Ildar Alyautdinov: ''With this ban on Wahhabism, we will create turmoil within the Muslim community''

Why Ravil Gaynutdin’s agencies have not adopted anti-Wahhabi initiative of Kamil Samigullin? Interview with Ildar Alyautdinov

Mufti of Tatarstan Kamil Samigullin has recently proposed to ban Wahhabism, recognizing it as an extremist ideology. This statement was made by the chairperson of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Tatarstan (MSB RT) at a meeting of the Interreligious Council of Russia. The initiative has caused mixed reactions in the Muslim community. In particular, the Russia Muftis Council (RMC) and the Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia (MSB RF) (both organizations are headed by Ravil Gaynutdin) did not support such a zeal of the Tatarstan mufti. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya turned to Ildar Alyautdinov, the chairperson of the MSB of Moscow, academic secretary of the Ulamas Council at the MSB RF, for an explanation of the position of RMC and MSB RF. In the interview with our online newspaper, the theologian told about the reasons for rejection of the initiative of Samigullin and complained that such important issues are raised without a collective decision of Muslim experts.

''It is easy to attribute an ordinary believer by his appearance to the Wahhabis''

Ildar khazrat, why have the Russia Muftis Council and the MSB of the Russian Federation not approved the statement by Kamil Samigullin on Wahhabism?

I personally haven't seen the statement yet. I don't even know whether it is at all. This is not a joint decision, but only an initiative of one of the religious figures. In global issues like this statement, it is necessary to take a balanced approach and take into account different opinions. Of course, all spiritual authorities, all muftis, imams of MSB RF and RMC, are no doubt against any forms of radicalism, extremism and terrorism. Unfortunately, it happens when a religious figure states something without discussing it, without agreeing it with others, without considering what the course of further events will be. Well, it has been declared that Wahhabism is bad… First, a clear definition of Wahhabism has not been given. Second, we have international relations with Saudi Arabia. Using this term for banning and without giving a clear definition and criteria, to some extent we can inflame relations with an important partner of our state such as Saudi Arabia. Here, not terms that one can label many are probably important here. It is important to clearly define extremist radical movements, views and beliefs.

Then what is Wahhabism? Are there many Wahhabis in Russia?

We should start with the definition of the concept of 'Wahhabism'. The use of this term is not entirely correct and acceptable. The name of Most High Wahhab (The Bestower) is inappropriate to apply to some illiterate people of different extremist groups, calling them the word 'Wahhabit'. I disagree with this notion. On the one hand, the name of Most High Wahhab (The Bestower), on the other, the sense of extremism, radicalism and terrorism laid in it — one does not fit in with the other. It is necessary to clearly determine what beliefs, views are unacceptable, unacceptable from the point of view of traditional Islam.

Today it is very easy to attribute some imam or ordinary believer to the Wahhabis by outward signs. No one will even figure out whether he really is. Perhaps, the believer, looking at others, copies them, grew a long beard, twisted trousers, then he is named a Wahhabite and outlawed. Just as certain currents or sects are declared forbidden by a number of factors, it is also necessary to start not from the term, but from what is unacceptable in religious beliefs and their manifestations in life.

''I communicate very well with Kamil khazrat. Every time I arrive in Tatarstan, I visit him. I want our efforts to be united for the good of Islam and the Muslims.'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

''It won't do any good to ban''

Is it right to associate the Wahhabi with the Salafis? Or is it different things?

I think it's different. Every Muslim today claims to be Salafi — a follower of the first generation of Muslims. Every Sufi, imam, mufti wants to be Salafi because he follows the first academic. But it is important not to put a seal, but to understand what is behind this term. The concern expressed by the leaders of the RMC and MSB RF lies in the fact that many believers can fit under the term 'Wahhabism', thus to get rid of undesirable, unfavourable people. It is important to clearly define the criteria that make a person an extremist or terrorist. We often hear even in the ranks of the Muslim community when a person in order to please someone easily talks about someone that he is a Wahhabite because he doesn't adhere to the Sufi views.

With this ban, which is unfounded to date, we will create turmoil within the Muslim community. Unfortunately, voicing this point of view, for someone it is of benefit to say: ''They defend Wahhabis.''

Indeed, today there are appearing similar news: the RMC refused to ban Wahhabism, implying that you advocate Wahhabism.

The Russia Council Muftis, the Muslim Spiritual Board of the Russian Federation always oppose any manifestation of forms of radicalism and extremism. As imam who has been working in this structure for 19 years, I see and confirm this. Saying so, the MSB RF is simply afraid of that there will be turmoil in the Muslim community: the undesired will be labelled 'Wahhabi' and declared a villain. It is necessary to determine some criteria by which a person falls into the category of those with whom it is necessary to conduct awareness-building work. If he transgresses the law, he must be punished by law. But in general, prohibitions won't do any good. It is necessary to educate, teach, give the understanding of what Islam is, what principles religion has.

The problem is that we lack a platform where opinion shapers — Muslim figures — would discuss key important issues at the same table and decide together in which direction to move. There should not be sole decisions, otherwise it is possible to perceive as if a decision is dictated by some structure, and a person is obliged to fulfill someone's will. The issue of religion is very subtle. On the one hand, we say that the state and religion are separated from each other, on the other, we see some attempts to influence the religious environment with such things. To date, it is important not to try to blame someone, to sling mud. We need to understand what this ban will lead to. For now, it is necessary to restore and strengthen the unity of the Muslim community, where the muftis of different regions would be a single entity, so that such disputes do not arise. We hope that the All-Russian Scientific Muslim Council will function and bear fruit. We are working on this project.

''Unfortunately, it happens when a religious figure states something without discussing it, without agreeing it with others, without considering what the course of further events will be.'' Photo:

The question about the Quranists was raised at the end of last year, including in the Russian Muftis Council. What position did the Ulema Council of the MSB RF take on it?

We do not adhere to the term of Quranism. People who deny the Sunnah, the legacy of Prophet Muhammad, have no right to be called Quranists — they cover their sectarian beliefs with the Holy Quran. In fact, these people are the furthest from the Holy Scripture (Quran). We, the MSB RF and the RMC, have a clear position: those people who deny the legacy of Prophet Muhammad, deny the fact that has a high level of confidence, in fact, come from the womb of Islam, cease to be Muslims in our understanding. But it is their personal choice, for which they are accountable to God, not to us. I note that we are not the first to voice this — it is a global opinion about the Sunnah of our prophet and its importance. This is one of the issues that will be raised at the upcoming all-Russian meeting.

By Timur Rakhmatullin