Formation of Ukrainian Ummah: Problems and Prospects

Ukrainian Muslims in the mosque of Islamic Culture Center, Kiev.
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"Religion in Ukraine", 9.01.2010

Modern Ukraine belongs to a group of European countries which has its own native Muslim population. Islam on the territory of Ukraine has more than thousand-year history. But throughout long time this religion existed on illegal position that led to its decline.

Nowadays the Muslim community in Ukraine actively develops, but there are a number of problems on the way of revival of Islam in the religious space of Ukraine.

This faith has no uniform organizational structure. Islam has no accurate hierarchy similar to Christian churches. But despite rather short period of development, Islam in Ukraine appeared as a variety of organizational forms.

Nowadays in Ukraine are officially registered five centers: the Spiritual Management of Muslims of Ukraine (the SMMU), the Spiritual Management of Muslims of Crimea (the SMMC), the Spiritual Center of Muslims of Ukraine (the SCMU), religious management of independent Muslim communities of Ukraine “Kiev Muftiyat” and the Spiritual Management of Muslims of Ukraine “Ummah”.

Nevertheless, appearing of a significant amount of spiritual cells, in our opinion, will not solve problems of Muslims of Ukraine. The matter is that there is no coordination between them, and it means that all spiritual managements have their own vector of activity on the territory of religious space of Ukraine.

Muslim communities function, as a rule, within the current legislation, recognize the Ukrainian statehood, do not suppose displays of extreme religionism and extremism. At the same time presence in Ukraine of several independent Muslim centers predetermines essential disagreements between them, in particular struggle for leadership in the Muslim environment. Each spiritual cell tries to receive superiority in different ways: attraction to policy, building of mosques, granting of the sponsor's help, eventually open non-recognition of each other, etc.

The process of formation of independent spiritual managements in some regions of Ukraine got the tendency of delimitation of Muslim communities and associations to a national sign that can lead to religious-ethnic conflicts. Nevertheless heads of Muslim communities do not exclude possibilities of general and co-coordinated decision of their problems. But in general mutual relations between Muslims and representatives of other religions are quite correct.

In the circle of barriers on the way of development of Islam on the territory of Ukraine are the following: maintenance of Muslim communities with cult constructions; highly-skilled personnel of clerics; then issue of language during the Muslim sermon; the issue of material support by foreign funds; education, Islam politicization, etc.

Nowadays there is also an important issue of religious beliefs (aqida) of modern Muslims - they not always correspond to Islamic norms, a lot of Muslims have no wide knowledge of Islam. The Quran is perceived as the Holy Scripture, but not many people can read it in the Arabic language (thus they hardly understand the meaning of ayats). By results of the sociological research carried out by the Ukrainian centre of Islamic studies, only 21,56 % of Muslims understand khutba (service in a mosque) in the Arabic language, and 73,68 % do not understand it at all, or have just partial understanding.

In a context of observance of Shariat norms (ibadat) Muslims of Ukraine can be conditionally divided into several categories:

1) those who observe ibadat completely (as it is possible in the conditions of the secular post atheistic state);

2) those who adhere to ibadat partially - for example, pray only on Fridays in a mosque, or observe fasting just during last 3-10 days of Ramadan;

3) those who perform only separate of elements ibadat few times in a year;

4) those who do not adhere to the basic forms of ibadat, but perform separate prescriptions of Sunna, perceiving it as obligatory national traditions: arranging meetings with the Quran reading (inviting the reader) with distribution of sadaqa (charity), or saying formulas of praising of Allah;

5) those who deny ibadat, but are compelled to adhere to certain customs due to their social importance - for example, arrange wedding according to the rules of Shariat (nikah), circumcision (sunnat) or burial the dead according to Muslim ritual (janaza).

6) those who observe ibadat along with the norms of adat (customs and local traditions). Among Muslims of Ukraine is observed influence of national traditions (the Arabian, the Volga Tatars, the Crimean Tatars, the Azerbaijan, etc.), and possibly because of this there are conflicts between spiritual managements and religious organizations.

On fulfillment of ibadat Muslims face certain problems:

First, it is difficult and almost impossible to perform a prayer (salat) on one's working place, at the state enterprises (and on many private enterprises), not to mention army, militia, etc.

Secondly, Friday is the working day in Ukraine, and to perform a Friday prayer (juma) to a working Muslim is very difficult. Also holidays often coincide with the working days; therefore, mosque visiting becomes rather difficult. It is easier in this case for the Muslims of Crimea - according to the decision of the Supreme Council of Crimea from March, 26th, 1993 “About defining of holidays for the citizens of the Republic of Crimea practicing Islam” and article 73 of the Code of Laws about work of Ukraine, the first and last days a holiday of Id al-Fitr (Uraza-Bayram) are days off for inhabitants of Crimea who adhere to Muslim creed.

