Sadly, it has been known to happen that every time a person wishes to convert to Islam, he/she is immediately bombarded by those who claim to be the custodians of the faith, with a barrage of ridiculous requirements that he/she has to go through in order to become a Muslim (Submitter)!
One of these non Quranic requirements that they insist on is the need to change one's name and adopt a new 'Islamic Name' ! Not only is the concept of an 'Islamic Name' a false concept, but it is also an innovation that has no basis in the Quran. With a direct reference to the Quran, it can be demonstrated that there is no such thing as an 'Islamic Name'. The Quran stresses the fact that submission is a state of the body, mind and soul and not a name tag over one's head !
The requirements set by God for any person to adopt Islam and become a submitter are simply for that person to proclaim submission to God alone, and consequently observe the rituals required for worshipping God alone. There is no mention in the Quran whatsoever of the need to change one's name so as to have an 'Islamic Name' ...... so where did that innovation come from?
For that it is necessary to look closely at the phrase 'Islamic Name'.
If you are a man wishing to adopt Islam they will tell you choose a name like Muhammad, Ali, or Ahmad ….. etc....... If you are a woman, they will tell you choose a name like Khadija, Fatma, or Zeinab …….
But are these really 'Islamic Name', or are they merely ARABIC NAMES? Moreover, is there such a thing as an 'Islamic Name' ?
Even more important, is there any notion in the Quran about any preferential status for those who have certain names?
The answer to the first question is that these names are in fact ARABIC NAMES. The evidence to this fact lies in the Quran.
We are told in the Quran that Abraham and his sons were the first Muslims:
[22:78] You shall strive for the cause of GOD as you should strive for His cause. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in practicing your religion-the religion of your father Abraham. He is the one who named you Muslim (Submitters) originally.
[3:67] Abraham was neither Jewish, nor Christian; he was a monotheist Muslim (submitter). He never was an idol worshiper.
We are also told that Abraham's seed were Muslim:
[2:133] Had you witnessed Jacob on his death bed; he said to his children, "What will you worship after I die?" They said, "We will worship your god; the god of your fathers Abraham, Ismail, and Isaac; the one god. To Him we are Muslim (submitters)."
We are told that all the believers after Abraham and his seed were Muslim, in the following verse we are told that Jesus and the disciples were also Muslims (submitters):
[5:111] Recall that I inspired the disciples: `You shall believe in Me and My messenger.' They said, `We have believed, and bear witness that we are Muslim (submitters)."
In other words, we are told in the Quran that all the genuine believers from the time of Abraham onwards were Muslim. This includes prophets like Lot, Jacob and Isaac and also disciples like Peter, John, Mathew …..etc.
If we take a closer look at some of these names (Lot, Jacob, Isaac, Peter, Mathew …etc) and compare them to some of the current names in the world today, we find that some of these names are used by Jews (Jacob, Isaac … etc) and some others used by Christians (Peter, Mathew …etc) ….
None of these good Muslims (Submitters), like Lot, Isaac, Jacob or Peter, had to go to any puppet establishment and change their names to a name like (Ali or Ahmad ) in order to become Muslims ! did they ?
If that is so, then why do those uninformed Muslims insist that new converts must change their names to what they call an 'Islamic Name' ?
This imposed requirement has its roots in a subtle act of idol worship. One of the customs that is taught to Muslims since childhood is to have great love and respect for all the prophet's family and friends. They grow up in the belief that all the family and friends of Muhammad are saint like figures. As a result they sadly use a great part of their Salat (Contact Prayers) sending greetings and praise for all the family and friends of Muhammad!
If you visit the home of one of these idol worshippers, you are likely to find their collection of books made up primarily of books detailing the life and words of such idols! This they call the 'Seerah of the Rasool and the Sahabah' (Lives and stories of the messenger and his followers). Yes, you may find a copy of the Quran, but many of them spend much more time reading about their idols than reading the Quran. When they read the Quran, they read it at the speed of light! The devil has tricked them to believe that for every letter of the Quran they read they are credited with ten credit points !!! So the faster they read the more credit points they get ……… something like a 'green stamps' collection, the more you spend the more stamps you get!
It is thus easy to understand why they advise you, with such authority, that you have to change your name immediately to become a Muslim ……… if they idolise all the family and friends of Muhammad and praise and greet them in their prayers, it is understandable that they want everyone to be called with their names !
Sadly, they have rejected the Quranic truth that it is God alone who is worthy of constant praise ........ They have also been blind to the fact that God never laid any importance on names, or appearance in the Quran. The Quran consistantly confirms that those who will be saved in the hereafter are those who arrive with a pure heart, and not the ones who have certain names!
[50:31-34] Paradise will be offered to the righteous, readily. This is what was promised to every repenter, steadfast. They reverenced the Most Gracious, in their privacy, and came with pure and faithful heart. Enter it in peace; this is the Day of Eternity.
Thus to claim that only the names of the Arab Muslims are fit to be used by any new convert to Islam is in fact to show ignorance of the Quran.
In reality, the act of becoming a true Muslim (Submitter) makes it necessary for a person to abandon their idolatry and not their identity.
Furthermore, and since Islam is a universal faith that does not distinguish between any culture, race or colour, the act of insisting on a name change does not make the person a Muslim but in fact alienates the person from the universality of Islam.