In 2012, my Moroccan friend Asmaa Al Idrissi from Casablanca married Saleh Al Amin, an Egyptian / British Muslim engineer living in the UK.
Following her marriage, she changed her surname to Asmaa Al Amin. On WhatsApp, I asked why she had legally changed her name.
The UK government permits women to keep their family surnames, and besides this, Islam prohibits her from changing it.
She told me she likes her new name and it fits better into British society than her old name.
My friend’s carefree attitude about the matter made me question whether Asmaa and her husband had acted correctly.
So, I researched the topic to get alternative views of Islamic scholars. I discovered the following.
So, Why Do Many Muslim Scholars Say Women Can Use A Husband’s Surname After Marriage?
Islam bans Muslim women from changing their surnames to their husbands after marriage. The prohibition states that surname changes break paternal ties and implies another man is their true father. However, some scholars disagree saying a surname change alone does not constitute a prohibition violation.
These scholars argue that a woman using her husband’s surname instead of her father’s surname changes nothing.
Swapping a surname is NOT an explicit rejection of blood ties or a way of cutting a father out of a woman’s life.
In fact, throughout Islamic history, Muslim men and women have used many names and ways to identify themselves. These names have not always included the father’s surname.
Therefore, they argue that Islam should not restrict married women from calling themselves by a husband’s surname or any other way she sees fit.
This article explains that using a husband’s surname does not always go against the prohibition of name-changing in Islam.
Table of Contents
(Click on link to jump to section and arrow to get back)
- Where In The Quran And Sunnah Are Name Changes Prohibited?
- Changing A Surname Does NOT Violate The Prohibition
- Using Names Other Than A Father’s Surname Is Social Tradition
- How Is Name Changing A Violation?
- Conclusion – Eduardo’s Story
- Five Reasons Why Islam Prohibits Muslim Women From Taking A Husband’s Surname After Marriage
- Related Questions
- References And Useful Links
1. Where In The Quran And Sunnah Are Name Changes Prohibited?
The Quran and prophetic saying (Sunnah) offer clear evidence of the severity of changing a surname to something other than the true father’s.
A woman using her husband’s surname is to claim to be the daughter of someone who is NOT her father.
Islamic scholars forbid Muslim women from changing their surname after marriage, citing a specific verse from the Holy Quran.
In the Quranic verse Al Ahzab 33:5, Allah (SWT) instructs Muslims NOT to change the surnames of orphaned children under their care to their own.
Let your adopted children keep their family names. That is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers, then they are simply your fellow believers and close associates.Al Ahzab 33:5
By extension, scholars say that in Islam, women cannot change their surnames or use their husband’s surnames.
Several prophetic sayings (Sunnah) also forbid Muslim women from changing their names after marriage.
Allah (SWT) will curse anyone who calls themselves other than by their father’s surname whatever the reason.
The Prophet (SAW) said: Whoever calls himself by other than his father’s name (or attributes himself to someone other than his father), will be cursed by Allah, the angels, and all the people.Ibn Maajah, 2599 & Saheeh al-Jaami, 6104
For a more detailed understanding of the prohibition on not changing a surname, click to read Inside Saudi’s Five Reasons Why Islam Prohibits Muslim Women From Taking A Husband’s Surname After Marriage
2. Changing A Surname Does NOT Violate The Prohibition
Despite the clear prohibition, several scholars argue that a woman legally dropping her family name and using her husband’s does not mean she has violated it.
They say that using her husband’s or any other name is simply an easy and convenient way of identifying herself.
These scholars maintain that Islamic history is replete with examples of people naming themselves and others in ways NOT related to the father.
3. Using Names Other Than A Father’s Surname Is Social Tradition
Certain scholars argue that using a surname other than your father’s is not a negation of your relationship to him, nor does it constitute a false claim that another man is your actual father.
They also say that calling people by names other than their father is a well-known social tradition.
