I am a new convert to Islam, should I change my name to a new one?
I have converted to Islam and I was wondering if I should change my name or is it ok to keep my original name with no changes in it? Would I be seen as an apostate if I didn’t change my name?
The general ruling is permissibility regarding keeping the name that was given to the person since birth and is widely known with. Therefore, the person who embraces Islam should not change his name which he had before Islam unless it entails a meaning which is forbidden in Islamic law such as if the name is associated with a god idol that is worshipped instead of God or if the name has a repulsive meaning.
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged us to have beautiful names for our children. Abu Dawud reported through Abu al Dardaa that the Prophet said “you will be called in the Day of Judgment with your names and your father’s names so choose good names for yourselves”.
It was reported through Muslim that one of the daughters of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab was named (‘Asiyah) or the disobedient one so the Prophet changed her name to (Jameelah) or the beautiful one.
Imam al Nawawi mentioned in his Majmou’ that the Prophetic tradition was to change names with bad meanings. Also Imam al Bahuti authenticated that the Prophet changed some names which bore bad meanings. For example the Prophet changed a man’s name from (Harb) or war to (Selm) or peace, and another one from (al Muttdaje’) or the one lying down to (al Munba’eth) or the active one. The Prophet had also changed names of lands as a land was called (‘Afrah) or arid and he changed it to (Khadrah) or green land, a valley was named (al Dalalah) or misguidance and the Prophet changed it to (al Huda) or guidance.
Once a person utters the testimony of faith “I testify that there is no god but God and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God” with full cognizance and with no coercion and with the condition of being sane and adult, he or she becomes automatically a Muslim. As for apostasy, it is to cut off one’s ties with faith with the intention of disbelief unless he is coerced to do so.
Therefore, a person is only allowed to change his name if it entails a forbidden meaning in Islamic law and he is also allowed to change his name if it was repulsive or hideous. As for changing one’s name whether it was Arabic or foreign name and whether this name was permissible or forbidden is not a condition for the validity of one’s conversion to Islam.