‘Subhan Allah, we have lived to see a big celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam’

A discussion of the celebration of the jubilee of adoption of Islam in Bolgar

‘Subhan Allah, we have lived to see a big celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam’
Photo: Maxim Platonov

Road repairs, the construction of a cathedral mosque, the erection of a new administration building of Muhammadia madrasah, a re-print of the first print Quran... All these and other large projects were discussed at Holy Bolgar Gathering in Bolgar on 5 June. Top officials of Tatarstan including Mintimer Shaimiyev, Rustam Minnikhanov, Marat Khusnullin talked about how the 1,100th anniversary of the voluntary adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria would be celebrated. This milestone will take place in 2022.

The adviser’s instructions

Opening the holiday in Bolgar, Mintimer Shaimiyev reminded the audience about its philosophic and socio-cultural meaning:

“Every year we meet in this holy land. Bolgar today is a dream of many generations that became a reality with the help of the Almighty. Our generation had to make it a reality. And in gratitude to our ancestors who adopted Islam in this land, we erected the Memorial Sign that stores the world’s biggest print Quran. A huge job on the revival of Ancient Bolgar has been done here in the last years. Historic monuments have been restored, new important buildings have been erected. Subhan Allah, we have lived to see the day when we will celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam according to the decision and support of the country’s management on a large scale. It is a surprising historic event. Next year, we will also host a session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee with representatives of over 190 countries of the world. It is crucial for us that interethnic harmony become a lifestyle in Tatarstan.”

Talking about the concept of the future celebration itself at the meeting, the state adviser traditionally reminded the people that Islam and Orthodox Christianity historically occupied a special place in the republic. An approach of simultaneous restoration of Muslim and Christian holy sites has been taken in Tatarstan for many years:

“The principle of equal attention to Islam and Orthodox Christianity is pursued in the republic. We have a total understanding in this respect. Thanks to this, today we see absolute interfaith harmony in Tatarstan,” Mr Shaimiyev said. But his speech generally sounded like an instruction. He noted the big meaning of the decision to celebrate the milestone at federal level. “We should prepare decently,” Shaimiyev warned his colleagues.

Mintimer Shaimiyev: “The principle of equal attention to Islam and Orthodox Christianity is pursued in the republic. We have a total understanding in this respect. Thanks to this, today we see absolute interfaith harmony in Tatarstan”

In his speech, he reiterated that the republic had just 23 mosques in the 1990s, while now it does “almost 1,500, thank God”.

“We were wise enough to save the unity instead of warring somewhere,” Mr Shaimiyev said.

1,600 million for roads

Head of the federal Organising Committee of the celebration, Vice Chairman of the Russian Government Marat Khusnullin with a blue national hat on was sitting next to Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov and Tatarstan State Adviser Mintimer Shaimiyev. And their seats were symbolically near the mihrab in the prayer room at Bolgar Islamic Academy. Two women stood out in a crowd of numerous men — Tatarstan Minister of Culture Irada Ayupova and Vice Chairwoman of the Tatarstan State Council Tatiana Larionova.

They started the planning with quite understandable initiatives. As First Vice Minister of Construction, Architecture, Housing and Utilities Farid Khanifov said, it is necessary to do works on three roads taking to Bolgar: from Kazan (190 km), Ulyanovsk (123 km) and Samara (270 km). Each of them needs to be repaired in certain places — 23, 9 and 14 km respectively. Khusnullin asked how much money it would need (1,6 billion rubles), promised the money would be found and said the works might start. Also, Khusnullin claimed that a cathedral mosque in Kazan would start to be built in 2022:

“It seems to me it would be correct to lay the foundation stone by our jubilee. Also, the construction of a new administration building of Muhammadia madrasah is going to be finished (repairs recently ended there), and the Manuscript Centre is due to open.”

Vice Prime Minister of Tatarstan Vasil Shaykhraziyev voiced other mandatory and quite usual projects: exhibitions, concerts, festivals, a halal food festival...

Marat Khusnullin claimed that a cathedral mosque in Kazan would start to be built in 2022

Viral videos and film about Ibn Fadlan

Khusnullin let hazrats who arrived in the meeting express their opinions.

