How important is it for a new Muslim to change his name?
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz
(may Allaah have mercy on him)
was asked: Does a person who becomes Muslim have to change his name like George or Joseph etc?
He does not have to change his name unless it is a name that reflects servitude to someone or something other than Allaah, but it is good to change his name to something better. So if he changes his name from a foreign name to an Islamic name, that is good, but as to whether it is obligatory, no it is not.
his name was ‘Abd al-Maseeh [= “slave of the Messiah”, a name common among Arab Christians; a similar name in English cultures would be “Christopher” -- Translator] or something of that nature, then he should change it, but if the name does not imply servitude to anything or anyone other than Allaah, such as George and Paul, etc., then he does not have to change it, because these names are shared by Christians and others. And Allaah is the Source of strength.
Fataawa Islamiyyah, 4/404.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid was saied:
For the one whom Allaah has guided to Islam, it is sufficient for him to choose an Islamic first name for himself and to keep his father’s name or surname, because the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not command the Sahaabah to change their fathers’ and grandfathers’ names when they embraced Islam. However, he did change the first names of those who had names with forbidden or undesirable meanings. Because your first name has pagan origins, your changing it to another name, such as Bilaal, is proper and correct. But you should keep the rest of your name and surname as it is; this will please your parents.
It was narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh (2132)
The most beloved names to Allaah
from the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The Messenger of Allaah
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The most beloved of your names to Allaah are ‘Abd-Allaah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan.”
Abu Dawood (4950) narrated that
Abu Wahb al-Jushami, who was a companion of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), said: The Messenger of Allaah
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Give your children the names of Prophets, and the most beloved of names to Allaah are ‘Abd-Allaah and ‘Abd al-Rahmaan, and the most truthful are Haarith and Hammaam [these names both refer to one who is always doing something, whether good or bad], and the worst are Harb and Murrah [meaning ‘war’ and ‘bitterness’ respectively].”
Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood.
which reflect servitude to Allaah (those that start with “ ‘Abd” meaning “slave of”) are more beloved to Allaah than others, because they affirm the attributes that befit Him and do not befit anyone else. No one among mankind has any right to them or any share in them. This has to do with His divine Attributes (sifaat al-uloohiyyah). They also affirm the status that befits the person, which never alters for an instant throughout his lifetime, namely the status of servitude, of being the slave of his Lord. So the name reflects well on the one who carries it; it honours the person who is given this name by describing him as a slave of his Lord. Hence these names carry great virtue.
The connection between the slave and Allaah is one of pure servitude (‘uboodiyyah), and the connection between Allaah and the slave is one of complete mercy. It is by His mercy that he exists in the true sense of the word, and the purpose for which he was created is to worship Allaah alone, with love, fear, hope, worship and veneration, so he is a slave to Allaah.
This is what is meant by the name: that the owner of this name is connected to one of the attributes of Allaah which cannot be attributed to anyone else.
Because His mercy prevails over His wrath, mercy is more beloved to Him than anger, so the name ‘Abd al-Rahmaan (“slave of the Most Merciful”) is dearer to him than the name ‘Abd al-Qaahir (“slave of the Subduer”) and similar names.
So these names refer to these two meanings, that of divinity and that of servitude, and that means that the name is a constant reminder of the slave’s humble position before his Lord, and a constant prayer for the Lord’s mercy towards His poor, humble servant.
Some scholars have stated that these two names have their own special features, which is that in the Qur’aan, Allaah does not mention the word ‘abd (or its plural ‘ibaad) in conjunction with any of the names of Allaah except these two.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And when the slave of Allaah [‘abd Allaah] (Muhammad) stood up invoking Him”
“And the (faithful) slaves of the Most Gracious [‘ibaad al-Rahmaan] (Allaah)”
This is supported by the verse in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Say (O Muhammad): Invoke Allaah or invoke the Most Gracious [al-Rahmaan] (Allaah)”
If the first thing of which a child becomes aware and understands and hears is this name
, the idea will take root in his heart that he is a slave of Allaah and that Allaah is his Lord, and that his Lord is the Most Gracious, Most Merciful, and it will be easy to raise him accordingly.
