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Theologies of Auspicious Kingship: The Islamization of Chinggisid Sacral Kingship in the Islamic World

  • Jonathan Brack (a1)


This article explores the fashioning of a new discursive realm of Islamic kingship in thirteenth–fourteenth-century Mongol-ruled Iran (the Ilkhanate). It examines how literati, historians, and theologians ingeniously experimented at the Ilkhanid court with Persian and Islamic concepts and titles to translate and elaborate their Mongol patrons’ claims to govern through a unique affinity with heaven. The fusion of Mongol and Islamic elements formulated a new political vocabulary of auspicious, sacred, cosmic, and messianic rulership that Turco-Mongol Muslim courts, starting in the fifteenth century, extensively appropriated and expanded to construct new models of imperial authority. A comparison with Buddhist and Confucian assimilative approaches to the Mongol heaven-derived kingship points to a reciprocal process. Mongol rulers were not simply poured into preset Muslim and Persian molds; symbols and titles were selectively appropriated and refashioned into potent vessels that could convey a vision of Islamic kingship that addressed Chinggisid expectations. From their desire to collect and assume local religious and political traditions that could support and enhance their own legitimizing claims, the Mongols set in motion a process that led to their own integration into the Perso-Islamic world, and also facilitated the emergence of new political theologies that enabled models of divine kingship to inhabit the Islamic monotheistic world.


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1 ʿAbd al-Razzāq Samarqandī, Ma ṭla ʿ -i sa ʿ dayn va majma ʿ -i ba ḥrayn, ʿAbd al-Ḥusayn Navāʾī, ed. (Tehran: Muʾassasah-yi muṭālaʿāt va taḥqīqāt-i farhangī, 1372 [1993–1994]), v. 3, 159–61; Blochet, E., Introduction a l'histoire des mongols de Fadl Allāh Rashid ed-Din (Leiden: Brill, 1910), 242–71; Fletcher, Joseph, “China and Central Asia, 1368–1884,” in Fairbank, John K., ed., The Chinese World Order (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968), 209–11.

2 Samarqandī, Ma ṭla ʿ -i sa ʿ dayn, v. 3, 162–65. Shāhrukh's patronizing tone can be detected in the title, na ṣī at n āmah (letters of counsel), given to his reply to the Ming.

3 For the Ming, see David M. Robinson, “Controlling Memory and Movement: The Early Ming Court and the Changing Chinggisid World,” Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient (forthcoming, March 2019). For the Timurids and the Jalayirids, see Beatrice Manz, “Mongol History Rewritten and Relived,” Revue des mondes musulmans de la Méditerranée 89–90 (2000): 129–49; Broadbridge, Anne, Kingship and Ideology in the Mamluk and Mongol Worlds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 174–87; Wing, Patrick, Dynastic State Formation in the Mongol Middle East (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 129–46, 185–201. For a comparative approach, see Biran, Michal, Chinggis Khan (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2007).

4 Yongle's expansive geographical aspirations and Ming rhetoric of inclusive rulership were shaped by Yuan and Chinggisid precedents. See Robinson, “Controlling Memory”; and his “Delimiting the Realm under the Ming Dynasty,” in Michal Biran et al., eds., “Universality and Its Limits: Spatial Dimensions of Eurasian Empires” (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, 2018).

5 Moin, Azfar, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); İlker Evrim Binbaș, “Timurid Experimentation with Eschatological Absolutism: Mīrzā Iskandar, Shāh Niʿmatullāh Walī, and Sayyid Sharīf Jurjānī in 815/1412,” in Mir-Kasimov, Orkhan, ed., Unity in Diversity: Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 277303; Binbaș, Intellectual Networks in Timurid Iran: Sharaf al-Dīn ‘Alī Yazdī and the Islamicate Republic of Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Melvin-Koushki, Matthew, “Early Modern Islamicate Empire: New Forms of Legitimacy,” in Salvatore, Armando, Tottoli, Roberto, and Rahimi, Babak, eds., The Wiley-Blackwell History of Islam (Malden, Mass: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018), 353–75.

6 Christopher A. Markiewicz, “The Crisis of Rule in Late Medieval Islam: A Study of Idrīs Bidlīsī (861–926/1457–1520) and Kingship at the Turn of the Sixteenth Century” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2015), 311, 330–41. For the ritual and performative aspects of Timurid, Safavid, and Mughal sacral kingship, see Moin, Millennial Sovereign; and Sovereign Violence: Temple Destruction in India and Shrine Desecration in Iran and Central Asia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 57, 2 (2015): 467–96.

7 Binbaş, Intellectual Networks, 251–86; Moin, Millennial Sovereign, 35–37.

8 For Timurid claims to their succession to the Ilkhans, see Manz, “Mongol History.”

9 Broadbridge, Kingship and Ideology.

10 See, for instance, the gradual formation of a Mongol religious policy from “a series of separate decisions taken by Chinggis Khan during his conquest[s]…”; Atwood, Christopher P., “Validation by Holiness or Sovereignty: Religious Toleration as Political Theology in the Mongol World Empire of the Thirteenth Century,” International History Review 26, 2 (2004): 237–56.

