A few months ago, my mother introduced me to one of her colleagues from work and said, “This is my daughter” and then she hesitated and said, “her name is… what is it.., Zainab, right?”
Me: Wrong. My name is Ify.
Mom: You don’t go by Zainab anymore, your Muslim name?
Me: Mom, where have you been, I haven’t gone by Zainab in years. My name is Ify, I like my name, and I don’t intend to change it.
Mom: With a smile and a brightness on her face that seemed to light the whole room, she said, “Yeah, Ify is a good name, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
And in that instant, I regretted ever allowing myself to be pressured by a noisy, insistent, and somewhat ignorant Muslim community into changing my name. Ignorant of the realities and difficulties many converts face after their conversion in maintaining relations with their sometimes hostile non-Muslim families.
It’s common sense and simple decency to choose your battles wisely, and so in reverting to my given name, I show the love, honor, and respect for my parents that Islam commands of us. I wonder where respect for our parents ranks in the discussion among the Muslims I’ve encountered over the years, (see the Storekeeper & Robber incident), in their zeal and enthusiasm to tell us to abandon our names given to us by those same parents.
When we convert to Islam, it’s so strange how we are expected by some to not only abandon our names but also much of our culture and upbringing, which may be perfectly acceptable. We left the religion of our families, isn’t that enough? There are other actions that my parents aren’t too thrilled about since my Islam, some of which, I am not willingly to compromise on like hijab, but in the areas where I can compromise in order to serve them and make them happy, I will.
So yes, Mom and Dad, my name is Ify, I like it, thanks for giving it to me.