Russian Muslim Culture: Social reality and concept


Islam appeared on the territory of what is now modern Russia in the middle of the 7th century. In the almost fourteen centuries since then, one can speak of an intimate interaction between the peoples who forged the Eurasian civilization and the bearers of Islamic identity. There is no doubt that Islam became a part of Russian and Eurasian identity and exerted a considerable influence on its formation. However, in the 19-20th centuries when there were heated arguments about Russia’s place in world civilization, about Russia’s path, and about the ‘Russian Idea’, practically no attention was devoted to the Islamic factor. This is a serious omission in the various historiosophical projects developed by Russian thinkers, such as the Russian Idea of Solovyov, Ilyin and Berdyaev, the Slavophilism of Danilevsky and Leontyev, or the Eurasianism of Savitsky and Trubetzkoy. In the few passages where Russian philosophers mention Islam, it appears as an exotic or obviously marginal form of religiosity, and in the best instance as a sort of ‘potential Orthodoxy’. But there is no deep philosophical or cultural analysis[1]. This is all the more surprising given that at the beginning of the 20th century Islamic thought and Islamic identity were already being analyzed in European scholarship, even if not in as much detail as one might wish. This neglect of the Islamic factor and the Muslim population of Russia can be explained by the dominance of Orthodoxy and the real lack of success at finding a synthetic, ‘all-human’ position, the necessity for which was often recognized by Russian thinkers (consider Dostoevsky: ‘For wherein lies the strength of the spirit of the Russian people if not in its directing its ultimate aims towards universalism and all-humanity?’).

This lacuna in our native Russian philosophical reflection about the civilizational mission of Russia was reproduced in full measure in the 1990s and early years of the 21st century. The revival of the Russian religious-philosophical heritage, the development of ideas based on the uniqueness of Russia as a ‘civilizational state’ went hand in hand with a lack of attention towards Islam and the Muslim population. If Islam was mentioned it was only fleetingly and formalistically. There were no real attempts to consider and reflect upon Russian Muslim identity or to integrate it into Russia’s civilizational strategy. In my experience, this has always been accompanied by an extremely low level of knowledge about Islam among the Russian intelligentsia. The idea of Islam as an ‘archaic’ religion, which ‘oppresses women’ and engages in ‘terrorism’ that was bandied about in Western Islamaphobic discourse at the beginning of the 21st century[2] is also thoroughly typical of our own so-called ‘intelligentsia’. One might be able to explain the indifference to the Islamic factor in the 19th century as due to ideological pressures, but in light of the current orientation towards ‘multiculturalism’, ‘interreligious dialogue’, and ‘civilizational uniqueness’, i.e. in light of the neo-Eurasian trend, this is hardly very convincing.

The first attempts to think about Russian Muslim culture were made in the 19th century by Tatar thinkers. The jadid movement (from the Arabic, jadid, ‘new’) campaigned for the modernization of the Muslim population, the expansion of education, educational reform, the study of secular subjects, and taking advantage of the achievements of science. Many jadids assumed that a key role in the modernization of Russian Muslims would be played by the Russian people, who they thought of as intermediaries between the Muslims and ‘enlightened’ Europeans[3]. In his foundational article ‘Russian Muslims’ the prominent Crimean Tatar thinker Ismail Gasprinski expressed this in the following manner: “I believe that sooner or later Russian Muslims, who have been formed by Russia, will lead other Muslims in intellectual development and civilization.” There was thus an expectation that fruitful interchange with the Russian people would lead Muslims to succeed in forming a unique form of identity that would combine dedication to tradition and moderate modernization. It is worth mentioning that optimism and faith in progress were characteristic of the jadids in general, although in their later works (especially with Musa Bigiev) there is a noticeable disenchantment with the one-sided nature of progress and an increasing emphasis on the ‘lack of spirituality’ of European society and its pursuit of material benefits.

Unfortunately, the jadids’ attempts to develop the concept of a Russian Muslim Culture were not taken any further. It seems to me that today this theme is of strategic importance. Thus I have tried to draw people’s attention to it in a number of recent publications.[4] Here I will briefly outline my vision of the problem.

What is the concept of Russian Muslim Culture?

