I will not change my name after marriage, why should I?

Published: April 6, 2014

Has it ever occurred to you that a man is a ‘Mr’ whether he is single or not while a woman’s marital status is differentiated – even emphasised – by the titles Ms or Mrs?

Contrary to what people believe in our society, a woman should retain the family name of her father instead of taking her husband’s name after marriage. There are various Hadith which caution against adding a name other than one’s father’s.

I can just imagine some readers raising their eyebrows indignantly at this statement while others will roll their eyes and think,

“Here comes another feminist argument.”

But the fact of the matter is that this is not about feminism at all; this is not an argument about ‘If men don’t have to change their name, women shouldn’t be made to either’. This is simply about a right that has been given to both, men and women; a right that we have somehow forgotten over generations to the point that we ironically question those who remind us of it.

At present, a vast majority of women – locally and internationally – take their partner’s name after marriage simply because that is how it has been for a long time. Apart from the fact that it has become an unquestioned tradition, when some people dare to question a girl getting married as to her intentions regarding her name after marriage, her usual reply is a surprised, ‘What do you mean?’ as if the thought never occurred to her and if probed further, her reply would be something to the effect of,

“I feel that taking my husband’s name will give me a sense of belonging.”

My argument to such women would be that men seem to do fine and have as much of a sense of belonging as they need without having to change their name. But it has been women, who since time immemorial, have been made to feel as if they have to have an identity other than their own (paradoxical as it may seem) in order to be identified as a person.

Take the titles of Mr, Ms and Mrs. Has it ever occurred to you that a man is a ‘Mr’ whether he is single or not while a woman’s marital status is differentiated – even emphasised – by the titles Ms or Mrs? Does this not imply that a man is ‘whole’ on his own while a woman’s individual identity is not so ‘individual’ after all?

What can be more ‘individual’ than a person’s name?

As far as the Islamic viewpoint is concerned, the Quran clearly states that even adopted children should be referred to by the names of their biological fathers. But if the name is unknown for some reason, then these adopted children should be called Mawalikum (your freed slaves). Of course, this does not mean that adoptive parents or guardians cannot refer to their adopted children or wards as ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ or that the adoptive parents cannot be referred to as ‘mother’ or ‘father’ simply out of respect and fondness.

It only implies that there is an innate human need to know where we came from – our identity and our lineage –  and a father’s name is a core factor in that sense of personal identification. Think of it in this way. A woman, just like a man, cannot replace or blend her lineage with that of her husband upon marrying him. Her ancestry will remain her own just like his will remain his own. Hence, her name – which is a major part of that lineage and ancestry – should remain her own as well.

However, we have been emotionally conditioned to accept otherwise and hence, are not willing to accept basic logic as it is.

Moreover, think of the rationale behind this. If a married couple decides to get a divorce for some reason, a woman who has taken her husband’s name will invariably have to change her marital status and her name in all her legal documents, whereas, a woman who retained her father’ name after marriage will only have to change her marital status.

This is the ease which our religion allows us.

All Muslims have to take their fathers’ surname and there is no proof from the Quran or Sunnah that a woman is excluded from this injunction upon marriage. At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) all women continued to be identified by their own name followed by their father’s, irrespective of whether their father was a Muslim or non-Muslim.

As such, what is resolutely prohibited is to intentionally ascribe one’s lineage to another or negate one’s lineage to one’s own father. If one retains the father’s surname but verbally denies him fatherhood and claims that another person is the father, that too is considered illegal. On the contrary, if one takes on another last name, but clearly acknowledges the biological father, this is not considered illegal. In other words, the concern is not about the name one chooses but rather that the lineage and identity of a person must not be obscured or ignored.

Unfortunately, this is what happens, particularly in our society, where upon marriage a woman is made not only to change her name but also her allegiance to her past, her family and her parentage. It is a subtle but sure way of stealing her identity step by step and giving her a new one.

Your name is your individuality. It is what gives you a place in this world of seven billion people. Although overlooked, there are far-reaching impacts of the cultural requirement for a woman to change her name at the time of getting married. We teach our girls from an early age that they will be made to change their ways, their behaviour and their names after marriage in order to be considered flexible, adaptable and ‘good wives and daughters-in-law’.

