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, 2012 at 14:05

4 Answers 4


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.


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. Oct 9, 2012 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, 2012 at 0:26
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    @NewAlexandria The word "şamanizm" is also used in Turkish to describe their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic beliefs. Nov 5, 2012 at 5:40
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    @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. Jan 6, 2013 at 20:16
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    @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. Jan 6, 2013 at 20:22

It's more accurate to say Turkic people as Turks tend to be one branch of Turkic family who embraced Islam. We see Muslim-Turkic interaction from the travel accounts of Ibn Batuta. He lists Turkic people into three categories of Baskurts (Living in modern day Russia), Vulgar (Turks settled in Bulgaria) and Oguz Turks (Modern day Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan). We understand Turks believe in a religion named Gok Tengri which is not Shamanism but in fact translated as Sky God. They believe in one God only but have paganistic rituals. From modern day of Turkish accounts, the Ruler of Karahanli Empire, Saltuk Bugra Khan researched various religions from Buddhism, Judaism, Christinaity and Islam. He had special interest in Islam and according to accounts, one night he saw prophet Muhammed in his dream asking him "Is it not time for you to embrace Islam", then following that night he embraced Islam. After this Turkic population also embraced islam as they have a notion of loyalty for their Khan's.

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    Sources would improve this answer
    – MCW
    Aug 4, 2017 at 13:10

Turkic people who lived in the middle east became Muslims or died. Many went to North European countries but the ones that stayed either converted or killed, is as simple as that. They fought bravely for 3 centuries and were usually vastly outnumbered by the muslim Arabs who for 400 years had been trying to islamsise them by the sword. If they list a battle, they were enslaved by the Arabs and Islam was drummed into them. They started learning and speaking Arabic just to be able to practice Islam like their captors. The Seljuk turks held off the muslims until they too were converted by the Arabs. The Arab kingdoms broke up like Russia and the mainly Oğuz turks formed their Islamic ottoman empire. They ironically used the same Arab tactics used to convert them of enslaving their enemies, converting them to Islam. They were accidental Muslims who today don't speak or understand Arabic and practice a religion which most don't understand.

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    Sources would improve this answer.
    – Semaphore
    Dec 7, 2017 at 12:05
  • Your answer is Eurocentric and it aims to disgrace Islam, this is unacceptable.
    – user44626
    Jun 24, 2020 at 21:01
  • To understand history, you need to study History from all points of view. China, Southeast Asia and Australia, India, the Middle East, Europe, East Africa, North Africa. Also, West Africa and the rest of Asia, the Americas. The rest do all in one category, and this is for ancient. As you can see, Europe is a mere fraction. When studying Islam, study it from the Islamic World, not why it matters to Europe. What I'm trying to say is, try to understand the whole world.
    – user44626
    Jun 24, 2020 at 21:07

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