            The concept of ‘Russian Muslim Culture’ (rossiyskoe musul’manstvo) can be used in three senses. Firstly, it means the conglomeration of special practices of Islam or Muslim cultures on the territory of the Russian Federation. Secondly, it indicates the bearers of these practices, that is, Russian Muslims themselves. Thirdly, it implies the conceptualization of specific practices of Islam and its bearers, that is the concepts or ideologemes, which most adequately capture the uniqueness of the Muslim communities and defines the strategy for their development.

            This concept should not be confused with widespread journalistic terms such as ‘Russian (rossiyski) Islam’, ‘Russian (russky) Islam’ or ‘traditional Islam’. Islam cannot be Russian, Arab or Tatar. It is universal and therefore its fundamental principles are above ethnicity. The ummah was already multiethnic in its earliest stages. The feeling for the unity of the ummah is more intense for Muslims than among representatives of other religions. Nonetheless, Islam does not deny ethnic and national diversity. In the Qur’an it says: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other…verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.”(49:13).

            As Tawfik Ibrahim demonstrates in his work [5], the Qur’an is in general characterized by a pluralistic position. A human being, in the complex form in which he is manifested in the world, cannot go beyond ethnicity, cannot cease to possess a specific bodily constitution, cannot stop thinking in specific patterns, or stop speaking in a concrete language that possesses its own grammatical structure. All these things are natural and must be taken into account. Spiritual development does not mean that one must deny one’s ethnicity – in this world one cannot deny it any more than one can abandon one’s body or mental processes – but that one must aim for perfection within the limits and boundaries that ethnicity sets before us. In reality there is no Russian, Tatar or Arab, but only a virtuous or unvirtuous person. But one can only become virtuous by being a Russian, Tatar or Arab. Ethnicity defines our existence too strongly for it simply to be ignored; even a conscious effort to liberate oneself from ethnicity will mean joining another ethnic group or simply refusing to think about one’s own ethnicity. Belonging to the ummah does not mean abandoning one’s ethnicity. The real ummah does not suppress ethnicity: ethnicity is overcome on the spiritual level, but who is a true member of this ‘spiritual ummah’, who is truly God-fearing in the eyes of the Creator (that is, strictly speaking, a true ‘muslim’, literally ‘humble before God’) is not given to us to know. Thus the Qur’anic revelation supports ethnic diversity and a healthy interest in one’s own identity.

The attempt to understand the nature of Russian Muslim culture is motivated by precisely this attentiveness to one’s own identity and its traditions. If we look back through history, we can see that Islamic practice has never existed in isolation from a concrete culture, and when it comes to a new land, it sprouts new shoots and forms local methods of worship, or a Muslim culture. At the same time it is wrong to say, as some critics do, that this has led to the appearance of innovations (Arabic. bidah) and the pollution of Islam. In reality, Islam is capable of integrating into itself everything that does not contradict its principles (the possibility of such an interpretation is made explicit in the Hanafi madhhab), so that a traditional culture in which Islam occupies a leading place, will in time become a Muslim culture, that is, it will absorb shades of Islamic meaning at all levels.

This is precisely what occurred in the Eurasian region. Islam came to the modern territory of Russia back in the 7th century c.e. and since then it has been the faith of numerous peoples in diverse conditions. Over a long time Russian Muslim civilization has matured and in the process combined within itself several components:

-          The traditions of local peoples

-          The influence of other Islamic cultures (primarily Arab, Turkish and Persian)

-          Mutual exchange with Slavic, Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples

-          The influences of European learning (generally through the medium of Russian education)

Consequently, we possess a conglomerate of cultures, such as the Bashkir, Chechen, Tatar, Crimean Tatar and others, which developed in a unique civilizational space and which are distinguished by the complete dominance of an Islamic spirit that pervades all aspects of life and creativity. I am convinced that a deep meditation on these concepts will allow us to develop a discourse on Russian Muslim culture that is adequate for the present age and will help overcome the clear defects in intellectual reflection that exist today.


            In order to preserve Russian Muslim culture and define a strategy for its development it is necessary to have a concept that will be broad enough to encompass its main features and highlight its place in the context of modern social, political, philosophical and civilizational trends. The creation of such a concept or ideologeme is only possible through contextualization, that is, the definition of external and internal tendencies. We should say something about this briefly.