In effect, we tell them that they don’t really have an identity of their own; that as individuals they are incomplete without their other halves. We teach them to see themselves as ‘relatives’ and not ‘absolutes’ in this world – they will always be identified as someone’s daughter, sister, wife or mother.

On the other hand, Islam keeps things simple – legally, practically and emotionally. It gives each person, man or woman, one identity and helps in establishing and protecting their individuality.

If you look at it in a more holistic way, you will undoubtedly see that this seemingly insignificant thing, can actually have a major impact on how a society behaves and performs towards its individuals. By allowing women to retain their maiden names (or at least letting them make the choice), we accept their individuality and do not have this culturally conditioned compulsive need to impose our ways and customs on them. To me, this seems like the basis of a healthy, tolerant and accepting society which allows people to realise their true potential rather than shackling them on the basis of age-old norms and traditions.

Imagine this for an instance; you raise your daughter to be a self-assured, confident girl, capable of making her decisions (of course, taking into account the perspective of others) and on her marriage, she is asked to change her name – the first step in the traditional ‘the way we do things’ mind set.

Would it not disturb you to see her being asked to negate her identity and perhaps, her upbringing?

Think about it.

Quratulann Shahid

Quratulann Shahid

The author is a journalist, writer, and an anchor.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • ajay gupta

    The name u r born with comes frm ur father….the name u take comes frm ur husband. In both cases ur identity gets tagged with the man who is meant to provide for u. The woman has no choice in the first case, & very often, in the second case as well. U seem to forget such decisions are not religion based alone, but also on the patriarchal culture prevailing in this part of the world. Also, Ms today refers to both married & unmarried women.Recommend

  • Omar

    Cross border and cultural traditions init,
    Yh being a male I agree with u
    Being a Muslim I agree with u more Recommend

  • sidjeen

    i don’t know whether to laugh or cry at your suggestions. the name of father or husband after a woman’s name is a prehistoric concept where in patriarchal societies it was considered as a change of ownership from father to husband. in that sense if you really want women to have their own identity then they should have singular names like most men.Recommend

  • Miss syed

    I am a proud product of my Father. Getting married will not change my genome! My DNA will always bear witness to my Father’s name.Islam also says, to be called by your father’s name I will never change my name once I get married. However, I will respect girl who choose to do so Voluntarily as some sort of symbol to their love,…yea right!
    I would like to add that Men who force their wives to change their name or surname inherently suffer from an inferiority complex that forces them to have this entitlement stuff.
    My own sister engaged to a guy from US has got her Name, not just the surname changed. Cuz the guy doesn’t like her name…
    She is my sister, yet i can’t do a thing.
    Desi people problem!Recommend

  • Abdullah Wasif

    Prophet of Islam gave his name to his adopted son Zaid but after marrying Zaids wife Prophet had no other choice but to withdraw his name and Later Quran validated Prophets action.Recommend

  • Ahmed Raza

    We belong to a Very Conservative Syed Family, Still my Mom kept her Name. I guess Keeping a Name doesn’t have to Do with Being Conservative or Not. Its just a matter of Choice. Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Dear Author,
    It is an individual choice. To each his own.
    I do NOT mind being known as my husband’s wife, or being addressed as Mrs_____. Actually, i love being called his wife.The fact that I am married to the man I love, is a part of my identity. And my life revolves around him. I don’t think that makes me any less of an individual. I am still myself with a mind of my own.but I am also just a woman in love with her husband. What is wrong with that? My husband takes very good care of me and he loves me, he is a great guy. He is definitely the most important person in my life, more important than everything else. And I am NOT ashamed of how I feel.
    There probably are a lot of women who think like you do and you are entitled to your opinion and are free to live your life the way you see fit. But there are women who think like me and i see nothing wrong with my line of thought.As I said earlier, to each his own. Recommend

