Zakabannaya Mosque’s Imam: ‘I don’t like Elton John’s propaganda, not his art’

Realnoe Vremya’s exclusive interview with famous imam Seidjagfar Lutfullin. Part 1

Seidjagfar Lutfullin is one of the most celebrated imams in Tatarstan who serves at Zakabannaya Mosque and deals with social work and other activities. He is famous for quite blunt and unclear statements on the Internet. Even if he has preferred not to speak to journalists in recent time, he made a concession for a correspondent of Realnoe Vremya. There were many questions. And the interview with the religious activist was so long that the editorial decided to divide it into two parts. In the first part of the talk, Hazrat Seidjagfar told about his way towards minbar, expressed his opinion about a scandalous video shot near the White Mosque. Moreover, he explained other loud statements about Elton John's concerts and the ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir units in Russia.

'Our mahallah was criminal'

Hazrat Seidjagfar, could you tell how you became imam? Have not you been wearing chapan and tubeteyka since your childhood?

When I was five, my grandad taught me to read Quran, I already knew Al-Fatiha. I grew up in a militant's family, there was a strict regime. I used to spend summer with my blind grandad. I helped him, constantly worked in the garden. I left home after the 9 th grade. I lived in a madrasah and studied in a night school in Kazan. I helped at the mosque, participated in all strikes when mosques came back. I used to shoot videos. I had no desire and aspiration to become imam. It is a very responsible thing to be an imam. When Hazrat Iskhak was ill and was absent at the mosque, the very people started to force me. They said: 'You know how to run this business, continue his work.' I was against it. There were offered several candidacies at a meeting of the mosque. And my candidacy was approved. It was after Hazrat Iskhak died.

I immediately headed the minbar. It is quite difficult to give Friday sermons in front of the people. I acted as muezzin. As a madrasa pupil, I was with hazrats, washed corpses – it is what I started my work with, not as a head imam. Elderly men of the mosque used to do this kind of dirty work. They did not dare to bury poor people who had tuberculosis, hepatitis, AIDS, lung cancer. And our mahallah was poor and criminal. Sometimes we had to break doors of a flat with a police officer where we had to scrape the decomposed corpse with a shovel. Probably I did all this job because I was young. Many people looked at me, the did not believe I was Tatar. I was called Tajik or Uzbek. After washing the corpse, all people sit in a circle and read Tahlil: we ask Allah to accept his death with the name of the Most High. When a person sees a corpse in front of him, which is wrapped in three cloths, one can explain to his relatives that they can occupy this place tomorrow and that nobody will take things from this life. And people listen to it at that moment. They need a correct explanation. For example, a mosque is not a box for voluntary charity, and pray houses are not a place of worship. I gave sermons. People thank for the explanation because they say: an elderly man comes, says something unclear, or a Wahhabi comes, bans everything and insults. People need an explanation because there were the rests of the past – a cheat sheet for a corpse. Some people used to put cigarettes, gloves, phone in the tomb… This is why I offered to go to the mosque and learn.

I often go the graveyard. It is a very good lesson. When you feel a cold body, you understand that you can lie there tomorrow. When I bury kids, I start loving my kids more. It is a good lesson for you. It wakes you up. You think over your life, things you will be responsible for. This is why we need to do as many good deeds as possible.

I often go the graveyard. It is a very good lesson. When you feel a cold body, you understand that you can lie there tomorrow. When I bury kids, I start loving my kids more. It is a good lesson for you. It wakes you up. You think over your life.

About the scandalous video: 'The person apologised. Allah forgives everybody. We also forgave her and forgot everything'

Mufti Hazrat Kamil has said to me recently you are a quick-tempered person. And one should advise before announcing something. Are your blunt statements a part of your image or is it 'I can't keep silence any more'?

