Bolgar Zhyeny: power of minarets and Iskanders, counterstrike at ISIS and intrigue with rector of Islamic Academy

How the Islamic Academy in Bolgar looks like

Bolgar Zhyeny: power of minarets and Iskanders, counterstrike at ISIS and intrigue with rector of Islamic Academy Photo: Timur Rakhamtullin

Tatarstan hosted the annual Muslim gathering Izge Bolgar Zhyeny, which attracted thousands of believers from across the country. In the course of events, the journalists were presented the ready-built Bolgarian Islamic Academy. About the held occasions, Tadzhuddin's ''Iskanders'' and the new Muslim educational institution — read in the report of Realnoe Vremya.

he feast behind the fence

The annual meeting of Izge Bolgar Zhyeny took place in the town of Bolgar (Spassky district of Tatarstan). The celebrations were timed to the day of acceptance of Islam by ancestors of the Tatars. The opening ceremony was held at the site in front of the building of the ready-built Bolgarian Islamic Academy. This event was attended by thousands of Muslims.

Of course, all the conversations of officials was dedicated to the academy and Islamic education.

However, in order to get to the festival, believers had to go through a real quest. First, the ancient city is located far from major cities and airports, it takes several hours to get to the town. Second, in order to get to the main place of action, they had to overcome several fences with metal detectors and to communicate with the police a little, showing them the contents of their bags.

What is more, only first few hundred visitors could occupy the benches installed in front of the stage. The rest of the ''pilgrims'' were left to observe the process behind the fence. The first three rows of empty benches were reserved for vip guests. By the way, later the places were occupied by the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, the mufti and foreign guests, including participants of the international economic forum ''Russia — Islamic World: Kazan Summit 2017''.

Participants of the international economic forum ''Russia — Islamic World: Kazan Summit 2017'' were guests of the event

''Everything that is being done speaks to the spiritual strength of our people''

President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov opened the ceremony and congratulated the audience with this event.

''Over the last years a great job have been done,'' he said. ''This is a lovely piece of Tatarstan where you can invite any of our guest, any can come here and see how the development on this territory was going. A year ago at this time we were laying the first stone [in the foundation of the Bolgarian Islamic Academy]. Such processes are done from the heart because they are connected with our history, our memory.''

He expressed gratitude to the first President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev, Revival Fund, Russian President Vladimir Putin for support and assistance.

According to him, the new institution is to become the center of theologians, and for this purpose all conditions have been created.

An hour before the celebration event, Minnikhanov, Shaimiev and religious figures visited the academy and discussed the problems of religious education. During the discussion with khazrats, the head of the republic reminded about the need to create under the academy a Russian Union of Muslim Scientists, ''in the framework of which united approaches to solve the most urging theological issues will be developed''.

State Adviser of the republic Mintimer Shaimiev told about the sacradness of Bolgar.

''The Bolgarian Islamic Academy could not be in another place,'' he said. ''Exactly on the territory of the Russian Federation for the first time Islam was voluntarily adopted. It is the origins. Here now we have conditions for gaining knowledge. Everything that is being done speaks of the spiritual strength of our people. We can! Bez buldyrabyz! (''We can'' in the Tatar language – editor's note).''

Tatarstan President opened the ceremony. Photo: prav.tatar.ru

The power is in Iskanders and minarets

Chairman of the Central Muslim Spiritual Board (CMSB) of Russia Talgat Tadzhuddin, not skimping on the courtesy in the address of Minnikhanov, Shaimiev and Putin, delivered a patriotic message.

''There is no danger in that we are reviving Islam,'' said the head of CMSB of Russia. ''Our ancestors, followers of traditional faiths, over the centuries have created huge powerful country. And today, when the whole world is boiling, our strength, reliability, independence lie is in the armed forces, and in missiles, in Iskanders, but at the same time, in minarets and towers of the temples. They strengthen in our hearts power, will of the multinational Russia.''

Counterstrike at Iblis state

Almost everyone who was given the microphone spoke first in Tatar then in Russian. The exception was Chairman of MSB RT Kamil khazrat Samigullin, who spoke only in the language of Tuqay, and the deputy head of the Coordinating center of Muslims of the North Caucasus, the Chechen mufti Salah Medjiyev, who for obvious reasons gave preference to Russian. Moreover, the speech of the muftis were much like the Friday sermon, with the appropriate wording, quotes from the Koran and sayings of the prophet Muhammad.

