Religious tourism in Kazakhstan: history and modern problems

Medina - the holy city of Muslims

On the basis of historical and ethnographic sources, the latest literature and field research of the author, the problem of religious tourism in the history of Kazakhstan is considered on the example of traditions and rituals associated with a pilgrimage to the city of Turkestan. Conceptually, the author proceeds from the idea of ​​regional Islam, substantiated by the Russian Islamic scholar S. Prozorov. The history of the Islamization of Kazakhstan, the role of Sufism, the formation of the cult of Ahmed Yasawi and its content, the rules of pilgrimage to the Yasavi mausoleum and other shrines of South Kazakhstan, traditions and innovations associated with the evolution of religious views, as well as modern trends in the revival of the Sufi tradition are revealed.

Keywords: Islam, regional Islam, Sufism, the cult of saints, nomads, pilgrimage (ziarat), khanaka (center of Sufism), customs and rituals.

The territory of modern Kazakhstan has become the periphery of Islamic civilization since the 9th-10th centuries. Objectively, this process was activated by the emergence of a powerful Muslim state of Central Asia - the Samanid Emirate with its center in Bukhara - in the vicinity of the Turkic principalities of that time. The Samanid dynasty, Tajik by origin, actively supported culture and science (suffice it to mention the names of scientists Biruni, Ibn Sina, theologian Al-Bukhari and other stars of medieval Central Asian culture), as well as Sufi missionary work on the periphery of Darul Islam ("The World of Islam"). In the state of the Samanids, Sunni Islam of the Khan-fit persuasion became widespread, although there were also representatives of other directions, as well as groups of other religions (Christians, Judaists, Buddhists, Zoroastrians). Sufism, as a mystical-ascetic trend in Islam, was flourishing at that time. Despite some differences in his interpretation of religion from orthodox Islam, Sufism then peacefully coexisted with other trends, and in certain aspects of religious life occupied a leading position. International trade along the Great Silk Road occupied an important place among the factors of Islamization.

And yet, a radical change in the worldview of the pagan Turkic tribes of Kazakhstan took place thanks to the proselytism of the Central Asian Sufi brotherhoods. As Academician V. Bartold, the Turkic nomads of Kazakhstan became Muslims thanks to the sermons of the dervishes (Sufis). At the same time, they became personal admirers of the Sufi sheikhs, whom they saw as miracle workers and intercessors [1]. It is this circumstance that is of particular interest from the point of view of the specificity of the religious consciousness and cult practice of the Turks of Central Asia in the Middle Ages, in particular, the tradition of "ziarat" - pilgrimage to the graves of saints.

It is widely believed that Central Asian Islam, especially Islam among nomadic Kazakhs, had such a feature as the cult of saints. However, we would not see in this feature (and even in the relics of pre-Islamic beliefs) something unique that would distinguish Kazakhstan from other peripheral regions of Islam, and indeed something “provincial”. The fact is that among the sedentary peoples of the Middle East, North Africa or Iran, the veneration of saints and related beliefs were no less popular. Only in later times in the main centers of Islam, thanks to the peculiar Muslim Reformation that took place there, the cult of saints was dealt a serious blow.

In general, in our opinion, a naive belief in miracles, an appeal to the patron saints is a characteristic feature of the mass religious consciousness of the Middle Ages, and they are observed in the bosom of every monotheistic religion, be it Islam or Christianity. Thus, in Russia, the masses of believers did not have church literacy and their perception of Orthodoxy was very superficial, immediate; an important role was played by the idea of ​​the intercession of the Mother of God, saints, etc.

