By The Kazan Herald
3 May 2012
Following controversy over the new appointment of an Imam for Kazan’s Kul Sharif Mosque, the world’s largest printed Koran’s being located in Tatarstan, and the arguments over Dashi Namdakov’s statue in Bolgar, there has been a high focus on Islamic issues in the local press as of late. This article, translated from Russian by Maxim Edwards, originally appeared in Argumenty i Fakty Kazan on 13 April.
Terrorists, The Guardian at Bolgar, and the dismissal of the Imam of Kul Sharif. Chief Mufti of Tatarstan Ilduz Faizov sums up the events of the last year, addressing the faithful after completing his first year in the post of Mufti of Tatarstan.
In the name of Allah, the most merciful.
A year has passed since I was elected Mufti of the Republic of Tatarstan. In this short yet intense period, the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Tatarstan was able to implement many of the programs we announced during the spring of 2011. Yet more needs to be done. Today we are setting a much more ambitious task, to strengthen the promotion of our traditional Tatar Islamic values within the Hanafi school of Islam, to quell all manifestations of extremism wherever they may be, to protect the interests of Muslims, and to help train highly qualified Imams and religious personnel.
The freedom that was suddenly acquired during the 1990s led to a positive societal change due to new freedom of religion, and with it, the construction of over a thousand mosques and religious schools. Yet we must remember the negative consequences. Thousands of missionaries from various countries rushed into the country and started imposing their styles of Islam, destroying local traditions and a nationally coordinated system of religious rites. As a result, in Russia there even emerged groups of radical Muslims who were willing to slaughter the civilian population in order to achieve their aims. The discovery and subsequent expulsion of terrorists in the Nurlat region and an explosion in Vysokaya Gora are clear proof of the extent of this in Tatarstan, our Republic. I also must mention the events which took place in early April this year relating to the Kul Sharif Mosque. As usual, the appointment of a new imam was turned into a massive spectacle, the main role played by representatives of the Wahabbi movement and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, together with groups of nationalists and separatists. All these groups united against the Hanafi school of Islam, which is considered traditional in Tatarstan. Apparently the influence of the Arab spring and orange revolutions have not passed unnoticed, finding supporters even here in the center of Russia.
I understand that we cannot change the situation overnight. This needs more work, more effort and more resolve. More than one thousand imams leading our religious communities support me in this. Because we work for the pleasure of Allah and peace in our Tatarstan, so that all our children may live in harmony, grow, and learn together.
Turning to more of last year’s events, it’s simply impossible to list all the activities we were engaged in due to their sheer number, so I shall focus only on the most important.
First, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims in Tatarstan has been bought into conformity with the centralized religious organization required by the Constitution and other legislation of the Russian Federation. This basis was supported by the Koran, Sunnah, and the Madhab of Abu Hanifa. In this regard, these changes were reported and approved by the Chief Justice of the Republic of Tatarstan, along with the changes to the relevant documents of the organization.
Second, there have been many positive changes in the educational system. In September, training of Imams in the very heart of Kazan began, the benefits of which Imams across the country are only beginning to appreciate. Centralized educational programs that meet the traditional Hanafi school of thought were introduced, including new plans for courses in Madrassahs and a system of Muslim summer camps. I presided over the Congress of Madrassah Teachers of Tatarstan to review and see the results of these changes. For the first time in our history, the Muslim Spiritual Directorate has been able to seek funding for Islamic schools. Now, our Madrassahs need not worry about how to pay their utility bills, and teachers have begun to receive a stable salary. Before now we were only able to provide stable salaries for Qadis (Islamic judges) and Mukhtasibs (Judge’s assistants, Ombudsmen).
