Reviews

Through the analysis of the central though elusive figure of Qasim Shaykh al-Qazani in the Middle Volga‘s Muslim biographical dictionaries and shrine catalogues, as well as in the oral traditions collected in the nineteenth century, A. J. Frank provides this holy man’s particulars as they are differently stated in different sources. Identified as someone who lived in the sixteenth century, Qasim Shaykh is at the same time associated with the city of Kazan and identified by regional traditions as an ancestral figure to several Muslim-peopled villages on the western shore of the Volga River. A. J. Frank shows how in the nineteenth century Islamic reformers, compiling biographical dictionaries ― cf. Central Eurasian Reader 1 (2008), review No. 109 pp. 84-5 ―, and chroniclers of the ancient Bulghar, compiling shrine catalogues, sought to “rectify” oral traditions. The article examines the creation of two separate Qasim Shaykhs by the compiler of the Tawarikh-i Bulghariyya, and conversely the declaration by Shihab al-Din al-Marjani of Qasim Shaykh being a Central Asian figure. It shows how ‘Bulgharist’ historiography, with its accommodation agenda regarding Russian domination, suppressed any mention of the conquest of the Kazan Khanate. As to reformist historians like Marjani, equally prone to accommodation vis-à-vis the Russians, they were keen to purge the Volga-Ural society of supposedly locally-oriented hagiographical traditions. Casting light on the inaccuracies and lack of precision of the identification of Qasim Shaykh as a Central Asian Sufi buried in Karmina (present-day Uzbekistan), A. J. Frank also reveals the limited influence of these nineteenth-century reformist critical development on the local communities of the Middle-Volga region, where Qasim Shaykh continues to be revered today as an ancestral figure among the Muslims of the Sviiaga River Valley.

The Redaction
CER: II-4.3.B-360