Buddhism Buddhism and Islam
Johan Elverskog
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0050


Although Buddhists and Muslims have interacted for more than a millennium across the length and breadth of Eurasia, there has been relatively little scholarly work on this particular religious encounter. Why scholars have overlooked this meeting is certainly an important question; however, it is one that is beyond the scope of this bibliography. Nevertheless, one can note that scholarship often creates artificial boundaries of study that obscure the messy realities of lived human experience. Indeed, it is presumably on account of various scholarly frameworks—such as nation-states, area studies, linguistic specializations, and even disciplines—that the history of Buddhist–Muslim interaction has largely been ignored. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, because these conceptual frameworks have come under increasing scrutiny, new chapters of human history are beginning to be explored, and one of these is the meeting between the worlds of Buddhism and Islam. Work in this field is still very much in its infancy, and thus what follows is not a conventional annotated bibliography surveying centuries of scholarship; rather, it is simply an overview of some of the available scholarly literature on the meeting of Buddhists and Muslims in both the past and present across various regions of Asia.

General Overviews

Even though there is not a great deal of scholarship on the historical interaction of Buddhists and Muslims, there are several studies that provide valuable introductory overviews of such meetings. Berzin 2010 and Waardenburg 1999, for example, both offer surveys of how Buddhists and Muslims understood each other in the medieval period. Akasoy, et al. 2011; Elverskog 2010; Foltz 2010; and Smith 1973, in contrast, take a geographical approach and therefore reveal how Buddhists and Muslims interacted in Tibet, Inner Asia, Iran, and India. It is these two general approaches—which may be termed the comparative and the regional—that provide the framework for this bibliography.

  • Akasoy, Anna, Charles Burnett, and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim. Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011.

    This collection of eighteen articles surveys the cultural exchange and transmission of knowledge between the Islamic world and Tibet as they have developed from the 8th to the early 21st century.

  • Berzin, Alexander. “Historical Survey of the Buddhist and Muslim Worlds’ Knowledge of Each Other’s Customs and Teachings.” In A Special Issue on Islam and Buddhism. Muslim World 100.2–3 (2010): 187–203.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.2010.01313.x

    In this article, Berzin offers a concise overview of Buddhist and Muslim sources that reveal how each tradition understood the other from their first contact in South Asia until the Mongol Il-Khanid dynasty in Iran (1258–1336 CE). Available online for purchase.

  • Elverskog, Johan. Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. Encounters with Asia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010.

    This work is the first monograph on Buddhist–Muslim interaction and focuses on Inner Asia from the 8th century through the Mongol Empire and to the end of the Qing dynasty in the late 19th century.

  • Foltz, Richard. “Buddhism in the Iranian World.” In A Special Issue on Islam and Buddhism. Muslim World 100.2–3 (2010): 204–214.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.2010.01322.x

    This article is a revised and updated version of a chapter from Foltz’s Spirituality in the Land of the Noble: How Iran Shaped the World’s Religions (Oxford: Oneworld, 2004) and offers a useful history of Buddhism’s presence in Iran. Available online for purchase.

  • Smith, Jane I. “Early Muslim Accounts of Buddhism in India.” Studies in Islam 10 (1973): 87–100.

    Smith’s short article provides a convenient overview and analysis of the extant early Muslim sources on Buddhism in India.

  • Waardenburg, Jacques. “The Medieval Period, 650–1500.” In Muslim Perceptions of Other Religions: A Historical Survey. Edited by Jacques Waardenburg, 18–69. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    In this wide-ranging overview of Islamic representations of other religious traditions during the medieval period, the author provides material on how to understand the Muslim engagement with Buddhism.

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