            An important feature of the ideological climate of contemporary Russia is the implicit recognition that the historically unique feature of our country is its status as a ‘civilizational state’ which is characterized by cultural and religious pluralism and a special vector of development. K.N. Leontyev’s term, ‘flourishing complexity’ is probably the best way to describe this global formation. The goal of uniting the country and defining perspectives for its future progress within the framework of an emerging multipolar world has led the Kremlin elite to draw up a set of concepts and ideas of a neo-Eurasian type. This set of ideas is not yet a complete ideology: a more appropriate term would be ‘proto-ideology’. It received its fullest expression in the foundational articles of Putin and in a number of his speeches, especially one speech given at Valdai in 2013. The essence of this ‘proto-ideology’ can be reduced to four principles: anti-globalism, traditional multiculturalism, the defense of traditional values and moderate conservatism. These principles are not linked to short-term interests but have conceptual philosophical foundations.

1)                 Anti-globalism relies on a philosophically-based pluralism of worldviews and models of development. This conception has been factually reinforced by the growth of the economic power of the BRICS countries, which has been accompanied by a broad post-colonial reflection about the identity of separate centers of power, or local civilizations. The task of Eurasian integration is to organize one of these poles. The future multipolar world corresponds to the Qur’anic vision of pluralism. In the Qur’an it says: “And had Allah not checked one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief.” (2: 251). Russian Muslims are undoubtedly concerned that ultraliberal models of development, especially in the area of values, are not mechanically transferred onto Russia. As practice shows, behind superficially attractive models there lies far from attractive content: the preaching of total hedonism, orientation towards the material world, a crisis of spirituality, erosion of cultural diversity, extinction of languages, the uniformity of humanity, the destruction of nature, technologization/virtualization of reality and social relations – these are only some of the costs.

2)                 The traditional multiculturalism of the neo-Eurasian proto-ideology means that development in Russia will be linked to deeper interreligious and inter-cultural exchange, and to the encouragement of the peaceful coexistence of Eurasian spiritual traditions and the cultures formed under their influence, without prioritizing any one culture. Russian Muslim civilization is also interested in such a project. It has a centuries-old experience of peaceful coexistence with representatives of other religions. This peaceful potential is contained within Islam itself [6]. In the Qur’an it says: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:257). “To you be your Way, and to me mine!” (109:6). “ ‘Say: ‘The Truth is from your Lord’; let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it).’” (18:29). It is worth noting that another aspect of tolerance is eschatological optimism, which is widely disseminated in Russian Muslim civilization. It is sufficient to recall the theory of the all-encompassing nature of the divine mercy which was developed in the works of Musa Bigiev [7]. According to Bigiev, God has endowed every particle of creation and being with His mercy so that man too is always in the bosom of His infinite mercy. From this follows the temporary duration of Hell and the ultimate salvation of all people (after correction obviously). In developing these ideas, Bigiev drew on deep theologians like al-Ghazali and Ibn Arabi. Unfortunately, in the Middle East the principles of tolerance contained in Islam have not been observed in practice recently.

3)                 The defense of traditional values is driven by a desire to preserve the social morality and ethical guidelines that reflect long-established norms of behavior and attitudes to reality which have been formulated clearly in the precepts of the world religions. The necessity of articulating attachment to these principles distinctly is driven by the fact that in European society an erosion of values is taking place under the cover of slogans like ‘emancipation’ and ‘liberalization’. Obviously, Russian Muslims as religious people are staunch supporters of tradition, and along with other ethno-religious minorities, they form the core of Russian conservatism. It is interesting that the Russian political elite, primarily in the person of Putin, when explaining the reasons for the need to disengage from ultra-liberal European values often appeal to the position of the Muslim peoples.