  • Kenzo

    Tht, we call Culture and TraditionRecommend

  • harry

    We have other more serious issues to concern then this rubbish.Recommend

  • privali

    Interesting, islam does not stipulate any such name change, however, in western societies girls could not Wait to change names post marriageRecommend

  • Ayaz Zafar

    Why woman are even require a man to live life? They can be a single mother.Recommend

  • Iftikhar Ali

    you can change name before marriageRecommend

  • Ammar

    //Contrary to what people believe in our society//

    Also contrary to you imaginary belief, it’s not only in Pakistani society, it is vastly prevalent in Western world as well.
    Having said that I got your point, it should be a choice not a compulsion.Recommend

  • Fee fee

    Nice one Recommend

  • Ahlam

    Yes the auther is write why women only have to change their surname Recommend

  • Zarmena

    I’m not sure I understand this article in its entirety. I have yet to hear of a woman who was forced to change her last name to adapt her husband’s. This actually isn’t a problem among the poor and uneducated because they don’t usually have to write or give their names out anywhere. They barely give their first names out. This isn’t a problem among the educated either because, as I say, I have yet to hear of someone who was forced to change her last name. My sister is married, never changed her surname. I will not either. My mom changed hers by choice. As far as the West is concerned, this isn’t a compulsion there either. I know plenty of people in the UK and USA who retained their father’s name after marriage. What exactly is the issue? There are a good chunk of females in this country alone who don’t even have a male surname to begin with – BEGUM, BIBI, and KHATUN, to name a few. Is the author taking issue with people’s personal choice?Recommend

  • http://muslimweddingflight.com/ Fayaz Pasha

    A thought provoking post indeed. Women should certainly retain their father’s name even after marriage as practiced in Islam.Recommend

  • Genie

    You do not need to do anything after marraige except live happily for ever.Recommend

  • Ayesha

    The sad fact is despite the Sunnah in a MUSLIM COUNTRY this is not practised but the law that a woman has to take on her husbands name. I can just imagine the 100s of tongues wagging if one woman does this until she is forced to comply. Good Luck to you when the time comes.Recommend

  • PT

    An unnecessarily confusing article with no references to Quran or Hadith.

    Nowhere in the world does a woman have to take on the husband’s name. It is a tradition, but it is not compulsory. Not even in Pakistan.

    The article could have been summed up in one sentence. “I choose to keep my maiden name because it is my identity and I see no reason to do otherwise.”Recommend

  • jerry007

    u mean to say that men shuld change their names after marriage like mine would be
    lubna ali javaidRecommend

  • Danish

    Well depicted thought, but is there any reference regarding those hadiths which you have been claiming that one (female) should or should not change her name after marriage.
    Thank youRecommend

  • Memoona Ali

    The evolution in English has resolved this issue and you remain a ms. ofcourse if you urself don’t want to emphasize it.
    Pakistan is a gr8 country where we an president has taken the initiative by renaming his children after their mother. May be in the near future we have someone who actually changeses his surname…who knows:)))Recommend

  • ansel

    nice oneRecommend

  • shona

    very well wriittenRecommend

  • lady gaga

    excellent !!!!Recommend

  • somia

    @auther not changing surname will bring prosperity to our country and all those social and economic problems will be solved…really there is no point of this blog at this moment… we have to deal with much bigger problems than thisRecommend

  • shahid

    @ auther very well written !!!!.. the practice of changing surnames had been adopted from the british and was never a part of islamic practice or local culture, an offspring is always related to the father, we have examples from the Prophets(PBUH) era, when women didnt change their surnames, for example, Aisha(RA) bin AbuBakr(RA), Hafsa(RA) bint Umar(RA), and Fatima(RA) Bint Muhammad(SAW)Recommend

  • M.Saad

    Not really trying to make an arguement in favor of this tradition but the name is changed to prevent a sense of alienation between new bride and the family she is now a part of. Its a move to integrate her into the family. Like a way to tell her that “you are one of us now. You are a part of this family. What belongs to me now also belongs to you” Ofcourse though it comes with its catch i.e women having to leave her older identity. The point is that even while i disagree with this tradition, its not as bad as it is being portrayed. Being moderately religious though, if i marry someone i personally would go for letting her keep her name as islam says.Recommend

