ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN UKRAINE

      

General Information

National name: Ukrayina

Total area: 233,089 sq mi (603,700 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 46,299,862

Capital (2003 est.): Kyiv (Kiev), 3,296,100 (metro. area), 2,588,400 (city proper)

Other large cities: Kharkiv, 1,435,200; Odessa, 1,022,300; Donetske, 984,900; Lvov, 700,100

Monetary unit: Hryvna

Languages: Ukrainian 67%, Russian 24%, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian

Ethnicity/race: Ukrainian 77.8%, Russian 17.3%, Belorussian 0.6%, Moldovan 0.5%, Crimean Tatar 0.5%, Bulgarian 0.4%, Hungarian 0.3%, Romanian 0.3%, Polish 0.3%, Jewish 0.2%, other 1.8% (2001)

Religions: Ukrainian Orthodox (Kiev Patriarchate 19%, Moscow Patriarchate 9%, no particular division 16%), Ukrainian Greek Catholic 6%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox 2%, Protestant, Jewish, none 38% (2004)

Literacy rate: 100% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $320.1 billion; per capita $6,900. Real growth rate: 7.3%. Inflation: 12.8%.

Located in southeast Europe, the country consists largely of fertile black soil steppes. Mountainous areas include the Carpathians in the southwest and the Crimean chain in the south. Ukraine is bordered by Belarus on the north, by Russia on the north and east, by the Black Sea on the south, by Moldova and Romania on the southwest, and by Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland on the west.

Ukraine was known as “Kievan Rus” (from which Russia is a derivative) up until the 16th century. In the 9th century, Kiev was the major political and cultural center in eastern Europe. Kievan Rus reached the height of its power in the 10th century and adopted Byzantine Christianity. The Mongol conquest in 1240 ended Kievan power. From the 13th to the 16th century, Kiev was under the influence of Poland and western Europe. The negotiation of the Union of Brest-Litovsk in 1596 divided the Ukrainians into Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic faithful. In 1654, Ukraine asked the czar of Moscovy for protection against Poland, and the Treaty of Pereyasav signed that year recognized the suzerainty of Moscow. The agreement was interpreted by Moscow as an invitation to take over Kiev, and the Ukrainian state was eventually absorbed into the Russian Empire.

After the Russian Revolution, Ukraine declared its independence from Russia on Jan. 28, 1918, and several years of warfare ensued with several groups. The Red Army finally was victorious over Kiev, and in 1920 Ukraine became a Soviet republic. In 1922, Ukraine became one of the founders of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In the 1930s, the Soviet government's enforcement of collectivization met with peasant resistance, which in turn prompted the confiscation of grain from Ukrainian farmers by Soviet authorities; the resulting famine took an estimated 5 million lives. Ukraine was one of the most devastated Soviet republics after World War II. (For details on World War II, see Headline History, World War II.) On April 26, 1986, the nation's nuclear power plant at Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear accident. On Oct. 29, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament voted to shut down the reactor within two years' time and asked for international assistance in dismantling it.

When President Leonid Kravchuk was elected by the Ukrainian parliament in 1990, he vowed to seek Ukrainian sovereignty. Ukraine declared its independence on Aug. 24, 1991. In Dec. 1991, Ukrainian, Russian, and Belorussian leaders cofounded a new Commonwealth of Independent States with the capital to be situated in Minsk, Belarus.

Islamic History and Muslims

The majority of Muslims in Ukraine are of Crimean Tatars in ethnicity and live in the Crimean peninsula. While ethnic Ukrainians are predominantly Orthodox Christians, Muslims have lived primarily in the southern regions of the modern territory of the country, especially in Crimea.

In the 15th century a state known as Crimean Khanate was established by the Crimean Tatars, Turkic-speaking descendants of both Turkic and non-Turkic peoples who had settled in Eastern Europe as early as the 7th century.