A speech of Mufti of the Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate Hazrat Kamil Samigullin turned out to be the longest. He reminded the audience that the first print Quran was issued precisely in Kazan, in 1803, so it would be reasonable to preprint it by the jubilee. The mufti’s proposals were in general educational: he offered to print a big number of copies of the Quran translated into Russia, open an online madrasah in Russian (it has opened in Tatar this year), update the website of Darul-Kutub.com e-library, create a media platform devoted to the jubilee and make a film about the trip of Ibn Fadlan who visited Volga Bulgaria as a secretary of Abbasid caliph Al-Muqtadir’s embassy in 921-922 when our ancestors adopted Islam. Several months ago, by the way, scenes from some shooting on this topic appeared on Instagram of Tinchurin Theatre. Producers promised to show a teaser then. Samigullin talked about the teaser too.

The mufti’s numerous offers included a cartoon about the event as well as a series of viral, as he said, videos about Islam. The Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate is also preparing a big book on the history of Tatars through the lens of faith, he said. At the end of this big speech, he offered to host a big Quran recitation competition and an exhibition of holy relics collected across Russia.

Chairman of the Russian Central Muslim Religious Directorate, Supreme Mufti Hazrat Talgat Tadzhuddin went further and voiced a project that is obviously not limited to the jubilee of Tatarstan Islam. He offered to introduce morality classes from year one in schools. However, he immediately left to read salaat al-tawbah near the Small Tower. As it is known, Tadzhuddin has been hosting the gathering since 1989 — at that moment, the 1,100th jubilee was celebrated in the Muslim calendar.

Talgat Tadzhuddin offered to introduce morality classes from year one in schools

Ravil Gaynutdinov was obviously missing at the meeting. Perhaps, after his address to Minnikhanov in which he accused Samigullin of printing a wrong interpretation of the Quran, the appearance of the chairman of the Russian Muslim Religious Directorate would be too precipitated settlement of the conflict. So his First Vice Chairman Damir Mukhetdinov represented him. In the official part later, he reminded people that precisely Gaynutdinov had offered Vladimir Putin to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam nationwide. In Bolgar, Mukhetdinov reminded the audience about the attention to other important religious sites, including Moscow’s Historic Mosque, mosques in Nizhny Novgorod.

Yevgeny Yeryomin, head of the Department of Religious Affairs of the Russian president’s Office for Domestic Policy, named one of the days of some events of the celebration. It is Russia — Islamic World summit, which will probably take place in May 2022. Also, he promised to help with hosting events across Russia, not only in places where Islam is a traditional religion but also in many others. Khusnullin backed him here.

“God is one, and homeland is one”

By the way, on this day, Minnikhanov and Khusnullin awarded the winner of the Russian national wrestling tournament, a citizen of Zelenodolsk District Firdus Zaynulin a prize — car keys.

Mintimer Shaimiyev: “Every year we meet in this holy land. Bolgar today is a dream of many generations that became a reality with the help of the Almighty.”

Meanwhile, guests gathered near the Memorial Sign in honour of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bolgarians in 922. The event ended with a prayer recently re-elected judge of the Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate Hazrat Jalil Fazlyev read.

Then it was the turn of a more secular part of the day where actors of Kamal and Tinchurin theatres, famous pop and folk singers showed a themed performance. Of course, the speeches of the officials differed from those pronounced at Islamic Academy.

Hazrat Kamil Samigullin who almost rushed to the Memorial Sign cunningly noted:

“Islam was adopted in Russia in 992, while Christianity was 66 years later. So Islam is the first religion in Russia.”

Hazrat Talgar claimed in a conciliatory manner:

“God is one, and homeland is one.”

Obviously, the enemy is one, Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Kirill who also arrived in the Islamic celebration by tradition founded by his predecessor His Grace Feofan concluded. Kirill named the infamous enemies as Satanists who, in particular, divide people into “men and women”.

Metropolitan of Kazan and Tatarstan Kirill also arrived in the Islamic celebration by tradition founded by his predecessor His Grace Feofan

Rustam Minnikhanov didn’t miss the chance of delivering a speech as a pro-vaccination campaigner, which recently became his usual role:

“It is necessary to vaccinate, there is no other option. If you have a shortage of vaccines, come here.”

Old people traditionally prevailed among the guests. There weren’t a lot of tourists on that day in general, while the number of old women and men who arrived from districts and regions on public and leased buses was big enough. The youth were represented by new hazrats, workers of the muftiate, volunteers and children. One of the young visitors to the holiday explained to another:

“Guess, how many followers does the Tatarstan Muslim Religious Directorate have on Instagram? Tens of thousands? What about Morgenshtern? Millions. He is the hero of the day, he sets the agenda.”

It seems that the Ufa phenomenon is going to have a serious opponent next year...

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By Radif Kashapov. Photo: Maxim Platonov
Tatarstan