''We should spread the correct understanding of Islam,'' said the guest from Grozny. ''In the case of misunderstanding of Islam there are wars and turmoil. The Chechen people not by hearsay know what war, turmoil and misunderstanding of Islam are. If the Muslims around the world, in particular Russia, will stick together, helping each other in good deeds, then the God will always be with us. The Muslims should show the example for all mankind.''

According to him, the new academy will prepare cadres who will be able to apply the ideological counter-attack to the ''devils'' of the ''Islamic state'' (ISIS — the organization banned in Russia — editor's note), which the Chechen mufti called ''Iblis state'' (Iblis — the name of Satan).

The celebration ended at the Cathedral square with a midday namaz

Safety vs Islamic ethics

The celebration ended at the Cathedral square with the midday prayer (zuhr), which was attended by guests of the congress Izge Bolgar Zhyeny. The collective prayer was headed by Talgat Tadzhuddin.

By the way, the security services showed high vigilance again. Again, everyone had to pass through metal detectors and inspections of bags. But in order to pray at the designated site, it was necessary to show a lot of patience and ingenuity. Carpeted cover was just at the front, thus denoting the kind of area for the elite, but it was not separated with the red tape as it was in the Kazan mosque Kol Sharif. The rest were forced to lay brought with them mats, or taken off jackets.

According to Islamic ethics, first visitors to the mosque should occupy the front rows. Some Muslims who came early decided to do this way. But the organizers and staff responsible for security drove these visitors away. Those who decided to get down for prayer on the right side of the square were also rejected by the security: here there were to be vip worshipers. They also were not very pleasant with journalists. It is clear that safety is first of all in these cases.

Of course, a relatively small area could not accommodate all the believers, and many of them had to pray beside it on the grass.

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Who is rector?

Then the journalists were shown one of the buildings of the ready-built Bolgarian Islamic Academy. It has a large auditorium, a spacious prayer hall with takhatatkhana (the place for performing the ritual ablution), classrooms, offices for teachers, library with a reading room, dining room and office space.

The journalists drew attention to the plasterboard walls.

As the rector of the Russian Islamic Institute Rafik Mukhametshin told, the academy will educate not only the graduates of the founding organizations (MSB RT, CMSB of Russia and MSB of Russia) but also graduates of Caucasus madrasahs (Dagestan and Chechnya). In addition, he does not exclude that it will begin admitting boys from the CIS countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan).

''In Russia, there are about 80 Muslim educational institutions, including 10 universities. The Bolgarian Academy will be the final component of this system,'' said Mukhametshin.

The master programs will be given 3 years. The graduates will be Masters of the Islamic Sciences. PhD will take 3 years. Moreover, the study will be only full-time.

The specialization for undergraduates have already been developed: Islamic law, Islamic creed (aqidah), Koran research, hadith study. Subsequently, the founders intend to introduce another specialization — Islamic economy.

The graduates of the Muslim alma mater will work as teachers in the Muslim educational institutions of Russia.

According to the rector of the Russian Islamic Institute, the university partner of the academy can become the University of Al Quaraouiyine (Fez, Morocco).

''It would be very attractive if the diploma of the Academy would be recognized as one of the most prestigious educational institutions,'' he said.

''In Russia, there are about 80 Muslim educational institutions, including 10 universities. The Bolgarian Academy will be the final component of this system,'' said Mukhametshin.

The study will be free. The size of grants is being under discussion.

The whole architectural complex is designed for simultaneous training and accommodation for 300 people. This year it is planned to recruit up to 40 people. However, there will be held courses of advanced training for different groups of imams.

Answering the question of Realnoe Vremya about the future rector of the academy, Mukhametshin did not disclose the names of the candidates for the position.

''Despite the fact that according to the Charter Kamil Iskhakov (Aide to RT President, in charge of the Academy – editor's note) in the absence of the rector may perform his functions, perhaps, by September the rector will be appointed.''

According to him, the head of the Academy will be a Russian citizen living in the country more than one year. One of the requirements would be the knowledge of the Tatar language.

Kamil Iskhakov will become Chairman of the Board of Founders. He will be responsible for strategic development, financing and maintenance of the academy.

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By Timur Rakhmatullin. Photo by the author