  • Abc

    Im glad someone finally brought this up. I don’t understand why Pakistanis insist on women taking not just their husband’s surnames, but FIRST names upon marriage. For a society that tries to sanction everything with some religious context, it’s odd that they uphold this practice, and jehez or women’s dowry. Pick up the Quran once in while and maybe give it a read, why don’t you?Recommend

  • logicwins

    Name is a smaller issue for women than the triple talaq.Recommend

  • Umar Farooq

    When a girl gets married she has to go to her husband home.In pakistan mostly there is a joint family system. So, it is easy for girl to change her behaviour according to the whole family than that whole family adopt the behaviour of girl.Recommend

  • Shakil Akhtar

    no compulsion in changing a woman’s surname, but an article just to attract comments and negative criticism and a schism between various peoples and ideas…Recommend

  • guest334

    Right you are sister! My mother kept her father’s name after marriage and my sister-in-law kept her’s too. I am very glad that you highlighted an important social issue and I hope people would realize that it’s NOT OK for a woman to change her name after she gets married. Thank youRecommend

  • Critic

    Who is forcing you to change your name after marriage? I know a lot of women who retain their own surname even after marriage. I don’t see why you’re making such a big fuss about it considering it’s something relatively trivial and isn’t particularly dictated by our society – keep your name if you and your to-be husband agree because society will have bigger things to focus on other than your surname.Recommend

  • Hasan

    This goes to show the ‘narrow-mindedness’ of the writer.

    Changing names does not at all mean that a person loses his or her identity. The argument as to why should one change their name?

    I do not know about Pakistan, but in the West and even in the far east, children and their mother are known by the name of the father (of the children) or husband (of a wife).
    Unless you are willing to explain to your children why you are not being referred to by their father’s name you might re-visit your point of view.

    Many mothers don’t take their husband’s name for various reasons in the west (mainly because they are single mothers) and well, I don’t need to point out what issues the children face in the society.

    Yes, you have the right to your identity, but changing your surname does not at all takes that away from you. Your identity isn’t in your name, it’s in your decisions and foresight.Recommend

  • Mukhtaran

    what a waste of time to read such an article. Recommend

  • Lucknow wala

    You don’t need to change your name. Unfortunately, there are so many legal ramifications. Worldwide….. The English have have these dual surnames. Very common there. You can have a hyphenated name,..say like Smith-Jones,..or Zardari-Sharif,..or Fazl-Shirani,…see so simple….problem solved.Recommend

  • Dante

    Nope, we won’t blame it on feminist traits. It’s your personal opinion and we respect that. When you get married (if not already), you’re more than welcome to set an example for others to follow.Recommend

  • Syed Mubeen Hussain Sabzwari

    who told u to do that?Recommend

  • Ahsan

    About time someone put it in a good way!Recommend

  • hami

    Can u kindly post some islamic references to your article?Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Way to go I would even suggest not to even marry :PRecommend

  • Ahmed Iqbal

    Every time such kind of blogs are posted, one anthropologist dies.Recommend

  • pk

    The article is irrelevant, who cares.

    In the West a persons record is based on his/her mother’s maiden name. You can keep whatever name but you need your mothers maiden name for the record.Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Shariah says its nt necesary to change name

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Jazak Allah

  • BlackJack

    Amazing how religion gets brought into everything – I guess plain old rational thought is unacceptable in some quarters. In our case, my wife has retained her maiden name legally because she didn’t want the hassle of changing her name when we got married – my name was added in her passport as spouse during the last renewal; however, her name in email ids, some bank accounts and her short-lived facebook account are based on my last name. We get a lot of communication addressing her with my name, and she refers to herself as Mrs. (let’s say BlackJack :) when she needs to; in others (anything official) she uses her family name – and I don’t see what the big deal is in a decision that should be based on choice and convenience, instead of dogma or patriarchy, one way or the other.Recommend

  • Saad

    A lot of young Muslim women in the UK are now starting to keep their parents’ surnames after getting married. But I don’t see this happening any time soon in Pakistan. A country where the sole purpose of 90% women is to just get married.Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoo shahid

    Its not a matter of personal choice its shariah my dear sis Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    No my dear its prhibited in islam

  • A. Khan

    Zardari-Sharif ? I don’t know who would be be insulting whom in such a union.Recommend

  • Prof

    “Many mothers don’t take their husband’s name for various reasons in the
    west (mainly because they are single mothers) and well, I don’t need to
    point out what issues the children face in the society.”