The Khanate soon lost its sovereignty and fell under the influence of the Ottoman Empire on behalf of which it was ruled by the local tributary rulers with significant degree of autonomy. In 15th-18th centuries, Crimean Tatars frequently raided Eastern Slavic lands to capture slaves, enslaving an estimated 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians. The influence of Russia in the area, initially small, was growing slowly and in the late 18th century after the series of the Russo-Turkish Wars the territory was annexed by the Russian Empire.

The Crimean Tatars were Sunnis and the Mufti was regarded as the highest religious figure. All communities were led by and represented before others by local imams.

The Crimean Khanate had Bakhchisaray as its capital. In the 18th century, when it was conquered by Russia, there were at least 18 mosques in the capital and several madrassas. The Russian Empire began persecuting the Muslim population and nearly 160,000 Tatars were forced to leave Crimea.

For the Muslims who stayed, there were conflicts in ideology among those who adhered to conservative form of religion, the moderates, and those who subscribed to liberal and Western ideology.

Ukrainian Muslims in the 20th century
At the time of the Russian Revolution, Muslims were one third of population of Crimea. Nearly all major cities in Crimea had a significant Muslim population.

Crimean Muslims were subjected to mass deportation in 1944 when Stalin accused them of collaborating with the Nazi Germany. Nearly 200,000 Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia, mainly Uzbekistan but also to Kazakhstan and some regions of Russian SFSR. The main deportation occurred on May 18, 1944. It is estimated that about 45% of all Crimean Muslims died in 1944–1945 from hunger and disease. The property and territory abandoned by Crimean Tatars were appropriated by the mostly ethnic Russians who were resettled by the Soviet authorities. This led to demographic changes in Ukraine with huge impact in the future. Although a 1967 Soviet decree removed the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property. The repatriation of Crimean tatars to their homeland began only in 1989.


Ukrainian Muslims today

Since Ukrainian independence (1991), more Crimean Tatars have returned to Crimea than during Soviet era. The Muslims are divided into various ethnic groups but the majority are of Tatar origin, of one particular clan or another other. There have also been settlement by Chechen refugees in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine but the proportion is not significant.

Muslims have formed three structures for running their affairs. These are:

The Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Ukraine

The Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Ukraine (SDMU) was established in 1992 in Kiev.In the aftermath of collapse of the Soviet Union,the minority Muslim community sought measure to organize itself to be properly represented in new free Ukrainian society. In 1994,its first congress or meeting was held and political structure was organized. Tamin Achmed Mohammed Mutach was elected as its first president.Muslims of all ethnic groups and clans were invited to become its members. Currently it is the second largest Muslim Community representative in Ukraine.It has offices in 10 regions of Ukraine.It runs the Islamic institute in Kiev and also publishes a Russian language daily “Minaret.”


The Spiritual Center of the Muslim Communities

The Spiritual Center of the Muslim Communities of Ukraine was established on the basis of the Independent Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Ukraine, registered in 1994. The center is comprised of Muslim communities of predominantly Tatar nationality in 12 regions. It is known as a national-religious organization. Its directing body is based in Donetsk, where there is also an Islamic cultural centre. Rashid Brahin was elected head of the presidium. In 1997 the center founded the Party of Muslims of Ukraine.

Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Crimea

The Spiritual Direction of the Muslims of Crimea (SDMC) (Crimean Tatar: Qýrým Musulmanlarý Diniy Ýdaresi, QMDÝ; Russian: Духовное Управление Мусульман Крыма, ДУМК) is considered the largest Muslim organization in Ukraine. Established in 1991, it currently represents over 70 percent of all Muslims in Ukraine. It is widely regarded as a spiritual centre for Crimean Tatars. The organization publishes its own Crimean Tatar language daily Hidiaet. The Mufti of Crimea (today Emirali Ablayev) is the head of the organization.
 

  Most Ukrainian Muslims affiliate to these organizations which help them join mainstream Islamic as well as Ukrainian daily life. Most Muslims have been trying to form a party to have a united voice in Politics, a so-called Muslim Congress, but so far it has not been achieved. Muslims have formed several charitable organizations helping both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. These mainly include CAAR Foundation, Al-Bushra, and Life after Chornobyl. There is also the Interregional Association of Public Organizations, Arraid which has often gained world attention due to its dedication.


