Reviews

Although lacking internal structure and sometimes disjointed, this article suggests numerous lines of reflection for understanding the place of Islam in Kazakhstan in the 1990s.  Despite not going on to demonstrate it, the author states in the introduction that a “re-Islamisation” is taking place in Kazakhstan, by which is meant a renewal of the moral values of Islam and of knowledge in Islamic doctrine.  Several authors are mentioned who harbour nationalist tendencies (Amantai Azatov, Auezkhan Kodar and Amangeldi Kengshilikuuli) and insist on the need to reconstruct a Kazakh identity rooted in Islam.  This call for reviving Islam is based, as the author accurately notes, on the feeling of a loss of “moral values” attributed to the Soviet regime.  Indeed, Russian colonialism is often presented by nationalist authors as being responsible for alcoholism, for example.  This notion is propagated in the official publication of the Spiritual Board, Islam alemi, in the independent journal Shapagat nur, and in a local monthly journal Omir, published in Shymkent.  The article also discusses the polemics that have arisen between scholars over the prior conversion of Kazakhs to Islam.  While certain authors such as K. Abuseitov, M. Laumullin and N. Nurtazina categorically refute the myth that Kazakhs were always “bad” Muslims, others revive the heritage of Russified thinkers of the nineteenth century such as Chokan Valikhanov who argued that Islam was poorly rooted in Kazakh society.  The author then goes on to study the situation of the Spiritual Board of Kazakhstan and analyses the problems that its faces in trying to meet the demand for adequately prepared religious cadres to staff the growing number of mosques, in training theologians at the Islamic Institute opened in Almaty in 1991, and in deciding the status of the madrasa of Merke in the oblast of Zhambyl, which until 1991 had been the only institution providing Islamic instruction in Kazakhstan.  The article dwells longer over the cases of home madrasa that tend to occur in large urban areas.  Their founders are often Kazakh women with degrees from secular institutions for higher education who have also received an Islamic education.  It concludes by pointing up the very real challenge the Muslim religious establishment has to face from the Ahmadiyya movement and from various Sufi tariqas, among which the Naqshbandiyya and the Yasawiyya are most popular.

Sébastien Peyrouse, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC
CER: I-8.4.C-736