11 Baumann, Brian, “By the Power of Eternal Heaven: The Meaning of Tenggeri to the Government of the Pre-Buddhist Mongols,” Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident 35 (2013): 233–84, 270–72.

12 Devin DeWeese similarly argues that the Inner Asian political-imperial tradition did not constitute so much recurrent ideals, but recurrent patterns of evoking the intimately linked assimilative mythic complex reflecting cosmic and domestic order”; Islamization and Native Religion: Baba Tükles and Conversion to Islam in Historical and Epic Tradition (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1994), 525.

13 Pfeiffer, Judith, “Reflections on a ‘Double Rapprochement’: Conversion to Islam among the Mongol Elite during the Early Ilkhanate,” in Komaroff, Linda, ed., Beyond the Legacy of Genghis Khan (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 371–72; Biran, Michal, “Introduction: Nomadic Culture,” in Amitai, Reuven and Biran, Michal, eds., Nomads as Agents of Cultural Change (Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2015), 19.

14 Jackson, Peter, “The Mongols and the Faith of the Conquered,” in Amitai, Reuven and Biran, Michal, eds., Mongols, Turks and Others (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 277–78.

15 In Weberian terms, the Mongols assumed and deployed sedentary tools that they found useful for further routinizing the charisma of the imperial founder. Weber, Max, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, Roth, Guenther and Wittich, Claus, eds. (New York: Bedminster Press, 1968), 246, 251.

16 Strathern, Alan, “Transcendental Intransigence: Why Rulers Rejected Monotheism in Early Modern Southeast Asia and Beyond,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, 2 (2007): 358–83, 365. Reversion, therefore, became a significant avenue for converting the Mongols. Compare, for example, the depiction of Chinggis Khan as a proto-Confucian with his presentation as a proto-monotheist: Atwood, Christopher P., “Explaining Rituals and Writing History: Tactics against the Intermediate Class,” in Charleux, Isabelle et al. , eds., Presenting Power in Ancient Inner Asia: Legitimacy, Transmission and the Sacred (Bellingham: Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University, 2010), 95129; and Amitai, R., “Did Chinggis Khan Have a Jewish Teacher? An Examination of an Early Fourteenth-Century Arabic Text,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 124, 4 (2004): 691705.

17 Jackson, Peter, “World Conquest and Local Accommodation: Threat and Blandishment in Mongol Diplomacy,” in Pfeiffer, Judith and Quinn, S. A., eds., History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East: Studies in Honor of John E. Woods (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006), 322.

18 Aigle, Denise, “The Letters of Eljigidei, Hülegü and Abaqa: Mongol Overtures or Christian Ventriloquism?Inner Asia 7, 2 (2005): 143–62, 147–48.

19 Golden, Peter B., “Imperial Ideology and the Sources of Political Unity amongst the Pre-Chinggisid Nomads of Western Eurasia,” Archivum Eurasiae Medii Aevi 2 (1982): 3777.

20 de Rachewiltz, Igor, “Some Remarks on the Ideological Foundation of Chinggis Khan's Empire,” Papers on Far Eastern History 7 (1973): 2136, 29–33; Baumann, “By the Power.”

21 Elverskog, Johan, Our Great Qing: The Mongols, Buddhism, and the State in Late Imperial China (Honolulu: University of Hawaiˋi Press, 2006), 4862.

22 On immanentist (divinized) and transcendentalist models of kingship, see Strathern, Alan, “Global Patterns of Ruler Conversion to Islam and the Logic of Empirical Religiosity,” in Peacock, A.C.S., ed., Islamisation: Comparative Perspectives from History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), 2155.

23 Elverskog, Our Great Qing, 48–52; DeWeese, Islamization, 524. It remains to be examined to what extent this connection was established through a cohesive ritual program based on earlier steppe precedent or was instead an evolving, contingent amalgamation of ritual aspects assumed from other traditions.

24 Genealogical seniority was determined by a hierarchical system of “chief wives” and degrees of descent from Chinggis Khan. See Jackson, Peter, “The Dissolution of the Mongol Empire,” Central Asiatic Journal 22, 3 (1978): 186244, 193–95; Shai Shir, “‘The Chief Wife’ at the Courts of the Mongol Khans during the Mongol World Empire (1206–1260)” (MA thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2006 [in Hebrew]).

25 For knowledge of Chinggis Khan's edicts as a criterion for electing the khan, and the continuity of the Chinggisid mission, see Lane, George, “Intellectual Jousting and the Chinggisid Wisdom Bazaars,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 26, 1–2 (2016): 235–47, 246; Amitai, Reuven, Holy War and Rapprochement: Studies in the Relations between the Mamluk Sultanate and the Mongol Ilkhanate (1260–1335) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013).

