Official Report of the Russian Fatwa Book Distribution
Background to the Russian project:
The project commenced in 2009 when we had teamed up with some concerned brothers in Russia and opened the service of answering peoples questions from Russia. This was done through the Russian website askimam.ru which was established by my good colleague, Rustam Abdullin. Questions were received from Russian speaking Muslims in and around Russia and answers were provided in Russian with the assistance of translators. These answers were provided by the Fatwa Department of the Jamiatul Ulama (KZN) under the guidance of Mufti Ebrahim Desai (Hafidhahullah) of the Darul Iftaa, Sherwood.
These questions and answers were published regularly on the website askimam.ru for the benefit of the larger Russian speaking readership. As the number of published questions and answers steadily grew, requests were received to have these published in book form. Hence, 5000 copies of the book “Sovromennye Fetve” (which is the Russian equivalent of Contemporary Fatawa) were published this year, Alhamdulillah.
Books have been allocated to the following areas:
• St Petersburg
• Karachay Cherkessia
• Vysokaya Gora
• Mari El
Landing in Moscow
On the 21st of August, 2012, I landed in Moscow Domodedovo Airport. Domodedovo airport is Russia’s largest international airport. I was received by my trustworthy host who hails from Orenburg which is approximately 1.5 thousand kilometers from Moscow. After settling at the hotel, we visited the Historical Musjid of Moscow and met with the Imam and local brothers.
Moscow currently has only 4 major Musjids with a population of approximately 5 million Muslims.
The following 2 days in Moscow included a visit to the Kremlin and Red Square of Moscow, a meeting with one of the upcoming popular traditional scholars of Russia, Rashid Isaev and the local DUM (Dukhovno Upravilne Musulman) which translates as the Spiritual Administration for Muslims.
We were unable to meet with the head Mufti of Moscow, Mufti Ravil Ghainutdeen but met with his deputy, Damir Hazrat Gizatullin. Further meetings were held with the head of international relations department, Renat Hazrat Abyanov and the Center for Halal standardization. The members of Russia Muftis council expressed their willingness to forge a working relationship with the Jamiatul Ulama KZN which the Jamiat reciprocated.
We later on met with Alif, which is an organization concerned about the welfare of Muslim inmates of prisons in Moscow. This organization is run by a sister, Amatullah Tadjudtin and has a team of sisters working under her. The organization has established libraries with Islamic literature in approximately 150 prisons together with providing the service of counseling to inmates answering their queries about Islam. 500 copies of the Russian Fatwa books have been allocated to this organization for distribution in the prisons and the general Muslim public in Moscow.
We then proceeded to St Petersburg with a fast train. The distance from Moscow to St. Petersburg is approximately 750Kms. We performed Jumu’ah at the Jami’ Musjid of St Petersburg and met some of the local brothers.
The next day we visited the fort and the military museum of St Petersburg and in the afternoon, held a meeting with the local Islamic organization there which is headed by Ahmed Salahud Din.
200 books were given to this organization for distribution to the Muslims of St Petersburg. The people there are really eager to learn whatever they can about Islam and we were requested to offer some words of advice and to provide a brief introduction to the book. Books were also given personally to the attendants of the program. The books were received with much gratitude, Alhamdulillah.
From St Petersburg we took a flight to Kazan. We reached Kazan in the early hours of the morning of the 25th And were received by the director of Askimam.ru, Brother Rustam Abdullin and one of members of the DUM, Kamil Hazat (Abu Ahmed Qazani) who is Masha Allah, a brilliant Alim.
Kazan was one of the cities that I enjoyed the most. In Kazan we visited a number of Musjids, the Nurullah Old-Tatar settlement Sultan mosque, Muhammadiya medrese, Blue mosque, Burnai mosque, Apanai mosque, Qul Sharif mosque, Nurullah mosque and the famous Marjani Mosque which is named after the famous Hanafi scholar of the 18th Century, Shihabuddin Marjani.
Kazan is one of the major cities of Russia and has a large Muslim population. It is the capital of the republic of Tatarstan which is extremely rich in Islamic History. In Kazan you will find many Musjids and Madrasahs. There is also an Islamic college, a newly opened Islamic school and the first Islamic university of Russia. Alhamdulillah, a large number of books were distributed in Kazan and to various areas of Tatarstan. The people here were most hospitable and have a deep appreciation for Islamic knowledge. Especially the Imams of the Musjids. They displayed exemplary Akhlaaq and showed utmost reverence which touches the heart.
We also visited Bulghar which is about 250Kms away from Kazan. The drive from Kazan to Bulghar is very scenic and you’ll see a lot of forests and greenery. The settlement of Bulghar is a very historical one and has a number of historical sites such as the grave of a Sahabi (Zubair bin Ja’dah Radiyallahu Anhu) and an Islamic court which is centuries old. It is believed that this was the birthplace of Islam in Russia where Sahabah had passed on the message of Islam to the Bulghars who are now known as the Tatars.
We also visited the Museum which holds a number of Islamic relics and handwritten manuscripts of books of Fiqh and Islamic history. Lectures were held in various Musjids in Kazan and books were personally distributed to attendants which were received with great enthusiasm and appreciation.
After three very busy but comfortable days in Kazan, it was time to bid farewell to our hosts. We then flew to Moscow which was a 2 hour flight and then took a connecting flight to Grozny, the Capital of Chechnya.