4)                 Moderate conservatism is conceived of by the architects of the neo-Eurasian proto-ideology as a combination of the format of secular society with the moral and spiritual advantages which the traditional religions give us. This is precisely a moderate, contemporary conservatism and far from the fundamentalism of Islamic radicals and Protestant sects. I would say that it is a unique blend of robust European democracy, technical progress, education and moral conservatism, with equal rights for the four leading religions and minority cultures. Russian Muslims are ready to support this strategy in every way. This is due to the fact that Russian Muslim culture is itself characterized by moderation (Arabic, wasatiyyah, Qur’an 2:143), and is capable of combining a contemporary way of life and thought with the principles of Islamic doctrine. It is not a ‘religion of the desert’, not hyper-ascetical, it doesn’t summon its followers to run off into the forest, or to curse the technical achievements of civilization and European learning. Due to its flexibility, it is capable of absorbing all the best that contemporary civilization has to offer [8].

Thus Russian Muslim civilization is well integrated into the strategy of the neo-Eurasian development of Russia. Moreover, it is only possible to preserve one’s identity within the framework of this strategy.


Among the challenges facing Russian Muslim civilization one can highlight both the local and the conceptual. The local problems include:

-          Radicalization (including via the influence of geopolitical competitors)

-          Islamophobia

-          Attempts to suppress Islam by force

-          Integration of immigrants

There is a vast literature on these problems, so I do not want to dwell on them now. I will only point out that where there is the political will and concrete programs these problems can be solved easily. More interesting are the conceptual problems which are not immediately observable in a superficial analysis.

The fundamental challenge facing Russian Muslim culture is linked to the intensification of modernization. This intensification is necessary for the state if it is to compete in our times. Starting from the 17th century Europe has begun to impose on the whole world the technological project of development, including the race for arms. Those countries which did not go down the path of modernization invariably ended up on the colonial periphery. This is what happened with the greater part of the Islamic world. However, Russian Muslims, integrated as they were into the Russian state, found themselves in a more advantageous position. Now when it comes to intensifying the pace of modernization there is a danger that, along with modernization, Russia will gradually be penetrated by the ideology of ultra-liberalism.

 Unfortunately, discussion of this theme often runs up against a wall of misunderstanding. Liberals tend to think that the widespread criticism of ‘degenerate Europe’ is nothing but a propaganda device. I propose that, on the contrary, the propaganda is superficial and does not take account the deeper meaning that underlies the processes occurring with regard to gender in Europe.

  In the era of Enlightenment liberalism had an entirely positive meaning: ‘freedom’ was interpreted as freedom of religion, freedom of ownership, freedom to acquire knowledge, freedom of speech and so on; in the 19th century the idea of ‘freedom’ was used to defend the interests of the working class, the rights of women, national movements and so on. These were all worthy ideals which inspired a great number of people. However, the logic of liberalism is unforgiving.  If we make a certain idea fundamental, then we must be prepared to follow it to its logical end.  Thus consistent ‘liberals’, such as ultra-liberals truly are, in the second half of the 20th century then began to get interested not in the rights of women and the oppressed classes, but in the rights of perverts and post-gender people. If the founders of liberalism, who were practically all respectable Christians had seen what the Frankfurt school, radical feminism, the ‘New Left’ and the postmodernists, would do to liberalism, they would have been horrified[9].

 By proclaiming the full freedom of the individual and organizing society according to this principle, liberals automatically legitimized outcomes such as the relativization of morality, same-sex partnerships, the destruction of the traditional family, hedonism and LGBT-perversion. By making the individual, the subject, and his personal ‘I want’ the cornerstone of their thought, they make all types of identity the prerogative of his personal whim and tie their hands when it comes to limiting this whim. Any legal limitation then becomes an ‘enslavement of personal freedoms’, which is unacceptable for liberalism. Practically speaking, the release of the individual whim is a legal license for any sin or perversion.

 From the point of view of Islam, the ‘freedom’ proclaimed in ultra-liberalism is essentially the emancipation of the lower part of a person, the animal soul, or nafs. It is important to understand that where there is an increase of the human ‘I’, the human ‘I want’, or the human ‘whim’, Islam can find no place, for Islam is humbling of one’s will before the Divine will. It is not by chance that the leading Sufis in their mystical states affirmed that “I no longer exist, there is only God’ (al-Junayd). A modern person says just the opposite: “there is only I, there is only my ‘I want’, my animal desire.” But this is an illusion, for as is well-known, “a holy place does not remain empty”. And we Muslims understand very well who has in fact occupied this place.