26 Christopher Atwood, “Partners in Profit: Empires, Merchants, and Local Governments in the Mongol Empire and Qing Mongolia,” workshop presentation in “Asian Early Modernities: Empires, Bureaucrats, Confessions, Borders, Merchants,” Istanbul, 2013. For instance, see Alāʾ al-Dīn ʿAṭā-malik Juvaynī, Ta'rīkh-i jahān gushā (Leiden: Brill, 1912–1937), v. 1, 1617; Juvaynī, Genghis Khan: The History of the World Conqueror, Boyle, J. A., trans. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1958), v. 1, 2324.

27 Atwood, “Validation,” 253.

28 Joseph Fletcher discusses the latter as the principle of tanistry, according to which the successor is the most qualified member of the clan; The Mongols: Ecological and Social Perspectives,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 46, 1 (1986): 1150, 16–19. A tension also existed between the ideal of corporate, shared sovereignty among the Chinggisid family and claims to patrilineal-based authority. Judith Pfeiffer, Conversion to Islam among the Ilkhans in Muslim Narrative Traditions: The Case of Aḥmad Tegüder (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2003), 172–75.

29 Compare, for example, how Shīʿī agents appealed to the Mongols at the Ilkhanid court by suggesting the affinity between Chinggisid descent-based authority and the Shīʿī principle of descent from the Prophet, and how Tibetan Buddhists used the merit-based model of cakravartin kingship (the wheel-turning sage kings and universal emperors) to argue for the continuity of Qubilai (r. 1260–1294) and his heirs with Chinggis Khan through their adoption of and support for the Dharma. Furthermore, the Ilkhanid ruler Öljeitü, himself a Shīʿī convert, used a comparison with Shīʿīsm/Sayyidism to support the claim that non-Chinggisid commanders could not hold the Ilkhanid throne. Pfeiffer, Judith, “Confessional Ambiguity vs. Confessional Polarization: Politics and the Negotiation of Religious Boundaries in the Ilkhanate,” in Pfeiffer, Judith, ed., Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th–15th Century Tabriz (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 129–70; Franke, Herbert, From Tribal Chieftain to Universal Emperor and God: The Legitimation of the Yuan Dynasty (Munich: Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1978), 5459.

30 The Mongol understanding of conversion and religion, therefore, fits also that of non-transcendentalist (or cosmothiestic) societies, in which religious traditions were “mutually transparent and compatible” (Assmann) and rulers were ready “to accept new gods and rites in an endless cycle of invention” (Strathern). Assmann, Jan, Moses the Egyptian (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), 3; Strathern, “Transcendental Intransigence,” 364. The Mongols, indeed, viewed their affinity to heaven, and heaven itself (tenggeri, the supreme sky-god of the steppe), to be translatable and compatible with other religious systems. Thus, Allāh, Khudā, Tian, and Deus were all fit as “transparent translation[s]” for tenggeri, and religious experts were all praying to the same deity. Atwood, “Validation,” 252–53.

31 Robinson, “Controlling Memory.”

32 Phags-pa, Prince Jiṅ-Gim's Textbook of Tibetan Buddhism, Constance Hoog, trans. (Leiden: Brill, 1983), 3943; Robinson, , Empire's Twilight: Northeast Asia under the Mongols (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010), 6566.

33 Allsen, Thomas, “A Note on Mongol Imperial Ideology,” in Rybatzki, Volker et al. , eds., The Early Mongols: Language, Culture and History (Bloomington: Indiana University, Denis Sinor Institute for Inner Asian Studies, 2009), 18. For the Chinese rendering of the Chinggisid fortune (yun), see Fiaschetti, Francesca, “Tradition, Innovation and the Construction of Qubilai's Diplomatic Rhetoric,” Ming Qing Yanjiu 18 (2014–2015): 6596, 81–83.

34 A transition toward a new conception of royal Muslim authority can be detected earlier, especially in influential Persian works of political ethics (“advice literature”) and Sufi manuals, yet this did not coalesce into a full-fledged and widely promulgated model of sacral Muslim kingship as we find it in the post-Mongol period. Arjomand, Saïd Amir, “Legitimacy and Political Organization: Caliphs, Kings and Regimes,” in Irwin, Robert, ed., The New Cambridge History of Islam 4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 240–54. On the other hand, we can also observe in the post-Mongol model of sacral kingship certain continuities with caliphal monarchy. On the Late Antique notions of sacral kingship as the background for the caliphate, see al-Azmeh, Aziz, Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred in Muslim, Christian, and Pagan Polities (London: I. B. Tauris, 2001).

35 Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, “Turning the Stones Over: Sixteenth-Century Millenarianism from the Tagus to the Ganges,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 40, 2 (2003): 129–61. Only after the Mongol period do we notice the appearance of imperial Muslim shrines, which Moin argues were interlinked with a new style of sovereignty that drew on the symbols and rituals of Muslim sainthood; “Sovereign Violence,” 467–96.

36 Mir-Kasimov, , “Introduction,” in Mir-Kasimov, Orkhan, ed., Unity in Diversity: Mysticism, Messianism and the Construction of Religious Authority in Islam (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 11.

37 Binbaş, “Timurid Experimentation,” 300.

38 Bashir, Shahzad, Messianic Hopes and Mystical Visions: The Nūrbakhshīya between Medieval and Modern Islam (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003), 2941.

