Dear Fellow Convert,
My name is Aasiya Victoria Walling Qasim. I am two identities intertwined into one. My names and their meanings have contributed to somewhat of an identity crisis over the years, and perhaps you can relate. It’s been around fifteen years since I’ve converted so I have grown to become more comfortable with my name(s). I’ve used all the different combinations. But all together, they represent who I was, who I am, and who I want to become.
Victoria Walling is who I was as a child. This represents my past. An era in my life filled primarily with the unconditional love of family. It is special and close to my heart because it was a gift from my mother. I will probably always pause for a moment when someone asks my name because I am still Victoria deep down.
Aasiya Qasim is who I became when I converted and got married, both within a few years. The pressures of western society dictated I change my last name, while the pressures of the Muslim community dictated I need to have a ‘Muslim’ name. But it wasn’t for a few years that I realized there isn’t really such thing as a Muslim name, rather an Arabic name, and so long as it doesn’t mean sun-worshipper or the like, it’s OK to keep it!
Anyways, my judgement was clouded and I changed my name legally. My passport now matches my husband’s and kids’ and I did what I was supposed to do. However, the awkwardness of choosing between names remains.
Those who met me post-conversion, know me as Aasiya, and that makes up for the majority of people in my life now. But to my family I am still Victoria and I’d never ask my family to call me Aasiya, or for those who know me as Aasiya, to call me Victoria. It would just be weird.
Names are important. They are a huge part of our identity and I think only those who have gone through this journey of name changing can really get it. I have friends who have changed their names only to change them back a few years down the road. I have friends who have changed their names and insist that everyone (parents included) completely drop their past identity. And I have friends who never changed their names at all.
I understand that some people want to change their names because of the past they want to leave behind. But look at Umar (RA)! Pre-conversion, he intended on killing the Prophet (SAW), yet it was never brought up for him to change his name based on his past. He was Umar when he was an enemy of Islam, and he was Umar when he became a hero of Islam, and there are dozens of stories like his.
It is such a personal decision, and one that outsiders should not get too involved in. There is no right or wrong way. Looking back, maybe I would have kept Victoria had I known better. For me, Victoria represents the love of my family. But I felt I had a chance to name myself after a hero of mine, so I did. Aasiya represents a woman of faithful strength. Someone who stood up to the Pharoah of all people, it doesn’t get much more inspirational than that!
Love and strength. The two things my names represent. I need them both and I want them both. People will probably always ask what my name was before I converted, when I introduce myself as Aasiya. Had I never changed my name, I know I would have always been asked when I would get a Muslim name. So really, there will always be questions and concerns from perhaps well intentioned community members, but in the end your name is yours. Whether it be Khadijah or Kathy, Nusaibah or Nichole, wear your name, be proud, and own it!
PS. What issue shall we address next? Perhaps with Ramadan around the corner, something related to that? Let me know!