Typological characteristics

 The conceptualization and contextualization planned here is intended to preserve Russian Muslim culture and define its future prospects for development. But what is the specific nature of Islam’s existence in Russia? To get a detailed answer to this question one must refer to the specialized literature [10]. Here I will only outline those components which I have managed to discern as a result of my own observations, and I will focus mainly on the culture of the Volga region.

 In the development of Russian Muslim civilization a key role was played by Sufism (Arabic, tasawwuf). In the widest sense ‘Sufism’ should be understood as referring to the teaching about the Way (tariq) that leads a person to the attainment of divine truths; it is a teaching that also has a multifaceted practical dimension. The essence of Sufism was formulated nicely by the Tatar thinker Abu-n-Nasr Kursavi: “Tasawwuf consists of the purification of the heart from bad habits, worldly cares, [it leads the heart] to be in accordance with the natural pattern [of the human essence] (rusum tabi’iya). All this is in order that a person – after the heart has been cleansed from bad qualities and attained charitable qualities, and his concerns have become more elevated, and he is focused on the performance of worship, following the Prophet in the shariah, and after his fleshly soul has turned aside from sordid passions – may become a Sufi.”[11].  European researchers who took the statements of Hanbalite scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Jawzi uncritically, long considered Sufism to be something foreign to Islam. However, in work done in the second half of the 20th century it was convincingly shown that the classical forms of Sufism grew organically out of the practice of “abstention from the worldly” (zuhd) of the early Muslims, and in essence are a formalization of the methods of divine gnosis [12]. Sufism can be considered an answer to the Qur’anic call to follow the “straight path” (Qur’an 10:25, 16:4, 6:149 etc). This straight path is thought of as a path to God that passes through self-perfection and gnosis, primarily gnosis of one’s own soul and heart. The conception of gnosis (ma’rifa) is a leading motif in the Sufi tradition, stretching from the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the early ascetics up until our own days.

 It was the Naqshbandiya Sufi brotherhood that exerted the greatest influence on Russian Muslim civilization.[13] This Sufi tariqat was founded by Muhammad Baha-ud-Din Naqshband (1318-1389), who was a native of Bukhara. The Naqshbandiya brotherhood is characterized by moderation, restraint, a preference for the “sober” spiritual state: hence their “quiet” or “silent” dhikr, the aversion to music and dances during devotion, and their cautious attitude towards miracles. The Naqshbandiya brotherhood also effectively distanced itself from the practice of retreating from society. Sheikh Naqshband rejected ostentatious piety, ostentatious asceticism and ritualism, and summoned people to live in the world and maintain strong social ties: one of his well-knowing sayings is, “The heart towards the Beloved (Allah), and the hand towards action.” Moderation, restraint, tolerance, rejection of emotional extremes and aggression, an orientation towards this world and life in this world – all this is characteristic of the Naqshbandiya tariqat, and these features have long defined the shape of Russian Muslim culture[14].

 I propose that the Russian form of Islamic culture is best described as an Islam of the heart. This definition should be understood not just in the ethical sense, but in the ontological sense too. The heart (qalb) is the centre of human existence and the main organ of divine gnosis. The Lord says in a hadith qudsi: “I cannot be contained by the earth and the heavens but the heart of my faithful servant can contain me.” The Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi gave the deepest explication of this statement.

 Ibn Arabi calls the human heart “the water of life.” This “water of life” plays the role of a whirlpool of being in his ontology, a constant permutation of all existence, a dynamic flow, a realization, a pulsation, in short, a permanent new creation (khalq jadid). Another important association which Ibn Arabi makes use of is based on the origin of the Arabic word for “heart”, qalb, which comes from the root q-l-b, “to revolve, to change”. The heart is thus thought of as a vessel for all the changeable forms of being. The heart so conceived by Ibn Arabi is equated with the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil), that is, the higher state which every person should realize within themselves. In other words, a person ascends through his heart, by descending deeper into it, to a special state where all forms of being are integrated, to a state of perfect divine gnosis. And Ibn Arabi calls this state khira, “distraction”, but also “the whirlpool”. Khira is the highest mystical contemplation, a special type of distraction in the Sufi, who sees God in everything but at the same time recognizes His essential (dhat) transcendence, who perceives the One as multiple, and the multiple as One, or the manifest as hidden and the hidden as manifest. Distraction is, as it were, a state of being seized by the pulsations of the heart, by the whirlpool of reality[15].