Look at Metropolitan Feofan's statements. Personally for me, Bolgar has been a holy place since my childhood when Talgat Tadjuddin gathered imams there. It is a valuable memory for me. Few people understand the importance because it did not happen in their grave. Let every person imagine that it happened in the graves of their fathers and grandfathers. About a hundred of gravestones have been destroyed recently. I restored Bishbalta ancient graveyard with my mosque. My heart bled. The upper part with the Arab script was intentionally destroyed. Someone wanted to demolish the entire plate, so that there would be no sign of a grave. Graves were destroyed, bones were taken away. We did not make noise, we did not make it public, we did not create a conflict. Ritual company, the executive committee, city administration and we started to fence it. We tidy up there. We solved the problem, so it won't arise again.

The person apologised. Allah forgives everybody. We also forgave her and forgot everything. Even though the girl said she deleted the video on the Internet, the video is still on YouTube and other channels.

And here is such an egregious case (Editor's Note: a singer's dance in Bolgar). But the person apologised. Allah forgives everybody. We also forgave her and forgot everything. Even though the girl said she deleted the video on the Internet, the video is still on YouTube and other channels. I have to say I did not give any interview about this scandal despite statements made by some journalists. I make an exception for your newspaper because you tell about our work.

By the way, why did you delete your social accounts?

Many people complain about me. They write letters, send claims. I decided to delete to not to irritate them. One person has already sent a claim like I inflamed something or threatened. Lawyers from the Law Academy examined my posts and the text of the applicant. They concluded I do not endanger somebody's life, I don't inflame anything. And these accusations can be considered as slander.

I will answer your question by telling a story from Prophet's life. When he is together with his companion Abi Bakr, one Arab approaches them, sits in front of Abi Bakr and starts to swear, shout and accuse the companion. Abi Bakr sits and listens to him for some time but then starts to reply. At that moment Muhammad stands up and leaves them. When the scandal ended and the Arab left, Abi Bakr asked Prophet: 'Oh, Messenger of God! Why did you sit first and the left when this Arab came and started to accuse me?' Allah's messenger replied: 'When you were sitting patiently and listening to him in silence, angels prayed for you to Allah. But when you gave up and started to reply, the angels left you and devil came instead. This is why I left you'. This morality tale says we, Muslims, should not react to provocations. We should answer with good deeds. If one can't do it, it is better to keep silence.

'I don't like Elton John's propaganda, not his art'

You told you was against concerts of some pop singers – Madonna, Elton John. Why?

I did not say I was against the pop culture. I am against the popularisation of sexual minorities. Moreover, many foreign media resources are making new steps. They did not manage to win against us with their sanctions. Now they are trying to destroy us morally. This LGBT will sponsor its clubs around the world to make them active. Elton John said on the official page of LGBT he was going to come to Russia to support sexual minorities. As he officially represents LGBT, people in the cities he was going to visit opposed it. Both the Church and people were against it. A service of supplication was held, Elton was ill after that, he was operated. It seems the Most High heard their prayers. Earlier Madonna did a concert in Petersburg. She had words supporting such people written in her back, though she had been warned not to do that. And Elton John had the same purpose. I don't like Elton John's propaganda, not his art. I don't like him as a propagandist. First of all, gay propaganda is forbidden by law. Secondly, it was the purpose of his visit. For this reason, I was against it. If it is distributed without proof, everybody will be punished. The Lot people suffered from it. Now, when Sodom and Gomorrah were dug, people saw an entire family was in the house, they were normal. Why did ordinary people who were not implemented in lascivious behaviour suffer? Because it became a norm. This is why they were punished. People express their dissatisfaction first, then impede it and agree with it. So it turns out they are accomplices. As a religious activist, I think when it has a mass character some of the religious representatives should react to it.

Why does not the muftiate do it officially then?

They should be asked this question. We have a principle 'It had not bothered me'. It will bother everyone. When you don't live in a cottage behind a wall but talk to people, you understand all these problems. These problems don't pass by. People visit us, complain about these problems.

By the way, members of a banned organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested recently. I was the initiator of this unit in Tatarstan. And they confuse people with their false ideas.

To be continued

By Timur Rakhmatullin. Photo: Maksim Platonov

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