Научная статья на тему 'Russia: problems relating to the cooptation of graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions into the official Muslim clergy (Daghestan case-study)'

Russia: problems relating to the cooptation of graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions into the official Muslim clergy (Daghestan case-study) Текст научной статьи по специальности «Социология»

The Caucasus & Globalization
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Аннотация научной статьи по социологии, автор научной работы — Pateev Rinat

This article looks at the problems relating to the integration of graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions into the structure of the traditional Muslim clergy as a special case of interaction between Muslim traditionalists and the followers of renovated Islam in Russia. In his analysis of the personnel potential of the Muslim clergy in Daghestan, the author emphasizes the need to develop an integrated Islamic education system and use it to resolve the urgent problems of the country’s Muslim communities.

Текст научной работы на тему «Russia: problems relating to the cooptation of graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions into the official Muslim clergy (Daghestan case-study)»



Ph.D. (Political Science), junior researcher at the Southern Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Rostov-on-Don, Russia).





This article looks at the problems relating to the integration of graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions into the structure of the traditional Muslim clergy as a special case of interaction between Muslim traditionalists and the followers of renovated Islam in Rus-

sia. In his analysis of the personnel potential of the Muslim clergy in Daghestan, the author emphasizes the need to develop an integrated Islamic education system and use it to resolve the urgent problems of the country’s Muslim communities.

I n t r o d u c t i o n

Religious revival in present-day Russia, which has aroused an interest in religion, became a catalyst for the development of Russia’s confessional education system. Islam also became a part of this trend even though Muslims are a confessional minority in Russia. Today a multistage system of Islamic education is gradually developing in the country, primarily in the national republics where Muslims traditionally live. Sunday schools, which are similar to maktabs, primary religious schools, have opened at almost all mosques, and madrasahs, Islamic institutes, universities, and so on have appeared. Moreover, many Russian Muslims have been able to go abroad to obtain an Islamic education.

Daghestan’s Muslims Do Not Have Enough Teachers: How is This Problem Being Resolved?

At the beginning of the 1990s, foreign missionaries had an immense influence on the formation of the Muslim education system in Russia. Democratization of public life made it possible to restore


relations with people of the same faith living abroad. The official leaders of the spiritual administrations largely assisted this process. First, the muftis themselves thought it very natural that foreign missionaries be allowed to participate in the education of Russian Muslims at the very beginning of the 1990s and did not see anything reprehensible in this. Second, the fact that they had no teaching staff of their own left no other choice.

Foreign missionaries were primarily engaged in teaching Arabic, how to read the Quran, and the fundamentals of Islam (for example, the rules for performing religious rituals). At the madrasah level, foreign missionaries gave lessons in how to read the Quran (tajwid), the fundamentals of doctrine (aqida), Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), Arabic grammar, and so on. So they played a more important role in forming the new Muslim clergy that received its education in the restored madrasahs and Islamic higher educational institutions that opened.

Daghestan is primarily interesting as a republic with the most religious Muslim population. It should be noted that the Arab countries of the Middle East, particularly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the neighboring monarchies of the Persian Gulf, have had a great influence on religious education in the Northeastern Caucasus. This influence took the form of support of the Salafite (fundamentalist) movement in the Eastern Caucasus. The first preachers of “pure Islam” were Abbas and Bagauddin Kebedov, who were involved in the underground teaching of their followers in Daghestan as early as Soviet times. Another, but moderate supporter of fundamentalism, was Akhmadkadi Akhtaev.

Bagauddin Kebedov set up the Kavkaz Islamic Center in Makhachkala, published the newspaper al-Halif, and opened a madrasah in Kiziliurt, which functioned from 1989 to 1997 and taught up to 700 students every year. The well-known Satlanda Publishing Center began to operate in the village of Pervomaiskoe in the Khasaviurt District of Daghestan. It circulated a large amount of fundamentalist literature that became widespread not only in the Northern Caucasus, but also in all the regions of Russia. It was Bagauddin Kebedov who managed to establish relations with the “charity” foundations of Arab countries that financed the activity of fundamentalists, which subsequently led to a split among the Salafites.

Relatively moderate Akhmadkadi Akhtaev “missed the boat” and was unable to implement any educational measures, in contrast to more radical Bagauddin Kebedov.1

Other missionaries from abroad were also active in the Northern Caucasus, in particular, Egyptian Servakh Abid Saad, who came to Daghestan in 1992 and headed the Russian branch of the Ikra Society, coordinating activity with representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia authorities and the Saudi special services. In addition to this, Servakh helped young Daghestanis to go abroad and study at the well-known Egyptian university of Al-Azhar.2

The events in Chechnia played a great role in radicalizing the Islamic movement in Daghestan. On its territory, which was “floating free” (after the Khasaviurt agreements), an infrastructure began to be formed for training new fighters under the guise of studying the foundations of Islam. Using money supplied by extremist organizations in Chechnia, a network of camps—“madrasahs”—unfolded. Under Khattab’s supervision, a “learning center” consisting of five camps was created in the village of Serzheniurt, where “students” studied Arabic, the Shar‘a, and military science (partisan war tactics, subversive activity, and so on). At the end of 1997, above-mentioned Bagauddin Kebedov moved from Daghestan to the town of Urus-Martan, where a large Wahhabi center was formed which coordinated the actions of the radicals in Daghestan.3

1 See: Kh.T. Kurbanov, Religiozno-politicheskiy ekstremism na Severo-Vostochnom Kavkaze, Rostov-on-Don, 2006, pp. 69-70.

2 See: I.P. Dobaev, V.I. Nemchina, Noviy terrorism v mire i na iuge Rossii, Rostov-on-Don, 2005, pp. 184-186.

3 See: S.E. Berezhnoi, I.P. Dobaev, P.V. Krainiuchenko, Islam i Islamism na Iuge Rossii, Rostov-on-Don, 2002, pp. 108-109.


After all the events relating to the encroachment of militants into Daghestan, and due to the fact that the authorities began paying keener attention to this problem, the open activity of fundamentalists was halted. Today, the basic Muslim education system is traditional in nature. It educates professionals for the Islamic clergy.

The current system of higher Muslim education that has developed in Russia (in particular, in Daghestan) is extremely amorphous in nature. This is due to the absence of universal teaching standards, the very unorganized implementation of school curriculums (and often their complete absence), and insufficient secularism, which has an effect on the quality of higher Islamic education in Russia. So there is no great difference among Islamic madrasahs, institutes, and universities.

Students and graduates from these higher education institutions have chosen religion not only as a world outlook, but also as a sphere of their future professional activity. So it is natural that they wish to be coopted into the Muslim clergy and realize their potential as specialists in this field. Any graduate of an Islamic higher educational establishment strives to become the imam of a mosque (find a job in a muftiate [Islamic High Council]), a teacher of the fundamentals of Islam in a Sunday school, and so on.

In order to gain a better understanding of this problem, some statistics are worthy of our attention. For example, according to the official data there are a total of1,786 religious facilities (mosques) in Daghestan, and 2,400 clergymen,4 but if we add unregistered mosques, their number will most likely top 2,000.

As for the clergy, the official statistics probably do not reflect the real state of affairs either. As a rule, one imam, one muedzin (an imam’s assistant who announces the call to prayer), and one mudarris (Sunday school teacher) serve in a typical parish (a mosque jamaat). But this is also rather approximate data, since in remote rural jamaats, these positions might all be performed by the imam himself, who also teaches in the Sunday school. While the duties of the muedzin are performed on a voluntary basis by one of the most educated members of the community. In large city mosques, due to the large number of parishioners, the number of clergy could be higher.

So even the most superficial estimate of three clergy members per mosque provides a figure of more than 6,000 clergymen in Daghestan. Such diverging figures are explained by the fact that the official statistics only take into account clergymen appointed to their posts by the official structures of the spiritual administrations. This means that Sufi sheikhs, their followers, people performing religious activities on a voluntary basis, and others, are not included in the statistic reports.

However, even in the face of this inflated figure (6,000 people), the official data on higher Islamic educational institutions in Daghestan are extremely interesting: there are 14 Islamic educational institutions registered in the republic that claim the status of higher educational establishments, with a total number of about 5,200 students (at the end of 2005, 4,400 people were studying at madrasahs, and 4,000 at primary schools).5

If we take into account that the average length of study at a higher educational institution is 5-6 years, the approximate number of graduates every year amounts to 1,000 people (that is, 1/6 of the total number of clergy members throughout Daghestan). People who have already obtained a profes-

4 The author would like to thank S.E. Berezhnoy, a specialist at the Department of Domestic Policy of the Apparatus of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Russian Federation President in the Southern Federal District, for this data.

5 General information on the number of religious associations and organizations functioning in the republic of Daghestan on 1 December, 2005. The Daghestan Government Committee for Religious Affairs. The author would like to thank K.M. Khanbabaev and M.M. Omarova for supplying this information.


sional religious education, self-taught people (who have inherited their religious knowledge from Sufi sheikhs), and those who have studied abroad and subsequently returned to their homeland should also be added to this figure.

Even if we remember that some of the students are girls, as well as the residents of other neighboring North Caucasian republics, the number of people every year wishing to find a job after graduating from an Islamic higher educational institution in official Muslim structures might appear to be lower. But we should also keep in mind people who have obtained their education abroad. In September 2006, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Daghestan A. Abdulatipov estimated the number of people “from among the Daghestanian nationalities” studying at theological educational institutions abroad to range between 1,500 and 2,500.6

So “oversaturation of the market,” to put it in economic terms, is obvious in such a unique sphere as Muslim religious services. Researchers note that at present all graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions functioning in Daghestan are facing difficulties with finding a job. Whereby this problem is also related to the fact that “diplomas from Islamic higher educational institutions are not recognized by secular state institutions, since their programs do not correspond to the state standards of the Russian Education Ministry,” which makes it impossible for their graduates to work in other spheres.7

But the official Muslim clergy is still talking about the shortage of qualified personnel. On the official site of the Islamic High Council of Daghestan in the section on the North Caucasian Islamic University, the following statement is given as one of the reasons for its activity: “There is still a shortage of literate and qualified imams and religious officials in the republic.”8

We can agree that the level of education of today’s clergy is a problem. It is primarily related to the low level of secular, and not religious, education, which makes it impossible to establish an efficient counterbalance to the extremist propaganda. According to the official data, 31.6% of the imams have a higher religious education, 22.9% have secondary, and 38.7% are self taught (here it is worth noting the sufficiently high level of religious education of the Sufi followers, “murshids,” who are most likely also included in this figure). Only 7.8% of the imams have a higher secular education, and 44.1% have a secondary education.9

The official clergy’s assertion that there are not enough qualified Islamic clergymen is most probably related to the vacancies existing in the provinces. In all likelihood, the graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions do not want to go and live in remote villages, since they feel that this is below their dignity. So their job-hunting problems are largely similar to those encountered by the graduates of secular higher educational institutions. Their number in Russia today has also exceeded all conceivable bounds along with the low quality of education obtained in all manner of newly-hatched “universities” and “academies.”

But this problem in North Caucasian conditions is acquiring a totally different hue. The inability of young people to be coopted into the official clergy and realize their potential in their field of professional specialization is forcing them to look for alternative ways of self-realization. In light of the ethnopolitical instability and the external influence of Islamic radicals on the North Caucasian region, this question is becoming extremely urgent.

6 See: A. Abdulatipov, “O sostoianii i merakh po protivodeistviiu religiozno-politicheskomu ekstremizmu v Re-spublike Daghestan,” Dagestanskaia pravda, 29 September, 2006.

7 See: “Islamskie vuzy postsovetskogo Dagestana i protsessy globalizatsii,” available at [http://www.ethnonet.ru/ ru/print/pub/navr.html].

8 “The North Caucasian Islamic University [October 2006],” available at [http://www.mufti.ru/ index.php?cont_id=skiu&new_id=16].

9 See: Muslim Clergy of the Republic of Daghestan, Daghestan Government Committee for Religious Affairs.


Traditional Muslim Communities: Structure and Activity

The entire Muslim clergy of Russia can be divided provisionally into three groups: imams and muftis who headed the spiritual administrations of Muslims (SAM) during Soviet times and still retain their posts in the post-Soviet period; aged elders who traditionally head communities in the provinces; and clergymen who have obtained their education in the post-Soviet period, that is, during the religious revival.

