Russian Muslims need a Russian Islam


Islam is a very important and inseparable part of Muslims’ lives in Russia. Therefore, it is irrational for the government to think about emptying this part of its society of religious faith and sentient. They have the experience of the last century on this issue. Society should Russian Muslims as an organic part and respect them with the rights of full citizens. Muslims need to be fresh and dynamic parts of their society and be involved in making a better and stronger country. In order to move in this direction, there are many prerequisites to be met from both sides. One of the factors regarding Muslims’ duty is to have a stable position in society so that others know how to deal with them and so that they can establish relations based on trust and bilateral understanding in order to build a better future. 

Muslims in Russia have no other choice than accepting that they are Russian. They are Muslims just as much as they are Russians.

Therefore, they have to consider these aspects in their approach to adopting a life plan. To reach to this point, they have to forget the negative memories of the past. Having those memories in mind and possibly magnetizing them only worsens relations. This does not mean that they must pretend to be naïve, but the point is that, while heeding the lessons of the past, they need to establish new relations based on trust and sympathy. One should live with the memories of past without ruining the future. Bygones must be bygones in the struggle to build a better tomorrow. 

It is very important for Russian Muslims to have their own Islam. Propagating Arabic, Turkish or other Islams is going to hurt the well-being of Russian Muslims.

One might think that Islam is a single religion and that does not differ whether one learns from Arab or Russian scholars, but as a matter of fact, Islam is quite diverse and the difference is important. Any geography and culture has its own effect on the mind of its people. In other words, peoples’ minds are structured in their communities and then they judge everything in accordance with their mentality. For instance, the people of Najd in Saudi Arabia have harsh and hard personalities. Due to the diversity of elements in their life conditions, not being settled in a certain place, always moving to other areas, and the harsh brain-burning climate forms their distinct personality. When they accept Islam, they interpret it this way. Their God is as a hard and serious king that easily orders to kill and punish. While in black Africa, people are mentally used to believing in spirits and ignoring material causes while ee mysteries in everything. Thus, for them, Sufi Islam is more pleasing and they interpret Islam in a mystical way. 

It is almost impossible to convert people of Najd to Sufism or convert Africans to Wahhabism. Of course, there are always exceptions. Even if we find Salafis in black Africa today, we must bear in mind that this is an artificial issue resultant of different pressures and demands of time, but it is not something that takes place under natural and everlasting circumstances.  

As a matter of fact, Russian Muslims’ well-being is due to having a stable, clear, and trusted position in the country and in order to secure this, they must focus on the interpretation that suits the traditions of Russian Islam.

This certainly does not mean adding something to Islam or subtracting from it. Rather, this means forming an interpretation that is accepted and comprehended by Russian scholars, not Arabs or those who studied in Arabic countries and are now attempting to impose an Arabic version of  Islam on Russian Muslims under the guise of genuine Islam. It must be noted that Islam was revealed in Arabia to an Arab prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him), but it is not an Arabic religion. In many aspects, Arabs had and still have problems with Islam. For example, according to the Quran, the criterion for a person to be higher than others is being pious and knowledgeable. According to this factor, a pious non-Arab Muslim is higher than an Arab, which does not necessarily mean level of polity or knowledge. Anyone who works with Arabs will soon understand and feel that, contrary to this Islamic factor, Arabs generally consider themselves higher than other Muslims. Even during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, better locations are given to Arabs and other non-Arab Muslims are tended to later. 

The Muslim Brotherhood and their efforts in many aspects are aimed at solving the problems of Egypt and similar Arab countries. Therefore, they cannot be a role model for non-Arab Muslims. Of course, after the terrible experiences that Egypt had with the Muslim Brotherhood and their manner of ruling over the country in the post-Mubarak era, they even lost their reputation in the Arab world. There are the same books and same Hadith and historical books, but Salafis depict the prophet (P.B.U.H) as a man coming with a sword in his hand to force people follow him or to be killed. Meanwhile, in other predominant views, especially among Sufis, he is the prophet of mercy and love. Later, many traditions and religious commands will be established on these two different images. Thus, if the Salafi image is to be preached in Russia, it is going to cause numerous problems for society, and Muslims will be the immediate victims of this. This is what we mean by the necessity of having and maintaining a Russian version of  Islam in Russia. 

Turkey's example is a genuinely decent case study. Turkish Muslims have never felt inferior to Arabs and have always had their own Hanafi Islam. One of the reasons that their society can move forward and progress at the same time while their religious tendencies are very strong is because they refrain from trying to imitate or follow the Islam of Arabs or others. In the same way, Russian Muslim scholars need to have their own tradition of Islam. I don’t like to use the term "traditional Islam" because this term usually has a negative connotation among youth who consider traditional Islam to be old outdated and useless. Russian Islam has lived in this vast area for centuries and has been in contact with Russian Christianity and culture, therein experiencing many ups and downs until it finally shaped itself in the existing way. It is good for this Islam to progress, to have better chances, and receive more respect, and probably to correct itself, but it must keep its own main elements and identity. Another Islam cannot come and take its place. Arabic Islam is like clothing that is not of a proper size for Russian Muslims. Russian Islam’s condition must be the same as that of Christianity in Russia i.e. stability, progress, and the future of this country, which depend on understanding the Orthodox tradition. The Catholic tradition is just as harmful to Russian tradition as Salafi Islam.      

As a person who has deeply studied Islamic traditions, specially those of Russia, I will humbly share some opinions and suggestions for both sides in Russia. God willing I will write something on this in the coming future.