Statistics
Muslims in Ukraine have 391 communities, 372 ministers, 151 mosques with 6 more mosques being built.

According to latest surveys, there are 0.3 million Muslims in Ukraine. This makes them 0.65% of total population. In Crimea the Ukrainian Muslims make up to 12% of the population. At least 30 Ukrainian Muslim communities work without official registration (there are nearly 360 registered communities or organizations). Others groups include Chechens or Caucasian immigrants or settlers, as well as a few Afghans. Major languages are Tatar, Turkish and Caucasian languages such as Chechen or Avar. But all communities speak Russian and many also speak the Ukrainian language.

 

15 Ukrainian Youth Embrace Islam

Discussing their next move after reverting.

KIEV, July 20, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – Fifteen Ukrainian youth embraced Islam, highlighting the spread of the faith in the former Soviet republic, with the efforts of the Islamic bodies in the country achieving tangible results.

The Ukrainian youth reverted to Islam at the Islamic center in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv -- a body affiliated to the Federation of Social Organizations (Arraid) -- the largest Islamic group in the country.

The center was opened less than two months ago and the 15 youth, seven males and eight females, frequently visited it and were informed about the faith through efforts of its workers.

"Since the opening of the Islamic center in Kharkiv in June 2005, many Ukrainians have been visiting the center to get knowledge of the Islamic teachings and civilization," the Arraid said in a statement e-mailed to IslamOnline.net Tuesday, July 19.

"In almost a month and half, such efforts resulted in convincing fifteen youth to embrace Islam," it added.

The federation groups 10 Islamic organizations and three Islamic centers in 10 Ukrainian cities.

Change

Vitalie, a student at the Faculty of Economics, is one of the Ukrainian youth who adopted Islam as their new faith. He frequently visited the library of the Islamic center to look for a faith that satisfies his religious needs. One day, while reading a book about Islamic supplications, Vitalie was approached by a Muslim preacher at the center who asked him about the book he was reading.

"It is a wonderful book that makes you watch God in every move and action you do," Vitalie answered. When asked about his faith, the Ukrainian young man said he has been looking for a religion that convinces him to embrace. "But now, I feel I have found the religion that I can feel assured to accept."

After a discussion with the Muslim preacher on issues such as the Power of Allah, nature of Christ and Islam's stance on the family, neighbors and society, Vitalie pronounced the Shahadah (the testimony of faith). "Since he pronounced there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, Vitalie has been very happy and has been frequently visiting the Islamic center." Asked about his future steps, Vitalie said he would first learn the pillars of Islam."Then I will try to convince my acquaintance, my parents, brother, friends and university teachers to embrace Islam." There are two million Muslims in Ukraine, making up 4% of the overall 48-million population.  ( http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2005-07/20/article01.shtml )

 

Ukrainian Memorizes Qur’an, a First in 85 Years

“I call on all Ukrainian Muslims to pay a great attention to memorizing and reciting the Noble Qur’an,” said Woleef.
 

KIEV, April 20, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – In the first religious event of its kind in the former Soviet republic, a Ukrainian Muslim student memorized the Noble Qur’an, the first case after long decades of persecution against the Muslim minority in the country under the Communist rule.

After a year and a half of hard work, Suliman Woleef, a student in the Radwan center for the memorization of Qur’an, a center affiliated to the Federation of Social Organizations (Arraid) -- the largest Islamic group in the country -- memorized the Noble Book, a first in Ukraine since independence, the federation’s Web site said Tuesday, April 19.

“This event is a remarkable point in the history of the Ukrainian Muslims, who have been intent on regaining their religious identity and heritage after years of persecution under the Communist rule,” said Arraid chairman, Farouq Ashour.

Radwan center, the only place for the memorization of Qur’an, is a boarding school in Ukraine where some 20 students, aged 14-19, are studying the Islamic tenets and seera (biography of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

During their three-year study, students also study subjects of the regular secondary grade, in preparation for joining university after ending their course in the center.

Muslim Achievement

Apparently short of words, Woleef said he was unable to express his feelings after succeeding in memorizing the Noble Book. “When I was young, I used to get surprised when I heard from fellow Muslims that they memorized the Noble Qur’an and wondered how I could memorize the Noble Book,” he said.

To keep his memorization of the Noble Qur’an, Woleef said he is used to continually repeating his memorization day in and day out. “I call on all Ukrainian Muslims to pay a great attention to memorizing and reciting the Noble Qur’an, seeking Allah’s help to meet this end.”

Seren Arefof, a teacher in the Radwan center, expressed delight over Woleef's great achievement. “Woleef's memorization of the Noble Qur’an represents a turning point in the history of the center, giving us strength for Ukrainian Muslims to make more achievements,” he said. There are two million Muslims in Ukraine, making up 4% of the overall 48-million population. ( http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2005-04/20/article01.shtml  )

 

 The Crimean Khan's palace in Bakhchisaray was the center of Islam in Ukraine for more than 300 years

 

Juma-Jami mosque founded in 1552 in Eupatoria, Crimea, Ukraine

  Donetsk Ukraine city mosque
 

Mufti-Dzhami mosque of XVII c., Theodosia, Crimea

Muhammad Asad

Muhammad Asad (born Leopold Weiss in July 1900 in what was then Austro-Hungarian Lwów in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Lviv in Ukraine; died 1992) was a Jew who converted to Islam and later served as one of the first Pakistani ambassadors to the United Nations.

Biography
Asad was a descendant of a long line of rabbis. However, his father was a barrister. He received a thorough religious education. He was proficient in Hebrew from an early age and was also familiar with Aramaic. He studied the Old Testament, as well as the text and commentaries of the Talmud, the Mishna and Gemara. Furthermore, he delved into the intricacies of Biblical exegesis, the Targum.

After abandoning university in Vienna, Asad (or Weiss, as he was then called) had drifted aimlessly around 1920s Germany, even working briefly for the expressionist film director Fritz Lang. By his own account after selling a jointly written film-script, he blew the windfall on a wild party at an expensive Berlin restaurant, in the spirit of the times. He got his first journalism published through sheer chutzpah while working as a telephone operator for an American news agency in Berlin. Using the simple expedient of ringing up her Berlin hotel room, he obtained an exclusive interview with the visiting wife of the Russian author Maxim Gorky, and the story was taken up by his employers.

Weiss later moved to the British Mandate of Palestine, staying in Jerusalem at the house of an uncle, the psychoanalyst Dorian Weiss. He picked up work as a stringer for the Frankfurter Zeitung, selling articles on a freelance basis. His pieces were noteworthy for their understanding of Arab fears and grievances against the Zionist project. Eventually contracted as a full-time foreign correspondent for the paper, his assignments led him to an ever deepening engagement with Islam, which after much thought led to his religious conversion in 1926. He spoke of Islam thus:

"Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other; nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking; and the result is a structure of absolute balance and solid composure."

His travels and sojourns through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran (he wrote many insightful articles on Shiism), and also Afghanistan and the southern Soviet Republics, were viewed with great suspicion by the Colonial Powers. One English diplomat in Saudi Arabia described him in a report as a "Bolshevik", and it is true that he took a close interest in the many liberation movements that were active at this time with the aim of freeing Muslim lands from colonial rule. He ended up in India where he met and worked alongside Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher, who had proposed the idea of an independent Muslim state in India, which later became Pakistan.

During WWII he was interned there by the British as an enemy alien. His parents meanwhile, were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Because of his out-spoken support for the Pakistan Movement, after Independence and the Partition of 1947, Asad was appointed Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, as well as working with the Pakistani Foreign Ministry from 1949 till the early 1950s. Towards the end of his life, he moved to Spain and lived there with his second wife, Paola Hameeda Asad, until his death.

