A Muslim Woman’s Surname after Marriage

Contributed by Naba Basar

Sheikh Saud Al-Funaysan, former professor at Imam University:

A woman has to keep the name of her father and not her husband after marriage. Ahadeeth give a severe warning for the person, who attributes himself to other than his or her father.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Call them (adopted sons) by (the names of) their fathers; that is more just with Allah (swt). But if you know not their father’s (names, call them) your brothers in faith, Mawalikum (your freed slaves). And there is no sin on you concerning that in which you made a mistake, except in regard to what your hearts deliberately intend. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al-Azhab 33:5)

Due to the seriousness of the matter, if a woman has her legal documentation, such as her passport, in her husband’s family name, then she has to change her official documents back to her father’s family name if she can, even if she in her daily practice abides by the legal ruling and people call her by her father’s name and not her husband’s.

Fatwah Department Research Committee of “IslamToday”, chaired by Sheikh Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Turayri:

To understand this matter, consider the fact that a woman does not rightfully belong to her husband’s family by way of lineage. Her lineage stays as it always was. Consider this: if her husband were to divorce her, who would be her guardians? Also, from whom does she inherit?

The above mentioned verse in the Quran (Al-Ahzab 33:5) commands us to attribute children to their true biological fathers even after adoption. The most it allows is that the child casually refers to his guardian as ‘father’, or the man to the child as ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ out of affection or absentmindedly; however, it forbids the change of the child’s name or a formal claim of attribution.

This is a general rule. All Muslims must carry their fathers’ names. There is no evidence from the Quran or the Sunnah that a woman, upon marriage, is exempted from the general rule of attribution to her own father and her own family. All women from the time of the Prophet (sa) onwards continued to be attributed to their own fathers after marriage, regardless of whether their fathers were Muslims or non-Muslims.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever attributes his lineage to other than his father or claims other than his master as his master, then he has upon him the curse of Allah (swt), His angels and all humanity.” (Abu Dawood) Also: “Whoever claims as his father other than his father knowingly, then Paradise is forbidden him.” (Abu Dawood) These Ahadeeth are authentic. The matter is serious.

Those, who claim that there is contrary evidence allowing women upon marriage to attribute themselves to another person’s lineage, must produce their evidence for such a serious matter.

Allah (swt) knows best.

Etiquette of Proposing

Vol 4-Issue 3 Etiquettes of Proposing

Seeking marriage is highly recommended in Islam. Having taken the decision to marry, the hunt for a potential spouse begins. With the help of relatives, friends and at times matrimonial services the task becomes faster and easier.

However, while looking for a potential mate, one must remember that this cannot be done at the expense of the Islamic rules pertaining to modesty and respect between the sexes. Therefore, proper Islamic guidelines must be followed.

Firstly, one must be sure of the reason why they want to take this step. It should be based on the Islamic perspective, i.e., the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa).

Secondly, it is important to be clear of what you are looking for in a spouse. The Quran enjoins Muslims to select partners, who are good and pure.

“Good statements are for good people (or good women for good men) and good people for good statements (or good men for good women).” (An-Nur 24:26)

According to sound Hadeeth: “Men choose women for four reasons: for their money, for their rank, for their beauty and for their religion, but marry one who is religious and you will succeed.” (Bukhari) This, of course, applies to women as well. If we want to have healthy Muslim families, then Deen has to be the priority. After this we may consider our personal preference, since attraction is necessary for the success of a marriage. This includes social status, appearance, age, etc.

Thirdly, one should use the help of others: especially parents, relatives, an Imam or respected and trustworthy members of the Muslim community. They will not only be your reference, but will, Insha’Allah, suggest individuals as prospective spouses, thoroughly screen and check proposals, call references and initiate and participate in the communication process.

Remember, however, that the final decision is yours.

While backbiting is generally forbidden in Islam, marriage investigations are an exception to this rule. The people you ask may know something about your prospective spouse. If they reveal this information, they would not be backbiting from the Islamic perspective. In fact, in the case of seeking marriage, complete information should be given about an individual, both good and bad.

Fourth, after due consideration of the available possibilities and the decision to propose marriage to one of them, the man should pray two Rakahs followed by the supplication of Istikharah. Next, he may initiate the Khitbah – the request to marry a particular woman and the expression of that desire to her or her guardian.

Often, the first meeting occurs between the women or men of the two families, in which the man conveys his wish to marry. At this point, one may pause to allow the woman and her guardian to do Istikharah and decide whether to pursue the matter further. Once there is a primary agreement between the two parties, the would-be-spouses are allowed to see each other for matrimonial purposes under the direct supervision of their Mahram relatives. This provision is expected to be conceived and executed with piety and modesty. It is not permissible for a man to see a potential wife without Hijab, since he is not her Mahram, seeing her face and hands is enough to determine physical attraction.

“When one of you asked a woman in marriage, if he is able to look at what will induce him to marry her, he should do so.” (Abu Dawood) This means the two potential spouses can look at each other but not ogle or stare.

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.) and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e., their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)…” (An-Nur 24:30-31)

Fifth, when meeting a prospective mate, one should not meet alone. “Not one of you should meet a woman alone, unless she is accompanied by a relative within the prohibited degrees.” (Bukhari)

The two cannot be in a situation, where no one else can see or hear them. Instead, a discreet, chaperoned meeting should be set up. Meetings between prospective spouses must not last for an extremely long time, like being away most of the day to meet this person. There should be an allotted time for the two to meet and talk.

When talking to each other, one must remain within the Islamic guidelines, thus, being to the point and being businesslike (no flirtatious speech or of a sexual nature). One must be honest with regards to their credentials, background and other pertinent details about their personal lives.

Some of the topics to discuss can include each other’s interests, financial situation of the man, level of Islamic knowledge and practice, future career and education plans, home making skills, where the couple will live right after marriage and the two potential spouses’ relationships with their parents.

Finally, one should take their time before making hasty decisions. More time must be given to checking facts and references. There should be a firm and clear intention of either pursuing marriage, or if proven incompatible, a quick end to the relationship. This ensures that both sides would be safe from transgressing the boundaries of Islam. However, once a promise of marriage is made, it should be fulfilled, unless there is a valid reason for withdrawing it.

May Allah (swt) accept our sincere efforts in this regard, and may we always keep in mind that even if things do not work out, our having made Istikharah means that we have now left it to the will of Allah (swt) and we should be pleased with what He wills and never be disheartened.

Ummul-Mumineen – Aisha (rta)


Name: Aisha Bint Abi Bakr

Kunniyat: Umm Abdullah

Title: Siddiqa and Humaira

Father: Abdullah – Abi Bakr Ibn Abi Qahafa

Mother: Zainab – Umme Ruman Bint Aamer

Clan: Banu Tumaim

Tribe: Quraysh

Birth: 5th Shawwal AH – 615 CE

Death: 17th Ramadan, 58 AH – 681 CE

How does one begin to define the life and times of a daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rta) – the most eminent of Companions – and the wife of the most remarkable man of all times – the Messenger of Allah (sa)? Even among these stellar associations, she shines as an individual to reckon, which says volumes about her character and personality.

Even as a child, Aisha (rta) showed exceptional intelligence. She was about six years of age, when the Prophet (sa) saw her in her father’s house playing with some toys, including a toy-horse with wings. The Prophet (sa) asked her: “Aisha, do horses ever have wings?” Instead of feeling shy in the presence of this great man, Aisha (rta) confidently replied: “Yes, King’s Solomon’s horse did.”

Aisha (rta) was at various times a judge, a political activist and, after the death of her husband, an indispensable source of knowledge about the life and teachings of the Prophet (sa). Even such senior Companions as Umar (rta) frequently consulted her about matters, in which they were doubtful. Even Tabi’in, the great scholars of Ahadeeth and Fiqh, learned from her. A part of what they learnt has come down to us in the form of numerous traditions that are narrated on her authority.

