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0CTOBER 1973



Ervand Abrahemian




Edward Ingram


Fred M. Gottheil




John P. Entelis


M. Peled


Anne Ussishkin


Jacob M. Landau


J. B. Kelly







Published by





Some Soviet Works on Islam Jacob M. Landau Islam, both in its general and in its most specific aspects, has been extensively discussed in Russian publications, both in Czarist and Soviet times. Interesting details, dealing with the subject up to 1950, may be found in N. A. Smirnov's Oclıyerki istorii izudreniya Islama v SSSR (Essays on tlıe study of Islam ıiı t{ıe Soviet. Union), Moscow, The Soviet Acadcmy of Sciences' Press, 1954; 276 pp. Despite its title, about half -of this book is devoted to the Czarist era, the other half to Soviet works on Islam. Even so, the aggregate product is quite impressive. A closer look atmore recent Soviet publications on Islam, however, would seem to indicate that such works have faced, but failed, toovercome a dilemma; the result is ambivalence. On the one hand, Soviet scholars have investigated Islam in a serious, knowledgeable way - although within the general framework of a Marxist approach. At the same time journalists and political authors have sametimes felt it necessary to pass a value-judgement of sorts on Islam, as one of the world's major religions - in the context of the relentless campaign for atheism. The task of the latter writers has been further complicated by the fact that millions of Musliins live in the Soviet Union (they make up, indeed, the second largest religious group there), ı and numerous others in the Middle East and North Africa. The Soviet authorities could not, and would not, ignore the fact that, after the October Revolution, certain Muslim leaders had tenaciously resisted the Sovietizatian of Central Asia; and that Muslim shaykhs in Egypt and elsewhere had repeatedly denounced Communism in unequivocal terms. These facts were affirmed in the article on 'Islam' in the eighteenth volume of the Large Soviet Encyclopaedia (in Russian, 2nd edition, Moscow, 1953). They were repeated by such eminent Soviet Orientalists as E. A. Belyayev (1895-1964), in his article 'Islam', published posthumously in the sixth volume of the Soviet Histoı·ical Encyc/opaedia (in Russian, Moscow, 1965). Professor Belyayev, after listing the facts, maintains however that these activities were mainly an expressian of the reactionary bourgeois. He argues, further, that in the Soviet Union since World War II, and in the Middle East, since the inception of the national struggle for liberation, Islam has become increasingly identified with progressivc forces. Others have elaborated these arguments on similar lines, without howevcr solving the dilemma pointed out above. Naturally, the dilemma was less immediate and could be avoided in studies dealing with medieval Islam. One may observe this, for example, in such books as the following: 1. E. A. Belyayev's Araby, Islam i Arabskiy Kha!ifat v ramıyeye Sryednyevyekov'ye (The Arabs, Islam and tlıe Arab Caliplıate in tlıe early Middle Ages), Moscow, Nauka Press, 1965; 280 pp. 2. I. M. Fil'shtinskiy and B. Ya. Shidfar's Oc!ıyerk Arabo-Musul'manskoy Kul'tury (VII-XII vv.) (An essay on Arabo-Muslim culture from tlıe sevent/ı to the tıvelfth centuries), Moscow, Soviet Academy ofSciences- Nauka Press, 1971; 260 pp. 3. I. P. Pyetrushyevskiy's Islam v Iranye v VII-XV vyekaklı (ls/anı in Iraıı from tlıe sevent/ı to the fifteeııth centuries), Leningrad University's Publishing House, 1966; 400 pp. Taking a clear stand on the value of Islam and its leaders could be avoided, also, in works about modern times, provided that the subject preceded the Soviet era. As an example, one may cite a very readable study by A. M. Vasil'yev, Puritanye Islama? Vahlıabizm i pyervoye gosudarstvo Sauditov v


