Intellectual Life in the Mongol Iran: Young Scholars Seminar with Cambridge PhD Candidate Yusuf Chaudhary

Yunus Emre Institute in London organised another fascinating Young Scholar Seminar Series talk on the Intellectual Life in the Mongol Iran on Tuesday 23rd May 2022 with Cambridge PhD candidate Yusuf Chaudhary. 

The Mongol period of rule over the Eastern Islamic world is increasingly being recognised as one of vibrant cultural and intellectual exchange, overturning popular narratives of intellectual decline and stagnation. As scholars gathered in the emerging intellectual centres of Marāghah and Tabrīz, a new stage in the history of Islamic philosophy began, which saw a synthesis of Avicennan philosophy, Ashʿarite kalām, and the sufi metaphysics of the “Greatest Master” Ibn ʿArabī (d. 1240) in Mongol Iran and Anatolia. Becoming home to prolific scholars such as Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 1274), Quṭb al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī (d. 1311), al-Qāḍī al-Bayḍāwī (d. 1306), al-ʿAllāmah al-Ḥillī (d. 1325), and many others, new intellectual centres in the Mongol Ilkhanate attracted prominent Sunnī and Shīʿī scholars to study and debate philosophy and theology, facilitated both directly and indirectly by the Mongol rulers and their Persian administrators. Many of the works produced in this period have, however, received little attention from contemporary historians or remain unedited in manuscript archives. 



In this talk titled “Intellectual Life in the Mongol Iran: Networks of Scholars in 13th and 14thC Maraghah and Tabriz”, Yusuf Chaudhary explored the networks of intellectuals and their works in the two cities of Marāghah and Tabrīz, primarily through the understudied Arabic biographical dictionary of the Mongol-era historian Ibn al-Fuwaṭī (d. 1323). The dictionary provides a view of the intellectual life of the Mongol Ilkhanate through the eyes of one of the most active members of its scholarly elite, and these two towns became centres attracting scholars to settle there, seeking patronage, or administrative positions, or to engage with the local scholarly community.  



Young Scholars Seminar Series prides itself in being varied in topic, covering all from immunology to the travelogues of 13-century Arab travellers. The common denominator between these talks are the outstanding young academics who passionately platform their research and their fascinating nature! Chaudhary’s talk was no different.  

It was said that the rivers of Iran/ Tabrīz ran red with blood and black with ink following the Mongol invasion as they pulled cities and libraries to the ground. Giving a broad overview of Mongol Iranian history, Chaudhary began his deep-diving talk by tackling the age-old myth. Without denying the destruction, he pointed to the relative flourishing of intellectual life in the two cities of Marāghah and Tabrīz. Chaudhary situated the Mongol Empire within the broader context of Islamic intellectual history, allowing a better understanding of the process of Islamisation, Islamic theological developments, the relationship between Muslim scholars and the Ilkhanid court, and intellectual transmission in the Islamic East.  



That talk, however, ended with an undeniable conclusion that Chaudhary stressed: there was so much more to research and learn about this understudied topic and we are all excited to follow Chaudhary’s future works! 

Following the event, traditional Turkish refreshments were served. 

For more information on the event please visit our website: or email at 

The talk can be watched on Yunus Emre Institute London’s YouTube Channel, @yeelondra.  

About the Speaker: 

Yusuf Chaudhary is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in the University of Cambridge. After completing his BA in History from SOAS, University of London, he completed his MPhil in Classical Islamic History at the University of Cambridge examining the theological works of the Ilkhanid prime minister Rashīd al-Dīn al-Hamadhānī (d. 1318). His main research interest is in Islamic intellectual history during the late medieval period, the Mongol interaction with Islamic world, the Islamisation of the Mongols. 

About the Young Scholars Talk Series: 

Established in 2017, the Young Scholar Seminar Series is a platform giving postgraduate students the opportunity to present their research to the wider public and encourage the exchange of knowledge. In particular, the series have been designed to promote the academic achievements of young academics, increase their visibility, and facilitate networking opportunities. Yunus Emre Institute in London invites young academics from all disciplines with research into global or Turkey-related topics to present their findings and become part of the institute’s growing young academic network.