Imams and muftis of the Soviet period. This is the smallest, but sufficiently influential element of the Muslim clergy in present-day Russia. The average age of these people is between 45 and 65. They are mainly imams and muftis in large cities who have a decent education (for the most part they are graduates of the Bukhara madrasah of Mir-Arab and the followers of well-known Sufi sheikhs). Many of them had the opportunity to continue their studies in foreign Muslim countries. They have a good command of Arabic, but due to lack of practice not many of them can actually communicate in it. They have maintained their position and authority due to their in-depth knowledge. Many have had rather difficult lives; they have had to deal with the unfriendly attitude toward them from an atheistic society and the party elite, whom they had to encounter during their work. Most of them are loyal to the local power structures, which very often makes it possible to use their resource during election campaigns, as well as rely on them when resolving particular conflict situations. The authorities appreciate their loyalty and respond in kind. They are often invited to various meetings, inaugurations, and so on.

Elders. These are old and elderly people. In terms of numbers, there are more of them than the imams and muftis of the Soviet period. They are mainly self-taught teachers who work in villages and small settlements. They learned the fundamentals of religion from their parents, and only a small number of them had any connection with the old system of religious education (maktabs and madrasahs), which continued to exist for some time after the events of 1917. Many of them adhere to various Sufi trends which they glean from the old literature, but they do not have clear ideas about Sunnite Islam and its dogma. But this assertion is not entirely true of Daghestan, where even under the conditions of Soviet atheism, underground religious schools that function around the well-known Sufi sheikhs were preserved, and where sufficiently in-depth religious knowledge was taught. The elders have preserved and maintained their authority largely due to their advanced age (respect for the elderly is still an important principle among Russian Muslims). They are often surrounded by a small number of companions, also elderly, who regularly attend church services and actively participate in the community’s life. This entourage also becomes the “council of elders,” on which they rely. Most elders are apolitical. Their main duty is to hold church services and perform religious rituals.

Imams of the renovated period. This is the most diverse and largest group of Russia’s Muslim clergy. They are mainly young people who obtained their religious education not long before the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. and during the post-Soviet period. They have different levels of knowledge. Some studied in Islamic countries and obtained a prestigious religious education. But even those who studied at madrasahs and Islamic institutes in Russia are essentially not far behind their successful peers (for example, in the command of Arabic). Many of them had teachers who came from Muslim countries. So they are distinguished from the elders by their sufficiently in-depth understanding of Sunnite Islam. Many of them are rather pragmatic, and some have high ambitions. Most of them do not have enough life experience and secular education, so they often fall under the influence of radicals. With respect to the correlation between religion and politics, they uphold different views, from moderate to radical.


In order to make it easier to analyze the relations among these groups, the first will be called “muftis, ” the second “elders, ” and the third “imams, ” but in real-life situations their actual title might be different.

Muftis have quite a lot of influence on the elders in remote areas, particularly if the mosque belongs to the Islamic High Council. Elders usually support their muftis and often refer to their authority when communicating with the local people. For their part, the former turn a blind eye to the incompetence of the latter (the large number of mistakes during services, the frequently elementary lack of knowledge of Islamic dogmas, etc.). This wounds the vanity of imams who would like to see themselves in their place. So the muftis often have to regulate relations between the elders and imams.

On the one hand, the shortage of people compels the muftis to include imams in the work at the mosques, but on the other, this work boils down to performing religious rituals. The muftis retain the prerogative of resolving management questions and working with officials of the local administration on specific issues. They enjoy immense support in the provinces from the elders and young imams, but their attitude toward the latter is very unequivocal, since they are rivals in the fight for leadership in the communities and Islamic High Councils. Nevertheless, the position of the muftis today is quite stable, since they usually enjoy the support of the local power structures.

The most inflexible relations are developing between the elders and young imams who feel they have superior knowledge of the rules of Islam and are trying to squeeze out the former. The muftis attempt to settle these conflicts, but they rely on the opinion of the community itself. In this event, the elders win, since they have the support of “council of elders” behind them. Young parishioners also recognize the superiority of the imams, so they often interfere in the situation, but even in these cases their opinion is not taken into account. So many young imams are left without a job in the active mosques. But most of them do not turn away from religious life (they continue to fast and attend Friday prayer meetings and holiday prayer services) and partially carry out religious activity (at the request of the believers they conduct memorial readings of the Quran, mejlises, perform marriage ceremonies, “niqiah,” and so on). On the whole, the parallel religious activity of the imams irritates the elders, but they are unable to do anything about it.

