Russian Islam 

Three years ago, when I published my article «Way Out:
Islamization of Russia» on the Kavkaz Center website,
Russian Islam seemed to me like some kind of a dream
or an analytical conclusion that did not much reflect
the real state of affairs. Only a half a century ago a
phrase 'Russian Muslim' was nonsense. Islam was
considered the faith of the Tatars. Pioneers of
Russian Islam were Russian women who married Muslim
foreigners, veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war
(1979-1989) who were held by Mujahideen as POWs, and
rare modern God-seekers. No doubt they were outsiders
in the Russian society, but just like the disciples of
Prophet Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him), they managed
to raise a mighty wave, seen not only at the
departments of religion studies, but even in spacious
offices of high-ranking officials. 

Adviser of Plenipotentiary of President of Russian
Federation in Volga Federal Circuit, Sergei
Gradirovsky, said in a number of his interviews and
publications ('Russian Islam', 2002; «Cultural
Boundary: Russian Islam», 2003) straight out: «Russian
world has its own Islamic segment. And this segment
will be growing and getting stronger»

This thing was said in the context that Islam is a
life-giving force in the Russian society, and if the
nation wants to survive, it has to consider this force
(«if the power claims true legitimization, it must
rely on the life-giving processes from the bottom»).
The revival of Russian spirituality must not be tied
to the revival of Orthodoxy exclusively. Such an
alignment can split Russia regionally, just like India
was split in 1947, and can add to regional isolation
of Russians from the world. This is the conclusion
that the expert makes: it is not Islam, but
anti-Islamic policies that pose a threat to national

By the most conservative estimates made by the experts
of the Russian Orthodox Church, the number of ethnic
Russians practicing Islam exceeds 30 thousand
( Is it a little or a lot?
Compared to the figures from the Great Soviet
Encyclopedia (1977), it is three times larger than the
population of such ethnic groups as Eskimos (Chukchi)
or Evenki. It must be mentioned that as a rule,
Russian Muslims are young energetic people, whose
communities are scattered all across various cities of
Russia. Up until recently, Karelia Muslims (in
Northwestern Russia) have been considered to be most
active thanks to the missionary work of Abu Ahmad
Mustafa (Oleg Starodubtsev). There are all reasons to
believe that the number of Russian Muslims will not be
just increasing, but it will be multiplying at the
rapid rate. There are all prerequisites necessary. 

Russians can now freely get familiarized with the
translations of the Holy Quran, among which there is
the poetic translation of 1991, made by ethnic Russian
Muslim woman Iman (Valeria) Porokhova. 

If in the past people in the mosques of Russia were
speaking the languages of ethnic Muslims, today they
are speaking Russian to one another. Many Russian
Islamic mass media have appeared, some of them are
owned by Russian Muslims. For example,
website by Shamil Matveev or by Ali

Little by little the misunderstanding that Islam is an
attribute of the cultures of Russia's ethnic
minorities and a symbol of their national identity is

Today being a Muslim for a Russian does not mean being
a Tatar or a Chechen. Sergei Gradirovsky mentions that
Russian Islam is not a new trend, and especially not a
distortion of the principles of faith, but it is a
'cultural buffer' that adapts Russian culture to

You can only be glad about such attitude among the
Russian officials, for if their opinion prevails,
Russia can quite possibly turn into the territory of
mild Jihad, for the goal of Jihad is not killing, but
spreading the Faith.

But why Russians are adopting Islam?

1. 'Rationalism', or to put it bluntly, dogmatic
clarity. In contrast with Orthodox Christianity that
covers its dogmatic unclearness with mysticism, Islam
gives a clear idea of God, of the personality of
Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ, peace be upon him), about
life after death, and about sources of worldwide evil.

2. 'Convenience' or ritual easiness. Islam does not
prescribe virtually any impracticable Russian Orthodox
fasts that push to hypocrisy. There is only one fast
offered instead – during daylight in the Holy Month of
Ramadan. Muslim initiating, wedding and burial rituals
are simple and easy. Islam allows confessing to God
directly, bypassing the intermediaries and doubtful
bureaucratic Church clerics. 

All in all, Islam is alien to the spirit of
bureaucracy, even though Russian Empress Catherine II
made a vaccination of that spirit by the model of the
Synodal Church. In 1778 she founded the Orenburg
Mohammedan Clerical Assembly (of Muftis) headed by
appointed Muftis who were paid from the Tsarina’s
treasury. After undergoing a number of
transformations, the Mohammedan Clerical Assembly
still remains as an instrument of control over Muslims
by the Kremlin. But on the whole, the hierarchy of the
Islamic society (Ummah) is built on the spiritual

3. 'Anti-system structure of Islam'. Islam is the only
serious alternative to the society of consumers. Not
everyone is happy with the fact that commercial
pop-culture based on propaganda of sex and mindless
violence is becoming the only form of culture. Not
everyone wants to turn into a money-making and
money-squandering machine that serves the image
appropriate to a certain status rather than just
making a living. Not everyone can put up with the
catastrophic degradation of morals, when the juvenile
crime rate, infidelity and extramarital depravity
become a norm of life. 

The old age of a member of society of consumers is
terrible. In the West the old people are forgotten by
their children and they have to spend the rest of
their days in senior homes. And in Russia their lot is
loneliness and constant dangers to become victims of
all kinds of scam artists. Islam is an alternative to
all of it. Furthermore, the Holy Quran allows
coordinating positive moments of all modern political
spectra: market with no profiteering, and social
justice without tyranny. 

Thus, Russian Islam is a promising and natural
phenomenon in the Russian society. Islamic segment of
the Russian culture in the middle of degradation of
other segments has all chances to turn into the main
and motive force of the Russian society in the near

Alexei Ivanenko,
for Kavkaz-Center
2004-01-15 10:59:01 


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