My name is “Janeef” and my wife is “Jafnabi” and we call her “Jafna”. None of these names have meaning as far as we know. Do we have to change it? If yes, do we have to change it in official records or can we just use the new name to call each other? Also will our parents be sinful for using such names?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wa Sallam has ordered us to keep good names. It is mentioned in a Hadith:
إِنَّكُمْ تُدْعَوْنَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ بِأَسْمَائِكُمْ، وَأَسْمَاءِ آبَائِكُمْ، فَأَحْسِنُوا أَسْمَاءَكُمْ
“You shall all be called upon on the Day of Judgment by your names and the names of your respective fathers. Keep good names for yourselves.”
Names of countries, cities, streets, airports, universities, and individuals are not merely named for identification purposes. Names also represent a belief of an individual or a group of people. Some of them can also represent a philosophy or some historical event.
In South Africa, names of airports and streets representing apartheid icons have been changed to names of veterans of the liberation struggle. Louis Boths Airport in Durban is now known as King Shaka International Airport. Louis Boths was an apartheid icon. King Shaka is the legendary leader of the Zulus. Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg is now called O.R. Tambo Airport. Many streets in Durban have been changed to the names of veterans of the liberation movement. Some new streets are Anton Lembede Street, Xuma Street, Yusuf Dadoo Street etc.
There were many sensitivities in the renaming process. The name of one icon is removed to replace it with another. The idea was to highlight a personality and to promote the values he/she represented and fought for.
It is clear from this that naming a person is not just about naming and creating an identity. As muslims, when we name our children after the names of the Prophets, Sahabah and Auliya (pious servants of Allah), it also serves as a reminder to one of the values of these great luminaries. Keeping such names, have the potential to revolutionize a nation. When every second person is named after an illustrious prophet or an illustrious Sahābi, this will give rise to the value system of such people by studying those personalities and going deeper into what they represented.
As muslims, we should adhere to keeping Islamic names to advance the Islamic value that goes with the name. However, you are not required to change your names in the official records. You and your wife may simply use Islamic names for one another.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Abdul Hannan Nizami,
Student Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.