Reviews

On the basis of archive and other written primary sources, the author reconstructs the personal path of prominent Muslim polygraph Riza al-Din b. Fakhr al-Din (Fakhretdinov, 1859-1936) as an historian of Islam in the Volga-Ural region of Russia. She notably casts light on the wide and composite bibliographical work that was nourishing his articles and biographical studies in the journal Shura (published in Orenburg from 1908 to 1918) and his monumental, still partly unpublished Athar (“Monumenta”), a large biographical dictionary of ‘ulama of European Russia followed by a history of the Tatar people (on it, see infra the review No. 177). Rather classically, the author insists on the influence of the early reading of historical works like the Tawarikh-i bulghariyya (“History of the Kingdom of Bulghar”) by Muslimi, of the monumental historical and theological works by reformist theologian Shihab al-Din Marjani, and of the newspaper Tarjuman published by Ghasprali in Bahçesaray. She also underlines the extreme variety of sources used by Fakhr al-Din (photographs, correspondences, poetical works, papers preserved in the archive of the Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly, letters and copies of texts and epitaphs sent by witnesses), especially for the reconstruction of biographies of modern ‘ulama. At the same time, she properly underlines the highly normative character of the biographies collected in the Athar, all composed according to the contribution of such or such figure to the progress or decay of the community ― a community still largely defined in confessional terms. The author astutely remarks that the non-classical classification of the Athar’s biographies by chronological order, from the most ancient to the most recent one, has allowed its compiler to develop a discourse on the progress and decay of Islamic civilisation that lies at the core of Jadid thought as it developed at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Unfortunately, and typically of Russian scholarship on early-twentieth-century Islamic learning, no allusion is made on the development of the genre of tabaqat, to which the Athar can be attached, in the extremely influent Arabic literature of the Nahda period. Conversely, Fakhr al-Din’s enormous intellectual debt to the Russian encyclopaedic literature of his time, and the essentially eclectic character of his work have been passed over in silence. However, the author’s subtle considerations open interesting avenues of research, as well as her project of comparative study between the project of the Athar and Fakhr al-Din’s series of biographic studies on “The Great men of the Past” in the Shura.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-3.2.C-173