The cult of the Turkestan saint Yasawi

During the Middle Ages in Kazakhstan, and throughout Central Asia, the cult of the Sufi sheikh Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, who lived in the 12th century, was formed. in the era of the Karakhanid state in South Kazakhstan, namely in the city of Yassy (present-day Turkestan) and, according to legend, reached unusually high levels of spiritual self-improvement. To understand the genesis of this cult, it is important to note that in Sufism the possibility of intercession of saints (living and dead), receiving grace from them ("baraka") is allowed. Normative Islam, based on the letter of the Qur'an, considers it a great sin to give the Almighty "companions" ("shirk") and to call for help "aruachs" ("ruh" - from Arabic "spirit". The plural of this word is aruach). At the same time, the liberal sense of Islam, which spread in Central Asia (Hanafism), was still quite tolerant of folk customs and Sufism. The practice of ziarat was partially justified by the fact that in the Hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad, visiting the graves of ancestors, parents, great people in order to remember them, reading the Koran in the name of saving their souls (but not calling them for help) is described as a godly deed.

The appearance of the great ascetic in South Kazakhstan, on the banks of the Syr Darya, was probably not accidental. The towns of Sairam and Yassy-Turkestan, located in the Syr Darya valley, have long been important points on the Great Silk Road, through which there was a lively exchange of goods between the nomadic steppe and the Central Asian oases. It was a place where the Turks and Iranians (Tajiks), representatives of the sedentary agricultural and nomadic cultures, met and exchanged spiritually among themselves. The Syrdarya region of Kazakhstan is considered unique in terms of its spiritual tradition, commitment to Sufism. It is no coincidence, according to folk etymology, the very name of the river "Syr-darya", which in Kazakh means "river of secrets" (from the Arabic "sirr" - secret, secret), allegedly came from the fact that on its banks they often retired and led their conversations of the dervishes-Sufi.

Here, in the Syrdarya region, in the vicinity of the city of Sairam (called Isfijab in written sources of that era), Ahmed Yasawi was born in the family of a hereditary Sufi sheikh Ibrahim (the year of birth is not known for sure. The date of death is 1166). It is also important that Yasawi came from the Khoja estate, who, according to their ancestry, descended from the Arabs-missionaries, and their elite groups - from the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad - his daughter Fatima and son-in-law (and future caliph) Ali. As noted by Russian local historians of the 19th century, pilgrims from all parts of Kazakhstan went to Turkestan not only to worship the ashes of Yasavi, no less important was the opportunity to see living Khoja there - carriers of religious knowledge and piety. Khojas enjoyed great prestige in Central Asia, specializing in areas such as religion, Sufism, education. Although scholars do not deny the Arab origin of the Central Asian Khojas, it is clear that they should by no means be called Arabs, since for centuries the Khojas have been Turkicized and deeply integrated into the structures of local Turkic ethnic groups, have become an integral part of Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmens and other peoples. Despite some isolation, they nevertheless entered into marriages with representatives of local clans and tribes. Therefore, Ahmed Yasawi is rightly called a Turkic preacher and poet.

There is still a lot of "dark" in Yasawi's biography, it is half-legendary. Nevertheless, scientists managed to reconstruct its main milestones. Like most great people, in the life of Ahmed Yasawi there were many hardships and sufferings, such as early orphanhood, poverty, the loss of his only son, especially evil rumor, non-recognition of his spiritual merits, which he hints about in his work Diwan- and Hikmet "(" Collection of wisdom "). By the way, in Soviet times, in order to somehow "justify" Yasawi's place in cultural history, scientists made an artificial emphasis on his poetic "creativity", although in Sufism poetry was usually subordinated to mysticism and only served as a means of expression.

Ahmed received a good Muslim education, but by nature he was not inclined towards learning, namely, contemplative exercises, meditation and mysticism. Therefore, he was early introduced to the secrets of Sufism, practiced his severe religious exercises, pondered a lot about the Truth, etc. His spiritual teachers were a semi-mythical person - Arystan-bab, whose mausoleum in the South Kazakhstan region is also an object of pilgrimage. Historically, more real and less controversial is the identity of another teacher of Yasavi - Bukhara scholar and Sufi Yusuf Hamadani [2]. Having earned the highest appreciation of his teacher, Yasavi returned from Bukhara to his land and settled forever in Yassy.

