By Moosa Salie
Chechnya is a country of extraordinary beauty, full of majestic mountains with lush vegetation and mountaintop villages rising above the tree lines. Rapid rivers have cut spectacular gorges throughout the region. It is a land where nature’s beauty has been allowed to flourish, undisturbed by the interference of man.
Chechnya is also a proud country with a rich heritage and deep Islamic roots. It is a country that has unfortunately seen much warfare in its recent past. In 2003, the United Nations called Grozny, Chechnya’s capital, the most destroyed city on earth. Times have changed for the better and visitors to Grozny will have a hard time imagining this destruction amidst the splendour and beauty that Grozny presents today. Like the mythical phoenix that rises from the ashes, stronger and brighter than its previous incarnation, Grozny has evolved in to a grand city, boasting modern, state of the art constructions and proudly displaying its Islamic and cultural heritage.
Grozny’s centrepiece is the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque, the largest Mosque in Europe, affectionately known as ‘The Heart of Chechnya’.
The Mosque is named after Mr. Akhmad Kadyrov, the deceased father of the current president of Chechnya, Ramzan Ahmedovich Kadyrov. Under the leadership of President Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has flourished and Islam has blossomed. Numerous Mosques, Islamic centres and universities dot the Chechen landscape and the common sight of people in Islamic garb with greetings of Salaam are testament to the positive mark Mr. Kadyrov continues to make on Chechnya.
The 12th of July 2012 was a historic moment for Chechnya when President Kadyrov arranged to bring priceless relics of Islam from the United Arab Emirates to Chechnya for the first time in its history. People lined the streets, leading to the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque, in their thousands in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the relics. For many, it was a dreamlike moment, never having imagined a day would come when they would see the relics of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his blessed hair, his foot print, his coat and other precious items belonging to the greatest man that ever lived in the world.
The nearer people got to the relics, the stronger became their emotions, many of them unable to hold back tears of joy. Those who were able to appreciate this magnificent moment, felt overwhelmed, indescribable joy mingled with tears reflecting on their faces. Never before had these relics left United Arab Emirates except for the Chechen Republic.
The 19th of January 2015 produced another unforgettable moment in Chechnya’s history. Charlie Hebdo, a French tabloid had produced a derogatory cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in response to a seemingly staged attack on their offices with Muslims being blamed as the usual scapegoats. It was only natural for Muslims to react against this offensive outrage which culminated in protests in Africa, Asia and the Middle-East.
At that moment, Chechnya stood out, towering above all others in displaying their undying love for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There was no isolated march of a few thousand people. President Kadyrov declared a public holiday and called for an official demonstration against the Charlie Hebdo insults and a march in honour of the greatest man ever to walk on this earth, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Muslims of Chechnya and the other Russian Caucasus republics responded to his call in hundreds of thousands with RT News reporting over 1 million people attending the “Love for Prophet Mohammed” demonstration.
In an emotional speech, President Kadyrov addressed the huge crowd of demonstrators stating, “If needed, we are ready to die to stop anyone who thinks that they can defile the name of the prophet,” while wiping away tears flowing from his eyes. The crowd responded with cries of “Allahu Akbar” ringing through the air. It was indeed a proud moment for Chechnya as well as a proud moment for the Muslim world.
Chechnya is a country that is indeed moving in the right direction. Its rise after being destroyed by war and its enthusiasm for Islam are signs of its greatness as a nation. May the Almighty take them from strength to strength and may this ‘Star of Islam’ continue to rise, Ameen.