Why do Muslims in South Asia use pre-Islamic Persian or Iranian names, but not pre-Islamic Sanskritic names?

Oct 2012
3,294
Des Moines, Iowa
#1
Many Muslims throughout history have used names of pre-Islamic Persian or Iranian origin, such as Pervez, Feroze, Farrokh, Jamshed, Javed, Jehangir, Shahrukh, Sohrab, Shaheen, Kamran, Khosrow, and many other examples. In fact, in South Asia these names are so strongly associated with Islamicate culture that the typical Indian Hindu probably thinks of them as "Muslim names," even though they aren't. For example, I have seen people attack Indira Gandhi for having a "Muslim husband" because they thought Feroze Gandhi was a Muslim due to his first name "Feroze." In reality, Feroze is a Persian name and is used by Parsis (Zoroastrians) as well as Muslims in historically Persianized lands. It is derived from the Middle Persian name Peroz, which was the name of several Sassanian kings as well as the name of the Persian man who assassinated Caliph Omar.

In contrast, I have never seen a single Muslim from South Asia who had a Sanskritic name. Obviously, names like Shiva, Vishnu, and Ganesh would not be used by Muslims because they are names of Hindu gods, but even secular Sanskritic names like Vijay, Vikrant, or Vinod are never used by South Asian Muslims. What are the reasons for this?
 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
#2
I would assume that these pre-islamic names were eventually used by Muslims, they were seen as Muslim names by the time the Muslims invaded

The Persians had almost all become Muslims when the Muslims were in​

In the case of the Sanskrit names, Hinduism in India was very much alive, and theze Sansrkit names no doubt were associated with the Hindu religion. Muslims in India picked names associated with Islam as a way of establishing their Muslim identity, and that included the pre Islamic Persian names, which were seen as perfectly good Muslim names.

Had Persia not almostly completely converted to Islam, the same thing might have happened there. The pre Islamic Persian names would have been used used to identify that the person adhered to Zoroastrisn, and the Muslim Persians might have used Arabic names to show they were Muslims. But the near complete conversion rendered that unnecessary.
 
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Likes: Azad67
Jan 2019
120
Valencia
#3
Those names are associated with Muslim culture and their origins aren't really known to the general public unless they've studied it in detail. South Asian Muslims see Muslims in Western and Central Asia adopting those names and assume that they are Islamic in origin.
 
Nov 2014
474
India
#4
I would assume that these pre-islamic names were eventually used by Muslims, they were seen as Muslim names by the time the Muslims invaded

The Persians had almost all become Muslims when the Muslims were in​

In the case of the Sanskrit names, Hinduism in India was very much alive, and theze Sansrkit names no doubt were associated with the Hindu religion. Muslims in India picked names associated with Islam as a way of establishing their Muslim identity, and that included the pre Islamic Persian names, which were seen as perfectly good Muslim names.

Had Persia not almostly completely converted to Islam, the same thing might have happened there. The pre Islamic Persian names would have been used used to identify that the person adhered to Zoroastrisn, and the Muslim Persians might have used Arabic names to show they were Muslims. But the near complete conversion rendered that unnecessary.
On the other hand, Indonesian Muslims never stopped using Hindu names, despite the presence of a prominent Hindu minority. Looks like Indian Muslims wanted to advertise their invented non-Indian identity, not just non-Hindu one.
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,215
New Delhi, India
#5
It is good that they are using Islamic names, otherwise it would have caused a lot of confusion. For example one does not know if C. Sanjeev or Sanjeev Singh is a Hindu or Christian because Christians are using Sanskritic names.
 
Jul 2017
510
Sydney
#6
I've had some Muslim friends who had a Sanskrit second name

For instance, Firoz Amit Khan

I agree it's not too common but there are instances
 
Jul 2017
510
Sydney
#7
Recently, I had a look at the Shijra (family record) of a Muslim friend from Rohtak district (this family is now in Pakistan)

What I observed is that for a few generations after their first ancestor converted, they had strict Muslim names but later in several generations they had a reversion to quite secular (even local or regional Indian) names

For instance, in one generation the ancestor of this family was called Chandi (silver), which is undoubtedly a very secular name
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,724
Western Eurasia
#8
Recently, I had a look at the Shijra (family record) of a Muslim friend from Rohtak district (this family is now in Pakistan)

What I observed is that for a few generations after their first ancestor converted, they had strict Muslim names but later in several generations they had a reversion to quite secular (even local or regional Indian) names

For instance, in one generation the ancestor of this family was called Chandi (silver), which is undoubtedly a very secular name
Same was within Iran too, the first generations of muslims tended to adopt characteristicly muslim names to distinguish themselves from the non-muslims. Once Iran's islamization became complete, Persian names had a comeback and became fashionable again, now among muslims , as there was no longer any special need to distinguish themselves from the non-muslims. That was also the time of revival of Persian literature (late 10th century-turn of 11th century), which then became a point of reference for the literature of all subsequent Perso-Islamic/Persianate muslim polities. And with that Persian names, especially the names of characters in the Shahnameh became popularized further. It is not only the Indian subcontinent, the same was true in the Anatolian Seljuk and later Ottoman Empire, where Persian names were very popular.

Islam spread largely through Persian speaking (as a court language) states into South Asia, they brought this Persianate culture with themselves, and so by that time Persian names were associated with muslims. Sanskrit always remained associated with the pagan majority.
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
4,216
India
#9
Same was within Iran too, the first generations of muslims tended to adopt characteristicly muslim names to distinguish themselves from the non-muslims. Once Iran's islamization became complete, Persian names had a comeback and became fashionable again, now among muslims , as there was no longer any special need to distinguish themselves from the non-muslims. That was also the time of revival of Persian literature (late 10th century-turn of 11th century), which then became a point of reference for the literature of all subsequent Perso-Islamic/Persianate muslim polities. And with that Persian names, especially the names of characters in the Shahnameh became popularized further. It is not only the Indian subcontinent, the same was true in the Anatolian Seljuk and later Ottoman Empire, where Persian names were very popular.

Islam spread largely through Persian speaking (as a court language) states into South Asia, they brought this Persianate culture with themselves, and so by that time Persian names were associated with muslims. Sanskrit always remained associated with the pagan majority.
Yes true, Persian language has much more linguistic influence than Arabic among Muslims of Indian subcontinent. The Turkic dynasties that ruled India were Persian by their culture as Persian culture was seen as a classy culture among Muslims of Central Asia. The rise of Urdu language (the Muslim variant of Hindi) was due to Persian influence only. Infact, apart from Muslims, even Mangalorean Catholics and Goan Catholics keep Portuguese names. Many Indian Christians were keeping mixed/Pure European names but in recent decades many of them switched to pure Indian names. Many of my Christians friends their parents have European names but kids are having pure Sanskrit/Indian names.
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,583
USA
#10
If you think about it, even Muslim names like Mohammed, Abdullah and so on are pre-Islamic. With the coming of Islam, such names became associated with Islam. So, none of the Islamic names people think of as Islamic are really Islamic.

When Islam came to South Asia, mostly through Sufi missionaries from outside, they must have given names they thought would distinguish the newly converted from the natives, and the custom stuck. Those names became associated with Islam, with time. Today, Muslims lag behind everyone else when it comes to adopting secular names, because they believe that would dilute their Muslim identity.