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The Ahmad Kadyrov Mosque: A Symbol of Sufism's Resurgence in Chechnya

Islam permanently arrived in the 15th century, during the Ottoman expansions. Sufism subsequently spread, years later, and enjoyed rapid spread through this small Caucasus country, and has since remained an integral part of the local populations’ lives. It has remained with them through much of their turbulent history, including the occupation by Ivan the Terrible, the expulsion by Stalin to Siberia and Kazakhstan, and now the most recent conflict, their struggle for separation from the Russian Federation.

Held in conflict for so long, the Chechen people have been unable to litter their nation with symbols of their Sufi heritage. Now, standing tall in the middle of Ahmad Kadyrov Square in Grozny is Ahmad Kadyrov Mosque, the largest mosque in Europe.

Initially, Chechen separatists planned to build a small mosque in this square over the site of the former headquarters for the Communist Party’s regional committee. It was to be a symbolic gesture for the end of the Communism in Chechnya. Those plans, however, were abandoned when Separatist President Dzhokhar Dudayev, second-in-charge Ahmad Kadyrov, and their militia, Kadyrovtsy, went to war with the Russians from 1994 to 1996.

At the time of the first conflict, Ahmad Kadyrov was hailed as “Chechnya’s Rebel Mufti”, an acknowledgment of both his dual role at the time as Grand Mufti of Chechnya, and a leader of the separatist movement. After a falling out with Chechen President, Aslan Maskhadov over the growing influence of Wahhabism on the movement, and the de facto independence of the Chechen province Ichkeria, Kadyrov switched sides and joined the Russians before the second war from 1991-2001. In 2000, the Russians formed their own pro-Moscow government for Chechnya and gave the Presidency to Kadyrov.

When in power, Ahmad Kadyrov decided to build a grand mosque on the same square as the abandoned separatists’ mosque from the early 1990’s, but construction never materialized.

Three years ago, construction began again on the same site as Kadyrov’s mosque to complete his vision, only this time on a much larger scale. The building of the mosque was supposed to be a symbol of the restoration of normality in Chechnya after the wars; or at least normality as the Kremlin sees fit. With the project being the brainchild of Ahmad Kadyrov, and its $20 million funding coming from the Kremlin, it may seem more of a symbol of Russia’s seemingly permanent fix in Grozny. This was evident from Vladimir Putin’s presence among the 28 foreign officials and 2000+ attendees at the inauguration ceremony.

Was else was evident was the continued reciprocal support for Russia from the Kadyrov’s. Ramazan Kadyrov made clear whose side he was on when he told the attendees, “The war in Chechnya was unleashed in order to destroy Russia, but the Chechen people, supported by the federal center, foiled these filthy plans.”

“The Chechens... have defended the integrity of Russia and the purity of Islam”

Kadyrov also made clear the iconic status of this mosque, with respect to Chechen history and religion.

During his inauguration speech to the attendees he said, “People of the Chechen Republic first time in sixty years will have a possibility to have a grand mosque in Grozny and conduct Islamic religious rites there”
He noted that under the Soviet regime there was not a single main mosque in Chechnya. He recalled, "All the mosques were closed, destroyed and robbed in the Chechen Republic more than 60 years ago. Up to now residents of the republican capital didn't have an opportunity to pray in one, main mosque, though it is usual for all Islamic states and regions where Islam is practiced."
The younger Kadyrov also promoted a greater role for Islam in the Caucasus region, despite accusations from Human Rights groups about his potential involvement in mass killings and abductions, including last years assassination of Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya.

The inauguration of the mosque coincided with the first day of the international conference, “Islam – a Religion of Peace”, hosted by the Grand Mufti of Chechnya, Sultan Mirzayev.

The Grand Mufti also repeated the hope that this mosque would show the world it would be a symbol of their nations’ Islamic heritage when he said, "I hope that the complex will become a beacon of faith, safeguarding the national and religious traditions of the Chechen people, and that the mosque itself will become a symbol of the long-awaited peace and spiritual re-emergence of the republic."

As for the mosque itself, it is styled like the Sultan Ahmad Mosque in Istanbul (Blue Mosque), and certainly has a feel that rivals the historic Turkish mosque.

Built over an area of 14 hectares, the building can house more than 10,000 worshipers at a time.

The minarets of the building reach as high as 60meters (180 feet).

Surrounding the mosque is an entire Islamic Complex, complete with an Islamic library, Islamic Administration Center, and dormitories for students who will be attending the madrassah.

The Madrassah is a key aspect of this Islamic Center for future generations. When he was Deputy Prime Minister, Kadyrov described the need for construction of this Islamic Center and madrassah as necessary to combat the Wahhabism he, and the Grand Mufti, have come to vehemently oppose.

“The construction of this mosque and an Islamic center, or madrassah, will help spread true Islam, which has nothing to do with extremism, in Chechnya”
Outside, the mosque walls are decorated with travertine, and white, marble, and have been emblazoned by Turkish artists with paints that are made to last for 50 years. Verses of the Quran, rendered in gold, can also be found around the entire mosque.

But despite the wonderful architecture, as the Muslims of Grozny flock to this mosque, one cannot help but wonder of the irony that the very government who is providing the Chechens with a means for cultural preservation is the same government withholding the means for Chechen national preservation.

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4 comments:

Jafar Hasan said... November 24, 2008 at 3:14 AM

Assalamualaykum

With pleasure & respect we would like to invite all of our sister and brother
to visite our website about sufism on this following link :
www.sufihasanhusein.blogspot.com

Wish the mercy for all Islam nation's

Salam.

Jihane said... November 8, 2009 at 2:35 PM

wow what a load of ignorance and missleading information in this article.

Sule said... November 8, 2009 at 7:45 PM

@Jihane

I'll be more than happy to correct a mistake or make an addendum if there is something wrong with what I wrote.

However, insofar as I'm aware, there is nothing wrong with what I wrote.

Feel free to deconstruct anything that's wrong.

majestad said... December 14, 2009 at 9:53 PM

Symbol is a must...
www.majestad.wordpress.com

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