 This experience, which was given rational form by Ibn Arabi, expresses the highest ideal of the Sufi, and in the Naqshbandiya tariqat it is attained through the practice of “stillness of the heart” (wuquf-i qalbi). Out of this experience, as the centre of Muslim life, all the external forms of the culture are made explicit. Thus Russian Muslim culture bears the stamp of this origin, and expresses it in the intention to sacralize this earthly life.

 In truth, if everything embodies the creative plan of God, if everything is permeated by the “Light of the heavens and the earth” (Qur’an 24:35), one has no choice but to develop a life-affirming worldview. Our culture is characterized by a striving to detect in everything, even the most insignificant thing, the presence of God, His Light, Mercy and personal involvement. Not by chance did Musa Bigiev lay a special emphasis on the following ayat: “My mercy encompasses all things.” (7:156). The intuition for the sacral permeates music, art, festivals, everyday life, and forms a unique type of “everyday religiosity”. This intuition allows us to understand why there is a permanent effort to “Islamize” folk customs, and give them a new Islamic meaning. Russian Muslim culture as it were wages a constant battle against the idea of self-sufficient existence, the independence of earthly life, with trivial and profane consciousness, which is permeated with duality and thus with shirk, or polytheism; it gravitates towards the sacralization of reality, towards the uncovering of the eternal essence within empirical being. In other words, it gravitates towards the immanent and living vision of God (which, obviously, should not be confused with pantheism).

  One can say that the immanent vision of God is precisely the vision of the heart. But the dominance of this vision of the heart has its reverse side, one of them being that less attention is devoted to other means of cognition. Unfortunately, our culture is still at the level of a folk culture, a spontaneous culture, it has engaged in little internal reflection, and this is where the illusion arises that it is secondary in relation to Arab, Turkish or Persian culture. But this is a deeply mistaken notion. We should not fall into the same errors that the Russian Westernizers made in the 19th century. The absence of rational reflection does not mean the absence of culture itself. In fact, a living heart-felt faith is much more important than a dry fruitless intellectualism – and this is in fact one of the key motifs of the Sufi worldview. It is not by chance that for Russian Muslims the epithet of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as “unlettered” (ummi) was always particularly important, as it signified the immediacy of perception. In reality, to become a vessel into which the divine Truth is poured, a person should not be clouded by intellectual prejudices. To recall another Sufi metaphor: in order to shine with the pure divine light, the heart of a person should take the form of a polished mirror, otherwise he will distort the light. Russian Muslim culture has for centuries been shining with this light, and our present task is to fill in the intellectual gaps by means of thorough reflection.[16]

                                   Russian identity: a shift in emphasis?

 So the concept of Russian Muslim culture aims to unify different socio-cultural realities on the basis of a single civilizational concept. In view of the present neo-Eurasian trend, this concept includes anti-globalism, the defense of traditional values, traditional multiculturalism, and moderate conservatism. By following these four tendencies Russian Muslims, as the most conservative part of society, can make a serious contribution to this identity. Of special importance is the cooperation of Muslims with the other world religions which are practiced in the Russian Federation.

 The challenges facing Russian Muslims are numerous: radicalization, the exportation of foreign forms of Islam, the problem of integrating immigrants into society and the ummah, Islamophobia, and attempts to suppress Islam by force. But these challenges are local. The conceptual challenge is the ultraliberal ideology which embodies the unconcealed aspiration to emancipate the lower part of human nature, its animal soul, its nafs. Neo-Eurasianism has a worthy answer to this in its conception of traditional values and its support of traditional religions; however, the struggle, given the logic of modernization, will be vast and its outcome is not a foregone conclusion.

I think that Russian Muslims are ready to take up an active social position and partake in the construction of a Eurasian civilization of a conservative type. Given the demographic tendencies – by 2030 the number of Muslims in Russia is expected to rise to 20-22% of the overall population[17] – this automatically means the inclusion of Islam in the field of legitimate discourse.