Maintaining the Status Quo: Who Benefits From It?

Another important role of the imams should be noted. It is precisely this element that is becoming the main teachers at maktabs and madrasahs. In the near future, these people will assume the role of the main enlighteners of the Muslim people of Russia. Most of them who obtained an education in Russian madrasahs will carry out teaching activity at mosque schools at the primary level. Those who studied abroad will mainly become teachers at madrasahs and Islamic institutes, that is, in areas of professional religious education. This process will largely be promoted by the following factors: first, by the clergy’s and government’s understanding of the undesirability of permitting foreign missionaries to participate in the education of Russian Muslims; second, most young imams will not be able to coopt into the official Muslim clergy and occupy positions of community leaders and heads of spiritual administrations of Muslims.

In their struggle for leadership, young imams very often find support among the leaders of nationalistic movements. As a rule, all kinds of “amirs” and the heads of so-called “youth jamaats” carrying out ideological and terrorist activity with the support of various foundations that have their


roots in Near and Middle Eastern countries appeared precisely during cooperation between the young imams of the renovation period and the leaders of nationalistic movements.

As a rule, when Islamist groups were first formed, militant “jamaats” were replenished with people without an education (mainly marginal elements) who easily submitted to “brainwashing” with the use of religious slogans. But as Daghestanian expert on Islam Kh.T. Kurbanov notes: “Since the second half of 2005, members of the Muslim intelligentsia have also been appearing in the extremist underground as active participants of terrorist groups.”10 The killing of Yasin (Ma-khach) Rasulov and Abuzagir Mantaev in Daghestan as members of terrorist groups shows this type of trend. The former graduated from the Imam Shafii Islamic Institute and Department of Foreign Languages of Daghestan State University and was a postgraduate student at the Department of Religious Studies at Daghestan State University. According to initial data, Yasin Rasulov was killed as a member of a terrorist group on 24 October, 2005, but was later identified among the members of the Janet and Shari‘a militant jamaats killed at the beginning of April 2006.11 On 9 October, 2005, A. Mantaev was killed as a member of the Shari‘a militant jamaat. In 2002 he defended his dissertation for a Ph.D. degree in political science on the topic of Wahhabism and the Political Situation in Daghestan.12

The names of both of these people feature in the letter entitled “Impious Theologians of Daghestan,” which focused on the “ignorance” of official representatives of the republic’s Muslim clergy. The criticism is based on fundamentalists’ standard accusations of the Sufis: “These so-called ‘alims’ have not published anything apart from books of mawlids13 for umpteen years,” and so on. In addition to theological differences (criticism of the tradition of mawlid, which is recognized by fundamentalists as bid’a—a sinful innovation), the clergy is also accused of greed: “With mean expressions of bigotry and stupidity, wearing clownish turbans and faqir robes, they confirm their khutbas, like broken records, in broken Russian from the minbar, repeating topics of ablution and other ritual subtleties for years on end, ending their sermons with requests for material aid... They take from Islam the part that is convenient and materially satisfying for them, openly and clandestinely cooperating with the enemies of Islam and Muslims and receiving handouts from them for this.” A propaganda play confirmed: “Isolated truly god-fearing academics like Abuzagir Mantaev (inshalla, shahid) and sheikh Yasin Rasulov have embraced jihad in order that Allah’s WORD stand above all else!”14

Such accusations of the official clergy are also made by other representatives of youth Islamist movements of the Northern Caucasus. In Kabardino-Balkaria, graduates of Saudi Arabian institutes, Mussa Mukhozhev, Anzor Astemirov, and others, became the propagators of fundamentalist ideology. After organizing an attack on the building of the defense and security structures in Nalchik on 13-14 October, 2005, A. Astemirov gave an interview to a member of the Turkish Caucasus Foundation organization, which maintains close contacts with the separatist movements of the Northern Caucasus and mainly consists of representatives of the Caucasian communities in Turkey. The first thing he did was to thank his first teachers from Turkey, Jordan, and Syria. At the beginning of the 1990s, foreign missionaries taught in Kabardino-Balkaria and, according to A. Astemirov, aroused his interest in Islam. Later he studied for some time at a university in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). When he returned to Kabardino-Balkaria, he and his companions created a “civilian association,” that is, a “jamaat,” the main purpose of which was to educate and train young people. He

