Russia turns to religion
Islam is Growing in Russia and China, too
Muslims in Russia
The disappearance of the communist system at the beginning of the 1990s ushered in a new period for Russia. The communist system, founded upon materialist philosophy, established a social order based upon the view that human beings were no more than matter and claims that the human conscience is the product of matter in motion. According to this claim, human intelligence, thought, feelings, judgments, tendencies, and will are the result of chemical reactions within the body, which is a kind of machine. Therefore Marxism, which is an interpretation of materialism, views all human culture, civilization, religion, concepts of government, law, family, and morality as dependent upon material factors. According to Marx, all of these things arise from differences in the manner of their production and change over time.
In rejecting religion's values and espousing such thinking, materialism is in serious error. People are not only material creatures, for each one of them has a spirit that is not, as materialists claim, a product of matter. On the contrary, what we call "material creatures" are the things seen, heard, and sensed by spirit. It is impossible to define the workings of the human spirit in terms of material conditions. God created it and inspired special qualities in it, and every individual lives his or her life according to these special qualities. In the Qur'an, God commands:
He Who has created all things in the best possible way. He commenced the creation of man from clay; then produced his seed from an extract of base fluid; then formed him and breathed His Spirit into him and gave you hearing, sight, and hearts. What little thanks you show! (Qur'an, 32:7-9)
Under its communist government, Russia adopted this materialist bias and made it the base of its social life and social order. The communist regime, which viewed human beings as tools of production and believed that Social Darwinism could be applicable to human relationships, left behind immense destruction in its wake, for Social Darwinism came out of Charles Darwin's unscientific theory of evolution, which proposes that human beings are developed animals whose relationships could be governed by the same laws that govern animals. In this order, from which faith in God and religious morality were removed, such basic human needs as love, respect, compassion, mercy, self-sacrifice, loyalty, and fidelity had no place. So a herd-psychology developed. People lived uneasily and in constant fear. They lost the human qualities of love, compassion, and mercy, and committed every kind of crime in the belief that they would not be punished.
After the spiritual collapse caused by communism, the Russian people became aware that real salvation was possible only through religion.
But God turned this society toward true religion. Russia's spiritual collapse and moral degeneration later became the means by which human beings, as a society, would approach religion and spirituality. Years ago, the Islamic scholar Bediuzzaman Said Nursi announced the good news to Muslims that they would become powerful in Russia, and that the Russian people would come to Islam. Shortly after Russia's 1917 revolution, Said Nursi who was captured by Russian soldiers, said that communism would one day collapse and that Islam would spread throughout Russia. In a conversation with a Russian soldier, he said: "Three lights will be revealed one after another in the Islamic world of Asia. Three shadows from your side on top of each other will be revealed. The despotic curtain will be torn and puckered, and I will come and build my school here." With these words, he indicated the advantages that Muslims would have in Russia. Elsewhere, he said:
(Left) The New York Times reports on the opening of the Russian Islamic University in an article entitled "Shackles Off, Russia's Muslims are Still Chafing.".
The growth of Islam in Russia attracts the West's interest and, from time to time, there are articles about it. In a report entitled "Moscow Courts Its Million Muslims," the BBC follows the visit of Moscow's mayor Yuriy Luzhkov to a mosque on the Ramadan Eid. A photograph shows him standing beside the mosque's imam. Today in Russia, where just 20 years ago people could not admit that they were religious, the interest of the Russian people in religion is indeed a significant development.
As a result of two dreadful world wars, with the total awakening of the people, a nation without religion cannot survive. Russia cannot live without religion. They cannot also go back to Christianity. They can be at the most dependent on the Qur'an that breaks the unbelief and that is based on right and truth and that convinces the heart.
As Said Nursi said, the Russian people have grasped that there cannot be a nation without religion, and this understanding has guided them to the true religion of Islam. Today, 20 million Muslims live in Russia—roughly 15% of the population. The majority of them are not immigrants or foreign residents, but people who have lived there for more than 1,000 years. Under communism, mosques were closed and turned into warehouses, religious officials were arrested and sent into exile, and great pressure was exerted on Muslims to abandon their religion. Now there is a great current of people approaching Islam, one that cannot be ignored. The founding of the Russian Islamic University in 1998, the county's first Islamic university, and the increase in the number of mosques in Tataristan from 18 in the Soviet period to more than 1,000 today, are examples of the rise of Islam in Russia.78
These are only two examples, and there is no doubt that they are very good and important developments. In Russia, the birthplace of communism, the voice of Islam is being heard and, God willing, this growth will become more rapid.
Islam in China
Until now, we have discussed the growth of movement toward Islam after the fall of communism. The situation is a little different in China, one of the last bastions of communism. Here, Islam is on the rise, but because Mao's Red ideology is still in effect, opposition toward religion is continuing apace. Religious figures are still being arrested and tortured, places of worship are being closed, and people are not free to worship or practice their faith. In the small mosques and places of prayer where the state permits worship, strict discipline is enforced by the police and the military. For example, in Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang), Muslims cannot perform their prayers in their preferred mosques or remain in the mosque as long as they want. If they work in a state office, they cannot fast or perform their prayers. Those Muslims who go to the mosque are closely watched by secret police agents. Muslims under the age of 18 cannot receive a religious education, and if the government discovers that they have started to study the Qur'an, no matter how old they are, they are arrested and their families are penalized. But this official policy of pressure and violence does not prevent people from turning to religion.
(1) A report entitled "China's Islamic Concerns" tells about Beijing's uneasiness over Islam's growth. In April 2001, Beijing decided to establish the Chinese Islamic Union with 16 clergy on the board of directors. In this way, China hopes to keep an eye on every kind of Islamic activity.
Despite the strict implementation of these measures, as the Asian edition of Time magazine reports, religion in China is growing: