On my birthday (happy coincidence) I officially changed my middle and last names to what my mother had intended to name me. I’d been using the “new” one–which I consider my real name–for years, and I’m quite happy now that I don’t have to explain to professors why I have a different last name on their rosters than I do on the papers I turn in.
While I was running around changing everything else–driver’s license, passport, etc.–some of the people helping me assumed I was getting married. It didn’t offend me, but I did find it tiresome. I don’t plan to change my last name if I’m ever married, and I never did, because feminism. (My feminism, not every feminist’s.)
But even besides feminism, I believe that Muslim women (and Muslim men) are not Islamically advised to take the last names of their spouses once they are married. A daughter may have the last name of her mother or her father or both, as long as the bloodline is not incorrectly forged, but she does not change this once she is married. Her name remains that of her family. The same goes for sons. They don’t change their name to that of their wives. It imitates being handed down as property. You only belong to God. I was thinking about this as I filed a petition for a change of name (my mother had been tricked into changing her “last name” [my mother’s culture doesn’t have last names, so this term refers the last name added to unlawfully dominate her identity rather than making her second name “middle name” her last] and mine went with it–I was changing mine back to what she had intended to give me; in Islam a child can change names with the permission of her/his parent.) I was changing my middle name to my mother’s first name as to allow my mother her Islamic right to name, and my last name to my great grandmother’s last name as to maintain the traced bloodline.
A lot of women prefer taking their husbands’ last names. I have no problem with that. People can do what they want, as long as they’re not making me do what they want, or anyone who doesn’t want to do what they want… do what they want. I have no problem with anyone who marries anyone else taking the last name of his or her spouse. It doesn’t even matter whether or not I have a problem with it, because it’s none of my business.
What’s also none of my business is another couple’s marriage. I don’t care if a Muslim woman willingly takes her husband’s last name knowing that she had the right to keep hers. What I’m concerned about is whether she was aware of this right. It is too common and too disturbing that Muslim women are actively prevented from knowing their rights. My own mother believed, until I corrected her, that abortion is forbidden in all circumstances, though even the most conservative of scholars agree that it is Islamically permissible if it’s within the first 120 days of pregnancy, if the woman is raped, or if her life is in danger.
It is only recent that Afghan girls were allowed in school. And there is a reason for that. The greatest fear of fundamentalist religious terrorists is a population of educated women.
Random: So I totally just searched my first name with my “new” last name on Google (shut up, you all do it) and was shocked to see the number of results. I’ve only officially had this name for a little over a month and wasn’t expecting it to actually turn up results nearly as revealing as the city where I grew up. Google is scary.