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.
Edited by Morgan and Reuven Amitai-Preiss
This publication has also been published in paperback, please click here for details.