39 The eschatological classification of the tajdīd tradition was a later innovation, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Landau-Tasseron, Ella, “The ‘Cyclical Reform’: A Study of the Mujaddid Tradition,” Studia Islamica 70 (1989): 79117; Freidman, Yohanan, Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Aḥmadī Religious Thought and Its Medieval Background (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 97.

40 Melvin-Koushki, “Islamicate Empire.”

41 Yücesoy, Hayrettin, Messianic Beliefs and Imperial Politics in Medieval Islam (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2009), 116ff.

42 Subtelny, Maria Eva, “The Sunni Revival under Shāh-Rukh and Its Promoters: A Study of the Connection between Ideology and Higher Learning in Timurid Iran,” Proceedings of the 27th Meeting of Haneda Memorial Hall. Symposium on Central Asia and Iran, August 30, 1993 (Kyoto: Institute of Inner Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 1994), 1423.

43 Binbaş, Intellectual Networks, 261–65.

44 The work has several titles. The fullest appears to be “The Epistle of the Sultan on the Debates on Prophethood” (al-Risāla al-sulṭāniyya fī al-mabāḥith al-nabawiyya) or “on the Prophetic Ranks” (fī al-marātib al-nabawiyya), but it is also known as The Debates of the Sultan (Mabāḥith al-sulṭāniyya). On this interesting work and its manuscripts, see Josef Van Ess, Der Wesir und seine Gelehrten (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1981), 17–19. I have used the Persian manuscript of Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, MS Nuruosmaniye 3415.

45 Inna All āh yab ʿ ath li-hadhihi al-ummah ʿ al ā ra ʾ s kull mi ʾ at sana man yuqawwī lahā amr dīnihā. Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, f. 118r.

46 ʿAbd Allāh ibn Faḍl Allāh Vaṣṣāf, Tajziyat al-amṣār wa-tazjiyat al-a ʿ ṣār (repr. Tehran 1338/1959–1960, of the Bombay edition, 1269/1852–1853), 539.

47 The vizier's example predated the earliest usage of the title for political leaders, for which see Van Steenbergen, Jo, “Qalāwūnid Discourse, Elite Communication, and the Mamluk Cultural Matrix: Interpreting a 14th-Cenutry Panegyric,” Journal of Arabic Literature 43 (2012): 128.

48 The vizier's “innovation” had no lasting influence with later authors, who used the unaltered version. See, for example, Ḥasan's, ŪzūnSunni tajdīd” claims. Woods, John E., The Aqquyunlu (Salt Lake City, 1999, rev. and expanded), 100–6, 140.

49 Subtelny, “Sunni Revival.” Samarqandī (d. 1482), though, claimed that Shāhrukh was the mujaddid since he was appointed ruler (salṭanat) of Khurasan in the Hijri year of 800. Samarqandī, Ma ṭla ʿ -i sa ʿ dayn, v. 3, 494–96.

50 Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, ff. 118r–19r.

51 The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century, de Rachewiltz, Igor, trans. and annotated (Leiden: Brill, 2004), v. 1, 168; v. 2, 869–73; Franke, From Tribal Chieftain, 21.

52 Compare with Hülegü’s letter to King Louis IX of France (1262), in which Teb Tenggeri's prophecy is embedded into a Christian-biblical framework, and thus depicted as the final link in a chain of prophetic communications to mankind; Aigle, “Letters of Eljigidei,” 152–53.

53 ʿAbd Allāh al-Qāshānī is mainly known for his history of Ghāzān's brother, Öljeitü. His narrative can be found in an iteration of the Ta'rīkh-i mubārak-i Ghāzānī, found in the Paris manuscript (Bibliothèque Nationale, Supplément persan, 1113), which Karl Jahn used for his edition (Geschichte Ġ āzān- ān's aus dem Ta ḫ-i mub ārak-i- ġ āzān ī [London: Luzac & Co., 1940]), and in the St. Petersburg manuscript (dated to 1576), which ʿAlī Zādah used for his 1957 edition (Rashīd al-Dīn, Jāmi ʿ al-tawārīkh, ʿAbd al-Karīm ʿAlī Zādah, ed. [Baku, 1957], v. 3, 579–619). As Kamola recently noted, while Ghāzān's “alternative” conversion narrative is missing in the Paris manuscript, it is found in full in ʿAlī Zādah's edition (the St. Petersburg manuscript). Kamola, Rashīd al-Dīn, 89–93.

54 Rashīd al-Dīn/ʿAlī Zādah, Jāmi ʿ al-tawārīkh, 604–7.

55 Qāshānī’s reference to the regal signs on Ghāzān's “forehead” is echoed in the account of Sorghan's prediction of Chinggis's rise in the Jāmi ʿ al-tawārīkh. According to the prophecy, Chinggis Khan's success was predestined since “heavenly assistance and regal splendor (farr-i shāhī) patently shine ( ’i ) from his forehead.” This observation is missing in the second appearance of this prediction in the Jāmi ʿ al-tawārīkh. Faḍl Allāh Abū al-Khayr Rashīd al-Dīn, Jāmi ʿ al-tawārīkh, Muḥammad Rawshan and Muṣṭafā Mūsavī, eds. (Tehran, 1373/1994), v. 1, 181, 376; Rashīd al-Dīn, Rashīd uddin Fazlullah's Jami ʿ u't-Tawarikh: A History of the Mongols, W. M. Thackston, trans. (Cambridge: Harvard University, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1998–1999), v. 1, 97, 181.

