The communist repression of Islam, the reaction of Sufis and the use of underground mosques and rural sacred sites | Статья в журнале «Молодой ученый»

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Рубрика: История

Опубликовано в Молодой учёный №27 (317) июль 2020 г.

Дата публикации: 29.06.2020

Статья просмотрена: 4 раза

Библиографическое описание:

Абдрасилов, Турганбай Курманбайулы. The communist repression of Islam, the reaction of Sufis and the use of underground mosques and rural sacred sites / Турганбай Курманбайулы Абдрасилов, Берикбай Курманбайулы Абдрасилов. — Текст : непосредственный // Молодой ученый. — 2020. — № 27 (317). — С. 325-327. — URL: https://moluch.ru/archive/317/72161/ (дата обращения: 08.08.2020).



Amalgamating one great Soviet nation and establishing socialism was the aim of Soviet government, for which Islam was a hindrance (Rakowska-Harmstone, 1983). Therefore, Islam was taught to be an opiate and fanatical backwardness through an anti-religious campaign (Rahman, 1979). To inculcate this idea, the scientific atheism programme was created with the aim of attacking Islam (Rahman, 1979). However, it was fruitless, so anti-religious campaign started assaulting Islam violently by banning religious practices and destroying mosques and Islamic schools (Kemp, 2009). According to Froese (2005), in 1917, 20,000 mosques functioned in Central Asia, but by 1929 the number of mosques decreased to less than 4,000 and by 1936 only 386 mosques remained registered in Central Asia — a 98 % reduction in less than 20 years (Froese, 2015). At this tough time, the parallel (or unofficial) Islam of Sufi brotherhoods engaged in resisting the Soviet regime. This took the form of underground mosques and tea houses which played a crucial role in preserving traditional Islam (Broxup, 1987). Bennigsen (1988) provides evidence that these underground sites were run by members of Sufi brotherhoods. He states that Sufi brotherhoods functioned as a proxy for the official Islamic establishment and they supported a network of underground Qur’an schools ( madrassah ) and managed hundreds of unofficial and illegal ‘houses of prayer’ which were usually located next to holy sites (often tombs of Sufi sheikhs ). His argument is that functioning as a proxy is a clear example of parallel Islam undertaking the obligations to maintain Islam when official Islam became paralysed. Despite his evidence regarding the maintenance of underground mosques by Sufi brotherhoods as a way of protecting Islam, he did not manage to provide evidence for the existence of such places. This factor complicates knowing where and how many secret places existed under the harsh regime. However, Keller (cited in Froese, 2005) was able to collect a list of unregistered places of prayer in 1936 from indigenous archives across Central Asia. Her findings demonstrate many unregistered mosques in rural as well as urban areas (see Table 1).

Table 1

Houses of prayer (1936 survey)

Pre-1917

Closed

Open

Registered

Unregistered

Total

Ration Records

(Rural Districts)

9,720

6,160

3,590

386

2,583

Total City Records

10,489

6,544

3,724

686

2,588

Source: Keller (2001, cited in Froese, 2005, p.493).

According to research carried out by Keller (cited in Froese, 2005) over 2,500 underground mosques existed during the Soviet period. She shows significant numbers of unregistered mosques in comparison with registered both in city and rural areas, suggesting that it is likely that one way of protecting Islam was through the proliferation of underground mosques. It could be said that the persistent persecution exerted by communist regime led the Sufi fraternities to establish underground places to facilitate solidarity, and ongoing gatherings of corporate prayer. Although the underground mosques were designed for prayer, they also assumed another function: performance of life-cycle rituals such as circumcision, burial, and marriage (Bennigsen,1988). It should be noted that every unofficial mosque presumably served for strengthening the harmony and cohesion of Muslim people as in Islam, community life is vital for bringing people together and strengthening unity and thus underground mosques played a pivotal role in safeguarding Islam.

