A considerable amount of publications have been devoted, in Russia and abroad, to Caucasian Muridism which, according to common postulates, developed on the basis of the Naqshbandi mystical path. However, the theme seems inexhaustible, if we refer to this impressive monograph by M. Kemper. The latter’s main aim consists of proposing an enlargement of previous interpretations of the notion of jihad. It has been implemented on the basis of large Russian-language materials, as well as local, published and manuscript Arabic-language sources collected during three journeys to Dagestan. The analysis of the latter (correspondences between imams and na’ibs, legal documents of the Jihad period, juridical quibbles, theological treaties ― including a majority of documents yet untouched by modern historians) has made possible the formulation of new comments to political, juridical and administrative aspects of the Imamate. Moreover, it has allowed a reconsideration of the role played by the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidiyya mystical path, in the everyday life of the state as well as in the ideology of the liberation struggle against Russian colonisation, casting light on the social groups participating in the Jihad. Examining the genesis and evolution of power, right and religion of the Muslim peoples of Dagestan, the author deals with a colossal amount of testimonies of documental and historiographical character, and structures it into six chapters. The two first ones focus on the region’s political development from the seventh century CE (i.e., from the beginning of the Arab expeditions) to the mid-eighteenth century. The main accent in them is put on the appearance of local dynasties of khans, and on the historiography that legitimised this process according to the historical consciousness and Islamic viewpoint of the time. The three next chapters deal with the formation of the Islamic movement of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century, and with the Imamate principle that was lying at its core. In the sixth chapter, the author tackles the Islamic discourse on questions such as the shari‘a and ‘adat (customary right), in Shamil’s nizams and in the judicial practice rendered in the framework of the Imamate. His scrupulous analysis of these materials drives M. Kemper to conclude that jihad was at the same time the result of the apogee of a long process of Islamicisation; an expression of the autochthonous social and political development of rural communities and community unions, which mushroomed as an instrument for the implementation of Islamic law; a means of continuing the tradition of juridical learning in Dagestan ― nineteenth-century imams understanding their jihad as a realisation of the goals of eighteenth-century scholars of Islam. If such original conclusions on the long-term evolution of Islamic statehood in the Northern Caucasus will probably raise discussion in academic and other circles, it makes no doubt that this work, written according to the highest standards of research, has already taken a prominent place in the modern historiography of Dagestan. It remains to be hoped that it will soon be translated into Russian language, and become accessible to the largest possible audience.

Julietta Meskhidze, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St Petersburg
CER: II-3.3.B-212