‘It was Geydar’s wish. He will be buried in the foothill of the Tian Shan’

Close friend of the chairman of the Russian Islamic Committee told the details about the teacher’s death

Famous social activist, politician and chairman of the Islamic Committee Geydar Dzhemal died aged 70 on 5 December. The funeral was going to take place in Alma-Ata. A correspondent of Realnoe Vremya reached out Ruslan Aysin – Dzhemal's close friend and colleague living in Kazakhstan. Our interlocutor told about the last request of the celebrated politician, about the intellectual elite from the Yuzhin Circle and pressure of the Soviet power.

To start with, Ruslan, could you tell us what happened to Mr Dzhemal? Why did he die?

He was ill during a long time. It was connected with oncology. He came to Alma Ata to receive treatment and died.

Will the funeral take place there too?

He died in Alma Ata. But he decided to be buried here beforehand. He was ill during a long time. He actively hid the disease. He did not tell about it, he did not show it. But the terrestrial term came to an end. Only the closest people knew about it. People with such disease don't live long. This is why they tried to find solutions and receive treatment.

Was he really your teacher?

Yes, I was his pupil. I was his deputy on many issues, including in the Islamic Committee. I was with him during a long time. I covered a long road of my spiritual and intellectual formation with him. He was a deep person. He was big in all senses. He was a quality seal and password for many people of different political and ideological viewpoints, Muslims, Christians. He had a powerful charisma, he attracted people. He was principled and honest.

Is it true that he was pressed during the Soviet era?

Yes, he supported the opposition during the Soviet era. He participated in the so-called intellectual underground called the Yuzhin Circle. A real intellectual elite came from it in the 60-70s. Then in the 1980s, he started his political and public activity and publishing. He dealt with different issues like international agenda, internal agenda, was a TV presenter on Channel 1, he had many projects. This person had many talents.

Geydar Dzhemal with his pupils, Rasul Tavridyakov – on the very left, upper row. Photo: instagram.com

When will the funeral take place?

On 6 December at 11 o'clock.

Will there be any lying in state?

There will be a Muslim ritual – Ṣalāt al-Janāzah. There will be local people, some people will come by plane. It is planned to hold a commemoration meeting in Moscow. All friends, acquaintances who won't say goodbye to him will be able to participate at the meeting. He died on 5 December, this is why the organisation (Editor's Note: of mourning in Moscow) has not been considered yet.

Did anyone from Russia wish to come to Kazakhstan to say goodbye to him?

Relatives, close friends. People are still coming, so it is difficult to say at the moment…

For example, will Maksim Shevchenko who respected Dzhemal very much come?

Unfortunately, he won't be able to come. He has problems, personal reasons, though he wanted to come very much. People call and express their condolences. For example, Ravil Gainutdin and other people who know him. The problem is just technical: in Kazakhstan, we have other phone numbers. Not all people can contact us. People who can call and write.

Why did he want to be buried in Alma-Ata?

It was his wish. He spent many years in the mountains in Tajikistan in the 1980s. He liked the mountains much and wanted to be buried close to them. He did not want to connect himself with the places, in his opinion, that did not correspond to his understanding. He will be buried in the foothills of the Tian Shan.

  • Nadezhda Kevorkova

    Nadezhda Kevorkova journalist with focus on Near East

    'He is a person who was first to start to speaking in Russian about… (crying). He made people hear and respect Islam. He did it in a way that Muslims learnt to speak Russian and learnt how to fight for their faith. He was a person who inculcated hope, of course. He left so many endeavours, so many priceless statements that allow Muslims to breathe…'

  • Rasul Tavridyakov

    Rasul Tavridyakov Islamic blogger

    'We visited him at the end of the summer. He was at home in the centre of Moscow. It was before his disease aggravated. I was told he was ill. I was asked not to detain him. But it was not seen: he kept up, gave instructions. We brought him pilaf, fruits, spent with him two hours. I met him a long time ago – from the late 1990s or early 2000s. I studied in Moscow at that time. There was the Islamic Committee and other organisations where he took part as an organiser or invited guest. He was active. He delivered speeches everywhere. It was always interesting to listen to him. In one event – Sacrifice Feast or Eid al-Fitr – presenter Muhammad Karachay presented him the following way: 'Islamic heavy artillery of Moscow'. And he was.

    He was an idea-driven person, an ascetic. His house was full of books, you won't see any equipment. I was surprised at it and asked: 'Have you really read it all?' He modestly answered he tried reading, repeating and looking in books. Not many young Muslims understood the depth of his thought. Sometimes he used quite complicated terms because his intellectual level excelled the level of his listeners in many aspects.

    His ideas were advanced, they left the idea originating today behind. He left his generation behind. We will come to his thoughts in the future. Unfortunately, many people did not understand him and had an unclear attitude towards him. The thing is that our level did not reach the level our teacher did.

By Timur Rakhmatullin, Lina Sarimova

Geydar Dzhahidovich Dzhemal (Azerbaijani: Heydər Cahid oğlu Camal, sometimes transliterated as Heydar Jamal; 10 June 1947 – 5 December 2016) was a Russian Islamic revolutionist, philosopher, poet, political and social activist.