Reviews

The present publication belongs to an intermediary category, well represented in publications related to Islam in Russia today, that are more and more often printed by Muslim private foundations: the half apologetic, half academic celebration of prominent figureheads or holy places of Islam, especially those linked with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Elaborated as a result of a close collaboration between the local personnel of Islam and academics from Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod (the Editor himself is the Rector of the Husayn-Fayzkhan Islamic Institute of Nizhny Novgorod), the present album of black-and-white photographs introduces the geste of a lineage of Imams of the village of Safajay, a significant Islamic religious teaching place in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, from the late eighteenth century to our days. The collection of photographs is preceded by a series of articles on the history of the village and of the family of its imams, from poorly known Sulayman Mulla ― a murid of ‘Abd al-Jalil Bikkinin, himself a disciple of Ishan Habib-Allah al-Uri (or al-Uruwi, c. 1762-1816), the Imam of the Fair Mosque of Nizhny Novgorod, and the introducer of the Naqshbandiyya Mujaddidiyya Sufi path from Bukhara to the Mishar-peopled area between the Volga and Oka Rivers ―, to Muhsin Habibullin (1871-1937), the Imam and Mudarris of the Sixth Mosque of Safajay (on them, and their association with the Jadid movement in Kazan, see notably Aidar Khabutdinov, “Falanga tatarskikh imamov i uchitelei: Khabibulliny iz Safadzhaia [A Phalange of Tatar Imams and Teachers: The Khabibullins from Safajay],” 7-9). Another, more general study rapidly deals with the development of Islamic learning in a number of rural areas of the Middle Volga Region from the late eighteenth century onwards (cf. Ol’ga Seniutkina, Damir-khazrat Mukhetdinov, “Kak shel protsess sozdaniia musul’manskogo obrazovatel’nogo prostranstva na Nizhegorodchine? [How Did Proceed the Creation of a Muslim Teaching Space in the Nizhny Novgorod Region?],” 10-14). The catalogue (pp. 15-145) consists of original plates and reproductions of photographs from several private collections belonging to members of the Khabibullin family and to collector Saiar Sabirov. Illustrations include recent photographs of tombstones of family members, and of an admixture of recent and late nineteenth, early twentieth century and early Soviet photographs of Safajay (including scenes of agricultural work), of its mosques, maktabs (schools) and madrasas, and of members of the Khabibullin family (including several poorly documented female figureheads of the lineage, like ‘Aliyya Abiztay and Hafiza Abiztay Abdrakhmanova). To these documents has been added a choice of early-twentieth-century photographs of Muslim intellectual leaders and events like the Tatar teachers congresses. The whole set of illustrations provides captivating insights on the rapid diffusion of clothing styles and other fashions ― including Muslim Positivism ― from Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod to rural areas of the Middle Volga Region. The appendixes include Russian translations of (unfortunately undated) pieces of correspondence by several leading figures of the lineage (notably between Habib-Allah b. Muhammad to famous polygraph Husayn Fayzkhan), and of childhood memories by Najib Habib-Allin (dated Samara, 1910), as well as the article “A Day at the Safajay Madrasa” published in August 1915 by O. Romanov in the Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogo proshechcheniia. Notwithstanding the lack of precision in the edition of these varied documents (the exact origin or date of each is never mentioned), and the paradoxical lack of interest of the participants in oral history (notably on the fate of the family during the whole Soviet period), the Editor and the publisher must be congratulated for the great technical skill and means that have been mobilised for the realisation of this album ― a demonstration of the riches of private collections in European Russia, and of the productivity of local and regional studies for the history of Islam in the former Russian Empire and Soviet Union.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: II-4.3.B-376