10 Kh.T. Kurbanov, op. cit., p. 114.

11 See: “Konets propagandista,” available at [http://i-r-p.ru/page/stream-event/index-4751.html].

12 See: Kh. T. Kurbanov, op. cit., p. 115.

13 Mawlids are collections of songs that are sung during celebration of the month of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad according to the Muslim chronology of Hijri.

14 Internet site “Chechenpress” on the clergy of Daghestan, available at [http://i-r-p.ru/page/stream-document/in-dex-1346.html].


accuses the official clergy, which did not approve of the active participation of young Muslims, of all that happened. A. Astemirov accused them of greed, claimed that they charge a fee for performing funerals and marriage ceremonies, that is, “take money from the living, from the dead, and in general from everything.” Without taking the blame for organizing the bloody events, claiming that they were provoked and spontaneous in nature, A. Astemirov said: “We did not subordinate to those who have turned religion into a source of revenue, so we were attacked by the security services.”15

Today, the low level of education among the traditional Muslim clergy makes it impossible to effectively rebuff the radical extremists. According to Chairman of the SAM of Kabardino-Balkaria A. Pshikhachev, “a home-bred rural mullah, who does not have a special education and whose work is limited to performing funeral services, cannot oppose the propagandists of ex-tremism.”16

The uncontrolled departure of Russian Muslims abroad in order to obtain a religious education usually leads to many of them falling under the influence of different nongovernmental fundamentalist groups. The agreements between SAMs and foreign educational centers provide financial support for study abroad, that is, travel and living expenses are paid, students receive stipends, and so on. Whereas if students travel abroad independently, they do not have the funds to live and study on. Various Islamic foundations assume responsibility for their problems, which have their own representative offices at some learning institutions. Many of them are associated with the Persian Gulf countries, since it is precisely these states that can provide generous financing. These “charity” foundations help students who arrive to solve their housing problems, provide them with stipends, and furnish them with the “appropriate” literature. It stands to reason that this “attention” has its consequences: students take special courses and attend the lectures of those sheikhs designated by their “sponsors.” All of this leads to many of the Russian Muslims who return home after studying abroad not only upholding radical views, but also continuing to maintain ties with Islamic “charity” organizations. Moreover, some of them use their ties to help new students travel abroad to study.

Renat Raev, rector of the Russian Islamic University in Ufa, gave the following reply in an interview when he was appointed as mufti of the Cheliabinsk and Kurgan regions to a question about students being sent abroad: “We send some of our best graduates to continue their studies at Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the largest Muslim higher educational institution in the world. But students obtain their basic religious education and knowledge about the fundamentals of dogma here. Abroad they mainly study Arabic. As practice has shown, those students who only obtain their religious education abroad return home with ideas that are alien to our Muslims. In most cases, they are more detrimental than beneficial to Muslim communities.”17

It should be noted that T. Tajuddin, head of the Central Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Russia (CSAM), supported the idea of the need to enter intergovernmental agreements between Russia and some Arab countries, in accordance with which visas would only be issued to students with the consent of the Russian Islamic High Councils. He noted: “There was a time when not young people, but children aged 14-15, and even 13, traveled abroad. They were sent without any registration, without instructions from the spiritual administrations of Muslims.” According to him, many obtained an education that “in no way corresponded to our traditions.” The supreme mufti also directed attention to the staffing problem: “A large number of mosques are being built, but there are not

15 [http://www.kafkas.org.tr/absolut/showarticle.php?articleID=5495].

16 Quoted from: K.M. Khanbabaev, “Islam i problema obsepecheniia natsionalnoi bezopasnosti v Iuzhnom federal-nom okruge,” in: Evraziyskiy proekt: Kavkazskiy vector, Rostov-on-Don, 2005, p. 109.

