Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sufism Most Effective Means to Counter Islamist Extremism, Russian Officials Told

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 24 – The promotion of Sufism by the secular authorities has helped block the spread of Islamist extremism in Central Asia, played a key role in pacifying Chechnya after 2004 and is doing the same thing now in Daghestan, Ildar Safargaleyev says. It is thus a well-tested method and should be used by Russian officials elsewhere.

            The head of the Department of Islamic Research of the Russian government’s Institute for CIS Countries made that argument explicitly at a conference in Moscow last week on “Central Asia and Russia: Prospects for Mutually Profitable Cooperation” that attracted both scholars and officials from the two regions (

            According to Safargaleyev, “the most effective non-force means of opposing the dissemination of extremist ideology” is Sufism, a point he earlier developed in a 2016 book (A Priceless Spiritual Tradition (in Russian), the full text of which is available online at

In his latest presentation, the analyst says that relying on Sufism has helped not only the Central Asian countries but Russia as well. The pacification of Chechnya for example likely would have been far more difficult without support for Sufism, and efforts to calm Daghestan are being aided by the fact that the head of the muftiate there is a Naqshbandi Sufi sheik. 

Even more important, Safargaleyev suggests, is that ever more Russian officials are focusing on pre-1917 sufism in Russia and especially on Zeynulla Rasulyev to form their own ideological campaigns, holding regular conferences and forming clubs to share information on him ( and

 Safargaleyev’s institute appends to his speech an article he has written about Rasulyev (1833-1917), a Bashkir divine who was simultaneously a jadidist (Muslim modernist) and a Naqshbandi sufi sheikh, in which he outlines Rasulyev’s career and ideas (

His essay contains an extensive bibliography about Rasulyev. But perhaps the most intriguing Russian-language work about the sufi sheikh is one he doesn’t mention:  a 272-page outline foor a 72-hour course for those studying Rasulyev’s ideas that was prepared for Bashkortostan’s ministry of education.

Entitled The Mission and Spiritual Inheritance of Sheikh Zaynulla Rasulyev (in Russian; Ufa, 2015), at Its existence underscores the fact that the Russian authorities are now training people in Sufism to fight Islamism, a remarkable turnabout from late Soviet times.

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