Chinggisid pluralism and religious competition: Buddhists, Muslims, and the question of violence and sovereignty in Ilkhanid Iran

Jonathan Brack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article argues that the Mongol empire's famous religious tolerance cannot be explained solely through its adoption of Inner Asian imperial political traditions of ruling over ethnically and religiously diverse subjects. Instead, this pluralism can be ascribed to a wider religious pattern of the Mongols. The first part argues that the analytical category of immanentist religions explains not only the inter-cultic transparency exhibited by the Mongol courts, but also the few explicit instances where the Chinggisid rulers reacted with 'religious' violence. The article further explores the strategies employed by the religious vectors, mainly Buddhists and Muslims, to address, accommodate, and subvert the Chinggisids' patterns of religiosity and primarily their pluralism, and the Mongols' deified mode of sacralizing kingship. Focusing on the Mongol-Ilkhanid court in Iran, the article examines how religious representatives used conceptual affinities and equivalences between the Mongol traditions and certain principles of their own religious frameworks to gain influence and favour, and persuade the khans to convert or retain their earlier commitment to the new religious affiliation. Employing this assimilative approach, they manoeuvred within the religious, immanentist paradigm of their nomadic patrons while moulding and manipulating it to their own religious, transcendentalist ends. The article further demonstrates how this 'translation' process of Chinggisid patterns became an arena of Buddhist-Muslim rivalry and competition, but also cross-cultural fertilization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-839
Number of pages25
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 8 Apr 2022


  • Buddhism
  • Iran
  • Islam
  • Mongol empire
  • religious pluralism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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