The Islamic World to 1600
After Genghis Khan's death in 1227, his vast empire was divided between two of his sons, Ogodei and Chagatai. Ogodei became Great Khan after his father's death, and thus controlled most of the Mongol Empire. Chagatai, however, was also given a small area of Central Asia to control, while maintaining allegiance to Ogodei as Great Khan. The region under Chagatai's control was populated mostly by Turkish nomads, many of which had already converted to Islam. The great Central Asian cities of Bukhara and Samarkand also fell within Chagatai's sphere, both of which were influential centres of Islamic scholarship. For the most part, however, the Chagatai Khanate ruled non-urbanised communities, thereby preserving the traditional nomadic ways of the Mongols while other Khanates became more settled and urbanised. It is generally agreed that the Chagatai Khanate was the weakest of all Mongol-controlled empires because it was small, and thus it was easily absorbed into the spheres of influence of more powerful neighbouring Khanates.
After Chagatai's death in 1242, the Khanate retained the name of its original leader, but it fell into Ogodei's realm under the control of his grandson, Kaidu. Following Kaidu's death in 1301, a handful of the Mongol rulers of the Chagatai Khanate were Muslims, indicating that Islam had penetrated the region. It was not until the ascension of Tarmashirin to the throne in 1326, however, that the Chagatai Khanate became an officially Muslim state. All Khans after him were Muslim, and Central Asia has remained Islamic ever since. With the conversion of the Chagatai Khanate, all three western Mongol empires, including the Golden Horde and the Il-Khanate - as we will see later in this chapter - were Islamic. It is rather remarkable, considering the usual pattern in world history of a conquering power imposing its culture on its new subjects, that the Mongol conquerors of the Islamic world instead adopted the culture and religion of their subjects.
The Chagatai Khanate fell to Timur, himself a native of Samarkand, in the mid-14th century, more about which will come later in this chapter. Timur's successors were in turn ousted from the Chagatai Khanate by the Sheibanids, descendants of a brother of Batu, the original Khan of the Golden Horde. The Sheibanids later called themselves the Uzbeks, the name by which they are still known today. Another Islamic group, known today as the Kazakhs, originated as dissident Uzbeks during the same period. Both groups became part of the Soviet Union in 1917, making up two of the five Muslim republics of that country. Today, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are independent countries, living remnants of the Chagatai Mongol legacy in Central Asia.
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