MOSCOW – Since the mid 7th century that it first reached the Caucasus region, Islam has been growing significantly in Russia, reaching 25 million according to the European country’s Grand Mufti.
“Islam came to Russia in the seventh century. Followers of our Prophet Muhammad came to Russia 22 years after he left earthly life,” Grand Mufti of Russia Sheikh Rawil Gaynetdin told Anadolu Agency.
“They came to a city that is currently known as Derbent, it is in Southern Dagestan. And the first Adhan, call to worship, in Russia, was made on the lands of Dagestan,” the mufti said.
According to Gaynetdin, the number of Muslims in Russia has been growing due to high birth rate of Muslim families as well as the arrival of Muslims from Central Asia.
Currently, the majority of Muslims live in the Moscow region and other major metropolitan areas such as St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.
There is also a high concentration of Muslims in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and the republics of the North Caucasus, the mufti added.
The majority of Russian Muslims are Sunnis of Hanafi school of thought but there are also some Sunnis of Shafi’i school and Shias, Gaynetdin said.
“Russian Shiites are mainly Azeris and Tajiks from Pamir and they are small in number. Most Shiites live in Derbent, southern Dagestan.
“In Moscow, only one community is registered as Shiites,” he said.
According to the Mufti, the Russian system of Muslim administration consists of three federal centers.
In Moscow, there is the Council of Muftis of Russia; the Muslim Spiritual Authority is in the city of Ufa and the Muslim Spiritual Authority is in the Caucasus, which acts as the coordination center of Muslims in the North Caucasus.
“Islam is a very democratic religion, we do not have one hierarchy like in Christianity.
“There is no pope or Ecumenical Patriarch for Islam. In Islam, each country has its own spiritual institutionalization.
“There is a hierarchy, the system of spiritual authority. In Russia, there are three federal centers and we believe that this is the best option for the management of Muslim religious affairs in Russia,” the mufti said.
The Mufti also criticized Israel latest actions in Al-Quds and Donald Trump’s decision to recognize it as Israel’s capital.
“Jerusalem is the sacred place of our three monotheistic religions,” he said.
“And it must remain Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy place. Israel has no right to usurp the power and to turn this city only into Israeli; it has no right to take away opportunities from Muslims and Christians there to pray.
“And this will happen if Israel usurps power over the city.”