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Women’s Last Names (after marriage) in Islam

Women’s Last Names (after marriage) in Islam


Salam:) apparently women aren’t allowed to change their surnames to their husbands when they get married, because they’re supposed to keep their father’s surname. I wanted to know whether this was true?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

This is a tough question, to be honest, it’s more like a “yes and no,” and this is why: back in the day, people really didn’t have last names.

Like, I wouldn’t be “Osama (my last name here)” I’d be Osama ibn (my poor father who has had to raise me’s name here). So, it’s not really about last names, it’s more about denying who your father was. See, in my culture (I’m Egyptian), my middle name is my father’s name, so it’s chill. Same with my sister.

So where do we get this concern with father’s names? It’s actually from The Qur’an, in Surah Al-Ahzab:

“[As for your adopted children,] call them by their [real] fathers’ names: this is more equitable in the sight of God; and if you know not who their fathers were, [call them] your brethren in faith and your friends. However, you will incur no sin if you err in this respect: [what really matters is] but what your hearts intend – for God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!” [33:5] Muhammad Asad


“Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah . But if you do not know their fathers – then they are [still] your brothers in religion and those entrusted to you. And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” [33:5] Sahih International

Before I continue, I want to clarify what this particular ayah is referring to when it says “However, you will incur no sin if you err in this respect:” It is referring to whether you refer to the adopted child as “your son” or “your daughter,” as that is not a denial of their parentage, which leads us to the larger issue of this ayah:

So, what The Qur’an is really directed towards is ensuring that people are not denied knowing who their father is, which is to say, that orphans have the right to know where they came from, who their parents were, and it’s a central aspect of Islam’s approach towards adoption.

Many scholars have taken this part of The Qur’an and have applied it to women taking the last names of their husbands. Again, when you look at the specific ayah in question, it seems a bit of a stretch. So, what many of these scholars do is they then cite these two Hadith:

“Any man who knowingly attributes himself to someone other than his father is guilty of kufr. Whoever claims to belong to a people when he has nothing to do with them, let him take his place in Hell.”

This Hadith was narrated in both Bukhari and Muslim, by Abu Dharr.

“Whoever calls himself by other than his father’s name (or attributes himself to someone other than his father), will be cursed by Allaah, the angels and all the people.”

This Hadith is from Ibn Majah.

Let’s assume that these particular Hadith are authentic and have proper chains of narration, they are always paired with the aforementioned 33:5, which is clearly referring to nothing other than the rights of adopted orphans.

So, if you know who your father is, and there is no doubt about your parentage, and you have a last name (which the early Muslims did not have) we face a bit of a problem.

If this is about names, then let’s take my sister, for instance (love you!) Her middle name, like my middle name, is my father’s name. So, if she changes her last name when she gets married (insha Allah) she’s not denying her father’s name, it’s still there. She’s still (my awesome sister’s name here) bint (my Egyptian Bill Cosby of a father’s name here) THEN (last name here); so there’s really no change, is there?

The question then becomes, well, the last name is the name of the father, but it’s a relatively new invention, and it’s not how the early Muslims would have seen it. They did not need last names, and again, they used the (name) ibn/bint (father’s name) system.

Personally, I think the evidence illustrates that the issue of keeping one’s father’s name is more important for the orphan than for anyone else, and that the Hadith and the ayah from The Qur’an used are clearly directed towards orphans, and they are not addressing the last names of women.

So whether a woman chooses to change her last name or not, has more to do with her personal preferences, and with the naming customs of her particular culture. I think it is clear what these Hadith and the ayah in question is referring to, and it is down to the individual to decide what is right for them.

Insha Allah, I hope I answered your question, and if you, or anyone else has a question on this or any other topic, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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