During his life in Yasi (hence his nisba, that is, his name is Yasawi), the Sufi attains "enlightenment", that is. as it is stated in all religions - the highest spiritual experience, some kind of closeness to God, the acquisition of the Holy Spirit (if we use Christian terminology). Yasavi tells about the difficult paths of his ascent, asceticism, temptations, repentance, mystical visions in his mystical verses. A. Yasavi invented a special technique for achieving trance, the technique of breathing and remembering God (loud "dhikr"), in which researchers see elements of the shamanic practice of the Turks. In the end, he became popular, created his own school "Put" (in Arabic - "tariqa").

A huge number of Muslims from all over the world try to get to the holy city of Mecca every year. The second most important holy city in the Muslim world is Medina. It is located in the western part of Saudi Arabia and just 150 km from the Red Sea. Now its population is about 1.2 million people. Particular attention was paid to this place after 622, when the Prophet Muhammad moved here to live from Mecca. However, long before that, Medina played an important role in the development of trade relations between the countries of the Arabian Peninsula.

Medina: An Excursion into History

The history of Medina dates back to the days when there were wars between Moses and the Amalekites. Before the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad, this city was a major Jewish center on the Arabian Peninsula. Mostly clans lived here, the main religion of which was Judaism.

Medina stood on a trade route, so very often people stopped here to rest, stock up on food and other supplies needed on the road. For a long time, Medina received wanderers and helped them, but over time, the inhabitants of the city also began to develop the sphere of trade and even went to other countries.

In 622, the Prophet Muhammad was forced to flee from Mecca, and settled in this small town at that time. In 632, Muhammad died, but over ten years of living in this place, he radically changed the usual course of things in the city for many centuries. His teachings remained deep in the hearts of the inhabitants of Medina, more and more people began to convert to Islam, and since then the city has become very religious and, moreover, Medina has become the second most important city after Mecca in the Muslim world.

The Kainuka and Nadir clans, which had lived here for many centuries, were exterminated in 627: men were massacred, and women and children were sold into slavery. The fact is that they did not want to accept the new faith and were preparing an attempt on the life of Muhammad. The Prophet was able to find out about this in advance and escaped an evil fate, however, for betrayal in relation to the fraternal peoples who live side by side with them, the Muslims decided to destroy Kainuk and Nadir.

Medina Climate

Medina is a fairly hot city because it is located in a tropical area. The average temperature in winter is +17, and in summer - +36. However, on hot days, the air temperature can even reach 47 degrees. There is almost no rainfall here, about 50 mm per year, so Medina is considered one of the driest cities in the world. Surrounded by the desert, Medina is located in a kind of depression, covered with hills on three sides.

Interesting facts

A characteristic feature of the city is that only Muslims can enter it. Everyone else is strictly prohibited from entering. For Muslims themselves, there are also certain rules of conduct that must be adhered to.

For many modern people, uninitiated in religious subtleties, Islam seems to be the most monolithic religion. Indeed, today more than one and a half billion people have united under the green banner of the Prophet. Citizens in 120 countries of the world associate themselves with Islam. Moreover, in 28 countries, this religion is the main religious movement and is considered state. Against this background, it cannot be said that the Muslim world is an abode of tranquility and tranquility. Where the place of religion in society is determined by the person himself, contradictions inevitably arise. First, this concerns differences in views on questions of the interpretation of the cult. Later, on this fertile soil, shoots of irreconcilable enmity grow between the branches of one people and tribe, eventually turning into hatred.

The age-old enmity and hatred between Sunnis and Shiites is a vivid example of how different interpretations of the same dogmas and postulates can bridge the gap between fellow believers. Moreover, the roots of this enmity go back to the hoary antiquity, at a time when Islam was just gaining its strength.

The religious aspect of controversy in the Muslim world

The Near and Middle East is historically a region of the planet that has become the foundation for the entire Muslim world. It is here that the countries and states are located, the foreign and domestic policies of which at all times influenced Islam. It is also where peoples lived and continue to live, social and social life, traditions and customs of which laid the foundations of the future world religion. However, history has made its own adjustments to the socio-political structure of this region of the planet, creating perhaps the most meaningless precedent for an internal split in the Muslim world.