For more information please see Tuhfat al-Mawdood bi Ahkaam al-Mawlood, by Ibn al-Qayyim; Fath al-Baari by Ibn Hajar, in his commentary on the chapter Ahabb al-Asma’ ila Allaah (the most beloved names to Allaah); and al-Sindi’s commentary on Ibn Maajah (Haashiyat al-Sindi ‘ala Ibn Maajah).
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid saied:
Names whose use is forbidden
there are names which we are forbidden to use, examples of which are as follows:
It is forbidden to use any name which belongs only to Allaah, such as al-Khaaliq (the Creator) and al-Quddoos (the Most Holy), or names which do not befit any except Allaah, such as Malik al-Mulook (King of Kings). This is the consensus of the fuqaha’.
Ibn al-Qayyim said that
names which belong only to Allaah include: al-Ahad (the One), al-Samad (the Eternal), al-Khaaliq (the Creator), al-Razzaaq (the Provider), al-Jabbaar (the Compeller), al-Mutakabbir (the Majestic), al-Awwal (the First), al-Aakhir (the Last), al-Baatin (the Hidden) and ‘Allaam al-Ghuyoob (the Knower of the Unseen).
(Tuhfat al-Mawdood, p. 98).
that it is forbidden to call anyone by a name which belongs only to Allaah, such as Malik al-Mulook (king of kings), may be seen for example
in the hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him); in the version narrated by al-Bukhaari, he said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘The most despised name with Allaah on the Day of Resurrection will be a man called Malik al-Mulook.’” According to Muslim, he said, “The man who will most deserving of Allaah’s anger and most evil on the Day of Resurrection will be a man who was called Malik al-Amlaak. There is no King except Allaah.”
As regards using names that may be used of Allaah or of others, it is permissible to use these names, such as ‘Ali (High), Rasheed (Guide) and Badee’ (Innovator or Originator).
Ibn ‘Aabideen said:
“It seems to be the case that they are permitted, even if the definite article ‘al’ is used.” Al-Hasafi said: “What (these names) mean concerning us (human beings) is different from their meanings concerning Allaah, may He be exalted.”
It is forbidden to use
names which befit no one except the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), such as Sayyid Walad Adam (master of the sons of Adam), Sayyid al-Naas (master of mankind), Sayyid al-Kull (master of all), because these names, as the Hanbalis said, befit no one except him, (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
It is forbidden to use
any name which implies enslavement to anything besides Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted, such as ‘Abd al-‘Uzza (slave of al-‘Uzza – a pagan goddess), ‘Abd al-Ka’bah (slave of the Ka’bah), ‘Abd al-Daar (slave of the House), ‘Abd ‘Ali (slave of ‘Ali), ‘Abd al-Husayn (slave of Husayn), etc.
It was stated in Haashiyat Ibn ‘Aabideen that one should not be called ‘Abd foolaan (slave of so-and-so).
It says in Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’
: “They (the scholars) agreed that every name which implies enslavement to anything other than Allaah is forbidden, such as ‘Abd al-‘Uzza, ‘Abd ‘Amr, ‘Abd ‘Ali, ‘Abd al-Ka’bah, and any other similar names, such as ‘Abd al-Nabi (slave of the Prophet), ‘Abd al-Husayn, ‘Abd al-Maseeh (slave of the Messiah).”
(Haashiyat Ibn ‘Aabideen, 5/268;Mughni al-Muhtaaj, 4/295; Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj, 10/373; Kashshaaf al-Qinaa’, 3/27; Tuhfat al-Mawdood, p. 90).
that it is forbidden to use any name which implies enslavement to anything other than Allaah may be seen in the report of Ibn Abi Shaybah from Yazeed ibn al-Miqdaam ibn Shurayh, from his father, from his grandfather Haani’ ibn Yazeed, may Allaah be pleased with him, who said: “A delegation came to the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he heard them calling someone ‘Abd al-Hajar (slave of the stone). He asked him, ‘What is your name?” and he said, ‘‘Abd al-Hajar.’ He said, ‘No, you are ‘Abd-Allaah (the slave of Allaah).’”
(Al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 11/335).
Using the names of idols
that are worshipped instead of Allaah.
