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How was Islam spread among Turkish population or in historical Turkey?

How did ethnic Turkish people embrace Islam?

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The definition "Turkish" came to mean an ethnic "Turk" professing Sunni Islam (see e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…). In this sense what we refer today as "ethnic Turkish" comprises many ethnic substrata, held together among all other things, by religion. Just for the record I would add "ancient Turkish people" or something similar. –  astabada Dec 13 '12 at 14:05

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Ethnic Turks first embraced Islam when they met the expanding Arab empire in modern day Iran (and slightly to the north and east). This was where the Turks had settled, and the Arabs were conquering in the late seventh, and eight centuries A.D. The Arabs feared Turkish military prowess more than that of the longer-term "locals," and offered economic and social inducements (e.g. better education) to the Turks to support them. Part of the "package" was the Islamic religion.

By the turn of the Millenium, Arab power waned, leaving a power vacuum for the Turks to move into. These newly Islamacized Turks moved west across Iraq, into the eastern part of modern day Turkey. Around 1200 A.D. the even fiercer Mongols accelerated the process by chasing the Turks out of Iran, and into Turkey.

Short answer (in reverse order of the questions asked): The Turks were "Islamized" by the rising Arab powers when they met in Iran, and then when Arab power waned, they migrated into modern Turkey, (conquering the local Byzantine empire), making that part of the world Islamic.

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When Turks arrived in what is modern-day Turkey, they were already Muslims. The Battle of Malazgirt/Manzikirt between the ancestors of modern Turks and the Byzantine Empire marks the start of this large-scale migration by Turkic tribes.

The various groups who constituted the migration were not homogeneous: there were Karakoyunlu, Akkoyunlu, Turkmen and so on. But they were Sunni Muslim by this point through long contact with the Islamic world following the Battle of Talas River in 751 in which an Arab army defeated the Chinese. This shifted the influence over Central Asia away from Christianity and Buddhism to Islam.

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This is not bad, but I wish the answer more-directly treated the details of that time in regard to how Asiatic descendants of Turks made the switch. Mass force-conversions, establishment of local religious leaders, etc. –  New Alexandria Oct 9 '12 at 15:42
Don't forget the "Shamanism" that was the traditional/autochthonous religion of many Turkic and Mongolian tribes in Central Asia before the arrival of any of these major religions. There were also Taoist influences too, for sure. –  Noldorin Oct 12 '12 at 0:26
@NewAlexandria The word "şamanizm" is also used in Turkish to describe their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic beliefs. –  SigueSigueBen Nov 5 '12 at 5:40
@NewAlexandria Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that şaman is a traditional Turkic word, but rather it is used in modern Turkish in this way. –  SigueSigueBen Jan 6 '13 at 20:16
@NewAlexandria According to an etymological dictionary I have on hand, şaman was a borrowing from Sanskrit into Central Asian Turkic languages. Derivatives can be found in Uyghur and other languages. –  SigueSigueBen Jan 6 '13 at 20:22

Before Islam, the widest Turkic belief was Tengrism. The first written sources for Turkic history, written by Asiatic descendants, was Old Turkic Orkhon inscriptions show that Turkic had a belief in the Tengri whom was described as god of the Turks whereas his domain was over the sky. Within Tengrism, even there was a hell and heaven beliefs, but was referred as sky and underground worlds. Today, the word Tengri, which has evolved to Tanrı in modern Turkish, is being used to refer god. On the other hand, Wolfram Eberhard implies that, within his book: The Local Cultures of South and East China, the first findings about Turkic people and Tengrism was from 519, recorded by the Chechens.

On the other hand, it is noted that Turkic people had always curiosity over new religions and as the Turkic people were nomadic, they have met with different religions, thus leaders(khans) never insisted or manipulated on people to select an exact religion because they always appeared as separate tribes. The only religion that would affect Turkic people widely within that geography was Buddhism before the Islam. However, there were many discrepancies within the Buddhism for Turkic people such as the restrictions on eating meat or on having wars that would fail a nomadic society to survive. As Christianity or Judaism had never spread to Asia within those years, most of the Turkic people remained within the Tengrism. But I should also note that Khazars who were semi nomadic Turkic people had leaders who chose Judaism as their primary religion.

After the Islam was born, Caliphs chose not to try spreading Islam on Turkic people until 670. However, after Islam was spread within the Arabian peninsula, they started to think about raids on the silk road path, especially on the rich cities, such as Samarkand and Bukhara where most of the Turkic people settled in. Within the first raids, Arabs failed to have a victory. However, with the leadership of Qutayba ibn Muslim, after the big raids over the Turkic settlements, they invaded Tokharistan and Bukhara successfully where many Turkic people got killed. Within those years, they tried to convert feared Turkic people to Islam with providing extra economical and social benefits. This was the beginning of the conversion of Turkic people over choosing Islam. After the Abbasid Revolution, Turkic people made an alliance with Abbasids against Chinese within the Battle of Talas and Islam had spread over more Turkic people. However, even it's implied that Turkic people have chosen Islam within the Battle of Talas, most of them remained within the Tengrism. Even until Kara-Khanid Khanate, 934, there wasn't any Turkic dynasty that chose Islam over Tengrism. After that, Islam started to spread over more Turkic people. According to Henry Walter Bellew, within his book Kashmir and Kashghar, In 960, first mass conversion occured in the Turkic history within 200,000 tents of Turkic people. After the migration of Turkic people, within the Western Asia, as the Seljuk Empire became stronger, Abbasid Caliph titled Malik Shah I as The Sultan of the East and West which let Turkic had more control over Arabic and Muslim world. After the crusades, Turkic and Arabic alliance became stronger and resulted with more Turkic people choosing Islam. But again, I should note that, still there existed many with Tengrism belief and they existed until Selim I of the Ottomans.

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