As a revert one goes through a lot! Some of it is funny, some insulting, and some just annoying.
To me, as a revert being a Sinhala Muslim is very important. I am proud that I am both. I understand that while I am an outcast from both communities, I am unique. Since there is nothing wrong with me being who I am, under the commands of Allah, I don’t understand why people take it upon themselves to ensure their opinions are made part of the religion.
One of the most common myths in Sri Lanka is that once you convert you absolutely must change your name to a more Arabic, “Muslim” sounding name. This is not a decree from Allah, but people around here sure do act it. Hearing that I still have my Sinhalese name their jaws drop to the floor. Which is then followed by “Oh that’s not good” and “You must change it”. Added to that is the fact that they seem to act that if you do not have one of these “Muslim” names then maybe you aren’t really serious about the conversion, maybe you aren’t really Muslim. So you pray, fast, give zakath and believe in Allah and our Prophet (SAW), but if your name doesn’t sound Muslim it doesn’t count?
Now if that wasn’t bad enough, some, very special few, try to help you find a name. So you then get “Fathima is a very traditional name, very nice for a revert”. This is the point where you want to say “That’s not my name!”
When I was a child I hated my name because it had no meaning what so ever. I used to hear names with such deep meaning and then to find out that your name is nothing because your parents made it up off the top of their heads was just disappointing. But now I’m glad. As long as the name has a good meaning, and the meaning doesn’t go against Islam there is no hard and fast rule that the name needs to be changed.
The bottom line is this name is my identity. It is the thing that tells the world that I am two worlds, I am unique, I am different, and I am a revert. I might use the nickname my Husband gave me as my alias but my name will be the name that I was given my parents and I do not want to be bullied in to changing it!