A Convert By Any Other Name: Why I Didn’t Change My Name

A Convert By Any Other Name: Why I Didn’t Change My Name


Written by Theresa Corbin

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away—I changed my name to Mariam.

what is in a name

I only told those closest to me, thinking I would let them get used to it. Then, I thought, naturally more people would incorporate it as those closest to me addressed me as “Mariam”.

The best laid plans of mice and Mariams oft go … where is it they go again? Ah, yes, they go to that same place my “Mariam” name went. Those who knew me could not get used to my name change. I would try to ignore them until they addressed me by my new name, but when I failed to remember it myself, I gave up.

Oh well, what the hell, I guess I will be Theresa–I resigned myself.

What is in a name? Does a “Theresa” by any other name smell as … umm, err, … *coughs*. Does a “Theresa” by any other name behave any less Muslim? Does a “Theresa” by any other name pray any less regularly? No and no. InshAllah.

I was, as is common, wrapped up in the zeal of my newly Islamicized life. I had always liked my “Theresa” name. And I guess it was my tender affections toward “Theresa” that led to my apathy of enforcing “Mariam”.

Many new converts to Islam change their name, feeling that with a new direction in life they need a new name.

I agree with this only if the name-changer does the name changing for the following reasons.

Good reasons to change your name:

1. You hope to adopt the good qualities of the former bearer of that name.

Hurray: If you admire the original “Mariam”–when Anglicized it is pronounced Mary (MEh ree) the virgin mother of Jesus (peace be upon them)—and you wish to be more like that Mariam, then change it. My hope was for my new name “Mariam”, to be a reminder to strive for perfection, because Islamic tradition teaches that she was one of the few people to ever reach human perfection.

2. Your name means something that is incongruent with your Islamic beliefs.

Yup: Think about the meaning of your given name. If your name’s meaning is something un-Islamic, for example if your name is Christian, with its obvious meaning that you are Christian. Or if your name is Kafir, which mean disbeliever, by all means change your name.

But if your given name already has a good meaning, why not keep it? When I thought about what Theresa means (harvester). I decided it was pretty perfect for me. To me, this is a better reminder than to be perfect (because I am far, far, far from it). It is a reminder that I will harvest or reap what I sow, so I should sow only good things.

I disagree with this name changing craze if it is done for the following reasons.

Bad reasons to change your name:

1. You want to enhance your apparent Muslims identity by adopting an Arabic name.

An Arabic name does not enhance your Muslim identity, you can and should behave in Islamically through your actions. Besides, Arab does not equal Muslim.

2. You want to distance yourself from your old identity.

You should not shed your old identity. Just improve upon it. You will always be you. You are uniquely made up of your experiences, style, personality, and quirks. Embrace that and incorporate the endlessly beneficial teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) into your life and manners.

why not be bob?
why not be Bob?

But why not keep your name and make it a Muslim name. If your name is Bob and you are a Muslim. Then by the transitive property, Bob is now a Muslim name. Viola! You are breaking down barriers between the West and Islam. And that is pretty cool.

I enjoy the surprise that the disparity between my traditionally “Christian” name, and my obvious Muslim appearance provides. People get all kinds of confused when they learn my name or see me for the first time in a headscarf. It is fun to watch.

Now, after bearing the name Theresa, wearing the headscarf, and presenting myself as a Muslim since 2001, Theresa is a Muslim name. And your name can be too!

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10 thoughts on “A Convert By Any Other Name: Why I Didn’t Change My Name

  1. I was just saying this on a converst support group page!! Yes, keep your name if you can- totally agree- salam


  2. Both names are great Corbin… hold up, that’s a third – lol.

    I enjoyed this post. And, yes, I think you’re right, so long as the name has no inherent unIslamic content, like I don’t know – “HI my name’s Deus Greedson”, then most name’s are by definition fine. I like the way you’ve narrated your account though too, mashallah. 🙂

    A thought: perhaps add more tags (include ‘Muslim’ and/or ‘Islam’ as a matter of course as two additional tags, perhaps. This will post yours into more ‘readers’ – if you see what I mean, allowing potentially more people to see them. But don’t have 15 or more tags, as wordpress will think yours is spam and not place it into any reader. I hope this was useful. (PS sometimes, it plays up when you even have 14 tags (I find). Perhaps safer to max out at 12 or 13 tags…)


    1. Awesome! Thanks for the advice, as I am new to blogging. Yeah, Corbin is a third, lol I sometimes go by my last name which means Raven, a rather smart bird. , haha!


  3. I never said that “Sharia law has never been invoked to brutally punish women” I was trying to convey that people DO abuse Islamic laws and pretend their own laws are sharia.

    I don’t know if you are being sarcastic with the comment “Do you honestly believe that Gabriel actually FORGOT to mention to Mohammed that Jesus was also God?” because Jesus was and is not also God. In honor of world’s women day and every other day, I refuse to worship a man, even a good one, as Jesus was.

    No, Christians are not nuts. However, I do not appreciate it when Christians or any other type of people point a finger at an entire group and make sweeping statements just because they believe something different than themselves. But who is not guilty of that?

    “That you, as a woman, support the barbaric practices in some Islamic countries is beyond me.” I support no countries laws, I will abide by the laws of the land in which I live as best I can (I would like to go to Saudi and drive around and walk on the street because those are some misogynistic laws that have nothing to do with my religion) I support God’s laws only. None knows better than God.

    Obviously you feel strongly toward people who believe in God, but is it in you to just accept that people believe different things than you?


  4. back to the topic Theresa, your name is beautiful Mashallah. as long as a name doesn’t have bad meaning or have a link to an evil dictator, it should be fine. I have seen a medical doctor here by the name of Satan. What the hell ??


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