Sufis and shamans: Some remarks on the Islamization of the Mongols in the ilkhanate

Reuven Amitai-Preiss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Some scholars have argued that sufis, Muslim mystics, played a decisive role in converting the Mongols in Iran to Islam in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, mainly because of the similarity between the extreme sufis (the dervishes) and the shamans of the traditional Mongol religion. This paper maintains that it was primarily some moderate, "institutional" sufis who were close to Mongol ruling circles and thus played a part in their conversion. This, however, had little to so with any resemblance between shamans and sufis, since it is suggested that Muslim mystics, even of the dervish variety, are basically dissimilar to the Inner Asian shamans. If, indeed, both kinds of sufis were successful in influencing the Mongols, it would appear that this is due to other reasons suggested at the end of the paper.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)27-46
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 1999


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