By Agnes Nilufer Kefeli
within the 19th century, the Russian Empire's heart Volga area (today's Tatarstan) used to be the positioning of a chronic fight among Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, each one of which sought to solidify its impact one of the frontier’s mixture of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, and Slavic peoples. The rapid catalyst of the occasions that Agnes Nilufer Kefeli chronicles in Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia was once the collective flip to Islam by way of a number of the region’s Krashens, the Muslim and animist Tatars who switched over to Russian Orthodoxy among the 16th and eighteenth centuries.
the conventional view holds that the apostates had fairly been Muslim all alongside or that their conversions were pressured by way of the country or undertaken voluntarily as an issue of comfort. In Kefeli’s view, this argument drastically oversimplifies the complexity of a quarter the place many participated within the non secular cultures of either Islam and Orthodox Christianity and the place a colourful Krashen neighborhood has survived to the current. by means of studying Russian, Eurasian, and valuable Asian ethnographic, administrative, literary, and missionary assets, Kefeli indicates how conventional schooling, with Sufi mystical elements, helped to Islamize Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples within the Kama-Volga geographical region and set the level for the advance of modernist Islam in Russia.
Of specific curiosity is Kefeli’s emphasis at the position that Tatar ladies (both Krashen and Muslim) performed as holders and transmitters of Sufi wisdom. this day, she notes, intellectuals and mullahs in Tatarstan search to restore either Sufi and modernist traditions to counteract new expressions of Islam and advertise a simply Tatar Islam conscious of its specificity in a post-Christian and secular environment.
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Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia: Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy by Agnes Nilufer Kefeli