Reviews

The archive of well-known Tatar reformist Muslim scholar Riza al-Din b. Fakhr al-Din (1858-1936) has remained divided into two separate funds till the present day. The first and most valuable one is that preserved at the Archive of Orientalists at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg (the former local Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies). The materials of this archive (Fond 131) have been scrupulously described by a collaborator of the Institute, but they remain unknown to researchers. They contain a large number of original manuscript works dated from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and copies of works on the history of the Volga-Ural region (including histories of the shaykhs of Astrakhan), of Crimea, Western Siberia, and Central Asia. The second part of Riza al-Din’s archive is located in the Scientific Centre in Ufa. Essential efforts have been made by specialist of Arabic studies Ramil’ Bulgakov for the description of these materials, which outnumber those preserved in St. Petersburg.

A central place is occupied in Riza al-Din’s work by his bio-bibliographical dictionary, the Athar, a unique collection of data on numbers of scholars and gnostics of Islam active on the territory of the Russian Empire. Two volumes of that grandiose work were first published in Orenburg in 1904 and 1909. Two other volumes have remained unpublished and have been preserved so far in the above-mentioned Ufa archive. In 2006, a group of enthusiasts has begun a new, complete edition of the Athar. Each volume of this new edition would have to be divided into two parts, one in modern Tatar and one in Russian language. Unfortunately, in this case one has to deplore the insufficient preparation of the primary materials. The two published volumes contain a number of tacit reductions of the original text, as well as numerous mistakes in the Russian translation.

Suffice to mention here one passage, related to the reviewer’s personal sphere of interest. In the second volume of the original edition, on pp. 163-75, Riza al-Din has placed the biography of Siberian merchant Niyaz b. Haydar b. Yarum-Sayyid b. Haydar (d. 1847). The original contains a genealogical treatise (shajara risalasi), which has been cut out in the new edition without any comment or explanation by the Editors (pp. 33-5; 192-3). Such a lacuna could be understood since this treatise has already been published several times. However, the translators have included at this place of their edition a large extract of a dispute between Riza al-Din and a millionaire opposed to the Jadidiyya movement (pp. 34-5; 193). Without mention of the context, this passage misleads the reader, who is brought to understand that the millionaire in question was nobody else than Niyaz b. Haydar. The latter, however, had died in 1847 and never met Riza al-Din, who stresses Niyaz’s role in the establishment of waqfs in Siberia, and in the first development of modern Islamic education in this region. The same kind of lacunae appears regularly. It is to be hoped that the publication of the third and fourth volumes of the Athar will better correspond to the requests of academic standards.

Alfrid Bustanov, University of Amsterdam
CER: II-3.2.C-177