Islam throughout Russian and spanish historyFor hundreds of years, Russia has been one of the mostdiverse countries of the western world, where Christians and Muslims have lived peacefully side byside. Unlike other westerncountries where Muslims are minorities, Muslims in Russia aremore than 15% of the Russian population. Muslims in Russia have played a huge role in founding whatis known nowadays as the Russian civilization. During the fifteenth century, muslims fell under the ruling of theTsar Orthodox Christians. Throughout that time, muslims suffered and were treated unfairly. They were forced to convert toChristianity and the ones who refused to follow such orders were looked upon aspeasants or laborers for the admiralty (Crews, 37). More than 400 mosques were destroyedby churchmen and the government forbade the construction of mosques in villageswhere Orthodox Christians lived.
The state of muslims changedwhen Catherine the Great conquered the Crimea and the Caucasus. The coming of Catherine the Greatinto power also played an important role on the pilgrimage and study of Islam. She was firm believer that theRussian empire can benefit from the Religious authority, therefore, she reshaped the horizons of itsmuslim subjects where muslims gained more recognition by the state and were notonly allowed to travel to learn more and gain knowledge about Islam, but they were also allowed to buildtheir own mosques and madrasas on Russian soil (Crews, 32). In order to gain their their loyalty, Catherine’s government advocatedIslamic laws such as those related to marriage and public morality. In order to reach stability, both, Muslims and the state came to theconclusion that they would need to live in peace among each other and unionize. Therefore, the government politicized islam andused it to run the empire while Muslims used the government and the tsarist policefor their own desires (crews, 34).
Fayz Khan, also known as Fayd KhÁn al-Kabuli, was one of the main reasons behindthe establishment and spread of Islam in Russia. During the eighteenth century, muslims travelled to Kabul fromRussian regions such as Volga and Kama River valley where they got the chanceto attend Islamic learning centers. “Through Fayz khan, they earned induction into the brotherhood that linked them to ShaykhSirhindi and the wider Islamic networks of the subcontinent” (Crews, 32).
These scholars would then proceed totravel back to Russia and spread their knowledge about what they have learnedabout the Islamic religion (Crews, 32).To Russia, Islam has always been looked upon asa threat. This is why Russia is alwaysexerting efforts in order to coexist with Muslims peacefully for the state’sown political goals. TheRussian government believes that in order to maintain the state’s stability, they have to direct how Islam andislamic traditions are interpreted.
Russia also fears the rise ofSaudi-influenced radicals in the region, therefore the Russian Federation forbids certain sects such as the Salafis andall kind of Wahhabis (Crews). Islam in Russia is practiced like in many other Muslim countries, where Russian muslims nominate acleric to the head of the Muslim community in Russia who does not only act as areligious leader but also acts as a political leader (Crews). Islamic architecture in Russia isalso found to be a lot similar to the Islamic architecture in major Muslim countries.
Mosques in Russia have domes andminarets and the interior is decorated with floral mosaics and islamic inscriptions. Simillar to the Islam inRussia, a lot of muslims are foundin Spain, specifically in Iberia. As the Christian muslims conquered andspread into Iberia, they ran into the problem on how to deal with the nativesthat lived there for centuries, where the majority of them were found to be Muslims. The vast majority of the Muslim armywas made up of north Africans and arabs that invaded Al-Andalus during theeighth century (Catlos, 497). During this period, the Christians focused on conquering as much territoitory of the Andalusas possible, and in doing so theyexpelled and enslaved a lot of the indigenous Muslims. “In areas, however, where the economy depended on craftproduction, and labor-intensive agriculture –and, particularly, on complex systemsof irrigation – there was a strong impetus to ensure that the Muslimpopulations remained in place”(Catlos, 498).
In order to maintain stability andensure that the Muslims wouldn’t turn against them, they made sure to stay ongood terms with the Muslim residents. Therefore, when it came totaking over Muslim lands, the Christianstended to negotiate with the Muslims rather than using force. “In exchange for loyalty and taxes, local Muslimleaders would maintain their authority, whereas the inhabitants would beguaranteed the right to follow their faith and laws, and would live under the securityof Christian princes” (Catlos, 498). By following these rules, with time Muslims developed a political authoritygiving him the name sultan.
The sultan has a religious and politicalauthority over the Muslim community he is in charge of. The transition of Islamic leadership to Christianleadership was smooth and to a certain extent Muslims showed many degrees ofcontinuity. During the conquest, it was the Christians that had to adjust whileMuslims functioned and practiced Islam the same way they did previously(Catlos, 499). There were also a lot of changes throughoutthe transition period where the Christian government demanded Muslims to berelocated and displaced out of walled towns. Islamic beliefs are the samethroughout the Islamic community worldwide, where all Muslims believe that there exists only one god and thatMohamed is the last prophet.
Islam however ispracticed differently depending on the history of the area and how Muslimsconquered that location. Islam in Russiafor example is found to be more politicized more than in other countries.