The flight from Moscow to Chechnya is also approximately 2 hours. We reached Chechnya in the afternoon and were received by our highly efficient and accommodating guides from Chechnya travel which is an organ of the Department of foreign affairs of Chechnya. After checking in at the hotel, we went to meet with the deputy director of foreign affairs Yusuf Zubairiev who impressed me a lot with his proficiency in Arabic, his attachment for Deen and his particularity of Halaal and Haraam.
In 2000, the United Nations had declared Grozny to be the most destroyed place on earth. The entire city was completely flattened due to the second Chechen war. Today, Grozny is one of the most beautiful and modern cities, not only in the Caucasus, but greater Russia as well.
You will notice the difference as soon as you set foot in Chechnya. The Islamic ethos, the stunning Musjid just outside the airport, the modesty of the people, the dressing; All give a feeling of being in an Islamic republic. And indeed, it can be called so, for 99% of the country is Muslim, Alhamdulillah.
Contrary to what we see and hear in the Media, Chechnya is now relatively a very stable republic with a comfortable sense of security and an excellent tourist destination.
The Chechen government has embarked on numerous projects to promote Islam and the results of this can be seen in the grand Mosque of Grozny which is known as the heart of Chechnya. What really caught my attention is that the Musjid has been given the highest status in the republic. Usually, a worldly monument is considered to be the national monument of the country, but in Chechnya, the Musjid itself has been granted the status of a national monument. Subhanallah! Besides this, in Chechnya, you will find many newly developed and beautiful Musjids, improved residential areas and the first Madrasah of Hifz in the entire Russia has just recently been opened in Grozny.
With regards to the natural beauty of Chechnya, one can only gape in amazement at the beauty that Allah has blessed Chechnya with. Blue sulfur streams, hot water springs, natural sweet cold water springs, waterfalls, dense and lush forests, high mountains, the clear and flowing rivers, all form an amazing wonder of Allah’s greatness. Travelling through the mountains, you will see many villages and settlements as well as war towers which the Chechens had built centuries ago to defend their lands. On many of these, you will find the script in Arabic. In fact, on one of the stones, I found Arabic script that indicates that it once formed part of a Musjid.
From Grozny I was taken by a group of friends to Dagestan. Dagestan is what one can term as the present day hub of Islamic knowledge in Russia. There numerous Musjids and Madrasahs in the region and an abundance of people who have a burning desire for Deen. In fact, the love for Islamic knowledge here is so intense that I met a person who despite not knowing Arabic, he has a small library of Arabic books in his home with the hope of one day, learning Arabic and reading those books. Upon reaching Mahachkala which is the capital city of Dagestan, we performed Zuhr at the Jami’ Musjid and were treated to lunch by the Imam. With him, I was fortunate enough to meet the local scholars who were fluent in Arabic. We thereafter proceeded to Buinaksk where I was hosted by my learned colleague and friends.
I was then introduced to the Islamic university of Buinaksk and met the principle, teachers and some of the students. Masha Allah, the work that is going on in this place is amazing and I ask Allah to bless all those who are working so hard to preserve their deen and impart this knowledge to others, Ameen. Accommodation was provided for us at the apartment of a very generous and hearty brother, who was ever willing to see to our comfort.
The next day, we met the Imam and Na’ib Imam of the Jami’ Musjid of Buinaksk and were also treated to meals at the home of the deputy Imam which turned out to be very eventful.
On the 3rd day in Dagestan, we went to Derbent which is approximately 150 kms from Mahachkala. Derbent is a very ancient city along the coast of the Caspian Sea and its age is visible through the ancient roads, walls and entrances of the city. It is believed that the city is 2000 years old. Derbent is a city in which Sahabah had graced during the Khilafah of Umar Radiyallahu Anhu and it is believed that there are approximately forty Sahabah buried there. Among them is Abdur Rahmaan bin Rabi’ah Al-Baahili Radiyallahu Anhu.
There is also a very large fort which we visited. The fort was built during the Sassanid Persian empire between the years 224 – 651. The fort is situated at a very strategic point with amazing vantage points which provides a complete overview of the city of Derbent.
After a very eventful stay in Dagestan, I then proceeded to Stavropol and resided there for a few days. The route that was taken was from Dagestan, through Chechnya, then Ingushetia, followed by Karbadino Balkaria and finally Stavropol. En route to Stavropol, we were treated to lunch by one of our subscribers in Ingushetia who hosted us with hospitality equaled to none. The hospitality in these regions was really something to remember.
One day before my departure, I returned to Moscow since my flight was from Moscow Dubai and then Durban.
The appreciation and thirst for knowledge from the people of Russia and the Caucasus is a lesson for us all. In some places, crowds used to form eagerly awaiting their chance to ask their questions about Islam. In one place, a person insisted that I formally teach him from a Kitab. I explained to him that time does not allow to teach from a book, but if he has any questions, he may ask and I’ll try to answer. This wasn’t enough to satisfy him. He wanted to gain knowledge as a traditional student learning from an Ustaz. A practice that he had heard of and read about but never had the opportunity of experiencing himself. Understanding his thirst for knowledge, I did not have the heart to refuse and together we sat down and read from the book of Imam Abu Hanifah, al-Fiqhul Akbar. I can still recall the happiness and joy of this person and honestly, such seekers of knowledge remind me of the Ulama of the past who’s burning desire for knowledge are recorded in books of history centuries ago.
Whilst there exists a significant amount of Islamophobia in Russia, there is nevertheless a great awakening of Islam. Compared to the restrictions that the Muslims had faced during the soviet era, the conditions of Muslims are changing for the better and the message of Islam is spreading. Alhamdulillah
May Allah bless the Muslims of Russia and allow us to continue being of service to them. Ameen.
Suhail Tarmahomed (Mufti)