Reviews

It has been a lasting postulate of Central Eurasian studies that all Islamicate societies or minorities, from the Balkans to mainland China, are bound to finally triumph over “alienation” and to return to their pre-Communist “authenticity”, in a spirit of permanent confrontation with the hegemonic cultural systems built up during the twentieth century.  This most common opinion has been revised in this innovative—though poorly edited— volume (the Editor should have paid more attention to English grammar and orthography than to the unquestionably decorative value of his fonts) in the light of the complex typology of mutual relations, and in a majority of cases mutual negotiations or accommodations between various segments of Central Eurasian Islamicate societies, on the first hand, and on the second hand the imperial, then Communist states that have been dominating this immense part of the northern hemisphere during the long twentieth century.  This issue has been tackled through the evolutions that can be observed in the transmission of Islamic learning and spiritual authority in Russia, Central Asia, and China throughout this period—the theme of an international colloquium held in Paris, in 2001 by the Research Team ESA 7043 “Cultures and Societies in Europe” of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, Strasbourg).

The papers come as follows: Uyama Tomohiko, “‘Devotion to the People’ and Paternalistic Authoritarianism among Qazaq Intellectuals, from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to 1917,” 19-28 (review in supra 314); Möhämmätshin Räfyq, “The Tatar Intelligentsia and the Clergy, 1917-1937,” 29-38 (Through various textual and documentary sources, this paper analyses the role played by the Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Inner Russia and Siberia, during the twenty years between the October Revolution and the zenith of the ‘Red Terror’ in 1937, in the evolution of the relations between the Muslim clerisy of the Middle Volga region, intellectuals of various tendencies (especially the reformist Muslim theologians who had played an important political role in the 1910s), and the Soviet power, along a period marked by successive restrictions of the freedom of thought, and by a growing consciousness of the spiritual gap between Muslim and non-Muslim societies and civilisations.); Babadjanov Bakhtiyar, “Debates over Islam in Contemporary Uzbekistan: a View from within,” 39-60 (It is well-known that after the reinforcement of their power, the Bolsheviks liquidated all the institutions of Islamic learning and education.  However, the educational tradition itself perpetuated all over Central Asia, especially in the Fergana Valley. Non-official educational institutions (hujra) were opened by famous local ‘ulama such as Makhsum-qori Pochcha Quqandyi, Muhammad-Yusuf Andijonyi, Muhammadjon Hindustonyi, Hakimjon-qori Namangonyi and others.  As soon as in the late 1970s, they could prepare a new generation of ‘ulama, to whom they tried to transmit their traditional conformist position in the political field, and tolerance of the Soviet power.  Nevertheless, a significant part of this new generation perceived the atheistic policy of the Soviet authorities as a direct threat to the Islamic character of the community (umma).  In this article, the author shows how did appear the only relatively new theological ideas of these reformist ‘ulama, and their political positions.  The documental basis for these considerations is made of the theological works of these reformist religious thinkers, tapes of their illegal teaching and khutbas, and oral information.); Chérif-Chebbi Leila, “Brothers and Comrades: Muslim Fundamentalists and Communists Allied for the Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in China,” 61-90 (A paradox brings attention on the Muslims of China: Why did and do the Muslim fundamentalist movements called “New Religion” and Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers) enjoy the support of the Chinese Communist Party?  Before 1949 these movements had acquired an image of modernity, of intellectual progress, and of patriotism, thanks to their domination over the system of confessional teaching, and their opposition to the Japanese invasion of China.  A real connivance exists between New Religion and Socialism, between the “Brothers” and the “Comrades”, although the former remain disadvantaged by their past links with the nationalist regime and with the Muslim warlords of the Northwest, as well as by the current growing gap between an Islam of protest and the political power, which seeks to reinforce its control on religions in general.  That connivance can function de facto, for instance when the Party uses the teaching system set up by the fundamentalist movements, against the status quo in these movements’ dominant position.  It can also be an ideological connivance, when both socialists and fundamentalists commonly imagine a responsible individual, an individual freed from the weightiness and dependencies of the past.); Allès Elisabeth, “Chinese Muslim Women: from Autonomy to Dependence,” 91-104 (Women’s mosques are an institution specific to the Chinese-speaking Muslim communities of China (Hui), among whom their existence is documented since the fourteenth century C.E.  The management committee of these women’s mosques and their female imam (ahong) play various religious and social functions, which have been changing over time.  Current change in the Chinese societies and new demands from the faithful have contributed to an acceleration of the transmission of authority to the younger generation, whence the traditional basis of learning has given room to radical innovations (the classical teaching in Persian language being more and more replaced by that in both Chinese and Arabic languages).  Generally speaking, we observe now a strong tendency to integrate the Chinese system of women’s organisations into a frame more and more conform to fundamentalist conceptions.  