Mahmud Ghazan or Qazaan the Khan of the Tartars (original Mongol name: Ghazan Khan, Ch:合贊, b. November 5, 1271 – d. May 11, 1304), was the seventh ruler of the Mongol empire's Ilkhanate division in Iran from 1295 to 1304. Western chroniclers sometimes referred to him as Casanus or Cassanus.
Ghazan had been baptized and raised a Christian, as well as his brother Oljeitu. During his youth, he also followed Buddhism, which was one of the dominant religions in the Mongol empire at that time.
His principal wife during his lifetime was Kökechin, who had been brought from China by Marco Polo. In 1291 Kubilai khan had entrusted Marco with his last duty, to escort the Mongol princess Koekecin (Cocacin in Il Milione) to her betrothed, the Ilkhan Arghun. The party traveled by sea, departing from the southern port city of Quanzhou and sailing to Sumatra, and then to Persia, via Sri Lanka and India (where his visits included Mylapore, Madurai and Alleppey, which he nicknamed Venice of the East). In 1293 or 1294 the Polos reached the Ilkhanate, ruled by Gaykhatu after the death of Arghun, and left Koekecin with the new Ilkhan. She married Ghazan when he acceded to the throne.
Ghazan was a man of high culture who spoke numerous languages, including Chinese, Arabic and "Frank" (probably Latin) as well as his own native language Mongolian. Numerous Europeans are known to have worked for Ghazan, often in high positions, such as Isol the Pisan or Buscarello de Ghizolfi. Hundreds such Western adventurers entered into the service of Mongol rulers.
Ghazan managed to annex power from Baydu in 1295 with the help of the prominent Muslim Mongol amir Nawrūz. Ghazan was convinced to convert to Sunni Islam by Nawrūz, as a condition for the latter's military support in toppling Baidu. Along with his conversion, Ghazan changed his first name to the Arab name Mahmud. Islam started to rise again in Mongol lands. His early rule was opposed by mongol nobles. For example, 10,800 oirats under Targhai sheltered in Syria and Egypt while mongol generals, who were sent by Ghazan against Duwa, deserted. And Rumi tatar noyan Sultamish also revolted against his rule and fled.
He forced his subjects to convert Islam and sent friendly letter to Mamluks who were now common believers. At first, he frustrated non-muslim mongols and buddhist monks and abdicted all allegiance to unbeliever Great Khan in Yuan Dynasty. But he started sending envoys and tributes to the Yuan Court in around 1298 and kept Mongol Chyansan Bolad who was a representative of Great Khan in Ilkhanate.
However, various sources stated that even with Ghazan's conversion to Islam, he still practiced Mongol Shamanism at large and worshipped Tengri. The Yassa code remained in place and Mongol Shamans were allowed to remain in the Ilkhanate empire and remained politically influential throughout his reign as well as Oljeitu's, but ancient Mongol traditions eventually went into decline with the demise of Oljeitu.
addenda: as far as we know on base upon historical primary source such as Jami' al-Tawarikh of Rashid al-Din Fadhl-allah al-hamidani, his Iranian vizier, he was a Shiite.
According to the history of Mar Yaballaha, Nawruz issued an edict according to which:
According to Mar Yaballaha, the Patriarch of the Church of the East, Nawrūz loyalists destroyed Buddhist temples (Pagodas had been built in Tabriz and Sultaniye, and numerous monks had immigrated from Sin-Kiang, Tibet or China) and chased Buddhists out of Ilkhan dominion or converted them to Islam, a move from which Iranian Buddhism never recovered. The Christians were also severely affected. The cathedral of Maragha, the Mongol capital, was looted. Churches in Tabriz and Hamadan were also destroyed.
Ghazan soon however put a stop to these exactions by issuing an edict exempting the Christians from the jizya and stated that "none of them shall abandon his faith, that the Catholicus shall live in the state to which he hath been accustomed". Mar Yaballaha was reestablished in his functions in 1296, signaling a return to previous policies.
Ghazan eliminated the partisans of Nawrūz for treason in May 1297. He then marched against Nawrūz, then commander of the army of Khorassan, in 1297, and vanquished him near Nishapur. Nawrūz took refuge at the court of the malik of Herat, in northern Afghanistan, but the latter actually betrayed him and delivered him to Ghazan, who had him executed immediately on August 13th.