359 Sa'uds ifı

Arabii (The Puritans of Islam? Walılıabism and tlıe first stati'! of tlıe Arabia), Moscow, Nauka Press, 1967; 264 pp. However, particularly when discussing contemporary Islam, Soviet works concerned with the dogmas or social doctrines of Islam do not present an identical approach. Several examples support this claim, such as L. I. Klimovich's Islam (in Russian), 2nd enlarged edition, Soviet Academy of Sciences - Nauka Press, 1965; 335 pp. (the first edition appeared in 1962). Professor Klimovich is one of the better-known official spokesmen of Soviet policies towards Islam;2 with several studies of Islam to his credit. The book is an informative account of Islam, which the author presents in five main chapters: The rise of Islam; the Koran, its dogmas and teachings; sunnism and shiism, Islamic sects, sufism; rites, feasts, fas ts, saint-worship; Islam and women. While this book is written, particularly in its earlier chapters, in a spirit of esteem towards Islam and its values, Klimovich unhesitatingly attacks saint-worship. His examples are drawn from Central Asia; the tane of his criticism leads one to feel that saintworship in same Soviet areas inhabited by Muslims remains more widespread than one would have thought. Indeed, there seem to be not a few Soviet Muslims who hold 'the view that a peaceful, secure and happy life is possible as a result, not of the nation's constructive work, but - wonder of wonders - of the grace of supernatural powers belonging to same saint or other' (page 283). The conflict between Islam and the official Soviet credo alsa casts its shadow over the author's discussion of the place of women in Islam. Klimovich amply docuınents what he considers Islam's unfair attitude to womankind, which however he relates to two other levels, in what appears to be the approved official version. The first is that not only Islam but all religions give men an unfair advantage over women; examples are cited from Christianity and Judaism (page 290), as well as many from Muslim sources. The second is that the exploitation of women in Islam is simply a facet of exploitation in general, and ought to be condemned as such (pp. 290 ff.). A different type of publication is R. R. Mavlyutov's Islam (in Russian), Moscow, The Political Literature Press, 1969; 160 pp. Written by a Muslim'R.R.' stands for 'Rashid Rakhmatullovich' - this is a popular work, clearly intended for a wide readership. The fallawing are the main chapters of the book: The rise and spread of Islam; the teachings of Islam; the Koran; trends and sects in Islam; morals and customs in Islam; Muslim rites; Muslim law; Islam and contemporary social problems; overcoming the vestiges of Islam. The approach is similar to Klimovich's, although couched in simpler language. Mavlyutov's work, in its earlier chapters, treats Islam sympathetically, even respectfully. In the last two chapters, however, there is a marked change in content and tane. Mavlyutov starts the chapter on Islam and contemporary social problems by asserting that Islam, like all religions, has been modified in the course of time. The author refutes various arguments about 'the sodalist character of Islam'. He rejects such an interpretation for earlier periods, maintaining that only in the Soviet Union have Muslim preachers acknowledged the merits of socialism and supported it wholeheartedly. According to Mavlyutov, only the Muslim leaders in the Soviet Union have thrown in their lot with Communism; those abroad see an abyss between their own faith and the atheism of the Communists. Further, there are leaders of Islam in Asia and Mrica who are openly hostile to socialİst and communist ideas; these men should be regarded as the vanguard of reaction, particularly as they forget that the great masses of Muslims are workers naturally sympathetic to socialism. Because of their background, Islamic leaders are incapable in the last analysis of showing the way to socialism. The Marxİst-Leninist teachings alone can instruct people in the path of a scientific-materialist world outlook. In this process, according to Mavlyutov, the vestiges of Islam are a hindrance; they will not disappear by themselves, but ought to be done away with through an all-out effort in education for atheism. This type of education, if coupled with a conscious drive by Com-



