When I converted, I was told I don’t need to change my name at all. But when my husband (my fiancé back then) and I got to the Islamic Department in Selangor for my shahada, I was suddenly asked to come up with a Muslim name. Apparently, the rules for converting to Islam is different depending on which Malaysian state you decided to register at.
It was really frustrating. If it took me more than a year to come up with a name that fits this blog, heck, I definitely needed more time had I known I really had to replace my name. Weeks, at least days, would have done it. But by then, it was too late to back out. I spent 5 long years to decide, carefully weighing the pros and cons, that I want to leave the Catholic Church. And a lack of name can’t stop me.
But then again, I just don’t want to be addressed with just any other names like Nur, Sarah, or Riyanah. I couldn’t care less if they have better meaning than mine. I love what people call me. Not because I think it sounds cool or that it’s uniquely alliterated and all. But I think I either have the personality and character that perfectly suits a “Rio Rose Ribaya” or that it perfectly summarises everything that I am — my strengths, quirks, and weaknesses.
It was then when I realised that a name isn’t just a name. If my life is a blessing from God, then Rio Rose is a gift I got from my parents. It’s invaluable. It must have taken them months to finally put these 2 words together. Did they have an argument about it? They might have gotten the idea easily, but all I know for sure is this: It took 3 long decades of development for me to grow into it, define it, and completely own it. And no one can ever put a price tag on that.
I keep all these in mind as I think of a baby name with which to call this miracle that’s been kicking the bejesus out of my vital organs in the last few months.
But where to begin, right? There’s just so much pressure trying to name something so precious. Yes, in the end it will all boil down to taste and preference, but it’s not as easy as naming a company with something that you can just replace complete with a new logo if it doesn’t stick in a few years.
When I was still single, I thought it would be nice to name my future baby with deep Filipino words that sounds really poetic. I liked Alon (which means Wave) or Kidlat (Thunder) for a boy or Tala (Star) for a girl, for example. I was even willing to go all patriotic and call my future daughter Filipinas (a tribute to my country of origin) or Malaya (an homage to my husband’s home country).
But it seems my husband found joy in vetoing every traditional word with both Filipino or Malay meanings that I can think of. He actually preferred legendary names with Indian origins, which I reciprocated with thumbs down.
At this rate, we’ll never be able to find the perfect one for our baby boy (There goes my big gender reveal, lol!) … unless we resort to using old names with references that’s shared between both Christian and Islamic believers. A hundred names and a thousand ridiculous banters after, we finally agreed to one. Just one!
It’s of Hebrew origin with references in both the Bible and the Quran, and it means “helper” or “the one who gives aid”. Yes, we will be calling our beloved firstborn, Ezra, because he helped us find deeper meaning in our lives.