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Identity of Married Women
from The Concept of Family in Islam
by A. D. Ajilola

The matter of preserving a person's true identity seems somehow epitomized in the position of the married woman in Islam. For while she takes on a new marital identity and may be called wife of so and so, she still retains her old lineal one.

In Islam there is nothing stating that a married woman should bear her husband's name, like Mrs Ajilola, she can easily bear Miss Musson, her maiden name.

Also thre is nothing suggesting that a child should bear his father's name; as Mr Abdul-Kareem Ajilola; he can equally bear Mr Abdul-Kareem Musson or any of his maternal relative name.

A marriage is a contract, it is not a means of diffusion of identity of the parties, as it is practised in European countries.

In pre-Islamic Arabia and among the Semites in general, matrilineality was more or less observed either exclusively or together with patrilineality. This practice even continued into Islam in some instances. For example, al Hasan ibn Ali was often called the Prophet's daughter's son, a title of honour in this case.

However a closer examination of Arabic literature suggests to some scholars that when a pre-Islamic Arabian was named after his mother or called the son of the mother of so and so e.g. ibn Hind or ibn Ummzayd, ie, the son of his mother Hind or the son of Zayd's mother respectively, it was due to one or more of the following reasons:

a) It was an expression of honour for and appreciation of the mother.

b) It was a status symbol for some Arabs to take pride in the true or alleged noble stock of their mothers.

c) Sometimes the mother was more renowned than the father, and the children were thus believed ennobled by affixing their mothers' names to their own.

d) Sometimes, also, the mother resided with her own family for orientation after divorce or desertion by the childrens' father, in which case they were identified for all practical purposes by the mother's name.

e) In some cases the father was survived by his own mother or mother-in-law, who then undertook the upbringing of her grandchildren, and they were identified by her name in addition to their own given names.

So the present method of regarding husband and wife as one entity or to force a woman to be bearing her husband's name and identity has no support in Islam; although Islam is not against it. Islam is neutral in this matter.

 

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