munism for the improvement of the workers' lot everywhere, should eradicate the undesirab le vestiges of Islam. The author does concede, however, that Islam contains certain desirable elements - more so than other religions, he claims and that these elemen ts should be preserved and studied. While Klimovich's book stilibearsa scholarly character (although it inveighs, perhaps too vehemently, against saint-worship and the position of women in Islam), and Mavlyutov's work is popularly informative and yet attempts to be fair (although in its last chapters it condeınns, perhaps too harshly, the vestiges of Islam) - another publication is no more than an unqualified attack on Islam as a religion. This is at once evident from the title of D. A. Patrushyev's Islam i ego reyaktsiomıaya suslıclmost' (Islam and its reactionary nature), Moscow, Znaniye Press, 1960; 32 pp. There may be doubts about this booklet's schol'!-flY accuracy, as in the definition of Allah (in the glossary, page 32), as 'The main god of the Quraysh tribe before the rise of Islam' (What about afterıvards ?). There is no doubt, however, about Patrushyev's aims in compasing this work, which are evident in the 'Advice to the lecturers' (page 31) for whom it was prepared. These propagandists are enjoined by the author not to over-emphasize the history of Islam, and even in this context to explain how early Islam fitted well the interests of the exploiting classes. The main duty of leeturers using this booklet is, however, to show 'the anti-scientific and reactionary nature of Islam' and, more pointedly, to expose the vestiges of Islam in the Soviet Union by revealing the tactics of Islam's spiritual Ieaders (page 32). Patrushyev himself follows his own recomınendations to the letter. In so doing, he unintentionally reveals what looks like official anxiety about the persistence of Islam in some parts of Soviet Central Asia. The booklet starts as follows, 'Islam, or Mahommedanism, is one of the most widespread religions in the Soviet Union. Its vestiges serve to binder the building of comınunism, preserve the reactionary traditions of the past, instill in to people anti-scientific notions about nature and society ... This is why the struggle against the vestiges of Islam, as well as those of other religions, is a component of the comınunist education of the workers' (page 3). To make his point, Patrushyev deseribes Islam- with quotations from the Koran and f.ıaditlz - as a religion dedicated to the perpetuation of the power of the propertied class, to the detriment of the suffering workers. In our own times, he maintains, Islam serves the designs of the exploiting classes, who daim that Communists are the enemies of all religious people, including the Muslims. The author considers this insidious propaganda, directed at driving a wedge between Communists and Muslims, among the awakening peoples of the East. Patrushyev argues that, on the contrary, Communists never fight religious people merely because they believe in God or perform certain ri tes: If the Soviet authorities have unmasked spiritual Jeaders, be they Muslims or Christians, this was not done because of their religious attitudes, but because of their anti-Government and counter-revolutionary activities. One of the favourite topics of those Soviet writers who wish to denigrate Islam is the status of women in Islam. Klimovich added a whole chapter on 'Islam and women' to the second edition of his book on Islam reviewed above. Both Mavlyutov and Patrushyev devote special chapters to criticism of what they consider women's lowly situation in Islam - both their legal position and social position. That this subject stili has some propaganda-value is shown by the appearance of a book, published under the auspices of the Institute for Scientific Atheism of the Academy of Social Sciences, affiliated to the Comınunist Party of the Soviet Union. Written by M. V. Vagabov, it is named Islam i dzyenslıclıina (Islam and ıvoman), Moscow, Mysl' Press, 1968; 231 pp. The book consists offive main chapters: A general presentation of the subject; the socio-economic roots of the teachings of Islam about the inequality of the sexes; the transition of the Republics in the Soviet East to socialism and the establishment of real preconditions for the Jiquidation of woman's social inequality; the character and forms of the manifestations of Islam's vestiges concerning women; legal and other



methods for overcoming the main remnants of social inequality between the sexes in the Soviet Union. The author's basic premise is that all religions, without exception, consider woman an inferior creature, dependent on man; consequently they affirm the social inequality of the sexes (page 12). The book's cancem is to show how Islam's attitude to women, past and present, proves the correctness of this premise. While admitting that the impact of the slıari'a varies among different Muslim communities in the Soviet Union, Vagabov generally discusses the more extreme instances. Suitable quotations are supplied to demonstrate how the birth of a daughter is considered unlucky, how women are enjoined to obey their menfolk, how males are preferred in religious rites and in judicial procedure, and so forth. More pertinently, perhaps, Vagabox lists practical instances of greater ignorance among women, and of indignities perpetrated on them by men - ignoring the fact that these practices do not apply only to Muslims. Most of the examples, narrated in a slightly supercilious tone, are attributed to pre-Soviet times. By way of contrast, the Soviet era is presented as having done away with the inequality of women, Muslim and others, and both legally and sociaiJy - the latter through extensive schooling. This, the author argues, is one of the evident merits of the system of atheist education. While Vagabov claims that, among Soviet Muslirns, despotic attitudes towards women have virtually disappeared, he admits that some vestiges of the old outlook persist. Among these, he mentions early marriages, weddings performed according to the shari'a, the marrying-off of children by their parents according to the parents' wishes, and bigamy or polygamy - which has stili not been eradicated, legislation notwithstanding. ·Other custorns, carried over into the Soviet era, are the keeping of traditional dress, by Muslim women, such as the veil or the yashmak, under the pretext that this is a national costume; or having girls drop out of school at an early age. The author maintains that such cases are on the decline - but apparently he considers them sufficiently important, nonetheless, to be discussed in his book. He also acknowledges that recent statistical surveys in the Soviet Union have demonstrated that more women than men are religious-minded, and that this is particularly true in the areas inhabited by Muslirns. Surnıning up, Vagabov assumes that, along-with the disappearance of the socio-economic conditions responsible for the inequality of women, the inequality itself is also bound to vanish in the new Soviet society. Yet anather aspect of Muslim religious life that comes under attack in Soviet publications is saint-worship, a subject which rates from a few paragraphs to a full chapter in several of the works discussed. More recently, a book wholly about and against saint-worship has appeared. It is named Kııl't svyatykh v Js/amye (Saint-ıvorship in Islam), by V. N. Basilov, Moscow, Mysl' Press, 1970; 144 pp. This work, !ike Vagabov's, has been sponsored by the Institute for Scientific Atheism of the Academy of Social Sciences, affiliated to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In addition to an introduction and conclusion, the book comprises fo ur main chapters, as follows: Heathen deities and the roles of Muslim saints; vestiges of ancestor-worship in saint-worship; vestiges of shamanism in saint-worship; vestiges of the oldest forrns of religion in saintworship. While Basilov is farniliar with the studies of Goldziher and others, which he quotes frequently, the main value of his work Iies in the research he has personally conducted in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. He searched there for traces of totemism, ancestor-worship, and shamanism in the local saintworship, and the evidence he has gathered makes for interesting and often original reading. One gets the impression that saint-worship, in some of its most ancient forms, along with many recent additions, continues among Muslirns in Central Asia, through the intermediary of their spiritual Ieaders. Basilov cites instances of the survival of magic, totemism and fetishism. Dead (and sametimes living) holy khojas are credited with unusual powers, or keramat, by the 'patients' who come to their abode to worship, or ziyarat (page 114). What makes Basilov's book renıarkable, however, is not merely the interesting information it contains,