For 13 centuries, the Sunnis and Shiites, the two most pronounced and powerful branches of Islam, have been irreconcilable antagonists in the interpretation of Islam and discrepancies in the interpretation of its basic tenets. If we evaluate the format of the religious doctrines on which Sunnism and Shiism are based, then we can find a lot in common. The basic pillars of Islam for the two currents are practically the same. Both of them treat testimonies and prayers in the same way. In Iran, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates, fasting is treated in the same way. Shiites of Iraq and Bahrain go on a pilgrimage to Mecca along with the Sunnis of Iran and Syria. So it was in ancient times, the same situation can be traced today. However, "the devil is in the details"!

It is in the details of the government of a religious cult that the discrepancies and contradictions between the two religious movements are revealed. Moreover, these discrepancies are of a radically opposite nature and cover many positions. It is no secret that any religion has always had and has its own directions and trends. Much depends on the ethnic factor and national traditions that have developed in a given area, region. Islam did not escape a similar fate, dividing over time into different trends. Muslims have both orthodox and marginal trends, and religious teachings that are completely loyal to the secular way of life. The split between the brightest branches of Islam, between Sunnism and Shiism, occurred in the distant 7th century. As always, the beginning of religious strife was laid by a banal human desire to change the existing order of the formation of the power vertical. Power elites used religion for internal political struggle.

The essence of the question

The split that has begun takes its roots in the territory of modern Iran - then Persia. After the conquest of Persia by the Arabs, the country's territory became part of a huge new state - the Arab Caliphate, in which Islam became the state religion. Even then, the direction of the split was outlined among Muslims. After the death of the last Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib, whom some considered a relative and companion of the Prophet Muhammad, the question of succession to the throne arose. In some regions of the Caliphate, political groups appeared, believing that the new Caliph should be a person who was a descendant of the Prophet. This relationship a priori allowed the new ruler to have the best spiritual and human qualities.

In contrast to this trend, groups appeared in the country that advocated that the country should be governed by an elected person - a person with authority and worthy of the title of Khalifa. The bulk of the population of the Caliphate are representatives of the poor who are poorly versed in the political situation. The people more liked the idea of ​​making the head of state a person directly related to the Prophet. Therefore, after the death of Khalifa Ali ibn Abu Talib, a person from the same clan should have taken his place. The emphasis was on the fact that Caliph Ali himself was born in Mecca and became the first man to convert to Islam. Those who preached this idea began to be called Shiites, from the word shiya - t. first. In their teaching, they relied on the Koran as the only and indisputable source of righteous thought in Islam.

Note: in the very environment of Shiites there are also contradictions over where the primogeniture of the ruler should be considered. Some prefer to report from the Prophet Muhammad himself. Others consider reporting from the Prophet's associates. The third group, the most numerous, considers the birthright from the Caliph Ali ibn Talib.

The Sunnis were another layer of civil society in the Arab Caliphate, which held completely different views on things. The essential difference between the Sunnis and Shiites was that the former rejected the exclusive right of kinship between Caliph Ali and the Prophet. In their arguments, religious leaders from this camp relied on texts taken from the Sunnah, a book sacred to all Muslims. Hence the name of the new religious movement - Sunnism. It should be noted that it was the discrepancies that became the stumbling block, which later became the red stripe that divided Islam into two irreconcilable camps.

Sunnis revere only the Prophet, Shiites are canonized. Even then, the contradictions on religious grounds reached their highest intensity, which quickly escalated into a bloody civil conflict that tore the Caliphate apart.

Times are changing, however. The Arab Caliphate disappeared, the Ottoman Empire and Persia appeared. The territories of settlement of the Sunnis and Shiites were either part of some states or became the territory of other countries. The rulers and the political system changed, but the strife on religious grounds between the Sunnis and Shiites continued to persist, despite the changing times, a different political system.

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