Thirdly, in Ukraine is poorly developed halal-industry, therefore believers cannot buy production which corresponds to the norms of Shariat. Halal, i.e. the corresponding to Islamic norms food in Ukraine is a problem. Purchase of halal products in small shops at mosques and Muslim centers does not satisfy the requirements of all Muslims. Nevertheless it is necessary to notice that nowadays are found some solves for this problem, since the company “Nasha Ryaba” adjusted manufacture of halal chicken meat.

Moreover, at the Spiritual Management of Moslems of Crimea (the SMMC) and the Spiritual Management of Muslims of Ukraine (the SMMU) are created centers of standardization and certification of "Halal" which give documentary acknowledgement to halal production. Halal fairs are rather popular during Muslim holidays.

Fourthly, in the cities where Muslims live, there are not enough mosques and religious centers, or they are absent at all. Till 90th there remained just 68 religious centers and only 2 mosques - in Bakhchisarai and Evpatoria - were in a satisfactory condition. Nowadays Muslims of Crimea throughout many years cannot receive a site under building of a cathedral mosque in Simferopol. Prayers on the Muslim holidays are carried out in a hall of the House of trade unions. But the City Council of Simferopol is not willing to deal with the question of the land area for building of a cathedral mosque. In our opinion, inconsistency of actions of deputies of the City Council of Simferopol leads to aggravation of the inter-confessional situations in the ARC. After all, according to the president of the World congress of the Crimean Tatars, the first deputy of the chairman the Mejlis of the Crimean-Tatar people Refat Chubarov, “... Local politicians simply do not want, that in Simferopol there was a big mosque, behind the scenes they say, “Crimea is a Russian orthodox land. If you wish to build a mosque, build it there where nobody will notice it”". Among the Muslims of Crimea there are moods to capture the land by force.

In general the quantity of mosques in Ukraine is insignificant if to consider that Muslims of Ukraine are united into 1135 registered and not registered religious communities in different areas of the country.

Nowadays Muslims of Ukraine are helped in construction of new cult buildings by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In 2007 Turkey allocated almost 3 million dollars for restoration of Muslim relics of Crimea. The matter is that there are no sufficient internal resources for the satisfactory decision of a problem, so they have to address for the help to their fellow brothers abroad.

Till now the Decree of the President of Ukraine from March, 21st, 2002 № 279 (279/2002) “About urgent actions for definitive overcoming of negative consequences of a totalitarian policy of the former USSR concerning religion and restoration of the broken rights of churches and religious organizations” is unfinished. There is a pressing issue of repair-restoration works on the objects esteemed by believers. Besides, the considerable part of cult constructions, in particular in Feodosiya, Yalta, Simferopol, Bakhchisarai is not returned to Muslim organizations. It is motivated by impossibility, or expressivity of moving of inhabitants who indwell in hostels and apartments which are located there. But in certain cases there are usual infringements of the legislation, for example indecision of a question of transfer to a Muslim community of Khan-dzhami mosque. The territory of this complex is in use of a military part which leases it to subjects of commercial activity. Issues of repair-restoration works on the objects esteemed by believers are solved rather slowly.

Nevertheless, it is possible to ascertain that process of building of mosques in Crimea develops much more dynamically, than, for example, in Tatarstan, where at disposal of Muslim communities there are approximately 400 mosques. I.e. there approximately for 5 thousand persons there is only one mosque. But comparing saturation mosques of Crimea to Turkey, E.S.Muratova notices that in Turkey providing of believers with mosques is twice higher, as for 900 persons in Turkey there is one mosque.

Moreover, Muslims of Ukraine almost have no their separate cemeteries or they are used not for the designated purpose. For example, a situation with an ancient Muslim cemetery of Azizler in Bakhchisarai. On its territory for long time there was a market. Only after several years of struggle the Crimean Tatars could receive and restore their relic.

Fifthly, Islam is practically taught not at schools. Only in 14 Crimean-Tatar schools there is a special course “ethics of Islam”. At the same time Christian ethics is taught in several thousand schools of Ukraine.

Sixthly, unequal attraction by the governmental structures of representatives of Orthodox and Muslim clergy in official actions with obvious preference of the first. Orthodoxy propagation became norm for the Ukrainian power. It takes place on the TV, radio and in the press - beginning with consecration of official establishments and finishing with celebrations on the occasion of inauguration of the President of Ukraine.

