept, as many seemed to misunderstand it. He said even if the name has a negative meaning in another language, then it’s still permissible to use if it doesn’t in your own native language. His point was it doesn’t have to be Arab, it just has to have a good or neutral meaning.

  37. Asalamu alaykum wa barakatu wa rahmatullahi.. Good info my brother my family are ashkenazi so called jews so i know what your saying alot of people would ask me what is your jewish name astagfirallah lol i would explain theres no such thing its called a hebrew name i would educate them and then i took my shahada and they would say were you born muslim or converted lmao i would say first off nobody is born muslim you can be born from two muslim family members but that does not make you a muslim untill you take your shahadah , everyone is born in a state of fitra .. the convert part would make me laugh as well its actually called revert ..

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