Reviews

Assessing the challenge of the Islamic revival, the author introduces Russia’s Islamic studies (otechestvennoe islamovedenie) and a possible state-sponsored programme ‘Islam in Russia’ as major tools for facing current societal and geopolitical pressures—notably as an ideological resource against the proponents of ‘pure’ Islam.  S. M. Prozorov proposes a series of coordinated measures: the large-scale organisation of teaching of disciplines related with Islam in Russia’s secondary and higher education, and the setting up of a publishing and popularisation system.  On the former aspect, the author’s picture of the teaching supply in Arabic and Islamic studies in Russia is excessively pessimistic, and does not take into account a number of often high-quality resources scattered in multiple institutions in both the twin capitals and the regions.  Besides, his approach remains predictably orientalistic, dominated by themes like Sufism in the North Caucasus, the Hanafi theological and juridical school, the translation of the Qur’an, the methodology of the historiography of the worlds of Islam—to be taught in the St Petersburg Section of the Institute of Oriental Studies, under the author’s supervision—, etc.  As such, it recalls more the ideal curriculum of an early twentieth-century reformed madrasa of the Volga-Ural region than that of modern faculties of human and social sciences.  With at least one sensitive difference:  The present programme seems to be aiming at struggling against “foreign” influences upon the good old Islam of Russia, embodied by the Hanafi tradition.  The setting up of a publishing system itself is explicitly supposed to allow Russia’s Muslim-background readership to get rid of publications imported at great number from the Near East.  The project’s introduction is followed by a more detailed description (1) of the planned training period on historiography at the St Petersburg Section of the Institute of Oriental Studies, all oriented towards the analysis of texts in Arabic language (hagiography and dogma— ‘aqayid & usul al-din—); (2) of the examination for ‘candidates’ in the methodology of historical research and in the historiography of classical [sic] Islam, both being based on the study of the Qur’an, the Sunna, Islamic exegesis, dogma in the eighth-ninth centuries CE, scholastic theology, mysticism, law, Islamicate biographical literature).  Curiously enough, in a text guided by the principle of an absence of any “narrowly confessional orientation” in the tradition of the Russian state, nothing is said of possible actions of the same kind towards other confessional minorities of the Federation of Russia.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-1.2.C-87