Monday, March 23, 2009

But it's my name...!

I've yet to hear anyone give me a good reason for changing the name my parents gave me. But in the last few days, I've had two people boggle at my insistence on keeping it. Said one, "Next time I see you, I'll call you Ameenah." My response, quite naturally I think, was, "Why?"And to that he responded, "It is the name of Rasoolullah (saws)." Mm-hmmK. I knew that. But still I asked, "Why?" and I started to get a little bit defensive about my name, and what is so wrong with calling me by my given name?

Yusuf Islam changed his name from Cat Stevens. And I still think... so what? That was the choice of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, somebody who I am not. I've actually known a lot of people (especially people who converted decades ago) to change their names to something Arabic instead of keeping their given names. But I don't really understand why--is it really better to take an Arabic name, though my given name has no error in it?

I've always been sort of defensive about keeping my name, although I know that the Prophet (saws) used to change the names of some of his companions for various reasons. One lady with a name meaning 'Righteousness' had it changed to Zaynab, and a man whose name implied submission to an idol had his name changed as well. And one of my friends shares a name with a pagan goddess, so upon embracing Islam she opted to take the name of one of the Mothers of the Believers.

I understand that sometimes it can be better to change my name. But I'd still like to know what's wrong with my name--Amy? I have noticed that some people from certain cultures are more likely than others to press for name changes in converts, but not based on any proof. Seems more like a tradition.

So I maintain my position, that there's nothing wrong with it. It's how I am known and it keeps a strong relationship with my parents as well. I have no desire to change it, I can't imagine taking a name that would mean more to me than mine currently does. So why do people keep asking me to change it?


Anonymous said...

Sorry to post anonymously, but Islam is a sensitive issue in my home. As I looked into Islam, I researched the name issue. Based on my research, it does seem to be more of a traditional issue than anything else. The name my parents gave me, Timothy, translates to 'Honoring God,' and my Muslim friends agree that it's a pretty good name for any believer.

Anonymous said...

If it means maintaining peace with your parents, you are Islamically obligated to keep your name. This is assuming "Amy" doesn't mean something horrible, like "Child-eating Cursing Calamitous Amoral Statue-Loving Warmonger" or, keeping with the times, "Muslimah Terrorist".

Besides, "Amy" sounds nice.

jana z. said...

hi amy, its me jana z!! i dont understand why people are so gung ho on changing their names once they convert but its their choice just as its yours to keep amy.

lol at just up and deciding to call you ameenah!!

shamsuddin waheed said...


My wife [Faith] has similar issues with Muslims, who sometimes insist to call her Imaan or Imani.

Perhaps its an issue of people trying to "bring you into Muslim culture" [whatever that means] in a deeper way by asking you to change your name.

You are right, if the name is good, then don't feel obligated to change it. If a person really wants to, that's their choice, but imposing "Ameenah" on you is a bit much.


UmmAbdulAziz said...

assalam alaikum sister!
keep your name,sister... it is beautiful, and it is the name YOUR parents gave YOU. it would be very disrespectful to your parents to change your name...

Naeem: said...

AA- Amy,

Not sure why people want to change your name - its a perfect Pakistani name. Many of us call our mother - Ammi, and I propose we start calling you that as well. And don't worry, you can keep the spelling - we'll just pronounce it like Ammi.

Problem solved! No need to thank me.

Anonymous said...

Islam can only benefit from having more Amys and other "non-traditional" names.

Coolred38 said...

Islam is supposed to be for all people for all time...not just for Ameenas and Aisha's and Khadeejas should also be for Lisa's and Julies and yes...Amy's...that is how you get nonMuslims to accept the idea that Islam is more than just an Arab religion...just my thoughts.

btw first time visitor to your blog...nice job

Hajar said...

Bloghopped my way ...

If you ask me, it's your choice. I don't see a problem in the meaning, and you have practically grown up with it besides it is a name given by your parents. I suppose the ones that insisted on the name-change are trying to make you feel more 'welcomed' in the muslim community or that you're starting a new life all over again. Just my 2 cents worth.

Azad said...

Not sure why anyone would want to change your name to something else. Amy is a very nice name .. and it has a beautiful meaning as well :-)

mezba said...

As far as I know the Prophet only changed the names of people whose names meant something awful. Salman was a Persian name and when Hadhrat Salman Farsi became Muslim he didn't change his name. Over time Salman has become a "Muslim" name. Similarly Bilal was originally a Habashi (Ethiopian) name, not Arab.

People who want to call you something else just display their own ignorance of the religion.

There are lot of fatwas from respected Western scholars to support your view - google IIT (toronto) for one.

Amy said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. :-)

Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

Amy translates as Habiba in Arabic, which is a common name (one of the Mothers of the Believers, radhi Allahu 'anhum, was Umm Habiba so presumably there was a Habiba). If you had a Persian name, which is equally non-Arabic, nobody would even think of trying to change it. There are quite a few Asians with names like Parvez or Qaisar, and I have heard of Turks called Cengiz, all names of pre-Islamic emperors, and if nobody expects them to change their names, nobody should bat an eyelid at Amy.

Anonymous said...

Assalam o alaykum Amy, I found this article very interesting. I had a hard time understanding the ruling on this. Here are a few links(authentic I may add wallahu alam)

From the discussion above, if your name is not going against Islam and has a good meaning you are allowed to keep it. I have not yet had a good answer from any one who changed their name. Islam makes things easy for us. So (coughs) Amy is ok and I dont think you should be worried.:) wallah u alam

Shawna said...

Salaam Amy,

I agree with coolred on this one. To It's very important, when you think of it, to keep your name, as it's a form of dawah. It breaks down barriers, and as it's not a name reserved for Allah or a name disturbing in meaning, ignore the pressure.

I was born Muslim and am half Arab. I get a lot of questions about my first name from well-meaning Muslims who can't understand how a name not clearly identifiable as Islamic in nature could have been assigned to me. They don't like my name because they most often see it associated with women who lack virtue. I understand. I don't know many Shawnas who meet Islamic ideals, but I do my best, and my name has a good name (wise). It was given to me lovingly.

It's wonderful that you have a name that challenges boundaries. My sons are named Noah and Gabriel. Their middle names are Ibrahim and Ayoub. People don't hear the middle name. They assume we're Christian. If it's a good situation, I can let it be known that we're actually Muslim. Then it's an opportunity for dawah just through the shared traditions their names come from, the way I interact with my children (shared parenting values), the surprise that I am not what they expected, they like me, and I'm Muslim! Alhumdulillah.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Masha'Allah this is a wonderful site. I'm glad my sister pointed me here. You always give me an iman boost. May Allah reward you!