While there is no Shar’i incumbency for a woman to adopt the surname of her husband, it is not prohibited. There is also no Shar’i incumbency on a woman to go through a kaafir legal process and spend a large sum of money to have her adoptive (husband’s surname) changed.
In this era, more especially in non-Muslim countries where we live, a woman takes to her husband’s surname merely as a convenience in the same way as we make use of the Christian calendar. In fact, it is haraam to expunge the Islamic calendar. It is Waajib for Muslims to keep alive the Islamic calendar. Many important Shar’i masaa-il are linked to the Islamic calendar. Yet most Muslims even the anonymous author calling for the compulsory cancellation of the husband’s surname, do not use the Islamic dates.
Non-Arab Muslims all over the world from the very early epoch of Islam did not adopt the Arab custom of naming themselves , e.g. Abdullah Ibn Muhammad ibn so and so…, despite the fact that it was Rasulullah’s style and the style of the Sahaabah. There is no incumbency to adopt an Arab style which the Shariah does not impose on us.
If we are going to write only Islamic dates on cheques and other legal documents in the kuffaar country, it will create serious problems. Despite Islamic dates being Waajib, circumstances constrain us to adopt the Christian calendar. In a single city there may be 10 families, all having the same surname, e.g. Ahmad, since Ahmed was their father. In every Ahmed family there is a Maryam, Aisha, Faatimah, etc. Every Maryam thus is ‘Maryam Binti Ahmed’. We have therefore ten women with the name ‘Maryam Binti Ahmed’. Now when one of them dies, if it is announced only that Maryam Binti Ahmad has passed away, no one will know to whom the reference is made. Thus, circumstances constrain us to say: “The Maryam Binti Ahmed died who is the wife of Abdullah Qaasim. Instead of saying or writing on the notice board, ‘Maryam Binti Ahmed, the wife of Abdullah Qaasim, there is no Shar’i restriction to stating the same long sentence in an abbreviated form such as ‘Maryam Qaasim’. Everyone in the town/neighbourhood will know exactly who this particular Maryam who has died is.
Instead of each time when there is a need, to say “Aishah Binti Abdullah, the wife of Husain Patel”, the abbreviation, Aishah Patel is used. This merely conveys the information that Aishah is Husain Patel’s wife, and nothing more. If ‘Aishah’ Patel’ is haraam, then saying ‘Aishah is the wife of Husain Patel’ will likewise be haraam. But just as this is drivel, so too is the former drivel.
With regard to the wife adopting the husband’s surname, it was never ‘eagerness to copy the West’ which led to this. Copying the West on this issue is the furthest from the minds of Muslims, even modernist Muslims. Yes, dress-styles, eating from tables, with knives and forks, shaving the beard, kuffaar hair styles and many other practices which Muslims have adopted are undoubtedly in imitation of the kuffaar West, hence haraam.
It is a pity that the writer of the article has selected to remain anonymous. If he reveals himself then we could direct a number of questions to him to ascertain the degree of his adoption of western life styles. From the style of his writing and thinking it is almost certain that he is a Salafi. If so, then his permanent practice will be to strut around with a bare head in public. They don’t believe in Rasulullah’s headgear. Salafis have adopted the western haraam practice of shunning headgear. Another salient practice of almost all Salafis is to dress exactly like kuffaar with jeans, T-shirts and the like. While they turn a blind eye to such haraam, futile and destructive practices which they have copied from the West, they harp on non-issues which have been adopted for convenience without the intention of emulating the west.
It is not contended that Islam requires a woman to change her name at marriage. By the same token, Islam does not prohibit a woman from adopting her husband’s surname. The imagined prohibition is a figment of someone’s mind. While there may be “nothing in the Sunnah to indicate that a woman should take her husband’s name after she gets married”, there is also nothing in the Sunnah to indicate that we should ride or not ride in cars and planes, and use or not use phones and adopt and use or not the innumerable amenities and practices which have become part of life. Is there anything in the Sunnah to indicate that Muslims should not wear headgear and strut around in public with bear heads like the kuffaar?
The absence of an indication in the Sunnah is not a principle for prohibition. There are principles in Fiqah – in the Shariah – on which the ahkaam are formulated. Wildly fluctuating personal opinion has no share in formulating Shar’i rulings.
Adopting the husband’s surname was simply not a practice among the Arabs. This is not a basis for prohibition. The objector should produce a Shar’i daleel for prohibition.
When a woman adopts her husband’s surname, she is not concealing her lineage. She is not denying that a certain man is her father. The entire community is fully aware of her lineage. Her lineage is not lost by adopting her husband’s surname.
The Qur’aanic verse cited by the anonymous objector has no reference to a woman adopting her husband’s surname. It pertains to an adopted child. In this regard there is an imperative need to retain and publicize the adopted child’s surname to avoid confusion. If this is not done, the child could end up marrying his own sister or sister marrying her own brother. Since concealing the child’s lineage leads to confusion, deception and possible haraam, it is essential to declare the child’s lineage. But there is no such concealment and confusion in the case of a woman adopting her husband’s surname.
The adoption of the husband’s surname is not motivated by any idea of ‘honour’. It is simply an issue of convenience like the adoption of the Christian calendar, nor is it an expression of love as the objector reads into the issue.
While originally she is the daughter of so and so, we shall go further and say that she forever remains the daughter of so and so. But, at the same time she has become the wife of so and so. There is no prohibition in saying that she is the wife of so and so. This is the reality.
When her husband dies or she is divorced and marries another man, what Shar’i prohibition is there to prevent her from taking the new surname? This question of the objector is superfluous.
The rulings to which the objector refers, are not attached to her name as he alleges. The rulings are related to her physical being. Her name change brings no change to the rulings pertaining to inheritance, her mahram, etc. Everything remains exactly the same despite her assumption of her husband’s surname. It is palpably drivel to say that “taking her husband’s name overlooks all that”. It overlooks nothing at all.
The claim: “Besides, the husband has nothing that makes him better than his wife’s father.” , is erroneous. The husband has much which makes him better than her father with regard to her. After marriage, her greater obedience shifts from her parents to her husband. In relation to the wife, the husband has greater say and authority over her than her father. She is subservient to her husband to a far greater degree than to her father. Now when her entire being is subordinate to her husband, what wrong is there if her name too becomes subordinate to her husband? What Shar’i argument is there to prohibit the subordination of her name?
The fact that we shall be called by our father’s name in the Hereafter is no prohibition for adopting the husband’s surname. Some prohibited things in this world will become permissible in Jannat. And, some permissible things of the Hereafter are prohibited for us here in this world.
The argument of the objector is without merit. It is permissible for a woman to adopt her husband’s name. Such adoption is devoid of emulation of the West or any other haraam factor. And Allah knows best.
For Mujlisul Ulama of S. A.