Reviews

Mostly based on oral testimonies by the inhabitants of Langar (also called Ghayratabad), a rural place of the community of Khanaqa (in the district of Hisar, central Tajikistan, fifteen kilometres west of Dushanbe on the road to Regar), the present booklet, although deprived of academic pretension, offers a captivating state of the collective memory that has been preserved by this village about its religious history in the ‘long’ and ‘middle durations’.  According to the quite specific narrative proposed by the two authors (a poet, and a school teacher and local erudite), this memory is articulated on the gest of the place’s fifteenth-century mythical founder, Isma‘il-‘Ata or Langar-‘Ata, a direct heir of the great Naqshbandi shaykh Amir Kulal, and of his  own descendents in the region—including a figure of the Soviet period, Ishan Haydar (b. 1916), the son of a local herbalist and healer, whose employment as a maintenance person in a school is said to have dissimulated, for a while, his activity as a mosque restorer and builder.  The opuscule’s second part contains a list of ishans (a title often identified in central Tajikistan with that of sayyid) more or less directly related with Langar-‘Ata in neighbouring villages: Arjinak, Durbad, Chuzi, Shahan, Qaratagh, Nilu and Langar-i Bala (with a short history of the latter).  The work goes on with a perfectly ill-placed (though probably necessary and very interesting per se) interview with the chairman of the “Watan” agricultural production unit on the latter’s results and prospects.  It is concluded with a meritorious tentative explanation of the Persian term khwaja (and of its plural khwajagan) according to the most common lexicography of Tajik language.  Very typical of a certain current literary production in former Soviet Central Asia, this work interestingly casts light on the place and role of sacred genealogies in the local historiography of this part of the world, through the case of a lineage deprived of authors of an identifiable intellectual or spiritual work.  This importance given to shajaras among an anciently settled population will perhaps contribute to correct the stereotypes inherited from Soviet ethnography on the primacy on competence over ascendancy in the religious traditions of Central Asian sedentary populations.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-5.3.D-480