Do not Consider Islam only as Exclusive Eastern Exoticism

Do not Consider Islam only as Exclusive Eastern Exoticism
Mykhaylo Yakubovych, the candidate of historical sciences, the senior researcher at the National University "Ostroh Academy"
17/07/2016
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Mykhaylo Yakubovych, the candidate of historical sciences, the senior researcher at the National University "Ostroh Academy" told the readers of “Ukrinform” about his attitude to Islam, how he wrote his latest book "Philosophical thought of the Crimean Khanate" and how the Crimea affects the Ukrainian identity.

Mykhaylo Mykhaylovych, Facebook confirms that you have adopted Islam and you follow its canons, so your scientific activities in the field of study and promotion of Islam in Ukraine, your lifestyle argue that Islam is not a privilege of particular individual countries and peoples. Why has this religion become the object of your research, and part of your life? Tell us how this all started?

— I'll tell you frankly: Usually, I try to avoid questions about my personal religiosity, as in science you first of all are the scientist who uses the principle of neutrality (even if it is an unattainable ideal). Islam is a world religion indeed. And it is incorrect to see Islam as eastern exoticism. However, I became interested in Islam in such perspective at first. My father had been living in Central Asia for a long time, and then in the '50s and' 60s, he saw the remains of another "order" that reigned in the East and didn’t undergo significant changes under the influence of modernity. Later this hobby transformed into a spiritual and professional interest.

The month, when God sent the first Quranic revelation, is one of the most favorite among the Muslims. How do you usually celebrate Ramadan eve, and what do you feel during the holiday?

— With my family as usual. Also I write many letters, greeting my fellow Muslims from different parts of the world during this holiday. I will say this: at some of the holidays, I’d like finally to feel that the Ramadan has brought the peace for Ukraine, and for Muslim countries, where blood is shed every day.

Do you agree that along with Orthodox holidays Muslim holidays also have to be non-working days in Ukraine?

— I think that there is no necessity to make another day "off" (as the Muslim holiday will be just a "weekend" for the majority of the population), we have enough days off. But it is required to amend the changes to the labour legislation, according to which employers must provide the paid holidays for Muslims during these days.

In April, we wrote about presentation of your book "Philosophical thought of the Crimean Khanate" that was held in Kyiv Mystetskyi Arsenal.  Have you already received some feedback about this book from the Crimean colleagues? What have the Crimean researchers, representatives of the Mufti, your other readers said about your work?

- Thank God, due to the support of my friends, the Crimean readers have already achieved the opportunity to read my book. I've heard only positive reviews for the present, although I understand that neither one nor few books could absolutely cover all the material.  There are hundreds of manuscripts, which more than one generation of scholars should study. For example, after the publication of the book I managed to get the copy of the Quran interpretation by Budzhak Mehmed Akkirmani, an outstanding scientist of the XVIII century, from the library in the Holy Mecca. Now we are writing the article on his work. I hope there will be new findings. Unfortunately, I don’t keep in touch with the representatives of the former Crimean RAM after the occupation. But I’d like to mention, Said Ismagilov, the mufti of the Religious Administration of Muslims of Ukraine "Ummah", gave a talk at the presentation.

It seems to me that after reading of your book, many people have been struck by the fact that the Crimean Khanate provided high-quality education to other countries and gave the world the great scientists. In any case, the rich religious and philosophical heritage of Crimean Tatars’ state is the clear evidence of that. However, this fact did not save the state from the downfall. In your opinion, what can save the great empires and small countries from falling? What mistakes and false steps were made by the rulers of the Crimean Khanate?

— Crimean Khanate is really surprising in this respect. Against the background of the negative image that was created by the Russian historiography (and, unfortunately, it was adopted by Ukrainian historiography), there are a lot of contrasts: the immigrants from the Crimea who lived in XV-XVIII centuries are the golden treasure of both Islamic and world philosophy in general. In particular, I mean such genius philosophers as Ahmad al-Qırımi, who skillfully connected the philosophy of Avicenna and the mysticism of Ibn Arabi, Ibrahim al-Qırımi, historiographer and "Crimean Hegel", and also Abu al-Bak Al-Kafauvi, the author of encyclopedia, which is similar to the work, created in Europe a hundred years later by Denis Diderot. But in the same XVIII century, Crimean Khanate came into crisis; the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Russian Empire were the reasons of that. I see the contrast between the already formed elite, educated in European manner, and general public with still traditional beliefs as the internal reasons. The mobilization capacity of nomadic people from Nogai steppe had already been exhausted, so in fact the territory of actually former Khanate was absorbed “peace by peace” by its eastern neighbor. In that situation, the Khanate needed the reliable allies, and by that time they were absent; The Crimean Khanate was initially in a very difficult geopolitical situation, that by the way is common for Ukrainians as neighboring countries have always tried to use us as subjects of their history. And unfortunately, at a certain point, the elite have not been able to offer an alternative to their people.

If I'm not mistaken, you dedicated your book "Philosophical thought of the Crimean Khanate" to "the heroes of Ukrainian steppe". Could you say more about this?

— The book was written in difficult conditions — maybe it sounds a bit strangely and contradictory, but I felt, as a scientist (and not only as Ukrainian citizen), that the subjects of my study (the Crimea and Ukrainian East-steppe in general) were being stolen in front of my eyes. These two regions have always been closely linked (the Crimean Khanate transcended the peninsula!). I have a military ID, but my time to fight has not come yet — I'm still at the cultural front. So, I dedicated this book to those who protects one of the "hearts" of Ukraine.

How did the Crimea influence on Ukrainian identity? Is it still continuing to influence?

— The influence is huge. The southern steppes of Ukraine brought the Turkish element from which the "big Ukraine" (central and eastern) has been formed. For example, a well-known Ukrainian philosopher Skovoroda had a Crimean Tatar roots (the maiden name of his mother was Shangireeva). This phenomenon is well described by the famous Harvard orientalist Omeljan Pritsak. Now we see that after the loss of the Crimea, the question of Crimean Tatars finally came on the top. It means that the Ukrainian identity is regarded as a wider phenomenon than before — not only as blood relationship but also as civil identity. Someone put this idea into question, but due to fighting for the Crimea and Donbas, Ukraine is becoming a kind of multicultural empire (in the positive meaning of the word). Otherwise we will be weak, and the world doesn’t respect the weakness — the weak nation is used by the strong ones.

You said that the manuscripts of philosophers, who were been born in the Crimean Khanate, are stored in the libraries of many countries such as America, Turkey, the Arab countries. They were even found in the Namangan region of Uzbekistan. Have these folios been remained in Ukraine, particularly in the Crimea?

— Indeed, the main part of folios are in Turkey (as most of Crimean Tatars have migrated there), and the manuscripts have spread to other countries from there. The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union did much to deprive Crimean Tatars their spiritual origin.  For example, the manuscripts of Zinjirli Madrasa have been taken out the Crimea; only after 1991, some of that were returned, and only those manuscripts that were preserved in Lviv (in the Museum of the History of Religions). I had the opportunity to work with these funds, there are a lot of commentaries to the interpretations of Koran, and other works on dogma, law, logic, Sufism. You can found something in Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine. Historically, we have not so much original works by Crimean authors as works by other Islamic scholars, which had just been copied in the Crimea. That, however, is also important to study because the Crimean readers often left marginal notes (the so-called "Hawash"), etc.

Have you been to the Crimea after 2014? Could you describe the general situation, established on the peninsula after its annexation, and, in your opinion, is it any way to cease the pressure on  Muslims in the Crimea, which has been reinforced more and more?

-  I haven’t been to the Crimea after the occupation. But I keep in touch with the Crimeans, especially the Muslims. I see that many of them passively accept reality, people are just getting used to the new reality. This pressure, which aimed the Crimean Muslims, is typical for whole Russia. Only "official" muftiats receive a powerful backing and other muftiats are branded as "extremist" ones. Unfortunately, at the same time, a lot of international and Islamic organisations and Muslim world leaders shut their eyes to these problems, and some of them even say how much Russia has done for Islam (it sounds cynically against the backgrounds of the events in Syria). However, it is the question of freedom of thought and approaches to life in the Islamic world, there is nothing to be done. But we must speak, and must pressure. With the support of the West countries, or by own resources, the Ukrainian government should establish the research institute for studying the Crimea issue, including Crimean Tatars’ problem. And it should be established not for "embezzlement of public funds", but for providing serious analytical information to our government and its Western partners. Meanwhile, only the Majlis and some social activists, institutions and media are engaged in this process. But this is not enough, we need more high-profile and well-reasoned statements.

Source: Ukrinform

Translated into English by Islam in Ukraine

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