Muslim Names?: A Rose by Any Other Name…
by Sheila Musaji
I am a Muslim. My name may be John, James, Joshua, Michael, Sheila, Vicki, Jeanette, Michelle, Lynette, or…. If my name has a good meaning and is not assoicated with any
pagan god, godess or practice - then it fulfills the requirements for a Muslims name. The fact that I did not change my name to an Arabic, Farsi or Urdu name has nothing to do with the state of my Iman, the level of my Islamic knowledge, or my identity as a Muslim.
John-Yahya, Mary-Maryam, Jonah-Yunus, Nancy-Nazi, Jamillah-Bonnie, etc. are the SAME NAMES in different languages. There is no superiority in one version over any other version. As a person who came to Islam from Judaism or Christianity and not from paganism, I am required to change my life, not my name. If I choose to take a new name for whatever reason, that is my choice, but not a requirement.
What was Umar’s name when he was still a pagan and wanted to kill the holy prophet (swt)? And what was his name after he embraced Islam?
When will you change your name? What is your “Muslim” name? We need to find you another name! Oh, you’re not a Muslim? - and all the variations on this theme are likely to provoke puzzlement, frustration, anger, resentment, embarassment or hurt feelings depending on how many times the individual has been questioned on this issue.
If the goal is to open the possibility for friendship, conversation, Islamic guidance, etc. this question might better be avoided, as it is more likely to close than to open any
My name is Sheila, and if asked “What does your name mean?” I would be happy to explain that in the language of my ancestors (Gaelic) the name means “sighted” and in
that society referred to a quality of being able to see and understand the meaning and signficance of a thing that isnt’ always observable. Since I was little I liked my name.
When I embraced Islam I felt deep down that it was after all just the right “Muslim” name, and I thanked God for giving me the gift of “seeing” Islam.
The American Muslim
Originally published in the print edition of
, June 1989.