Changing Your Name
When a person becomes Muslim, one of the issues that arises is whether or not to change one’s name. Despite what some people say, there is in fact no requirement in Islam to do so. Many choose to adopt an Islamic name for a range of reasons. Some feel it to be a symbolic act, symbolising the assumption of a new identity. Others want people to know that they are Muslim by their name, and others simply feel it is appropriate when they are making so many other changes in their life. One the other hand, some people prefer to keep their existing name, which is fine.
Famous examples of converts who have changed their names are Cassius Clay and Cat Stevens, who became Muhammad Ali and Yusuf Islam.
What is an Islamic Name?
You will notice that Muslims across the world, whether Arabian, Asian or European, all seem to have Arabic names. The reason for this is that the Prophet (peace be upon him) advised Muslims to give their children good names, and defined these as names of the Prophets, the names of his Companions, and names that begin with ‘Abd’ (‘servant of’, such as ‘Abdullah’, ‘servant of God’). It is reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Oh Muslims, give your children the names of the Prophets. The names Abdullah and Abdur Rahman are the dearest of names to Allah”
“On the Day of Resurrection, you will be called by your names and by your fathers’ names, so give yourselves good names.”.
When people converted to Islam, he would only change their name if it had a negative meaning, such as ‘war’ or ‘vain’, and change it to a positive meaning. So pious Muslims who wish to follow this guidance usually name their children with such names, or choose an Arabic name with a positive meaning, such as ‘Amin’ (trustworthy).
So to summarise, if a convert has a name with a negative meaning, they should change it. Otherwise there is no compulsion: it is up to them.
Popular Muslim Names
There are many collections of Muslim names, both in print and online. If you are considering changing your name, consult a number of them, as definitions and histories can vary.
‘How Do I Change My Name?’
Some converts keep their original name, and take an Islamic name unofficially, usually just among their Muslim friends. For those that wish to change it legally, a Deed Poll declaration must be signed. This is a simple document whereby you agree to renounce your use of your previous name, and to use your new name in all instances. You can buy copies of this online, or pay a solicitor, and then notify all the organisations that you deal with, such as banks, employers and government agencies, of the change. Alternatively, you can use our free copy available for download here: