Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sufism in Kazakhstan Growing by Adapting to New Conditions, Temibayeva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 18 – Sufism has existed on the territory of what is now Kazakhstan for more than a millenium. It was largely suppressed by the Soviets, but it was reintroduced largely by ethnic Kazakhs returning from abroad, and now is growing because of its ability to adapt to new conditions, Aygerim Temirbayeva says.

            The Kazakh specialist on religion who recently completed a doctoral dissertation on Sufism in Kazakhstan continues by pointing out that the number of Sufi groups in her country is increasing rapidly and that they are to be found throughout it (

            While some Kazakh officials are against such groups and have brought criminal charges against their leaders, other Kazakh officials welcome Sufism and the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Kazakhstan has been active in supporting the movements via publications and meetings.

            The grave of the founder of Sufism in Kazakhstan, Yasavi, has become a major pilgrimage site with visitors coming not only from around Kazakhstan and from Kazakhs abroad but from Sufis in neighboring countries and other states further afield, the researcher on this phenomenon says.

            A major reason that Sufism is flourishing in Kazakhstan is that it has adapted to contemporary conditions not only by promoting charitable work but also by using the most modern communications technologies. In both, Kazakh Sufis have been able to rely on financial support from their co-religionists abroad.

            The biggest danger on the horizon is that some of the Sufi groups may become radicalized politically and that as a result, the Kazakhstan authorities will decide they have no option but to try to suppress this form of Islam, Temirbayeva concludes.

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