56 “The tyrants and offenders” may be the Mamluks (see the Ilkhanid letter below), the Ilkhans’ rivals in Egypt and Syria.

57 Completed in 1223, The Path of God's Bondsmen (Mir ād al- ʿ Ibād) gained considerable popularity after Rāzī’s death. The resemblance between the Sufi manual and Qāshānī’s narrative has also been noted by Kamola (Rashīd al-Dīn, 183).

58 Najm al-Dīn Rāzī Dāya, Mir ād al- ʿ ibād min al-mabdā ilā al-ma ʿ ād, ʿAbd Allāh b. Muḥammad, ed. (Tehran: Intishārāt-i kitābkhānah-i sanāʾī, 1383 [1984]), 248–49; Rāzī, The Path of God's Bondsmen from Origin to Return, Algar, Hamid, trans. (Delmar: Caravan Books, 1982), 415–16.

59 Rāzī, Mir ād al- ʿ ibād, 8–9; God's Bondsmen, 39–41.

60 On the transition from penitential to providential responses to the Mongols, see Devin DeWeese, “‘Stuck in the throat of Chingiz Khan’: Envisioning the Mongol Conquests in some Sufi Accounts from the 14th to 17th Centuries,” in J. Pfeiffer and S. A. Quinn, eds., History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East: Studies in Honor of John E. Woods (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006), 23–60; Pfeiffer, “Confessional Ambiguity,” 133–38.

61 The Mongol conversion under Ghāzān “unleashed an unprecedented amount of historiography” after nearly half a century of historiographical silence. Pfeiffer, Judith, “The Canonization of Cultural Memory: Ghāzān Khān, Rashīd Al-Dīn, and the Construction of the Mongol Past,” in Akasoy, Anna, Burnett, Charles, and Yoeli-Tlalim, Ronit, eds., Rashīd al-Dīn: Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran (London: Warburg Institute, 2013), 5770.

62 Niẓām al-Mulk, Siyāsatnāmah, Murtaḍā Mudarrisī and Muḥammad Qazvīnī, eds. (Tehran, 1334 [1955]), 40.

63 ʿAbd al-Razzāq al-Ṣanʿānī, al-Muṣannaf (Johannesburg: al-Majlis al-ʿilmī, 1983), v. 11, 400–1; Yücesoy, Messianic Beliefs, 46.

64 Consider, for instance, how the author mentions the prediction of the astrologers alongside that of the religious scholars, thus aligning the providential appearance and revival of Islam of the anticipated king with Iranian astrological cyclical rhythms of salvific kingship. On Perso-Islamic astrological determinism, see Arjomand, Saïd Amir, “The Conception of Revolution in Persianate Political Thought,” Journal of Persianate Studies 5 (2012): 116.

65 Ghāzān is the first ruler to take on the title of the Pādshāh-i Islām, a fitting Perso-Islamic synthesis, and was described as the initiator of a new era of Iranian history. Melville, Charles, “History and Myth: The Persianisation of Ghāzān Khan,” in Jeremias, Eva M., ed., Irano-Turkic Cultural Contacts in the 11th–17th Centuries (Piliscsaba: Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, 2002/2003), 133–60.

66 For the five texts related to Ghāzān's occupation, see Broadbridge, Kingship and Ideology, 73–80.

67 al-Manṣūrī, Baybars, Zubdat al-fikra fī taʾrīkh al-hijra, Richards, Donald S., ed. (Beirut: Dār al-nashr “al-kitāb al-ʿarabī” Barlīn, 1998), 333–34.

68 In addition, like Qāshānī’s narrative, the letters issued by Ghāzān's chancery possible drew also on Rāzī’s Mir ād al- ʿ Ibād to argue, for example, for the Mamluks’ ignorance of true kingly conduct. Jonathan Brack, “Mediating Sacred Kingship: Conversion and Sovereignty in Mongol Iran” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2016), 169–71.

69 “O those who believe, obey God and the Messenger and those in authority among you.”

70 Afsaruddin, Asma, “Obedience to Political Authority as Evolutionary Concept,” in Khan, M. A. Muqtedar, ed., Islamic Democratic Discourse (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2006), 4647.

71 For the conversion narrative, see Rashīd al-Dīn/ʿAlī Zādah, Jāmi ʿ al-tawārīkh, 604–5. The letter, which references the “authority verse” no less than three times, links the verse to the demand for unwavering Mamluk submission, and moreover accuses the Mamluks of transgressing God's command by repeatedly disobeying and killing “those in authority” among them. Al-Manṣūrī, Zubdat al-fikra, 333–34.

