Wife adopting Husbands surname

Question and Answer:

Q. I recently came across an article stating that it is not permissible for a female to adopt her husband’s surname. The reasons mentioned in the article is that a female is negating her lineage to her father by adopting her husband’s surname and the wives of the Prophet (SallallahuAlaihiWasallam) always attributed themselves to their fathers like Aishah bint AbiBakr. Kindly explain this to me as it is causing a lot of confusion

A. There is no ruling in the Shari’ah that states that a female should adopt the surname of the husband nor is there any prohibition against it. It is customary amongst Arabs to omit their surnames and suffice by attributing themselves to their fathers. This was also the practice in time of the Sahabah; the custom was that the women, although married, would be attributed to their fathers. Eg, Aa’ishah, Bint AbiBakr (Aa’ishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr) or Hafsah bint Umar (Hafsah, the daughter of Umar) and would omit their surnames.

The practice of attributing oneself to his/her father is to indicate lineage. This is not the same as taking a surname.

Adopting the surname of the husband does not negate one’s lineage to one’s father. In some circles, the term surname is substituted with the term “family name”, and this is what a surname is. It indicates the family that you belong to either by birth or by marriage. It does not necessarily indicate the lineage of someone.

For example, Faathimah is the daughter of Yusuf AbuBakr and is married to Zaid Umar. It will be incorrect for her to say that her full name is Faathimah bint Umar which means “Faathimah the daughter of Umar”. She may say that her name is Faathimah bint Yusuf, and her surname is Omar.

It is regrettable to notice that the author of the article in question has confused the issue of lineage with a surname. The article is misleading and does not deal with issues in their correct perspective.

In conclusion, there is no harm in a female adopting the surname of her husband. Especially in these days and in our society where adopting the surname of the husband makes matters easier when it comes to identification, e.g., when travelling for Hajj or Umrah and the woman is travelling with her husband as her Mahram. If her surname does not correspond with her husband’s, it may result in the need to provide proof of marriage etc.

Thus, whether she keeps her maiden name or adopts her husband’s surname, there is no sin upon her. By adopting the husband’s surname, she is not negating her lineage to her father.

And Allah Knows Best

Fatwa Department
Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)

Council of Muslim Theologians
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