In this article of the series on Islam around the world, we focus on Russia, the largest country spanning 17,075,400 km² and comprising one-eighth of the world’s land area. How did Islam reach Russia? How many Muslims live there? What are the prominent mosques and figures? Let’s explore the answers to these questions about the challenges faced by Muslims in the country.
What is the Muslim population in Russia?
Today, Russia stands out among non-Muslim countries with the highest number and proportion of Muslims. With a total population of 142,423,773, the country is home to around 30 million Muslims. While the majority are Sunni Muslims, there is a small Shia minority, mainly consisting of Azeri origin Muslims in the Dagestan region.
How and when did Islam reach Russia?
Islam reached the territory of present-day Russia in the mid-7th century. In 641, under the leadership of Abdurrahman bin Rebia, the Islamic army, after conquering Iran and Jerusalem, advanced northwards to the South Caucasus. The victory against the Khazar Khaganate in 737 led to the dominance of the Umayyad Caliphate in Northern Caucasus. With the Islamization of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the region remained under the rule of Islamic states for 1200 years. The region became a center of knowledge, with many hadith, fiqh scholars, as well as leading philosophers, physicists, and mathematicians.
What are Russia’s famous mosques?
Russia, with over 30 million Muslims among its 142 million population, boasts extraordinary and uniquely original mosque architecture. Some of the most famous mosques include:
– Ahmed Kadirov Mosque in Grozny, Chechnya
– Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan, Tatarstan
– Derbent Juma Mosque in Derbent, Dagestan
– Nurda Kamal Mosque in Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk
– Lala (Tulip) Mosque in Ufa, Bashkortostan
– Mukhtarov Mosque in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia
– Blue Mosque in St. Petersburg
Who are the influential figures promoting Islam in Russia?
While Russian-born Muslims have limited interaction with other ethnic Muslim communities, they share a bond through common religious values. Valeriya Porohova, a Russian linguist who converted to Islam in 1991, completed the Russian translation of the Quran, which has seen ten editions since its initial publication in the mid-1990s. Another influential figure is Ali (Vecheslav) Polosin, a former Orthodox Church bishop and member of the Russian Parliament. He converted to Islam in 1999 and currently heads an association working on promoting and spreading Islam among Russian Muslims.
What are the major challenges faced by Russian Muslims?
Recent population growth due to increased birth rates has led to a rise in the Muslim population, creating a sense of unease among the general population that Russia is being “Islamized.” Consequently, Islamophobic activities have increased. Muslims in Moscow are often employed in low-paying jobs. Media outlets, including radio and television run by Muslims, are closely monitored and controlled by the state. There is no political structure representing Muslims in the country, and they can only join existing mainstream political parties. The Russian government has adopted a moderately political approach towards Islam, aiming to control the Muslim population in recent years.