If this tendency develops further and spreads to the women’s mosques belonging to the laojiao (“Old Religion”: traditionalist practices of Islam), this could mean in the long term a tighter control by men.); Halfon-Michel Constance-Hélène, “From Oral to Written Culture: an Example from the Hui of China,” 105-23 (infra 607); Khalid Adeeb, “Nation into History: The Origins of National Historiography in Central Asia,” 127-46 (supra 298); Is’haqov Dämir, “Through the Textbooks: the Academic Intelligentsia and the Shaping of a Tatar National Consciousness (1940s to 1990s),” 147-60 (supra 227); Privratsky Bruce G., “‘Turkestan Belongs to the Qojas’: Local Knowledge of a Muslim Tradition,” 161-212 (Islam on the Kazakh steppe is a matter of personal interactions through which God’s power and blessing are mediated.  The Qoja/Khwaja phenomenon suggests that Islamic submission may be defined by the kinds of spiritual power it mediates, and that one kind of power is personal and clientelistic rather than institutional.  For centuries the Qojas have provided the Kazakhs an alternate route to enculturation as Muslims—an alternative that helped both Qojas and Kazakhs survive the twentieth century, because it was substantially impervious to the Bolshevik assault on religious institutions.  According to the author’s postulate, before the Communists arrived literacy was very low on the Kazakh steppe, and then religious literature was banned until the late 1980s.  So until recently religious knowledge has been transmitted primarily (or only) within families and neighbourhoods.  Since Qoja blood had traditionally purchased high social standing and even wealth, it was natural that Qoja families would seek advancement for their children even under the Communists.  The Soviet period tended to submerge traditional conflicts among Qoja groups. Only now is there advantage in re-asserting one’s religious rights and honour.  This is being done by transliterating old manuscripts and printing them in saleable booklets.  To do so is to set them in concrete, to essentialise them, but it also reduces them to the level of all modern knowledge. The Sufi idea of passing on doctrines, rites, and power from disciple to disciple in a spiritual chain (silsila) is less important in Turkistan than a genealogy (shejire) certifying blood-descent from Ali and a lineage of äuliye.  What matters for the Qojas is not a Sufi chain but Arab blood.  There is an emerging struggle between the essentialist perspective of the local academic admirers of the Qojas and the critical approach of outsiders, who think of the processual invention of tradition as more plausible than fixing the historicity of things.  For both to participate, a balanced epistemology will have to be negotiated.  Finally, one wonders whether the spiritual bond between Kazakhs and their Qojas may break down as Kazakhs assume religious leadership in their mosques, setting the Qojas aside.  Even as the mosques pass to Kazakh imams, the Kazakhs (on the whole) are still less comfortable in the mosque than they are with the services of the Qoja in their neighbourhood.   Men who need to learn the namaz are more likely to learn from the neighbourhood mullah (or the otin in the case of Uzbek women), than they are at the mosque.  The phenomenon of the Qojas and their Sufi ancestors derives much of its force from the need of the “black” Kazakhs for a pure or “white” mediator with God in the midst of the hardships and compromises of daily life.  Islam is a diverse religion, allowing alternative forms of spiritual power.  When religious people cannot preserve institutions or ritual or doctrine, they will always preserve stories, which are vehicles for the spirituality of persons and communities.  In Turkistan the Qojas preserve for the Kazakhs a treasury of religious narrative that endorses the submission that their ancestors made, and that many of them continue to make today.); Dudoignon Stéphane A., “Local Lore, the Transmission of Learning, and Communal Identity in Late Twentieth-Century Tajikistan: The Khujand-Nama of ‘Arifjan Yahyazad Khujandi,” 215-42 (In the particular conditions of Tajikistan during the civil war (1991-1997), religion played a particular role in the definition of local and regional identities, given the specific political significance of these identities in the conflict.  Through the study of a work of religious history of the city of Khujand, in northern Tajikistan, the author tries to analyse new interpretations of pre-Soviet historical memory in the new framework of independence.  Three aspects of the Khujand-nama of ‘Arifjan Yahyazad Khujanda (1994), written in close association with several leading ‘ulama of Khujand, have been particularly studied in this paper: (1) the religious memory of the neighbourhood (mahalla) of Qushmasjid, through the history of a women’s madrasa that is said to have been functioning there throughout the Soviet period; (2) the sanctification of the whole human community of Khujand and its suburban villages through a set of historical narratives forgetting about Alexander the Great (though Khujand was one of the Alexandria-s created by the Macedonian conqueror), and going back to Adam and Kayumarth, linking together the Abrahamic and pre-Islamic Iranian traditions; (3) the centrality of Islamic religious-defined identities, through a legend on the posthumous adoption of the local tutelary saint, Shaykh Muslih al-Din Khujandi, as his only son by the Prophet Muhammad himself.  (This legend, centred on the figure of the Prophet’s Companion ‘Tawus-i Haramayn,’ is partly borrowed from Mir Khwand’s Rawzat al-Safa’, a late fifteenth-century Persian chronicle written in Herat; it was recently re-activated with a new political content, during the electoral struggle of 1994 between the “Kulabi” leader Rahmonov and his “Khujandi” rival Abdullojonov, for the needs of Khujand’s legitimacy as a religious and political centre rival to—or at least autonomous from—Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan and the see of the Tajikistani muftiyyat); Trebinjac Sabine, “Le savoir musical des Ouïghours: et s’il s’agissait d’ambivalence de la mémoire,” 243-56 (supra 381).

The Redaction
CER: I-5.3.D-469