Except the listed problems, there are some specific issues, characteristic for any non-Muslim country, including Ukraine, for example, absence of specialized separate (for men and women) hospitals, sanatoria, schools, etc. But there are some positive shifts, for example, Ukrzaliznytsya for creation of more convenient conditions of journey, offers tickets in male and female compartments that appeared to be very opportunely for Muslims of Ukraine. In Russia, for example, work Muslim hospitals where Muslims are treated according to the norms of Shariat. In Europe hospitals where Muslims are treated according to the norms of Shariat are almost absent. But there are hospitals where they try to satisfy problems of religious minorities of Europe. For example, in two hospitals of Lankshire (the north of Great Britain) to Muslim women are offered hospital dressing gowns in the form of a long dress and hijab. The women may also add niqab (a veil covering the face with cut for eyes). This dressing gown will allow patients not only to observe hospital hygiene, but also the rules of Muslim piety.

Such medical centers certainly promote observance of the Quranic bases, but do not solve the problem. Therefore the fatwa “About treatment of women by male doctors” is important for Muslims all around the world. According to it, main principle of treatment of women by male doctors is that if there is a female doctor she is obliged to examine the patient. But if there is no such possibility, the examination can be performed by a female non-Muslim doctor, and if she is also not available, than by a Muslim male doctor. As a last resort the examination can be entrusted to a non-Muslim male doctor. But the man has the right to examine a body of the patient only within necessary for diagnosing and treatment, taking away whenever possible his gaze from a body of the patient. Survey of the patient should be carried out in the presence of her close relative or a reliable woman.

One of pressing issues for the believing inhabitants of non-Muslim countries is wearing of hijab. For example, Muslims of Europe already for 10 years defend in courts their right for wearing of hijab in official establishments, try to create female cells. But in Ukraine this point in question is not so urgent, which is possibly caused by the fact that the majority of Muslim women does not work, or by ethnic features (Volga Tatars do not consider the head covering as obligatory). But an issue of official registration of papers where Muslims would be with the covered head in Ukraine is also not solved.

In Ukraine unlike other countries (Russia, the EU) are absent possibilities to use interest-free contributions and loans as the majority of financial operations of fellow citizens of Ukraine are carried out through the state Savings bank which has the fixed interest rates. And according to the Quran, interest (riba) is forbidden, "… but Allah hath permitted trade and forbidden usuryAllah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity… Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity" (The Holy Quran, 2: 275-278). However nowadays a number of Muslim countries carry on negotiations on the occasion of opening of such banks in Ukraine. As a result at the conference which took place on October, 14-16th, 2009, in Kiev in "Al-Hayat" hotel, organized by the company UDC Holding it was declared that shortly in Ukraine will open their branches Islamic banks which will work according to the principles of Shariat. Nowadays Muslims of Ukraine who have no possibility to use Islamic banks, in most cases give interest as a charity.

To normalization of religious life of Muslims testifies possibility for performance of hajj - pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina. From the beginning of 90th hajj performed about 400 persons from Ukraine.

Also one of the problems is a scanty quantity of Islamic programs on TV and radio of Ukraine. In Crimea works the Crimean-Tatar television channel ATR but its work is a bit limited. The basic problem is shots. Every Sunday in the morning on the channel of UTR comes a program "Minaret" and began its work in Ukraine the Saudi television channel "Makkah". Presence of such channels will give possibility to disclose spiritually-ethnic, humanistic values of Islam, to expose artificially created myths about Islam, to separate concepts of extremism and terrorism from religion. Throughout long time in Ukraine there were no Muslim newspapers (since 1998 in Ukraine is distributed for free the newspaper "Arraid" which circulation is 34 thousand copies. Also there are some other newspapers. - a comment of the editor of "Islam in Ukraine").

In the given article we tried to outline the basic problems which Muslims of Ukraine face in their everyday life. But, of course, there are much more problems, and they will be dealt with not in one year. The reason of it is absence of programs which would provide for the needs of the Muslim population of Ukraine. For example, changes in the Ukrainian legislation are necessary for the development of Islamic banking in Ukraine. And it is long process. Absence of telecasts, newspapers on Muslim subjects leads to inadequate perception of Muslims by their fellow compatriots and labeling of Islam by mass-media, etc.


(Given in reduction)

The full version of the article on a site "Religion in Ukraine"

Related News in Ukrainian Media:

Ukraine Studies Muslim World (The Day)

Under the Badge of Half Moon. To Praise Allah in Lugansk Uneasy ("Molodogvardeets")

Islamic Heritage (Ukrainsky tyzhden)

With Widely Shut Eyes (UNIAN)

Islam only in Congregation (“Arraid”)

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