January 19th 2009 · Prague Watchdog / Dzhambulat Are · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

The modernization of Islam in contemporary Chechnya (weekly review)

The modernization of Islam in contemporary Chechnya (weekly review)

By Dzhambulat Are

GROZNY, Chechnya – On January 15 Mufti Sultan-Khadzhi Mirzayev met with President Ramzan Kadyrov and informed him of plans to modernize the organization which he heads.

The Chechen Mufti is of the opinion that modern Islamic clergy should be familiar with the achievements of modern civilization. Today’s mullahs must have an understanding of information technology, and should be as well acquainted with the products of Microsoft as he is with the Sunna and hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad. Higher education alone is not enough for members of the muftiate, Mirzayev believes. They are required when necessary to perform the work of teacher, judge and prosecutor – and so, in the proposals of the reform, an Islamic cleric is seen as a universal policeman, able to control all spheres of public and private life. On the pretext of modernization, Mirzayev plans to carry out a large-scale purge of individuals who fail to meet certain criteria.

It may perhaps be worth noting that surveillance is a favourite activity of Chechnya’s mullahs, kadis (Islamic judges) and other members of the Spiritual Administration. They eagerly invade the privacy of the republic’s citizens and spy on the students, who have been ordered to wear special “Islamic” dress. The mullahs also play a keen and active role in supervising the republic’s roads, helping the traffic police to reduce the number of motor accidents.

Under Kadyrov’s leadership the Mufti has gradually more or less become the country’s second-in-command. The President’s officials are as afraid of the Mufti as they are of the President himself.

The star of the current Chechen Mufti Sultan-Khadzhi Mirzayev, who was formerly the Chair of the republic’s Supreme Sharia Court, was already ascending on the horizon during the military operations in the republic. None of his predecessors were able to concentrate so much power and money in their hands. At one time Mirzayev was considered to be Maskhadov’s man, but at the same time he gained the reputation of a Wahhabite who dreamt of establishing the way of life that the Taliban had introduced in Afghanistan.

Many people still hold him responsible for the terror that has been unleashed by the Sharia police in the republic. Mirzayev himself says that the public executions, which shocked the entire civilized world, were carried out by his predecessor Shamsuddin Batukayev, who fled to a Middle East country at the beginning of the second Chechen war.

It is evident that Mufti Mirzayev intends to strengthen the organization still further, turning it into a genuine branch of the special services responsible for purity of thought and loyalty to Kadyrov. For this reason a veritable manna from heaven – or from Kadyrov’s pockets – seems to have descended on him. The President’s concern for the republic’s Spiritual Administration is doubtless not unconnected with his awareness of the threats that may face his government in the foreseeable future if the battle for the souls of the territory’s inhabitants is lost.

A modern office has been built for the Chechen Muftiate, with the latest technology and the most expensive equipment. The Mufti and his staff have at their disposal the largest mosque in Grozny (a copy of Turkey’s Blue Mosque), the Islamic University, a library and other facilities.

To all of this the other day Ramzan Kadyrov brought eight of Mirzayev’s colleagues, muftis of neighbouring republics, thus hinting at Chechnya’s new pre-eminence as the centre of the Islamic revival in the North Caucasus – something he did not tire of pointing out to his beloved guests.

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that the Wahhabites still remain undefeated. And as the muftis of the North Caucasus republics have promised to wage an all-out war on them, this task may take many long years to complete.

The photograph is borrowed from the website of Novaya Gazeta.

Previous weekly reviews can be read at

(Translation by DM)


 · The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Chechen Republic



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