‘Muslims now need credible, moderate knowledge’

A forum on theological heritage opened in Bolgar

The 3rd Russian Muslims’ Theological Heritage international forum began on 26 October at Bolgarian Islamic Academy. The forum that is held in a hybrid format will pay a lot of attention to both thinking of the past and working with the youth — a considerable part of the events will take place with students studying theology. Russian Muslims’ Civic Identity new textbook will be one of the presentations. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Timerkhanov as acting rector and Belikova as moderator

The only woman on the panel assumed the main burden of moderation at the plenary session on 26 October morning, though speakers welcomed, first of all, Acting Rector of Bolgarian Islamic Academy Aynur Timerkhanov and Mufti of the Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate Hazrat Kamil Samigullin. Anna Belikova, senior professor of Moscow State University, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, adviser to Russia — Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, managed to both introduce speakers and thank them. Guests from her homeland, Kazakhstan, enjoyed her special benevolence, so she even once jokingly let a Kazakh guest give a speech earlier but kept an eye on the time limit.

As Timerkhanov indicated, more than 600 people from 40 Russian regions and 20 countries have visited the forum since 2019. This year, the appetite is more modest due to the coronavirus pandemic, there were just 200 people, moreover, some of them participated online. If earlier meetings were held at four sites, now there are two — it is the international scientific conference 5th International Bolgarian Readings The Heritage of Russia’s Muslim Theologians: Issues of Conservation and Learning and Formation of the Civic Identity of the Muslim Youth in Russia and Abroad international student scientific conference.

The acting rector of Bolgarian Islamic Academy noted that nowadays the educational institution is submitting an application to get a licence for a master’s programme in theology in Public and Religious Relations in Islamic Theology. Considering the hybrid format of the plenary session, Timerkhanov talked about electronic projects a lot. In particular, BIA got access to 100,000 documents from 40 countries of the world, 2,000 of them are catalogued. In late August, the academy’s digital publishing house started to operate, The Newsletter of Bolgarian Islamic Academy was available electronically. A new Bolgar magazine is also prepared in English, Russian, Arabic and Russian peoples’ languages.

It is noteworthy that the plenary session was translated into English and Arabic, while the button “Tatar” gave no result.

“There is a lot in common with Russian religious philosophy”

Mufti of Tatarstan Hazrat Kamil Samigullin reminded the audience that a milestone took place in this hall of the academy: “We found the one who made our wish a reality.” The Kazan Print that was made on the basis of the Kazan print of the Quran dating back to the early 19th century was meant. The hazrat reminded the attendees that 300 scientists had discussed its corrections in 1909 and claimed that they were ready to consider 57 locations in the text.

“Now we cannot even speak about it. 300 people? Are there three people in the country who can talk about it?” he asked a rhetorical question.

Also, he said that the muftiate opened a group learning 10 qiraats (Editor’s note: Quran recitation) for the first time in Russia.

“Now it is time when we talk about Muslim theology early this century we drew a parallel between religious movements in general and Russian religious philosophy, there is a lot in common there,” Deal of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of Saint Petersburg State University, Director General of the State Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky noted in his welcome speech. Also, he reported on new editions, particularly a big volume of Islamic Art in Russia he wrote a text for.

It has already become a tradition that on behalf of the Chairman of the Russian Muslim Religious Directorate Ravil Gaynutdin his deputy delivers a speech. This time it was head of educational and scientific affairs Renat Islyamov who noted when passing his boss’s words Muslims now need “credible, moderate knowledge”:

“The future of all multi-faceted Russian nation will depend on how methodologically considered theological education will be, how it will meet society’s needs.”

Vladimir Samoylenko who was appointed as rector of the Kazan Religious Seminary in late September also continued Piotrovsky’s thought reminding the audience of translations of the Holy Quran into the Russian language by Professor of Kazan Religious Academy Gordy Sablukov.

“There is respect for the elderly because they are closer to the source”

As if testing the waters in the youth part of the forum, Chief Rabbi of Kazan and the Republic of Tatarstan Itskhak Gorelik noted:

“A grandson cannot talk with his granddad because fashion and values became completely different. In religion, everything is different. We obtain knowledge from our prophets, we — the youth and the older generation — have common values. There is respect for the elderly because they are closer to the source.”

After that, the plenary session switched to reports. So Rector of Russian Islamic Institute Rafik Mukhametshin’s speech on Interfaith Dialogue in Russia: Historical Aspect should be considered as key by seniority. He in particular said:

“In interfaith dialogue, the case is not to persuade a partner into your truth or come to a syncretical agreement. There can be a dialogue when representatives of one religion try to understand and respect another religion even though they don’t agree its provisions.”

Later, Mukhametshin spoke about one of the 19th-century theologians Shagabutdin Marjani’s achievements who, according to the speaker, offered a new method of understanding theological heritage, i.e. the “principle of healthy conservatism.” He particularly claimed then, Mukhametshin noted, that ijtihad (Editor’s note: interpretation) is a Muslim’s perpetual duty. At the same time, he criticised an individualist approach saying: “I am a Muslim, I can make decisions.” Ijtihad is entwined with taqlid (Editor’s note: acceptance of authority), Marjani said. So the rector announced the presentation of Ramil Adygamov’s monograph Ijtihad in Islamic Legal Tradition and Tatar Theologians’ Heritage in the Late 18th — Early 20th Centuries, which was scheduled later.

During the day, specialists from all over the world discussed different themes — the programme of the forum is on 36 pages. For instance, one of the sections is dedicated to the conservation, description and restoration of manuscripts and books. It is also interesting in the Islamic art section.

A student conference with youth, education and science ministers starts on 28 October. Here, particularly Vyacheslav Ali Polosin, vice director of the Fund for Islamic Culture, will present a textbook Russian Muslims’ Civic Identity, he wrote together with Mukhametshin as well and head of the Department of Oriental Languages and Cultures of Pyatigorsk State University Ibragim Ibragimov.

Apart from this, attendees will see the film The Ring of Fidelity about the life of Muslim Tatars in the Republic of Lithuania, will do training How to Make a Million by Crashing an iPhone, be offered a master class The Art of Arab Calligraphy and play MuslimQuiz.

Radif Kashapov