Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Would I even have a name?

Tuesday morning, as usual, another story about the raid on the Pakistani compound and subsequent death of Osama Bin Laden was on the news. However, one sentence really stood out at me:
Um Khalid, meaning the mother of Khalid, and Um Hamza, the mother of Hamza, are both from Saudi Arabia and have been described as highly educated and apparently content with sharing a husband.
I'm not even touching the multiple wives thing - honestly, sometimes I would be THRILLED to have a sister-wife to help around the house. As long as she kept her hands off my husband and my kids. (Maybe I just need a maid... but I digress)

Growing up in a Christian family in the United States, I admit I am not knowledgeable about Islamic culture. I am quite sure this is a very conservative example, though, since I have known many Muslim women who have their own names. But are the wives really renamed once they have children? And it seems like these are both mothers of sons - are daughters even counted?

I tried to do some research on this, but could not find any mention of it at all. I did come across a similar name of an author mentioned on this site (which is very interesting, and I plan on visiting again just to learn more about these women. I am tired of only hearing speculation and innuendo) but nothing else.

Photo from Bing image search

It's sobering to think, though, that if I was born into this culture I would lose my name completely. We joke about how we become "so-and-so's Mom" once we have children and they go to daycare or school, but in this case it is no joke. And having no sons, what would I even be called?

If anyone knows the answer, please comment! I always welcome opportunities to learn about other cultures.


  1. Although I spent many years in a Muslim country- I was not aware of this 'change of name'- it is definitely worth looking into. I look forward to hearing more from you, if you find out more on this topic.

    Very intriguing!

  2. Had the article you read previously mentioned the sons? Maybe it was the writer's shorthand way of referring back to them, although he/she could have listed the women's names too. Maybe the writer was on deadline and at the time only had the sons' names and which son came from which mother - reporters don't always have all the facts on hand when they have to write, so they use what they know and fill in the blanks in follow up stories.

    Or it could be a case of poor writing.

    Lots of different reasons why it is how it is.

    Michelle Rafter

  3. No, it was a news story about the wives and that was given as their names. Although neither was the one with him when it happened - the so-called "trophy wife" - I've only seen her given name used. I haven't found anything else that gave the other wives' names.