Is it recommended to change one’s name after embracing Islam?
The general rule is that a new Muslim can retain his n ame and does not have to change it at all. In fact, the changing of names was not known among the Prophet’s companions, may Allah be pleased with them. Many people have embraced Islam and retained their non-Arabic names, unless the name has a bad meaning.
A name may be changed in the following cases:
- If it indicates servitude to other than Allah or has a meaning which contradicts Islamic beliefs:
Names which indicate servitude to other than Allah include ‛Abdul-Maseeh (slave of the Messiah), which is common amongst Arab Christians, and ‛Abd-un-Nabiyy (slave of the Prophet), which is common amongst some Muslims. This also include names which have a meaning that contradicts Islamic beliefs, suchas Shenouda (commonly used among Egyptian Christians ‘the Copts’ which means ‘the son of God’). Glorified is He, and High Exalted above what they say!
Names which indicate one of Allah’s attributes are not allowed either.
An example of this is to ascribe to someone an attribute which is completely unique to Allah, such as the title king of kings’.
- If the name implies something that is offensive or not approved of by people with sound moral values:
Indeed, Allah I has declared all bad things without exception unlawful; therefore, it is not appropriate to retain a name which carries a bad meaning after converting to Islam, as the Qur’an states, “Evil is a bad name after faith.” (Soorat Al-Hujuraat, 49:11)
It is recommended to change the name:
If the new Muslim name to be acquired is dear to Allah, such as ‛Abdullaah (slave of Allah) and ‛Abdur-Rahmaan (slave of the Most Gracious), or such names which indicate one’s servitude to Allah I. These are recommended names but have nothing to do with one’s acceptance of Islam.
- A new Muslim may change his name for no reason whatsoever, such as by changing his non-Arabic name to an Arabic name, but this is not considered recommended and has nothing to do with his acceptance of Islam.
Sunan Al-Fitrah (Practices dictated by Man’s Pure Nature)
What Does the Phrase Sunan
Sunan Al-Fitrahr efers to a set of hygienic or cosmetic practices enjoined by Islam that is consistent with the pure nature in which Allah has created mankind and which serves to enhance their appearance and perfect it, making Muslims combine both inward and outward perfection.
The Prophet r said, “The customs of nature (sunan al-fitrah) are five: circumcision, removing the pubic hair, trimming the moustache, clipping the nails and plucking the underarm hair.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 5552; Saheeh Muslim: 257)
Circumcision is the act of removing the foreskin (the loose tissue) covering the glans of the penis. This generally takes place in the early days after the birth of a baby boy.
It is a recommended act and one of the ‘customs of nature’ with regard to men. It also has numerous health benefits but is not a precondition for embracing Islam. One, however, would not be sinful if he does not get circumcised out of fear or for any other reason.
Removing the coarse hair that grows in the pubic area, the lower part of the abdomen just above the external genital organs, contributes to better hygiene and can be carried out by using any means that would serve the purpose.
Trimming the moustache: Keeping a moustache is permissible but not recommended; however, if a Muslim chooses to keep it, he must regularly trim it.
Letting the beard grow: Islam urges men to grow a beard, the hair that grows on the chin and cheeks of a man’s face.
Letting the beard grow means not to shave it, in accordance with the Prophet’s teachings.
Clipping the nails: A Muslim is required to clip his nails regularly in order to remove pathogenic organisms, dirt and debris that generally get underneath fingernails.
Plucking underarm hair: A Muslim is required to remove his underarm hair by plucking it or by using any other means to serve the purpose in order to keep bad odours away.