The Holy Quran does not have strict ways to refer to people. Most times, it calls people by their names and sometimes uses their father’s or mother’s names and others. (See examples below)
Their Own Names
- Maryam (Mary)
- Lut (Lot)
- Yunus (Jonah)
- Zakariyya (Zechariah)
- Yahya (John the Baptist)
- Ismail (Ishmael)
- Ishaq (Isaac)
- Ya’qub (Jacob)
- Yusuf (Joseph)
- Ayoub (Job)
- Muhammad ibn Abdullah (Muhammad, the son of Abdullah)
- Musa ibn Imran (Moses, the son of Imran)
- Harun ibn Imran (Aaron, the son of Imran)
- Ibrahim ibn Azar (Abraham, the son of Azar)
Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, the son of Mary)
- Ikrimah (Ibn Abbas’s servant)
- Imam Al-Ghazali (profession)
- Al-A’raj (the lame)
- Al-Jahiz (the man with protruding eyes)
- Abu Muhammad al-A’mash (poor eyesight)
- Isma’il ibn ‘Ulayyah (his mother)
Zakir Naik argues the same by having his wife use his surname to ease the check in and registration at hotels in non-Muslim countries.
And he also mantains that since the name change practice is not a way of imitating the customs of non-Muslims (Kuffar), it is fine and permissible.
4. How Is Name Changing A Violation?
The violation is to claim someone else as your father and to disassociate from your actual father.
However, even after using their husbands’ surnames, married women continue to remain close to their fathers. Simply addressing themselves by names other than the fathers cannot be a violation.
The legality of the matter centres about how Muslim women interpret the prohibition.
Some scholars argue for literal interpretaton of the prohibition and oblige Muslim women to keep their surnames and NOT to change them.
Other scholars interpret that socially acceptable naming traditions in Islam do not contravene the prohibition.
For this reason, the second group of scholars happily accept that women should be free to change their surnames after marriage and use any socially acceptable naming convention.
As proof, there are several examples of calling people other than the father’s name in the Quran and Sunnah. (above) The examples never caused a violation of any injunction throughout Islamic history.
Though scholastic views and perspectives differ, both arguments make perfect sense.
It is clear that legal name changes complicate but do not necessarily cause women to disconnect or deny their fathers and family lineage!
Traditionalists rightly argue for Muslim women to use their father’s family name after marriage. Others reason that women and others should be permitted to choose which names to use.
However, our view is that Muslim females should legally keep their surnames, especially if they live far away from their parents in another country.
She should not allow herself to be pressured or bullied by a husband and his family members to assume his surname.
Showing your relationship with deceased parents or grandparents in a foreign land for purposes of rightful inheritance can often be problematic.
Story – Spanish Mother Changed Her Surname Causing Problems Of Inhertance.
I once worked with a Cuban architect called Eduardo. Although a Cuban national, he has the right to become a Spanish citizen.
Eduardo’s mother had changed her surname after she had emigrated to Cuba years ago to make it much easier to obtain Cuban nationality- a popular tactic back in the day.
However, after her death obtaining his rightful family inheritance in Spain is proving to be drawn out and painful. Eduardo has to show proof that his mother is the same person who left Spain and later became a Cuban citizen.
He has to jump through many legal loopholes at the Spanish Embassy in Cuba and Spain.By Mohammed Francis
The easiest and best practice is for women NOT to change their surname and to call themselves and be known by any name they wish.
She can keep the legal use of her father’s family name and at the same time have people know her as the mother of so and so, (Um Hamza), the wife of Tomas Smith (Mrs. Smith), or the daughter of her father Ahmed (Bint Ahmed), a naming tradition most common in Saudi Arabia.
In all, women not changing the original family surname after marriage results in the least number of legal, and family obstacles, and eliminates all of the headaches.
For a more detailed understanding of the prohibition on not changing a surname click to read Inside Saudi’s Five Reasons Why Islam Prohibits Muslim Women From Taking A Husband’s Surname After Marriage
Why Do Women Take On Their Husband’s Surnames After Marriage? In the past, women had lost their identity after marriage and had no right to keep their surnames. Taking the husband’s surname was a custom, a sign of commitment, and even considered a romantic gesture. Some women used their husband’s surnames for convenience in aspects of family life such as passports, joint accounts, and real estate.
In Islam, Why Do Children Only Take Their Father’s Name? Allah (SWT) commands Muslims to name children after the father by using his surname. It maintains a clear identity and lineage. Families can trace their ancestors and maintain a sense of continuity through generations by using the father’s name.
References and Useful Links
Taking A Family Name Other Than The Father’s – Islam Q&A