Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Firstly, a confession: I'm not really Safiya. I only call myself Safiya on my blog, for the purposes of maintaining anonymity.

After converting, I did contemplate taking a Muslim name and decided that Safiya was a nice name (and I greatly admire Safiya R.A). Not long after I converted, my Mum asked me "You don't have to change your name do you?" I answered truthfully, no, to her great relief. My name is special to my parents. It's special to me too, the phonetics please me and it just feels like my name, so I could never bring myself to call myself another name.

I remember one Muslim lady being flabbergasted that I hadn't taken a Muslim name. I wish I had just said: When asked a factual question, I will respond. Asking the same question repeatedly will not change my response to an answer that suits you.

As for the rest of my name, my middle name is a bit blah but I loved my surname. It fitted very nicely with my first name and reflected my Celtic heritage. But it still stopped being my surname after marriage, for different reasons.

Growing up, it was a given that you changed your name once you got married. A feature of any teenage crush was seeing how your name sounded with his surname.

Islam is still largely not seen as a white person thing. Hence the endless slew of articles featuring "white women in hijab" (Whenever I've heard of any media requests for interviews with new Muslims they always have that same request), because it's so bizarre and kooky(!)

So my name started to seem strange to other people, especially if they had seen my name before meeting me. One experience was waiting outside to meet a business associate outside their building. I told them where I would be waiting, and I waited for over twenty minutes before they approached me, and asked with a look of disbelief "Are you.....?".

I started getting tired of my non-Muslim name. Should a name reflect who you are, especially what is most important to you?

At this point, I will point out that Islamically it is forbidden to change a child's surname/family name to obscure or conceal their parentage.

There are different opinions on the changing of surnames. It is not a Sunnah, lots of Muslim women don't take their husband's name, but there are opinions that a woman changing her name on marriage is acceptable.

I decided that were I to marry a Mr Born Muslim, if he had an Islamic surname, I would take it after marriage.

So that's what I did. Yes, it's nice in the girly romantic way, but more importantly, my new surname is a classical Arabic word, which is in the Qu'ran and it feels good to have that connection.

However, I'm still at little uneasy about some of my intentions. I'm a white Muslim, an oddity. Insha Allah, as more people convert (not just white people, but from other traditionally not-Muslim ethnicities) it will become less odd.

But I'll still be strange. At the airport in Homeland of Husband, I was asked if my father was of that nationality, "La, zawji (No, my husband is)".

Or you get the irritating (on a sand in your underwear level) assumption that as you are married, your hijab is playing "dress up" to please that domineering husband of yours.

The bottom line is, whatever you choose in this life, someone will annoy you about it, so just make sure your choices are good for you.

N.B I didn't actually get rid of my old surname all together. I changed my name via deed poll, so it became another middle name. I'm glad it's still there.


Unique Muslimah said...

I know many Muslims, men and women, who keep their original name for dawah or just because they want to. Faith is in the heart after all, you can always keep your name and add a second name as your muslim name, or the other way round.

I don't understand why the Muslim woman was flabbergasted, I wish Muslims would stop judging others and being so harsh, it's our intentions that count!

I'm sure the name you chose is a lovely one :)

Unique Muslimah

Alina said...

I am way too attached to my name. I used to hate my middle name, but I know think this is the perfect combination of names. I don't really want to change it, to be honest.

I also happen to love how Safiya sounds. I am sure your real name sounds even better. And you are right, names should have nothing to do with who you are and what you believe in...

luckyfatima said...


luckyfatima said...

this post strikes a nerve. i very much identify. my grandfather changed his family's E.European Jewish last name to sound "whiter" in order to avoid discrimination. so I have an Anglo last name. Honestly, the Jewish name is aesthetically ugly on the ears of native English speakers (it sounds like a slang word for penis!) but the the de-ethnicized name is just confusing and really does obscure my identity.

All this and then I become Fatima. I haven't changed my name legally. Then I get married. My husband really wants me to be Mrs. Khan. I don't want to. It would be another layer of hiding my true identity. Another twist in my weird story. Another confusing reason while I am all mixed up, my name doesn't match my looks, etc.

I have really just kept my non-Muslim birth name as my passport name because it is too much trouble to change it, especially being an expat. But there are so many other reasons. Like, although I knew my British origin name didn't fit my heritage (no Britin me whatsoever), but after converting, it does make it obvious that I am a convert.

Anyways, blah blah blah I could really go on and on because this is such a home hitting topic.

I hope u find peace with your names. I love Safiya, by the way. and heh heh heh i like your clever title.

Safiya said...

Unique - I wish the same too. After all, what's in a name?

Alina - You're name is beautiful, I can understand why you like it so much.

Luckyfatima - Interestingly, my old surname is also an anglicised version, a shame as the original sounds so lovely. I am peace with my names, depsite the mix of reasons behind them.
And I'm glad you "got" the post title. ;)