Reviews

Intended for a non-specialised readership, this well-informed and well-written article surveys various forms of penetration of Sufi motives in the Turkic religious literature that developed in the Middle-Volga region from the tenth to the early twentieth century—with a special interest in eighteenth and nineteenth-century writers.  Underlying the Central Asian roots of Islam in the Middle-Volga region, the author stresses the mutual admixture of normative and gnostic discourses and practices among the Muslims of this region of the world of Islam, under permanent influence of the great Central Asian mystical paths, in particular the Yasawiyya (as for the twelfth century), the Naqshbandiyya (from the fourteenth century onwards), and the latter’s reformed branches (Turkmaniyya and Khalidiyya) since the nineteenth century.  The paragraphs devoted specifically to religious literature shed light on the large diffusion of Islamic gnostic themes (tawhid, nur-i muhammadi, tawakkul, faqr . . .) in a variety of literary forms, not exclusively poetic (early-twentieth-century mawlud khatiralari celebrating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad, innumerable nineteenth and early-twentieth-century elegies [marthiyyas] for the death of religious authorities and spiritual masters, translations from Arabic language of the Sirat al-nabi, from Persian of the Nur-nama—not an autochthonous genre at all, contrary to what the author suggests on p. 429—, etc.).  Unfortunately, as it is often the case in popularisation works published in the former Soviet Union, numerous data are presented very elliptically, in the form of simple enumerations—of notions, of scholars, of writers . . .—deprived of a comment of any kind.  In spite of the author’s unquestionable command of primary sources and of the most recent international bibliography, some approximations may also be deplored (such as an overall confusion between themes and genres, the use of an inappropriate vocabulary [for instance the term “priests (Russian sviashchennik)” for designating the Islamic religious personnel], or excessively simplistic translations of fundamental concepts [tawakkul by “patience (Russian terpimost’)”, for example]), as well as the uncritical utilisation of global categories such as that of “popular” literature—e.g., on the mi‘raj-nama genre on p. 431.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-6.3.B-579