17 See: “V regionakh nachalsia protsess obedineniia musul’manskikh obshchin,” available at [http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=interview&div=57].


enough people who can preach in compliance with the fundamentals of traditional Islam.” T. Tajud-din emphasized that only students who spend two years studying at preparatory educational institutions and four years at university are subsequently sent to Al-Azhar. It should also be noted that the CSAM does not send students to study in Saudi Arabia and is holding talks to negotiate sending some Russian Muslims to study in Morocco and Syria.18

The Muslim Administration of the Northern Caucasus is of the same opinion. In an interview, Chairman of the SAM of Daghestan Akhmad-Haji Abdullaev noted that during the two years of his work, approximately thirty people who had obtained a primary religious education at home were sent abroad through official channels. He said on this account: “I am not in favor of sending our children abroad, on the contrary, I say that there are qualified alims in our republic and the fundamentals of Islam should be studied here.”19

But sending Russian Muslims abroad, despite the more cautious approach to this practice, is continuing. For example, at the beginning of 2006, the Council of Muftis of Russia and the Abu Nur Islamic Educational Center (Damascus) signed an agreement on cooperation in Muslim education according to which 120 Russian Muslims will have the opportunity to study at this Islamic higher educational institution. Three different types of courses can be taken: a complete study course lasting seven years, including study in a college, at an Islamic department, and at a department of Shari‘a sciences (20 people); seven-month advanced training courses for imams, hatybs, kazis, and teachers of religion and theologians (50 people); and Arabic and Islamic science courses lasting one year (50


C o n c l u s i o n

So today there is no clear development conception for the Muslim education system in Russia. The lack of standard curriculums, certification of graduates of higher educational institutions, study requirements, financial difficulties, and so on mean that the education level at most Islamic higher educational institutions in Russia does not correspond to the level of higher education and is not much different from the secondary, madrasah, level. So study at foreign centers is frequently considered more preferable.

The succession of generations in the Muslim clergy in present-day Russia will continue to be an important factor influencing the development of religion for a long time to come. The growing competition between the old and young generations of the Muslim clergy is largely being aggravated due to the rivalry among the SAMs, when their leaders often accuse each other or specific imams for absolutely no reason of adhering to Wahhabism.

Young people who have obtained their education in the post-Soviet period and in particular those who have studied abroad are more subject to radicalism. Unemployment and the impossibility of graduates of Islamic higher educational institutions to become coopted into the official clergy are some of the radicalizing factors, along with the economic crisis and the conflict potential of certain regions. This is giving rise to acute rivalry which is being expressed in opposition between traditionalists and Wahhabis (fundamentalists). This situation is largely caused not only by the differences in theological views (for example of the Sufis and fundamentalists in Daghestan and

18 See: “Verkhovniy muftiy Talgat Tajuddin: ‘Prava obshchestva vyshe prav otdelnoi lichnosti,’” available at [http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=print&div=3480].

19 “V tseliakh rasprostranenia islama,” Interview with Mufti A.-H. Abdullaev, available at [http://assalam.dgu.ru/ html5/a5_9.html].

20 See: “Sovet muftiev Rossii otpravit na obuchenie v Siriiu 120 rossiyskikh musul’man,” available at [http:// www.islam-info.ru/index.php?action=show&req=news&nid=732].


Chechnia), but also by the use of religious differences in the struggle for leadership and influence on the communities.

The increase in extremist and terrorist activity is largely occurring under conditions of permanently aggravated ethnopolitical relations against the background of corruption in the power structures, socioeconomic instability, and unemployment among young people. The quantitative increase in the number of Muslim clergymen unable to coopt into the official clergy and realize their potential within the framework of existing sociopolitical relations continues to promote the formation of an extremist underground. This situation is characteristic not only of Daghestan, but also of several other regions of Russia.

The killing of certain people with a high educational status during antiterrorist operations shows the tendency toward people with prestigious secular and religious education becoming involved in terrorist groups and claiming the role of “ideological workers.” It goes without saying that they fell under the influence of radical fundamentalist ideas. Moreover, their going underground shows that they were unable to realize their potential legally within the framework of current sociopolitical relations or be coopted into the official clergy.