Ghazan thereafter attempted to control the situation. The following year he nominated Rashid al-Din, a Jew converted to Islam, as prime minister, a post he would hold continuously between 1298 to 1318. Despite his conversion, due to his cultural roots, Ghazan also encouraged the original archaic Mongol culture to flourish. He tolerated the Shiites as well.
Ghazan marched with his forces towards Syria and sent letters to the Franks of Cyprus (the King of Cyprus, and the heads of the Knights Templar, the Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights), inviting them to come join him in his attack on the Mamluks in Syria. Ghazan's first letter was sent on October 21, which arrived 15 days later. He sent a second letter in November.
There is no record of any reply, but Ghazan moved ahead and successfully took the city of Aleppo. There, Ghazan was joined by Hethum II of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, whose forces included some Templars and Hospitallers, and who participated in the rest of the offensive. The Mongols and their allies defeated the Mamluks in the Battle of Wadi al-Khazandar, on December 23 or 24, 1299. One group of Mongols then split off from Ghazan's army, and pursued the retreating Mamluk troops as far as Gaza, pushing them back to Egypt. The bulk of Ghazan's forces then proceeded on to Damascus, which surrendered somewhere between December 30, 1299, and January 6, 1300, though its Citadel resisted. Ghazan then retreated most of his forces in February, probably because their horses needed fodder. He promised to return in the winter of 1300-1301 to attack Egypt.
In the meantime the remaining forces of the Mongols, about 10,000 horsemen under the Mongol general Mulay, ruled over Syria and engaged in raids as far south as Jerusalem and Gaza. But that small force had to retreat when the Mamluks returned in May 1300.
In July 1300, the Crusaders formed a small fleet of sixteen galleys with some smaller vessels, to raid the coast. The fleet was commanded by King Henry II of Jerusalem, the king of Cyprus, accompanied by his brother, Amalric, Lord of Tyre the heads of the military orders, and Ghazan's ambassador. The ships left Famagusta on July 20, 1300, to raid the coasts of Egypt and Syria: Rosette, Alexandria, Acre, Tortosa, and Maraclea, before returning to Cyprus.
In February 1301, the Mongols did arrive with a force of 60,000, but could do little else than engage in some raids around Syria. Kutlushah (Qutlugh-Shah for the Mongols, Cotelesse in Frank sources) stationed 20,000 horsemen in the Jordan valley to protect Damas, where a Mongol governor was stationed. Soon however, they had to withdraw. The Templar of Tyre wrote:
Plans for combined operations were again made for the following winter offensive. A letter has been kept from Jacques de Molay to Edward I, and dated April 8, 1301, informing him of the troubles encountered by Ghazan, but announcing that Ghazan was supposed to come in Autumn:
And in a letter to the king of Aragon a few months later:
In late 1301, Ghazan sent a letter to the Pope, asking the Pope to send troops, priests, peasants, in order to make the Holy Land a Frank state again, but this time again Ghazan did not appear with his troops.
On April 12, 1302, Ghazan sent a letter and an embassy to Pope Boniface VIII, apparently in answer to an encouraging letter by the latter suggesting Western troops would be dispatched for the 1302/1303 offensive.
Ghazan's ambassadors stayed at the court of Charles II of Anjou. When they returned to Persia after April 27, 1303, they were accompanied by Gualterius de Lavendel, as ambassador of Charles II to Ghazan.
However Mongol forces with their Armenian allies were defeated at Homs on March 30, 1303, and at the decisive Battle of Marj al-Saffar, south of Damascus, in April 1303. It is considered to be the last major Mongol invasion of Syria.
Also in 1303, Ghazan had again sent a letter to Edward I, in the person of Buscarello de Ghizolfi, reinterating Hulagu's promise that they would give Jerusalem to the Franks in exchange for help against the Mamluks. However, Ghazan died on May 10, 1304, and Crusader dreams of a rapid reconquest of the Holy Land were destroyed. Ghazan was succeeded by his brother Oljeitu, who continued the adoption of Islam, and later by his nephew Abu Sa'id and niece Sati Beg.