It is well established that, during the nineteenth-century Caucasus War, the appeals to the jihad, by the first Imam Ghazi Muhammad, and by his successors Hamzat Bek and Shamil, were not received by their followers unanimously:  Their varying echoes can be found at the opposite poles of debates between Dagestani commentators.  Though the theme of legal polemics—which is so important in the history of the Northern Caucasian Imamate (1829-59)—has been tackled more than once by recent historical research, it is far from being exhausted. In the present paper, M. Kemper examines the controversies on the Imamate (pro and contra), and on the appeal to jihad and exodus (hijra) that took place in Dagestan in the first half of the nineteenth century. The author argues that the pre-eminence then recognised to the Islamic law (shari‘a) over customary law (‘adat) was rooted in fatwas and other documents of the late sixteenth to early eighteenth centuries. He also underlines the fact that, as far as a real polemic was unthinkable on the territory of the Imamate, most supporters of the opposition (e.g. Sa‘id al-Harakani, Yusuf al-Yakhsawi and Sultan Efendi) were acting outside the Imams’ reach, in northern or southern Dagestan, or still in Kabardia. Almost all of them were at the service of military and political forces standing on Russia’s side. In order to defend the fundaments and practice of jihad and the imamate against his opponents’ critics, Shamil was obliged to resort to the famous qadi Murtada ‘Ali al-‘Uradi, who showed capable of helping him in this field.

Julietta Meskhidze, Peter the Great Museum of Anthroplogy, St Petersburg
CER: I-3.3.B-233