She was strong-willed and fiercely feminist – but not a rebel without a cause. Hence, we see her defending women’s rights – even negating opinions of other Companions. On hearing some Companions narrate that if a woman, dog or donkey crosses in front of a person praying, the prayer gets disrupted, she got angry and said: “You did gross injustice in putting us together with dogs and donkeys. The Prophet (sa) would pray and I would lie in front of him; when he wanted to prostrate, I would gather my legs.”

When she felt some women deviating from the Islamic code of conduct, she said in no uncertain terms: “Had Allah’s Prophet (sa) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from attending the Mosque.” (Bukhari) Her brand of feminism was firmly entrenched in Islamic teachings. She had no ego issues about standing behind a man in congregation or a chip on the shoulder about remaining in Purdah.

Syed Sulaiman Nadwee says: “ The greatest favour that Aisha (rta) has done to women is to demonstrate that a Muslim woman, living in Purdah, can actively participate in literary, religious, social and political activities and can work for the betterment of the community.”

Aisha (rta) did not simply teach and preach Islam – she lived it. She led a truly Muslim life of prayer, charity and struggle for truth and justice. The Prophet (sa) once gave her this advice: “Aisha, if you want to meet me (again in the life to come), then treat this world like a traveler’s meal and do not attend the gatherings of the rich and the powerful, and do not consider clothes old as long as they can be mended.” (Ibn Sa’ad)

During the Caliphate of Umar (rta) and afterwards, wealth began to pour into the hands of Muslims. A due share of it came to Aisha (rta), but she gave away almost all she received. Once Abd Allah Bin Zubayr sent her 100,000 dirhams, but by the end of the same day, she had given it all away. Ibn Sa’ad reports Urwa as saying that on one occasion he saw her distribute 70,000 dirhams and then get up shaking the front of her dress, as if she were clearing it of dust. Aisha (rta) also often kept Nafl (supererogatory) fast and rarely missed Hajj.

This is but a glimpse of an inspiring life!

Some people like to focus only on: “How old was she, when she got married?” or “What about the Battle of the Camel (Jamal)?”

The Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) marriage to Aisha (rta) was an exceptional one. Waheeda Carvello observes: “Here we have a man nearing the end of his life and a woman still near the beginning of hers. Aisha (rta) had a lively temperament and was quick to learn. She had a clear heart and an accurate memory.”

It is important, however, to dig deeper and to bring out the real significance of this union. The emphasis here is on education and the cultivation of the intellect, which every human is blessed with. We must remind ourselves that if knowledge is not related to and acquired through action, it cannot be used for reconstruction of society.

What we lack today is the application of knowledge. Most of us are educated – in some instances, very highly educated – but how well do we understand what we have learnt? And how many of us have the commitment and the strength to apply it? Let alone implement it? This is what made the marriage of Aisha (rta) to the Prophet (sa) so exceptional.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) encouraged intellectual growth and debate. Although Aisha (rta) was intelligent, she had a great deal to learn. The Prophet (sa) tutored her with love and understanding and enhanced her potential. Through this interaction with the Prophet (sa) and the other wives, she became very knowledgeable. Like any student, she would sometimes feel insecure regarding her progress, and the Prophet (sa) would always help her and assist her in improving herself. She was never short of words and was not afraid to question or debate in order to find out the truth. When she got older, she passed on the knowledge she had received from the Prophet (sa), and long after his death, she was a source of knowledge and wisdom for both women and men.

Aisha (rta) accompanied the Prophet (sa) on many expeditions. She participated with total courage and commitment in the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq and learned through these experiences. Through this kind of training, and as an active participant, she developed into a mature eloquent woman, who could fully participate in the affairs of the first Islamic state and be a beacon for all times to come.

The Battle of the Camel was an incident that caused Aisha (rta) tremendous grief. On remembering it, she would say: “I wish I was a stone, I wish I was a tree.”

The focal point of Aisha’s (rta) remarkable life is her commitment to the cause of Islam under all circumstances, her unfaltering devotion and love for her husband and her submission of her will and intellect to the will of Allah (swt).