Asad wrote several books, and a biography of his early life has been published in German, Leopold Weiss alias Muhammad Asad. Von Galizien nach Arabien 1900-1927 by Gunther Windhager (Bohlau Verlag 2002}. Weiss's own version of this period is Road to Mecca, an account of his Middle Eastern travels and his conversion, as well as his thoughts on the growing Zionist movement. He also wrote The Message of The Qur'an, a translation and brief commentary on the Muslim holy book based on his own knowledge of classical Arabic and on the authoritative classical commentaries. It has been acclaimed as one of the best, if not the best, translations of the Quran into English, although it has been criticised by some traditionalists for its Mutazilite leanings. He also wrote a translation and commentary on the Sahih Bukhari, the most authoritative collection of Hadith. In addition, he wrote This Law of Ours where he sums up his views on Islamic law and rejects decisively the notion of taqlid, or strict judicial precedent which has been accepted as doctrine by most Muslim sects except the Salafis. He also makes a plea for rationalism and plurality in Islamic law, which he sees as the true legacy of the salaf or earliest generations of Muslims. In his book Islam at the Crossroads, he outlines his view that the Muslim world must make a choice between living by its own values and morality or accepting those of the West, in which case, they would always lag behind the West, which had had more time to adjust to those values and mores, and would end up compromising their own religion and culture. There are some playfully cryptic references to him in the recent bestseller The Orientalist by Tom Reiss (Random House 2005), and some slightly more sinister ones in the English translations of W.G. Sebald.

He is father of Talal Asad, anthropologist specializing in religious studies and postcolonialism.

Works
Road to Mecca
The Message of The Qur'an
Translation and commentary on the Sahih Bukhari
This Law of Ours
Islam at the Crossroads
Writings of Muhammad Asad on Islam: Article by Dr. Aabroo Aman Andrabi

The writings of Muhammad Asad on Islam and the Muslims span almost a century, from the 1920’s to the 1980’s. These writings include:

Unromantisches Morgenland (The Unromantic Orient), Frankfurter Zeitung, Palestine, 1924; Islam At the Cross Roads, New York, 1934; The Road To Mecca, New York, 1954; The Principles of State and Government In Islam, California Press, 1961; Sahih al –Bukhari: The Early Years of Islam, Arafat Publication, Srinagar, Kashmir, 1935; Translation of the Qur’an into the English language with explanatory notes. The Message of the Qur’an, Dublin, 1980 and This Law of Ours, Dacca, 1980. He also brought out a journal, Arafat. This journal, was published from Lahore before partition in the late forties. Muhammad Asad’s first book as a committed Muslim was Islam at the Cross Roads, published first in New York in 1934 and dedicated to the young Muslims. The text went through repeated printings and editions both in India and Pakistan. Muhammad Asaf translated it into Urdu in 1991 under the title Islam Do –Rahe Par. More importantly, however, it appeared in an Arabic translation in Beirut in 1946 under the title of al–Islam ‘ala muftaqir al–turuq. It went through numerous editions in the 1940’s and 50’s. Then in 2001, it was published in India by Goodword Books under the original title, ‘Islam at the Cross Roads’. The book consisting of 141 pages, is divided into 8 chapters, and has a preface. The chapters are as follows:

The Open Road of Islam;
The Spirit of the West;
The Shadow of the Crusades;
About Education;
About Imitation;
Hadith and Sunnah;
The Spirit of Sunnah; and
Conclusion.


This work can be described as a diatribe against the materialism of the west or, as Muhammad Asad put it, a case of “Islam Versus Western Civilization”. Towards the end of 1952, Muhammad Asad resigned from the Pakistan Foreign Service and started to write. He wrote extensively and in August 1954 there appeared in America a remarkable book of his entitled, "The Road to Mecca". The book immediately won critical acclaim. This third book of Muhammad Asad was also published in London in 1954 under the same title and was reprinted by the Islamic Book Trust, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, in 1996. This edition comprises 375 pages and is divided into twelve chapters:

Thirst
Beginning of the Road
Winds
Voices
Spirit and Flesh
Dreams
Midway
Jinns
Persian letter
Dajjal
Jihad
End of the Road.


