Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 24 Jumada al-Akhirah 1438

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What is the opinion on changing the bride's surname to her new husband's

Assalamu- Alaykum,
What is the opinion on changing the bride's surname to her new husband's surname? Is it allowed, recommended, or disliked? I would much appreciate your answer and clarification.
Jazakum Allah kheir.


It is the cultural norm in Western countries for an unmarried woman to go by her maiden name and for a married woman to adopt her husband's family name by adding the titles 'Mrs', 'madam', or the like to indicate her marital status. Based on this, the western custom of adding a husband's family name to his wife's name is equivalent to our custom of saying: 'So-and-so is married to a man from such-and-such a family'. In western culture, this practice is a kind of identification that does not involve deception in familial relationships. Identification is a broad concept and may be due to any of the following: loyalty, such as the case in the name 'Ikrima mawla Ibn 'Abbas; profession, such as in 'Al-Ghazali'; or a title or nickname such as in' Al-A'ra'j, 'al-Jahiz', and 'Abu Mohammed al-A'mash'. A person may also be attributed to his mother though his father may be known such as in the name 'Isma'il ibn 'Ulayya'. Furthermore, a wife may even be attributed to her husband; the Qur`an mentions a few examples such as:

The wife of Noah and the wife of Lut. [At-Tahrim, 10).

The wife of Pharaoh. [At-Tahrim, 11)

Sa'id al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Zeinab, Ibn Mas'ud's wife (may Allah be pleased with them both), asked for permission to meet the Prophet (PBUH). He was told, "O Messenger of Allah! Zeinab asks for permission to meet you." The Prophet (PBUH) asked, "Which Zeinab?" He was told, "Ibn Mas'ud's wife." The Prophet (PBUH) replied, "Allow her to enter." And so they did [Bukhari and Muslim).

Islamic law forbids attributing a person to other than his father with a filial designation or any word implying genealogical affiliation although affiliation in its general sense is not prohibited. In some places or at certain periods, various forms of identification may be so prevalent that they are established as a custom. This is permissible provided it does not mislead with respect to filial attribution. Moreover, it is not from among the imitations that are objectionable in Islamic law. Imitation is only objectionable if the imitated object is prohibited in itself or if the doer's intention is merely for the sake of imitation. In the absence of any of these two conditions, the doer is not legally blameworthy. This is evidenced by the report of Jaber Ibn 'Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with them both) who said, "The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was ill so led us in prayed while seated. He looked behind him and saw us standing, so gestured to us to sit down. After making the closing salutations, he said, 'You were about to do an act similar to that of the Persians and the Romans. They stand before their kings while they remain seated. Do not do this but follow the actions of your imams; if they offer prayers while standing, do likewise and if they offer prayers while seated, pray in that position' " [Recorded in the Sahih of Muslim (624)]. In the Arabic language, when the verb 'kada' which means 'about to' occurs in the affirmative, it denotes negation. Although the Companions did remain standing while Prophet Mohammed remained seated, they did not intend to imitate the Persians or Romans and therefore were not described as imitators. For this reason, Ibn Nujaym, the Hanafi scholar, wrote in Al-Bahr Ar-Ra` iq (2/11): "Know that imitating the people of the Book is not disliked in every aspect for we eat and drink as they do. What is forbidden is deliberately imitating of the people of the Book and imitating their reprehensible acts."

A wife adopting her husband's family name

The practice of a wife adopting her husband's family name for identification does not refute affiliation to her father. The equivocal prohibition was mainly due to the widespread omission of the patronym 'Ibn' linking a person's name to his father's. Although these connecting terms have been dropped from names due to overuse and to keep them short, this has created confusion in compound names and others that do not imply affiliation. It is for this reason that some official bodies abolished the use of compound names that imply affiliation between the individual components of the name since the omission of the patronymic 'Ibn', which has become the norm, created confusion. In the same vein, in such a culture, a married woman does not adopt her husband's family name since it might erroneously imply a genealogical affiliation.

The case differs in other cultures that adopt the practice of adding a husband's family name to his wife's and which prefix titles such as 'Mrs.' 'madam' etc... that clearly establish the relationship between them. It is permissible to adopt this custom provided it does not contravene the principles of Islamic law.

In Islamic law, it is not only possible to rely on customs to pass a judgment provided they are consistent with it, but customs may also be included in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence such as in: "Custom is an arbitrator". Islamic law does not call upon Muslims to defy or deliberately contravene customs; rather, it encourages Muslims not to alienate themselves from the societies they live in and assimilate themselves into them. This will allow them to co-exist with members of the society and call them to the true word of Allah without clashes or engaging in fabricated disputes. All of this must not be incompatible with any of the principles of Islamic law.
Allah the Almighty knows best.

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