72 I borrow this term from al-Azmeh, Aziz, Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred in Muslim, Christian, and Pagan Polities (London: I. B. Tauris, 2001), 41.

73 Peter Jackson, “Banākatī, Abū Solaymān,” Elr, (accessed 4 Dec. 2015).

74 Abū Sulaymān Dāwūd Banākatī, Raw ḍat ūli'l-albāb fī ma ʿ rifat al-taw ārīkh wa'l-ansāb (Tehran: Silsila-yi intishārāt-i anjuman-i āthār-i millī, 1348 [1969]), 465–66.

75 Another line in the poem reads: “You have cultivated the world with your justice and generosity and the justice, of a hundred like Kisrās serving at your court.” For Ghāzān as mahdī, see also Banākatī’s poem from August 1303; ibid., 468.

76 The poet might have received his inspiration from Ilkhanid decrees that expanded the duo of heaven's blessing and the Chinggisid fortune to incorporate also the Prophet Muḥammad. See Cleaves, Francis Woodman, “The Mongolian Documents in the Musée de Téhéran,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 16/1–2 (1953): 1107, 23, 26.

77 Aqsarāʾī, Karīm al-Dīn, Musāmarat al-akhbār va musāyarat al-akhyār, Turan, Osman, ed. (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, 1944), 183–89.

78 The Sunnī mahdī designated an eschatological figure, an apocalyptic world-ruler, and a cyclical reformer, or “a mujaddid-like mahdī” who appears periodically to set the community aright after its corruption and restore morality and order. Garcia-Arenal, Mercedes, Messianism and Puritanical Reform: Mahdīs in the Muslim West, Beagles, Martin, trans. (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 20; Yücesoy, Messianic Beliefs, 133, 139–40.

79 Markiewicz, “Crisis of Rule,” 311–18. ā ibqirān did gain some currency in thirteenth-century Ilkhanid historiography. The Ilkhanid historian Juvaynī describes Ögedei (r. 1229–1241) as āḥibqirān, who follows the examples of Ḥātim al- Ṭāʾī (the famous pre-Islamic Arab warrior-poet) and Anūshirvān, connecting Ögedei to two pre-Islamic figures known for their generosity and justice. Juvaynī, Ta'rīkh-i jahān gushā, v. 3, 190; Juvaynī, Genghis Khan, v. 2, 234. During the Ilkhanid period, the title does not appear to be restricted to the ruler rank. Thus, Rashīd al-Dīn referred to himself as ā ibqirān (Kamola, Rashīd al-Dīn, 102, 248).

80 Moin, Millennial Sovereign; Derek Mancini-Lander, Memory on the Boundaries of Empire: Narrating Place in the Early Modern Local Historiography of Yazd (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2012), 244–67.

81 Another early fourteenth-century author, Jamāl Qarshī, writing in Kashgar under Mongol rule, describes Chinggis Khan both as “ṣā ib al-qirān and the conqueror of the End of Time (qahramān-i akhir al-zamān)”; Mul ḥaqāt al-ṣurāḥ, in Istorija Kazakhstana v persidskikh istochnikakh, Muminov, Ashirbek Kurbanovich, ed. (Almaty, 2005), v. 1, 246.

82 Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad-i Aflākī, Manāqib al-ʿārifīn, Yazıcı, Tahsin, ed. (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi, 1961), v. 2, 977–78; The Feats of the Knowers of God, O'Kane, John, trans. (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 684–85. Aflākī gives 720 (1320) for the retaking of Konya, but this appears to be a mistake since Taʾrīkh-i al-i Saljūq and other accounts give the year 723 (1323). Anonymous (ca. 765/1363), Taʾrīkh-i al-i Saljuq dar anā ūlī (Tehran: Ayinah-yi mīrāth, 1999), 132.

83 Temürtash proclaimed himself sh āh-i isl ām or ā ibqirān and mahdī. Ḥamd Allāh Mustawfī Qazwīnī, Ẓafarn āma von Ḥamdallāh Mustauf ī und Š āhnāma von Abu'l-Qāsim Firdausī (from the facsimile of the British Library, Or. 2833, Tehran: Markaz-i nashr-i dānishgāhī Irān, 1377 [1999]), v. 2, 1460–61. On the revolt and the rebel, see Melville, Charles, “Anatolia under the Mongols,” in Fleet, Kate, ed., The Cambridge History of Turkey, vol. 1: Byzantine to Turkey, 1071–1453 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 8990; Broadbridge, Kingship and Ideology, 117–22.

84 Aqsarāʾī, Musāmarat al-akhbār, 3–6; Melville, Charles, “The Early Persian Historiography of Anatolia,” in Pfeiffer, J. and Quinn, S. A., eds., History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East: Studies in Honor of John E. Woods (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006), 4546. Aqsarāʾī’s history ends just prior to Temürtash's revolt and although the author does not explicitly refer to the revolt or to Temürtash's mahdī-claim, he does mention that Temürtash was campaigning to reinforce public morality and was implementing anti-Christian policies, and adds that these exhibited “the signs of the manifestation of the mahdī”; Musāmarat al-akhbār, 310–27.

85 Woods, Aqquyunlu, 4–8.

86 Atwood, “Validation,” 253.

87 Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, ff. 119v–20r.

88 For examples of the term suutu Chinggis Khan or suutu ijayurtan (“those who have a fortunate ancestry”), see de Rachewiltz, “Some Remarks,” 167, 171; Chiodo, Elizabetta, The Mongolian Manuscripts on Birch Bark from Xarbuxyn Balgas in the Collection of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009), 252–54; Mostaert, Antoine and Cleaves, Francis W., Les Letters de 1289 et 1305 des Ilkhanid Aryun et Ölĵeitü à Philippe le Bel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962), 22. In another treatise, the vizier theorizes the Chinggisid good fortune by establishing a hierarchical system of Neoplatonist, Persian, Muslim, and astrological terms for fortune. Miftāḥ al-tafāsīr, ed. Rajabzāda, Hāshim (Tehran, 1391 [2013]), 239–49.

89 The vizier further develops the idea that the good fortune of such ṣāḥibqirān kings also protects their auspicious horoscopes (ṭāliʿ) and their reigns from the influence of ominous stars (naḥs). Rashīd al-Dīn, As’ila va ajviba-yi rashīdī, R. Shaʿbānī, ed. (Islamabad: Markaz-i taḥqīqāt-i fārsī-yi Īrān va Pākistān, 1993), v. 2, 23–25.

90 Rashīd al-Dīn/Rawshan, v. 1, 5–6; Rashīd al-Dīn/Thackston, v. 1, 5. For Chinggis Khan, Ilkhan Hülegü, and Ghāzān as fortunate ṣāḥibqirāns, see Rashīd al-Dīn/Rawshan, v. 1, 222, 287–90; v. 2, 1348, 1489; Rashīd al-Dīn/Thackston, v. 1, 116, 141–42, v. 3, 672, 736.

91 Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, ff. 121r–23r. Doerfer, Gerhard, Türkish und Mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1963), v. 1, 174.

92 Fleischer, Cornell H., Bureaucrat and Intellectual in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 279–81.

93 Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, ff. 122r–23r.

94 Ibid., f. 27v. For the claim that the vizier alone could answer the ruler's questions, see Rashīd al-Dīn, Kitāb al-asʾila wa'l-ajwiba al-rashīdiyya b'il-fārisiyya (MS Ayasofya, no. 2180), f. 35r. Rashīd al-Dīn is also associated with Buzurgmihr in Ḥamd Allāh Mustawfī‘s Ẓafarnāma; Kamola, 276–78.

95 Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, ff. 135r–36v. Rashīd al-Dīn makes similar statements about Ghāzān in the Jāmiʿ al-tawārīkh, though they are not nearly as elaborate as what he says about Öljeitü. Rashīd al-Dīn/Rawshan, v. 2, 1335–41; Rashīd al-Dīn/Thackston, v. 3, 664–69.

96 Rashīd al-Dīn, Kitāb al-asʾila wa'l-ajwiba (MS Ayasofya, No. 2180), ff. 37r–37v.

97 Assmann, Moses, 3.

98 Atwood, “Explaining Rituals,” 101.

99 For instance, the Armenian priest Grigor Aknerc'i writes that Chinggis received from a gold-feathered, eagle-like angel “all the commandments of God in his own language.” Pogossian, Zaroui, “An ‘Un-known and Unbridled People’: Vardan Arewelcʿi's Colophon on the Mongols,” Journal of the Society of Armenian Studies 23 (2014): 748, 36–37.

100 Ibn Taymīya, Majmūʿ fatāwā shaykh al-islām Aḥmad Ibn Taymīya, ʿAbd al-Raḥman ibn Muḥammad ibn Qāsim, ed. (Riyadh/Mecca, 1381–86/1961–1967; repr. 1417/1995), v. 28, 521–22.

101 Thus, the Ayyubid historian Ibn Wāsil (d. 1298) linked Chinggis Khan's near-prophetic status amongst the Mongols to the conqueror's role as law-maker, and the Mamluk official al-Nuwayrī (d. 1333) relates a story about Chinggis Khan's attempt to achieve prophetic status like Moses, Jesus, and Muḥammad through ascetic practices. Ibn Wāsil, Mufarrij al-kurūb fī akhbār banī ayyūb (Maṭbaʿat jāmiʿat fuʾād al-awwal, 1953–1977), v. 1, 36–37; Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Nuwayrī, Nihāyat al-arab fi funūn al-adab (Cairo: Maṭbaʿat dār al-kutub al-miṣriyya, 1985), v. 27, 207–8; Amitai, “Did Chinggis Khan Have a Jewish Teacher?” 691–705; Biran, Chinggis Khan, 114–21.

102 Vaṣṣāf, Tajziyat al-amṣār, 241.

103 Shabānkāraʾī, Muḥammad, Majmaʿ al-ansāb (Tehran: Amīr kabīr, 1363 [1984]), 223–24.

104 Juvaynī, Ta'rīkh-i jahān gushā, v. 1, 16–18; Juvaynī, Genghis Khan, v. 1, 23–25.

105 al-Dīn, Rashīd, Bayān al-ḥaqāʾiq, Rajabzādah, Hāshim, ed. (Tehran: Mīrāth maktūb, 1386 [2008]), 8385; Rashīd al-Dīn, Kitāb al-asʾila wa'l-ajwiba (MS Ayasofya, No. 2180), f. 35v.

