Bukhara and the Muslims of Russia: Sufism, Education, and the Paradox of Islamic Prestige

  • Book Title:
 Bukhara And The Muslims Of Russia
  • Book Author:
Allen J. Frank
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  • Acknowledgements   vii
  • Introduction    1
  • Islamic Manuscripts   8
  • One Sources    11
  • The Tarikh-i Barangawi  15
  • The Work’s Author  16
  • Contents and Structure  20
  • The Sources of the Tarikh-i Barangawi  25
  • Two The Religious and Social Foundations of Bukharan
  • Prestige    27
  • Sufi Tradition and Holy Cities in Central Asia 29
  • Bukharan Communities in Imperial Russia: Official
  • Privilege and Exalted Status  43
  • Bukharan Fashion among Muslims in Russia 64
  • Three “Bulghar” Institutions in Bukhara  77
  • “Bulghar” Saints and Legendary Scholars in CentralAsia   77
  • The Tatar and Bashkir Presence in Bukhara 80
  • Resident “Bulghar” Scholars and Sufis in Central Asia 86
  • Four The Student Experience I  95
  • The Journey There   98
  • Arrival and Lodging   99
  • Instructors   102
  • Study Outside of Bukhara  107
  • Students as Teachers   109
  • Sufi Shaykhs and Their Murids  110
  • Jalal ad‑Din al‑Khiyabani  113
  • Ishan‑i Pir ʿAbd al‑Karim ash‑Shahrisabzi al‑Balkhi 117
  • Other Sufi Figures   119
  • Curriculum   120
  • Manuscripts and Literary Activity  125
  • Five The Student Experience II  131
  • Daily Life and Finances  131
  • Health   137
  • Pilgrimage and Travel   138
  • Language Issues and Relations with Bukharans 142
  • “Bokharis” in Russia   147
  • Six The Decline of Bukharan Prestige in Russia 151
  • The Economic and Political Eclipse of Central Asia 151
  • Reformist Critics: Qursawi, Fayzkhanov, and Marjani 155
  • Jadid Critiques of Bukhara  160
  • Arab Critics of Bukhara and Tatar Reformists 170
  • Bukharan Decline in Question  174
  • From Islamic Reformism to Cultural Revolution 180
  • Full Circle: Bukhara as a Rationalist Symbol in Soviet and Post‑Soviet Islam 185
  • Conclusion    191
  • Bibliography    195
  • Index    205


Muslims IN Russia AND THE Paradox OF Bukhara

The city of Bukhara, known in much of the Islamic world by its Persian epithet Bukhara-yi sharif (Bukhara the Noble), is today an internationally renowned urban historical monument. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed not least for its ancient architecture. In tourist guides it is identified as a “Silk Road” city, and its past glory is commonly credited to the free exchange of goods that the Silk Road supposedly symbolizes.

This secularized and popular image partially stems from Enlightenment assumptions about Central Asian history, in which the Silk Road has become a historical precursor for modern commercial exchange. Similarly, in the modern Islamic world, especially in religious contexts, Bukhara is known above all as the home of the great hadith scholar Imam Ismaʿil Bukhari.

While not exactly secularized, Bukhara’s image among modern Muslims bears the strong imprint of the Islamic reformism and rationalism that came to so thoroughly dominate Muslim religious thought over the course of the 20th century, and that shares many features with Enlightenment thought, not least a rationalist outlook. Imam Bukhari himself has come to symbolize, among other things, this sort of rationalism.

Particularly for Muslims outside of Central Asia this modern reformist image of the city has largely (but not completely) displaced Bukhara’s older image as a sacred city of Islam, sanctified by its Sufis and their tombs.1 Beginning in the medieval era, and through the 20th century, Bukhara and its environs were renowned among Muslims for its holy places, based on the reputation as the abode of great Sufi shaykhs, and the site of innumerable shrines and saint’s tombs.

This sacred reputation extended far beyond Central Asia proper, and was especially evident in Russia. As Muslim com‑ munities in the Volga‑Ural region and Siberia embarked on their own in‑ digenous religious, economic, and political revival over the course of the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Bukhara became an important symbol to be invoked and imitated.

Historically among Muslims in Eastern Russia (that is, Tatars and Bashkirs in modern parlance) Bukhara’s religious significance derived above all from the city’s Sufi associations as an abode of saints and a source of sanctity, rather than from the more restricted intellectual associations that emerged later. Bukhara was not the only such holy city in Central Asia. In Tatar and Bashkir sources we can also identify urgench, Samarqand, Sayram, Farab, and Turkistan as cities enjoying similar reputations.

Central Asians accorded the same sort of status to many more cities, particularly in the Ferghana Valley, Kashgaria and Northern Afghanistan.2 Central Asia’s strong association with Hanafi jurisprudence further contributed to its reputation for sanctity among Muslims in Russia and elsewhere.

However, a number of related events occurring both within Bukhara and out‑ side of it resulted in the gradual amplification of Bukhara’s sacred status in the Islamic world at large, and especially in Russia where its religious prestige became closely associated with the growth of its economic significance.

First of all, among these events we can point to the revival of the Naqshbandiya Sufi order in India beginning in the seventeenth century. The broad expansion of the Naqshbandiya-Mujaddidiya and Khalidiya orders throughout the Islamic world, and especially in India, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, and in Central Asia itself, amplified Bukhara’s interna‑tional prestige as a holy city. The tomb of the order’s founder, Baha˒ ad‑Din

Naqshband, is located near Bukhara, and became Bukhara’s premier pilgrimage site and in the nineteenth century a lightning rod for reformist criticism. At the same time beginning in the seventeenth century, Bukhara began a gradual economic expansion by means of trade with Muscovy and the Oirat Khanate. This expansion continued after the annihilation of the Oirat Khanate in the 1750’s, and up to the Russian conquest of Central Asia in the second half of the nineteenth century.3

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