but his general attitude, which seerns sornewhat uncornrnon in works published by the Institute for Scientific Atheisrn. While Basilov dutifully proclairns that 'the criticisrn of the vestiges of ancient local cu !ts is but one facet of the drive for the atheistic education of the workers' (page 143), his book can hardly be considered as a substantial contribution towards atheistic education. In other words, while Basilov cautiously refrains from praising any of the 'vestiges', neither does he condernn thern harshly; at most, he affectionately ebides those Muslirns in Soviet Central Asia who are stili superstitious enough to worship their saints and expect mirades from thern. The latest Russian book to hand on Islam is Nugrnan Ashirov's Evolyutsya Islama v SSSR (Tiıe evolution of Islam in tlze Soviet Union), Moscow, The Political Literature Press, 1972; 152 pp. The following five chapters make up this work: Basic factors in the evolution of Islam in the Soviet Union; e~olution in the social attitudes oflslam; the issues of morals andcustomsin contemporary Islam; changes in theological and doctrinal issues; changes in religious worship. Obviously, this purports to be a study of the process of change in contemporary Islam under the impact of Soviet Cornrnunism, based on recent research carried out at various institutions in those Soviet Republics where Islam maintains its infiuence (pp. 3-5). Since the book is avowedly intended for the use of propagandists for atheism, it is less than a study in depth of changes in conternporary Islam. One of the author's basic premises is that socialism supplants Islam, particularly among the better-educated and the workers (page 7); this reasoning relegates Islam to the unenliglıtened. Anather prernise is that social composition has sharply changedin the Soviet Union, putting an end to exploiters (page 9); consequently, Islam is considered as beating a retreat. As a result, Ashirov demonstrates, Muslims visit the mosque merely to pray there, not as heretofore. Indeed, even the character of the spiritualleaders of Soviet Muslims has alteredsince most have been raised in the Soviet era and have a seenlar educational background. Moreover, these leaders acknowledge the feasibility of, or even the need for, innovations in the shari' a. One of the consequences has been, according to Ashirov, a weakening in belief and in performing the rites of Islam, such as the Ramaçlan Fast. Examples are cited of the 'renovation' of Muslim ideology and ri tes, within the new and progressive cantext of socio-econornic conditions in the Soviet Union. These satisfactory results, as the author sees thern, pave the way for the future complete victory of atheism. Reading Ashirov's book and the others mentioned above, one feels that this expected victory of atheisrn over Islam in the Soviet Union is apparently not as irnrnediate as they would have us believe. One realizes this even more clearly when one notices the large number of copies printed of several of these works: Vagabov's 10,000, Basilov's 15,000, Klimovicb's 22,500, Asbirov's 30,000, Patrushyev's 49,300, and Mavlyutov's 60,000. These are large editions, even for the Soviet Union, and perhaps disclose a stronger interest in Islam than is generally suspected and a sustained determination by the autborities to contain it. The dileroma- what attitude should the Soviet writers adopt towards Islam has not yet been resolved.

NOTES 1. A recent, well-documented book in English is Alexandre Bennigsen and Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay's Islam in the Soviet Union, London, Pall Mali Press, 1967; XIV, 272 pp. 2. On Klimovich, see Robert Conquest, editor, Religion in the USSR (London, the Bodley Head, 1968), pp. 72, 78.