Using foreign names, such as Turkish, Persian, Berber, etc. names, that have no origin in the Arabic language.
It is forbidden to use
the names of devils (shayaateen), such as Khanzab, al-Walhaan, al-A’war and al-Ajda’. It was reported that the Sunnah is to change names such as these.
Names that are makrooh (disliked) may be categorized as follows:
It is makrooh to use names that have bad or distasteful meanings, or which sound odd, which would cause others to mock a person or would cause him embarrassment, in addition to being contrary to the guidance of the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who taught us to choose good names.
It is makrooh to use names whose meanings are too soft and provocative or sexy, which is a widespread problem in the naming of girls.
It is makrooh to deliberately name someone after promiscuous actors and singers who star in worthless entertainment shows.
One of the signs of empty-headedness and lack of pride in one's faith is the fact that after a show starring immoral women, people will compete with one another in naming their newborns after these women. Anyone who checks the names registered at the time of one of these shows will see that this is a fact. And our complaining is to Allaah.
It is makrooh to use names that convey any sense of sin and disobedience to Allaah.
It is makrooh to use foreign names that belong only to the kuffaar.
The proud Muslim who is content with his religion will avoid this and not come anywhere near it. The temptation to use these names is very strong in our time, and a Muslim might pick up any name from Europe and America. This is the worst type of sin and a sign of humiliation and defeat. If this imitation of the kuffaar and using their names is merely the matter of whims and stupidity, it is nevertheless a major sin; if it is done because one actually believes these names are better than Muslim names, then this is a devastating blow to the foundation of faith. In either case, the person who has done this must hasten to repent, and changing the name is a condition of repentance.
It is makrooh to use
the names of Pharaohs or other tyrants.
It is makrooh to use
names that have any undesirable meaning.
It is makrooh to name people after animals that are known for their bad qualities. When the Arabs called their children by such names, it was because of good qualities that they noticed in them, and this was the desired meaning. So when they used the name Kalb (dog), it was because of the dog’s alertness and ability to work hard; when they used the name Himaar (donkey), it was because of the donkey’s patience and forbearance, and so on… This refutes the false arguments of the Shu’oobiyyah against the Arabs, as was explained by Ibn Durayd, Ibn Faaris, and others.
It is makrooh to use
any name which is composed of any word added to such words as al-Deen (the Religion) or Islam, such as Noor al-Deen/Nuruddin (Light of the Religion), Diya’ al-Deen/Ziauddin (Brightness of the Religion), Sayf al-Islam (Sword of Islam), Noor al-Islam (Light of Islam), etc. This is because of the great status attached to these words, al-Deen and Islam. Adding words to them to form names is an exaggeration which borders on lying, which is why some scholars said that this is haraam, and the majority say that it is makrooh, because it gives an incorrect impression which should not be given. The way this practice started was that these were titles which were added to people’s names, then people started to use them as names.
Names of this sort may be forbidden for two reasons
In a name such as Shihaab al-Deen, for example, the word Shihaab means a flame, which comes from fire, then this is added to the word al-Deen (which is inappropriate). This can lead to the use of strange names, as in Indonesia, where people use names such as Dhahab al-Deen (gold of the Religion) and Maas al-Deen (diamond of the Religion)!
Imaam al-Nawawi (may Allaah have mercy on him), use to dislike being called by his nickname Muhiy al-Deen, and Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) used to dislike being called by his nickname Taqiy al-Deen, and he said, “But my family gave me this nickname, so I am known by it.”
It is makrooh to use
names that are composed of two parts, and this includes names which include the name of Allaah, with the exception of the name ‘Abd-Allaah (slave of Allaah), which is one of the most beloved names to Allaah. Names which include the word al-Rasool (the Messenger) are also makrooh.
Some of the scholars regarded using the names of angels (peace be upon them) as makrooh. Giving angels’ names to women is clearly haraam, because it implies imitation of the mushrikeen, who thought that the angels were the daughters of Allaah. Exalted be He above what they say!
Some of the scholars thought that it was makrooh to give people the names of Soorahs of the Qur’aan, such as Ta-Ha, Yaa-Seen, Ha-Meem. (The popular notion that Ya-Seen and Ta-Ha are names of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is not correct).