This book is not biographical in nature, though in the opinion of some people, it is an autobiography of Muhammad Asad. There are many parts of this book which are concerned with his life and seem to be autobiographical.

On April 14, 2008 City Government of Vienna has named a sqaure near UNO offices after his name "Muhammad Asad Platz". Moreover, the first Islamic school in Austria is being established in Vienna and it also has been named after his name called "International School Center - Muhammad Asad ( www.is-ma.at  )"

    Islamic Centers and Organizations

Federation of Social Organisations in Ukraine, Kiev, UA
URL: www.arraid.org   Phone: 380-44-4909900

Islamic center, Ternopil

Ihya Assunna, Kharkov phone: 0572-658707

AL-MUSTAKBAL, Dnipropetrovsk
Phone: 380-56-7443620

Islamic Social Cultural Center, Kiev, UA
URL: www.arraid.org   Phone: (+38044) 490-99-00

Al-isra, Vinnitsa
URL: www.arraid.org   Phone: 0038 - 0432 - 531824

KINSON BUSINESS LTD, Kyiv, Kiev
Phone: +380-44-246-30-57

SOCIAL ASSOCITION AL-MANAR, Kharkov, kharkov
Phone: +0038-0577-319-519

Albayan, Lugansk, 27-3-1997
Phone: +380969329540
مسجد السلام في أديسا, ODESSA GLAVNAYA PASSAZHIRSKAYA, Ukrania
Phone: 00380-482379160

  AL GHORABAA, Sumy
  Al-isra, Vinnitsa
  Al_akhlas, Kirovograd
  Damir Shihotarov, Luck
  ENNBRAS, Lvyv
  Federation of Social Organisations in Ukraine, Kiev
  Islamic center, Ternopil
  Islamic cultural centre, Zaporizhzhya
  Islamic cultural centre, Kharkov
  Islamic Social Cultural Center, Kiev
  Islamiya, Snezhnoye
  Islamski kulturni center, Simferopol
  Mosque, Lugansk
  Mosque of Oktyabr'skoye (Buyuk Onlar), Oktyabr'skoye
  Muslims of Ukraine, Poltava Oblast
  Nor Al Islam Comunity, Mariupol'
  Poltava muslim socity, Poltava
  The islamic univercity, Donetsk
  The Religious Administration Of Ukrainian Muslims, Donets'k
  المسجد الطلابي - الاكاديميه الاوكرانيه للطيران, Kirovograd
 
جامع الجامعة الطبية,

  Al - Amal, Donetskaya Oblast'
  Al-Huda, Poltava
  AL-MUSTAKBAL, Dnipropetrovsk
  Albayan, Lugansk
  Al_massar, Odesa
  AWDET, Simferopol'ski Rayon
  Ihya Assunna, Kharkov
  Islamic center, Ternopil'
  Organisation AHRAR, Simferopol'
  SOCIAL ASSOCITION AL-MANAR, Kharkov
  THE ISLAM IN TERNOPIL, Ternopil'
  مسجد السلام في أديسا, ODESSA GLAVNAYA PASSAZHIRSKAYA
 
المركز الثقافي الاسلامي في كييف, Kyyiv

  An-Noor school, Kiev
 
Radwan center for the memorization of Qur’an, Simferopol'

   Muslim Owned Business

  Islamic Books store, Kiev
  KINSON BUSINESS LTD, Kyiv
  Pizza Express, Kiev
 
Restaurant Al-Quds, Kiev

References
Islam in Ukraine ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Ukraine  , October, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0108070.html ,  October, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=ukraine  , October, 2008).
Muhammad Asad ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_Asad  , October, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Ukraine, October 2008.