    That is RUBBISH. The MAIN reason is “documentation”… for 20 – 30 years a woman is known by her maiden name, all her documentation.. her ID cards, passport, bank accounts, academic qualifications all of them are with maiden name. Changing names half way through life isn’t easy to effect on all the documents.

    In the east, particularly in Pakistan, changing names might be easier since very few women have an ID, bank accounts, academic qualifications etc… and are mere objects their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons.Recommend

  • Prof

    You may have contradicted yourself. Your life revolves around your husbands and yet you claim individuality. Does he like to be referred to as Mr Nandita, I wonder, not that this would make it more individualistic just more wholesome.

    On a side not… is it impossible to be a loving caring wife (or husband) to someone with out being ‘branded’ as their spouse.Recommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    Dear Author,

    this taking name of the husband is basically not our tradition. It is the tradition from the west..And please (to everyone out there) before shooting me research it.
    This is not an Islamic custom or tradition. Your argument is right that both have the right to choose their name.
    E.g In German few years ago a women and no other choice but to take the name of her husband. But now they have relaxed the rule because of divorces etc. I found this information when my wife wanted to take my name. Although because of some strange german rules she kept her name….
    In any case its a western tradition and we can avoid it.


  • Shah (Berlin)

    Brother it was a western tradition….tht female needs to take the name of the male…Its not Islamic!!!!Recommend

  • Satti

    Religion is important in this part of the world…sorry dude either accept it or leave..simpleRecommend

  • Shah

    ok ..you have a STRONG POINT…!!!Recommend

  • Prof

    Finally a post by Miss Syed I can like…. but a product of your Father :O … what would your mother say to that? [perhaps something like, ‘ I do all the hard work and he gets the credit’]

    As for Islam, aren’t we all going to be referred to by our mothers name on the day of judgment?Recommend

  • Abid

    Well good for you.Recommend

  • Crazy women

    Very well writup hats off to writerRecommend

  • Zahra ahmad

    Excellent post by auther not justsame old topics Recommend

  • Ali shaikh

    Quratulann shakoor shAhid done a great job …. You have highlighted a very important debate which we usually ignored Recommend

  • Fiaza

    Why not man change there surname !!!!!! Recommend

  • Aslam

    Yes Zarmena. This was a waste of time undoubtedly.Recommend

  • Ahlam

    Good article Recommend

  • Saba khan

    Nicely written Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Your life revolves around your husbands and yet you claim individuality

    I actually typed out a reply and then deleted it because while I do reveal stuff about myself on ET , I don’t want to reveal too much. In short, I am not my priority, he is my priority. So yeah, my life does revolve around him.I am very happy with the way I think or prioritize..That’s just who I am.

    But I am still a different person.While he and I do have a lot of common interests and hobbies, we have separate hobbies as well. There are things that I do which he is not a part of and vice versa. I also have an independent thought process. Whatever little grey matter I have, I use it to form my own opinions without being influenced by friends or family.

    And ofcourse, since he is my husband, he is referred to as my husband. And he has no problem with that..Recommend

  • Nandita.

    Soooooo? I am not Muslim. And a lot of us in the world aren’t. Besides, my decisions are never based on religion.