Hopefully, if such be the will of Allah, in the future we shall be able to resolve the issue entirely, providing for the wages of rural Imams. We want to get the best from our teachers, and they deserve a good salary, which helps to attract and develop a top-notch quality of staff. Last week, all Madrassahs began certification of teachers. We were also able to restore the property of the Spiritual Directorate and issue a new certificate of ownership for it. This is from the Waqf fund, which in the future will take care of all financial issues and the financial problems of Imams. We were also involved in the creation of the Association of Muslim Businessmen, thanks to great initiative and for which I held an iftar (Ramadan feast). This year we also plan to hold such an event, but on a much larger scale. In addition, I want to refute the statements of some that the Committee for Halal Produce of our organization is defunct: Not only is it up and running, it’s developing very rapidly and the number of partners is growing day by day.
Another event that is impossible not to mention is that 2012 became the Year of the Koran. In connection with the 225th anniversary of the first publication of a printed Koran in Russia, we have a planned set of celebrations and activities in each of the 45 districts of the Republic. These events are thanks to the support of both non-governmental organizations and various government departments and agencies. To date, we have held a lot of competitions of Koran recitals and in the near future round table discussions will be held on issues relating to the Holy Book. Recently, we saw the publication of the “Kazan Basmasi” edition of the Holy Koran, an edition of some 10,000 copies.
This book will also be available to Muslim prisoners serving sentences. In conjunction with the Federal Penitentiary Service, Wahabbi literature has been removed from the territory of Mosques in their institutions and special libraries in penal colonies in Tatarstan have been set up for prisoners.
I would also like to note the increased interaction of the Federal Government with Muslims. The Office of the President has created a new organizational body, the President’s Office for Co-operation with Religious Associations, which provides all possible assistance with solving current problems facing the Muslim Ummah today.
On social policy and philanthropy
Providing social assistance to the needy in our republic is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Protection of the Republic of Tatarstan. The Spiritual Directorate also contributes towards this. The Muslim Spiritual Directorate took the April rehabilitation center for children with disabilities under its patronage, as well as helped to support children’s orphanages, old people’s homes, and targeted assistance in raising funds for operations for children with severe health problems. Sending food parcels and helping to organize Ramadan iftars are also our remit. Most of our charity fundraising events are held by the Zakat Charity Fund, which aids low-income families and others in need.
As for the Ak Bars sculpture in Bolgar…
Upon learning that this sculpture would be located in Bolgar near the historic mosque, I initiated a meeting with Mintimer Shaimiev where participants spent two hours explaining how this would be an insult to religious feelings. As a result of this long debate, it was decided to move the sculpture to the pier, and then even further away from those monuments connected to Islamic history. During our last meeting a week ago, the other Muftis and I were able to convince Mintimer Shaimiev to give another name for this exhibit, as “The Guardian” simply cannot be an option. The only guardian, surely, is Allah.
Media and the fight against Wahabbism
Our job is difficult and necessary. Under the cover of grandiose slogans, there is a movement to impose an alien ideology on Tatarstan’s Muslims. We will educate the public more, as our main weapon is the word. We are working harder than ever before to get the word out on the pages of newspapers and on websites. Inshallah, next week will see the launch of a daily radio program, “The Muslim,” which will be broadcast across the whole Zakamskaya region. We plan to open an FM frequency Islamic radio station by the end of the year to aid in our fight against extremism.
In 2011, we developed a comprehensive Youth Policy. During this last year, the “Altyn Orda” club was successfully founded with a summer camp in Bolgar. I also helped in school projects where young people were attending training and master classes on religious issues. We also co-operate with an inter-regional public organization, the Union of Muslim Youth, which introduced the availability of Halal food into primary schools in Tatarstan, of course with parental consent. A regular festival of Muslim Youth and yet more summer camps are being planned in Bolgar.
Our future depends on bringing up our youth well. They determine our success in life. The first thing we need to know is how to motivate them, and in this regard we should turn to our respected Imams. If they have a high status and are accorded the same respect as our ancestors did, we can improve the situation and create an environment for the emergence of a new Marjani, a new Bigiev, or a new Fakhretdinov.
Mufti Ildus Hazrat Akhmatovich Faizov,
Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan