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While such restrictions exist in all secular societies, the control of the Uzbek state over Islam and religion more generally has fallen short of the standards of religious freedom set by the U.

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This book seeks to provide information about why the revival developed, to show what forms the revival is taking, and to indicate how the current policies of the Central Asian governments, and of their neighbors, are likely to influence the evolution of this revival. Developments within the region resonate much more quickly than do those in Afghanistan—not to mention Iran, Turkey, or the Middle East.

All have played a role in the way Islam has developed in Uzbekistan in recent decades. I chose to concentrate on Uzbekistan because I have been privileged to view many of the developments there firsthand. In the past twenty-five years, I have been able to travel mostly by road the length and breadth of the country. In these travels, and in my analysis, I have been able to benefit from the help of a number of talented Uzbek scholars who have conducted interviews for me in Uzbek and sometimes in Arabic, shared their own unpublished materials, and extended to me access to ordinary citizens and religious leaders alike that a Western woman even a fluent Russian-speaking one could never gain on her own.

Working with a team of Uzbek scholars, I also conducted interviews with some hundred ordinary Uzbek citizens from four different regions of the country in These experiences, combined with the decades of research that preceded them, make me feel a sense of obligation to offer my version of the role Islam has played in Uzbekistan in the recent past and what role it might play in the near future.

While what is offered is by no means a definitive answer, it will hopefully serve as something of a starting point for those interested in exploring the relationship between religion and the nation-building policies of the Uzbek government. This book would not have been possible without the assistance of a great many people. He was responsible for collecting many of the materials used in this book, and I benefited from his interpretation of the materials he collected with me and for this project.

He has no responsibility for the current text, although his contributions are cited throughout.


I also want to give special thanks to Abdujabar Abduhvahitov, who introduced me to many of the clerics in Tashkent, Namangan, and Andijan in the early s, and continued to talk through many of my questions on Islam in Uzbekistan while he was a visiting scholar at Carnegie in , and later when he was Rector of Westminster University in Tashkent.

The number of friends I met in Uzbekistan over the years are too numerous to name, but I am grateful for the hospitality shown to me by countless Uzbeks throughout the dozens of trips to Uzbekistan that I have made over the past twenty years of research. I also want to thank the many members of the staff at the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington for their help in facilitating all of these trips.

My research also benefited from the counsel of two Tajik scholars of Islam, Muzaffar Olimov and Saodat Olimova, who run Sharq, an independent think tank in Dushanbe and whose research helped inform the comparative aspects of this work. Most of all I want to thank my colleagues at the Carnegie Endowment, and its administration, who afforded me the opportunity and the time to do this complex project.

Several assistants made major contributions to verifying all the facts in this book, including Diora Ziyaeva, who also was responsible for collecting a lot of material on education, as well as Diana Galperin and Jane Kitaevich. We also brought on two consultants, Aaron Platt and Ibrat Usmanov, who helped with the Uzbek language materials.

I want to give special thanks to Alyssa Meyer, who went over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb to ensure all the spellings were accurate, conformed to modern Uzbek usage, and that there were no historical mistakes that slipped through the cracks. This book uses sources in multiple languages and materials that span several centuries, when no standard transliteration guidelines existed.

Therefore, I decided to follow a format that would make the reading of this work most acceptable to a broad audience. Whenever possible I have used the most common spelling for an English speaker. In most cases, this has taken the form of common English; for religious Islamic terminology, however, I used transliterated Arabic for instance, Quran , and for terms in which transliterated Russian is the most accepted, I used its spelling for example, chaikana.

For terms not easily recognized by an English-speaking audience, I made exceptions. First, names of individuals living prior to the introduction of modern Uzbek who have not been significantly covered in the English-language press are written in transliterated Russian. For names of individuals living after the introduction of modern Uzbek, Uzbek transliteration Latin alphabet and standard language with no local dialects is used. Additionally, to keep transliterations more accessible, I have decided to avoid the use of apostrophes in the Uzbek and Arabic transliterations and where possible I have substituted kh s for x s in the Uzbek transliteration.


I also used the English plural format of adding an s to Arabic and Uzbek plural terms rather than changing the word; for example, the plural of maktab is written as maktabs. When Uzbekistan received its independence in late , the question of whether the country would remain a secular society was a relatively open one. Uzbekistan experienced an Islamic revival starting in the s, which became more widespread when the Soviet Union collapsed, especially during the early years of independence when the Uzbek state was weak.

Equally as important, the declaration of the war on terror led to increased international wariness about groups that might be labeled Islamic extremists. The criteria that the government applied not infrequently put it at odds with its U.

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About 1 percent of the population is Shii and is mostly found in the Samarkand Samarqand and Bukhara regions, and about 6 percent of the population is of ethnic Russian or other European ethnic origin. By some fifty thousand Arab families were settled in Mary in present-day Turkmenistan , from which Arab armies made repeated attempts to capture Bukhara and Samarkand.

Bukhara finally fell under Arab control in and Samarkand in By Arab rule was established up to the Syr Darya Sirdaryo, daryo meaning river. Moreover, no matter what the political ideology of the ruling authorities or their attitude toward religion, the Uzbeks and their ethnic predecessors have always viewed themselves as Muslims, and as part of the Muslim world, seeking to preserve this faith. The Central Asians, though, did not see themselves solely as subjects of the faith, but as definers and innovators of it. The first was compiled by Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari — The history of Sufism, an important trend of spiritual revival that has been part of Sunni Islam for more than a millennium, also has deep roots in Central Asia.

The Karakhanids, a Turkic dynasty, defeated the Samanids in Bukhara in During Karakhanid rule, some 60 compilations of fura al-fiqh judgments were written that used Islam to regulate everyday life. Ismaili Islam also came to the region in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Roughly contemporaneously, the Seljuks, another Turkic dynasty, emerged in the Turkmen lands. The Seljuks took Baghdad in and ruled from Khurasan as well as from Khorazm.

Under the Seljuks, there was an increase in both Hanafi and Shafi mosques and madrasas and an increase in the role of Sufism as well. Yasawiya, founded by Khoja Ahmad Yasawi — in what is now the city of Turkestan, in Kazakhstan, dates from this period. The Karakitais invaded from China in the middle of the twelfth century, defeating the Karakhanids, and then the Seljuks. From this point on, Islamic rituals began to predominate over previous non-Muslim ones. Baharzi was a disciple of Najm ad-Din al-Kubra d. The Kubrawiya remained an important force until the seventeenth century, and many of its rituals were adopted by other Sufi groups in the region.

Terrorism, religion and state policy in Central Asia - DOC Research Institute

Mongol Chingizid rulers remained in power in Central Asia until the time of Emir Timur — , who established the Timurid dynasty that ruled until the sixteenth century. Timur introduced the institution of sheikh ul-Islam the head cleric, or leader of Islam in Central Asia, which established the head of Islam as an advisor to the ruler, but effectively made religion subordinate to state power. The Timurid period was also one in which Sufism flourished.

Emir Timur personally ordered that the grave of Ahmad Yasawi be turned into a major commemorative complex in Baha ud-Din Naqshaband d. The best known disciple of Naqshabandiya, Khoja Khwaja Ahror Vali whose real name was Ubaydalla , died , is said to have given the infant Babur his Muslim name. Babur — went on to establish the Mughal Dynasty in India. A Turkic dynasty, the Shaybanids, defeated Babur in , marking the beginning of the modern Uzbek nation. The Shaybanids were succeeded by another Turkic dynasty, the Astrakhanids, in , and they in turn were replaced by the Mangits in Bukhara and the Qunrats in Khiva In general, these centuries were marked by little religious innovation.

From that time on, until , the population of the region was part of dar al-kufr or dar al-harb , in which the status of Sharia law was determined by non-Muslims. After the Bolshevik Revolution in the Soviet Union, from the s on, Sharia lost all formal status. Many Muslims living in the country consider themselves as living in dar al-Islam because they are independent, ruled by an Uzbek, and Islam has been restored to a public place in society.

They are not troubled by the fact that the constitution declares Uzbekistan to be a secular state; indeed, many of them consider that to be appropriate. For others, though, who consider themselves to be devout Muslims, Uzbekistan is still seen to be a part of dar al-kufr or dar al-harb , because Sharia has no standing in the country. The overwhelming majority of these people are willing to accept the situation, or to use the strength of their faith to push for an expanded role for Islam in peaceful ways.

For a small minority, though, this situation is not acceptable, and they are willing to use force, or consider the use of force, to change it.

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Uzbekistan has spawned small jihadist movements over the past two decades. Even during the Soviet period, a large proportion of Central Asians considered themselves Muslims. They were taught atheism in school, but what they were taught in those courses had as much credibility as what they were taught in a whole range of other Soviet courses, such as history, philosophy, economics, and communist theory. Many practiced the age-old rituals of the Islamic community: circumcision, Islamic marriage, and burial.

Few were aware that these practices were illegal; even professional atheist lecturers in Muslim republics were sometimes unaware that circumcision, save in instances of medical necessity, was a violation of Soviet law. They were but one source through which those living in the Soviet Union remained aware of developments in a broader Islamic community.

Terrorism, religion and state policy in Central Asia

The collapse of the Soviet Union transformed Islam from a minority faith, a largely suppressed religion of a colonized population, to the majority religion of newly independent populations. Long used to hiding their religious practices, millions of Muslims now felt free to follow the dictates of their conscience, and the leaders of new nations had to figure out how to embrace this in ways that did not threaten their hold on power. So the relationship of Islam to the state remains as contentious a question as ever throughout Central Asia, nowhere more so than in Uzbekistan.

He was quick to recognize the challenge of bringing Islam back under state control, but sought to do so in a way that did not antagonize the majority of believers. What happened in the neighboring countries brought home the message to Karimov that he had to enjoy the support of a substantial portion of his population if he were to remain in power.

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That strengthened his conviction that political and religious freedoms must be carefully doled out and closely supervised. Karimov feared that if Uzbekistan tilted too far toward Islam, he would be vulnerable to ouster by those who still identified him with the atheist Communist Party that he had long served. He also feared that Islamic appeals were alienating local European and Europeanized populations, many of whom were already leaving the country and whose departure deprived it of desperately needed skills; equally troubling, they might also frighten away potential foreign investors.

Uzbekistan, like the rest of Central Asia, was experiencing a religious revival; new mosques and religious schools opened weekly, and the general popular observance of religious traditions was increasing, even among intellectuals who long had scorn for their more observant rural cousins. The state was but one of the many actors interested in influencing the development of Islam.