106 Jaffer, Tariq, Rāzī: Master of Qurʾānic Interpretation and Theological Reasoning (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 212; Shihadeh, Ayman, The Teleological Ethics of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 109–53.

107 Jaffer, Rāzī, 205ff.

108 Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, f. 134r.

109 Rashīd al-Dīn accordingly conceives of Öljeitü’s intellect as a source of human reason, and presents the Ilkhan as campaigning for reason in his court audiences and debates. Bayān al-ḥaqāʾiq, 87.

110 Ibid., 83; Pfeiffer, “Confessional Ambiguity,” 155.

111 Book of the Sultan originates with Öljeitü’s question to the religious scholars assembled in Gāvbārī in March 1307 (Ramaḍān 706) of why revelation received through the mediation of angels, as in the case with the Prophet Muḥammad, is considered superior to unmediated revelation; that is, revelation received without intermediaries (e.g., in dreams). Kitāb-i sulṭāniyya, ff. 147v–50r.

112 Franke, From Tribal Chieftain, 54–59. Elverskog also shows how under the sixteenth-century Mongols in Inner Asia “political authority came to be ritualized through parallel systems of legitimacy: God's blessing and the Dharma” (Our Great Qing, 54–62).

113 Yongjia, Liang, “Stranger-Kingship and Cosmocracy; or, Sahlins in Southwest China,” Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 12, 3 (2011): 236–54.

114 For the cakravartin, see Phags-pa, Prince Jiṅ-Gim's Textbook, 39–43.

115 Baumann, “By the Power,” 273–78.

116 This is best exhibited by the vizier's three refutations of reincarnation. I am currently working on a separate study of these treatises that also examines the extent to which Rashīd al-Dīn's political theology was influenced by his exposure to and competition with Buddhism.

117 Strathern, “Ruler Conversion,” 38.

118 The commonalities between Buddhist and (early modern) Muslim models of sacral kingship have also been noted by Blackburn, Anne M., in “Buddhist Technologies of Statecraft and Millennial Moments,” History and Theory 56, 1 (2017): 7179.

119 Moin, Millennial Sovereign, 31–37; Mancini-Lander, Memory, 252–53; Binbaş, Intellectual Networks, 254–55. Only from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries do we find astrologically supported arguments for designating the ruler as ṣāḥibqirān, which suggests that the title lacked a fixed meaning and was subject to ongoing experimentation.

120 Melvin-Koushki, “Islamicate Empire.”

121 Melvin-Koushki, , “Astrology, Lettrism, Geomancy: The Occult-Scientific Methods of Post-Mongol Islamicate Imperialism,” Medieval History Journal 19, 1 (2016): 142–50.

122 Melvin-Koushki, “Islamicate Empire”; Binbaş, “Timurid Experimentation,” 277–303. The idea that the Chinggisid khan had a direct conduit to God finds parallel in stories about Temür's communications with an angel (Manz, “Tamerlane,” 118).

123 For a sixteenth-century Ottoman example, see Pasha, Luṭfī, Tawārīkh-i āl-i ʿUthmān (Istanbul: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿāmirah, 1341 [1925]), 612.

124 On the self-fashioning of early modern kings, see Kathryn Babayan's discussion of Shah Thamasb's Memoir and his self-portrayal as “mystic-king,” in Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 295348. For the new “discursive realm” of Muslim kingship more generally, see Moin, Millennial Sovereign. I think that we need to reassess Moin's arguments that this new discursive realm was rooted less in a “scriptural Islam” and more in popular imaginations and devotional practice, and that, moreover, a clear-cut distinction between the two spheres should be drawn.

125 See, for example, Yazdī’s attempt to redefine the “caliphate” according to his new “theological absolutism.” Binbaş, Intellectual Networks, 251–86.

126 See Woods, John, “The Rise of Tīmūrid Historiography,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 46, 2 (1987), 81108, 104–5; Binbaş, Intellectual Networks, 253. Then again, in early modern Central Asia we find “a much closer, and often self-conscious, articulation of the mutual reinforcement, rather than opposition, of Islamic frameworks and Chinggisid prerogatives.” DeWeese, Devin, “Telling Women's Stories in 16th-Century Central Asia: A Book of Guidance in Chaghatay Turkic for a Royal Lady of the Bukharan Court,” Oriens 43, 1–2 (2015): 154222, 215.

127 This was plainly stated by Beatrice Manz nearly three decades ago, in Tamerlane and the Symbolism of Sovereignty,” Iranian Studies 21, 1–2 (1988): 105–22, 117.

128 Moin, Millenial Sovereign, 54.


Theologies of Auspicious Kingship: The Islamization of Chinggisid Sacral Kingship in the Islamic World

  • Jonathan Brack (a1)


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