Another target of the Soviet regime was to destroy sacred sites such as the tombs of Saint People. Many tombs of Saints were shut down or destroyed (Shahrani, 1994). This indicates that the Soviet regime wanted to obliterate the tombs or shrines of ‘sheiks’, conscious that they provided a focal point for preaching and Islamic education. The motif behind targeting sacred places was probably to weaken Islam by depriving the ordinary Muslims of sacred sites which served as a shelter for spiritual support and help. However, Froese (2005) states that Muslims used mazar (tombs or burial chambers) as a place for hiding from assault. He goes on to explain that these were constructed in a pyramid form. Under this climate of fear and persecution, tombs were intentionally constructed to appear dilapidated so that when financial inspectors visited them, they judged them to be derelict and out of use (Froese, 2005). Although he confirms that Muslim people used and visited tombs, his claim seems less convincing because he did not mention the main reason of visiting such sacred sites by Muslim people. He tries to show in his research that these places were used just for mere security reasons. However, it could be argued that tombs were visited not just for security reasons, but rather for meeting spiritual needs. For example, Bennigsen (1988) claims that tombs or sacred places firstly replaced the pilgrimage, one of the main pillars of Islam, which was banned during the communist era. Secondly, it was the place for strengthening spirituality rather than just security reasons. Moreover, he states that people gathered around the tombs to pray publicly and perform zikr (exaltation) rituals. This suggests that these sites served as a source of spirituality, meaning that they were used at some point by the rural Islamic communities as a focal point of devotion, as the tombs of Saints or shrines provided solace and inspiration to their belief and convictions by affecting their heart and feelings. Thus, the communist regime, seeing Muslim people still holding the firm belief in Islam by visiting sacred sites, took measures to dissuade them from visiting, and repurposed them as museums and rest houses (Bennigsen,1983). This shows that the Sufis, by encouraging shrine visitation, were able to influence ordinary people to know and understand Islam through mystical ways that emphasise the heart and emotions. Therefore, it can be claimed that it was this — the spiritual and devotional aspects of their faith — that enabled them to sustain their devotion and grow their numbers under harsh persecution. Bennigsen (1988) argues that despite the unrelenting effort of Soviet authorities to eliminate the sites, they failed. This is supported by Ro’i and Wainer (2009) who state that veneration of holy sites, which is one of the main rituals of Sufism, is still observed strongly throughout Central Asia. This indicates that the practice not only survived the Soviet persecution, but it even flourished due to the contribution of Sufi brotherhoods. With Islam in Central Asia facing an existential crisis (98 % of mosques closing in less than 20 years and many holy sites also closed), it turned to unconventional means, tactics, and underground strategies to survive. Led by the zealous Sufis, Islam reoriented itself from the registered mosque, to the underground tearoom and rural sacred sites. This essay proposes that it was these radical actions that led to the survival of Islam and retention of its core values.

References:

  1. Bennigsen, A. (1983) ‘Sufism in the USSR: A bibliography of Soviet Sources’. Central Asian Survey , 2(4), pp.81–107.
  2. Bennigsen, A. (1988) ‘Unrest in the world of Soviet Islam’. Third World Quarterly , 10(2), Islam & Politics, pp.770–786.
  3. Broxup, M. (1987) ‘Islam in central Asia since Gorbachev’. Asian Affairs , 18(3), pp.283–293.
  4. Froese, P. (2005) ‘“I am an atheist and a Muslim”: Islam, communism, and ideological competition’. Journal of Church and State , 47(3), pp.473–501.
  5. Kemp, M. (2009) ‘The Soviet discourse on the origin and class character of Islam, 1923–1933’. Die Welt des Islams , New Series, 49(1), pp.1–48.
  6. Rahman, F. (1979) ‘Evolution of Soviet policy toward Muslims in Russia: 1917–1965’. Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs. Journal , 1(2), pp.28–46. DOI: 10.1080/02666957908715792
  7. Rakowska‐Harmstone, T. (1983) ‘Islam and nationalism: Central Asia and Kazakhstan under Soviet rule’. Central Asian Survey , 2(2), pp.7–87. DOI: 10.1080/02634938308400427.
  8. Ro'i, Y. & Wainer, A. (2009) ‘Muslim identity and Islamic practice in post-Soviet Central Asia’. Central Asian Survey , 28(3), pp.303–322.
  9. Shahrani M. N. (1994) ‘Islam and the political culture of «Scientific atheism» in post-soviet central Asia: future predicament’. Islamic Studies , 2(3), pp.139–159.
Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): DOI, USSR.


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