    I have limited knowledge of Shariah.
    Does Shariah support stoning ? Just asking to improve my own knowledge..Recommend

  • Naima

    Way too goo Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Its in shariah Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid
  • Miss Syed

    I said, A product of my father because usually people are known by their father’s name and it’s his name that gets changed, and replaced by the husband’s name. A child is known by the name of the Father, In islam as well as in the Majority of the countries.And, No, We will not be called by our mother’s name on the day of our judgement, there is No authentic narration or hadith that evidences this False notion.Recommend

  • Parvez

    ….so its flexible and thats good because it allows you to decided.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Liked the topic and the way you presented it.Recommend

  • Shina

    Excellent writup Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Jazak Allah for supoorting my wrtup Recommend

  • Rehana

    Yes, definately a woman should not change her surname after she s married…
    Marriages do fall apart n the spouses change, hence the father of the woman shall remain same till her last breath … Those who all are getting married pls consider the

  • Saqib ali

    @auther Don’t agree!!! Quote me direct hadith abt wife n husband on this subject matter !!! Why u r referring adopted son’s example? I think it’s completely different scenario, dont u think?


  • Naima tariq

    Yes we r still our father’s daughter….y should we change our name…we are Muslims and we should follow itRecommend

  • Sabah zahid

    Nyc but then how our mothers aunties grannies followed that pattern ???


  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    If in britain tooo the girls are not changing their Ancestors name

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    dear it cleared that you are totally denying shariah prespective and ….. On contraray i beleive you dont. Want women to have their particular identity in the world i guess Recommend

  • dehma

    when you dont have a point you just say it is Shariah………and mention reference???Recommend

  • Luu chii bu

    I beleive role of women should be neccesory she should be very strong or gut to tell infront of every body that she wont change her name !!!!!!Recommend

  • Tahir

    It is an interesting topic and I feel an appropriate one as I have always propagated that we asa society need to addess some basic issues and try to set our direction right. Further, knowledge / clarification about such points which especially relate to ‘women’ will also contribute towards setting some traditional believes which may not have any relevance to Islamic principles in a right direction.

  • Farheen shaikh

    Excellent ,,,
    Yes, def a woman should not change her surname after she s married…
    Marriages do fall apart n the spouses change, hence the father of the woman shall remain same till her last breath …


  • Arooj

    Kove to read this !!!!! Am my father princess i wint chane my identity after marriage Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Its not watage of time its tru reality Recommend

  • TariqK

    sister, please atleast provide references which state the link of this tradition of naming with Islam. As far as I read, there is no such restriction whatsoever. Please read https://www.facebook.com/notes/sadia-fatima-sumia/-women-rights-in-islam-by-drzakir-naik-complete-topic-/2452636078691Recommend

  • Saqib ali

    Don’t agree!!! Quote me direct hadith abt wife n husband on this subject matter !!! Why u r referring adopted son’s example? I think it’s completely different scenario, dont u think?


    Don’t agree!!! Quote me direct hadith abt wife n husband on this subject matter !!! Why u r referring adopted son’s example? I think it’s completely different scenario, dont u think?Recommend

  • farheen shaikh

    Yes, def a woman should not change her surname after she s married…
    Marriages do fall apart n the spouses change, hence the father of the woman shall remain same till her last breath … Those who all are getting married pls consider the fact …..Recommend

  • amnamasood

    We r influence by hindu culture .I have seen different cultures .Abrabi women is called by her own name.they never uses their husband’s nameRecommend

  • naima tariq

    great very well wriitten !!!!!!!Recommend

  • fatima imran

    @auther a good initiativeRecommend

  • Mukhtaran

    Really? Start writing about stuff which is more important for our society. Media is killing our morals how about you write something against media promoting vulgarity/nudity etc.Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Why it is irrelevant ???!! Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Jazak Allah Recommend

  • Quratulann shakoor shahid

    Imam al-Bukhari evidences one more Hadith linked by Abu Hurayra (Allah be satisfied with him) that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Do not reject your fathers, for whosoever refuses his father, that is disbelief.” (Sahih al-Bukhari no: 6391)
    Likewise, Imam Muslim relates in his Sahih from the Companion Sa’d ibn AbiWaqqas (Allah be pleased with him) that he heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) say, “Whoever claims to have a father in Islam other than his [biological] father, knowing that he is not his father, then Paradise will be denied to him.” (Sahih Muslim)Recommend