Most popular names for converts in UAE are Mohammed, Maryam

Next-popular names include Abdullah, Essa, Aysha and Fatima.

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Mohammed and Maryam were the most popular names for Muslim converts last year, the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai announced.

The men took their name to honour the religion’s holiest prophet.

Mohammed was followed by Abdullah and Essa, after Prophet Isa, who received his revelation of Islam in the form of a book.

Maryam, viewed by Muslims as the epitome of a chaste and righteous woman, topped the list among women.

The next most popular names were Aysha, the wife of Prophet Mohammed, and Fatima, his daughter.

Last year, there were 2,815 conversions recorded. Of those, 2,047 were women, said Huda Al Kaabi, chairwoman of the new muslims section at the department.

To convert to Islam, a person who visits the department must learn about the religion's five pillars – testimony, prayer, fasting, alms and pilgrimage to Mecca. Government clerics then answer any questions a convert may have, such as comparing Islamic beliefs to other religions.

The department clerics speak Arabic, English, Tagalog, Urdu, Tamil and Russian.

A candidate fills out a certificate formally embracing Islam. Many choose to enrol in post-conversion courses detailing the different aspects of Islam.

Dubai does not track the number of Muslims converting to other religions, which is not allowed in Islam and is technically a capital crime. Other religions are forbidden from proselytising in the country.