 The nature of this inclusion should be thoroughly thought through. Over the centuries Russian Muslims have not played a substantial role in the formation of the ideological agenda of Russia. But now it is impossible to close one’s eyes to the Islamic factor, for in the future its role will only increase. This attempt to think about Russian Muslim culture is an invitation to dialogue. I hope that it will help us to better understand ourselves and allow us to smoothen the process of ethno-religious shift that is occurring in Russian identity.


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Buchanan 2002 – P.J. Buchanan. The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. New York, 2002.

Chittick 1989 – W. Chittick. The Sufi Path of Knowledge. State University of New York Press, 1989.

Corbin 1958 – H. Corbin. L’imagination créatrice dans le soufisme d’Ibn Arabi. Paris: Flammarion, 1958

Gaynetdin 2015 – R. Gaynetdin. Welcoming speech at the 2nd Bigiev Memorial Lectures //


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Ibrahim 2015 – T. Ibrahim. Koranichesky gumanizm [Qur’anic humanism]. Мoscow, 2015.

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Knysh 2010 – A.D. Knysh. Islamic Mysticism: A Short History. Brill, 2010.

Kundani 2014 – A. Kundani. The Muslims are coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. New York, 2014.

Kursavi 2005 – A.A. Kursavi. Nastavlenie ludey na put’ istiny. [Guidance for people on the path to Truth]. Kazan, 2005.

Massignon 1968 – L. Massignon. Essai sur les origins du lexique technique de la mystique musulmane. Paris: Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, 1968.

Melchert 1996 – C. Melchert. The transition from asceticism to mysticism at the middle of the ninth century C. E. // Studia Islamica. 1996/1 (fefrier) 83.

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Mukhetdinov 2015 – D.V. Mukhetdinov. Rossiyskoe musul’manstvo. [Russian Muslim culture]. Мoscow, 2015.

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[1]  A good overview of the problem can be found in [Smirnov (ed.) 2010: 161-196].

[2] Cf. [Kundani 2014].

[3]  On the jadid movement cf. the overviews given in [Kemper 1998; Yuzeev 2007].

[4] I wrote an article on this theme especially for the X International Muslim Forum, which took place on 10-12 December 2014 in Moscow. The article was called “Russian Muslim culture: a call to reflection and contextualization.” [Mukhetdinov 2014]. A later development of this theme was turned into a monograph called “Russian Muslim civilization” [Mukhetdinov 2015], which includes an original article, reviewers’ reactions, and an academic essay dedicated to the Sufi elements in Russian culture. For more detail on the theses presented here the reader can turn to the monograph where they are developed in far more detail and with much more factual support.

[5] [Ibrahim 2015]

[6] Cf. [Ibrahim 2015; Kamali 2010].

[7] Cf. [Bigiev 2005].

[8] An interesting discussion of this theme can be found in the Tatar thinker, Ziyaeddin Kamali. [Kamali 2010: 151-152].

[9] Cf. the analysis of the major transformation that liberalism underwent in the 20th century in [Buchanan 2002].

[10] Cf. the following monographs: [Habutdinov (ed.) 2009; Zagidullin (ed.) 2007]. An overview of my position is given in the essay, “Sufi elements in Russian Muslim culture.” [Mukhetdinov 2015].

[11] [Kursavi 2005: 170].

[12] Cf. [Massignon 1968; Corbin 1958; Melchert 1996; Knysh 2010]. The monograph by the Russian academic I.R. Nasyrov is especially deserving of attention. He looks in detail at the origins of Sufism and outlines its ontological and epistemological foundations in [Nasyrov 2012].

[13] Cf. [Weismann 2007].

[14] For an in-depth justification of this theory cf. the article by [Sibgatullina 2001].

[15] For more on Ibn Arabi’s understanding of the “heart”, cf. [Chittick 1989: 106-109].

[16] I am convinced that this reflection should also be applied to current questions of modern Muslim philosophy, which were outlined in some detail in the speech of mufti Gaynetdin at the Second Bigiev Memorial Lectures, cf. [Gaynetdin 2015].

[17] Cf., for example, the prediction of the National Intelligence Council of the USA [Global Trends 2025]. Recent demographic calculations can also be found in  [Mukhetdinov 2014].