History of Hajj in Russia

Islamic Desk
14 September 2019, Sat
Published: 04:36

History of Hajj in Russia

The Soviet period of the history of the Russian State is marked, beginning with repression and ending with the collapse of mosques and their transformation into cattle yards, expulsions of Alims to Siberia and simply their unaddressed disappearance, prohibition of praying, reciting the Quran and performing Hajj.
 
Several decades passed, and the attitude to religion in our country changed radically. There is a construction boom of mosques, madrassas, Islamic universities, prayer can be done in the corridor of the university, at bus station, at gas station - and nobody will point a finger at you. But even recently, all the duties that are supposed to be performed according to the requirements of Islam, the Muslim had to do secretly, hiding in secluded corners.
 
The implementation of the fifth pillar of Islam - the pilgrimage to the shrines of Mecca and Medina - Hajj - in Soviet times was almost impossible. Impossible, but still real for those who had Iman (faith), the desire to accomplish fard - and at the same time possessed the skill and ability to break through ideological barriers and prohibitions.
 
Historical reference
 
The first decree on the hajj, allowing Bukharans residing in the territory of Russia, to receive passports and perform hajj to Mecca, was signed by Emperor Alexander the First on March 23, 1803.
 
Since the 70s of the XIX century, the hajj problems of Muslims - subjects of Russia - have become actively discussed in foreign affairs agencies: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy in Constantinople and in the consulate in Jeddah opened in 1891. Moreover, the heads of administrations of those regions where the Muslims lived compactly were also involved: the Novorossiysk, Turkestan, Bessarabian governors-general and the Caucasian governor. The reason for this was mainly the Caucasian War of 1818-1864 and the accession of the greater part of Turkestan, territories with a Muslim population, which differed sharply not only from the Center, but also from those regions of internal Russia where Muslims lived compactly (the Volga region). At the top the authorities demanded from local officials to report the situation connected with the pilgrimage of Muslims and make decisions based on this information.
 
The Russian authorities issued passports to Muslims with extreme reluctance, because they believed that "Hajj brings huge material benefits to Turkey by donations ... which is used for military needs," and also believed that "during the hajj, various epidemic diseases appear and develop mainly cholera and the plague."
 
Statistics, which led the Russian administration, also caused concern. Thus, it was established that in 1898 some 1793 Russian citizens visited Mecca. However, pilgrims went to Mecca without passports also.
 
At the turn of the XIX-XX centuries Hajj was performed by about 5,000 to 10,000 Russian Muslims who traveled to Mecca (http://haj.ucoz.ru).
 
What happened then
 
Very different people came to power in our country, and there was no talk about thousands of "Hajj" performers anymore. As noted above, it was forbidden to do everything: pray, fast, visit mosques, that, moreover, were destroyed, turned into a stable - or into cultural centers ... In short, religion was destroyed as best they could. And this concerned not only Islam, but also other faiths. However, those who engaged in such unseemly acts, certainly did not know: you can destroy, demage, trample the external manifestation of faith, but the internal content is never destroyed. Faith as it was in the souls of Muslims, still remained.

Many ethnic Muslims were so Russified that it is still difficult for them to find their roots. However, this does not mean that they do not realize their nationality, and at the same time they also have confessional identity.
 
Hajj itself is quite difficult to accomplish due to material costs, physical, psychological, moral challenges. When there is a ban "from above", then additional complications are imposed. For those who still managed to do this, the hajj became a heroic deed. During the Soviet years, no more than 20 people traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Many historians say that this period concerning the pilgrimage has been little studied, because many archival materials are still classified, and therefore inaccessible to the general mass for decoding, reading, and analysis. Nobody tells anything. It would seem that much is known to us about those not-the-best-times for religion, but here is the fifth pillar of Islam - the Hajj - which now still remains a mystery. 
 
Stories in the faces
Jabrail: "Today I'm already over 70. At the time when I decided to fulfil my duty at any cost, I was just under 40. To perform the Hajj, I had to utilise all my ingenuity. Going abroad, and especially to Saudi Arabia, it was simply unrealistic, it could cost me a certain punishment. What did I do? I just decided to go abroad anywhere, on vacation - for a spa treatment. To do this, I had to buy tests of sick patients, so that based on them doctors would give me a medical conclusion that I need to undergo a course of treatment. Then it happened. Using such documents, I got a ticket to Bulgaria, to one of the best sanatoriums. Having broken out of our country, I got a great opportunity to go where I wanted. My path laid to the homeland of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. From Bulgaria through other countries I reached Saudi Arabia. So I fulfilled my duty as a Muslim, alhamdulillah. Then I managed to return again to Bulgaria, and from there to my home."
 
Yusup. "I went to Hajj on foot. The route, of course, was very difficult, complicated and long. But at my own peril and risk, I decided to perform the Hajj. It is our duty - fard, and it cant be abandoned, if there is an opportunity. To go on such a long trip together with a group was also impossible, too great a risk. When alone - somehow it was easier, but here everyone could suffer. Therefore, I warned all my relatives on the day of leaving home that everyone should keep their mouth shut. Taking with me very few things, only the most necessary, I went out on my way, trusting only in Allah. I had to see a lot of interesting things, but all the more I was pleased with the hospitality of Muslims from other countries: they helped me, left me somewhere for the night, they fed me. Three months later I got to Saudi Arabia ... So I did the Hajj. Going back was the same route. Praise be to Allah that by His grace and will all boundaries and barriers are relieved, when there is pure intent."
 
Hajj today
 
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all prohibitions on religion were lifted. You could openly position yourself as a Muslim, pray, visit the mosque and, of course, perform the Hajj!
 
In 1990, some 1500 pilgrims went to Mecca from Russia. From 1990 to 1993, the number of pilgrims grew slightly. But since 2003, it has almost doubled every year. So, in 2003, some 4,300 people performed Hajj, in 2004 - 6,200, in 2005 - 9,100, in 2006 - 12500, in 2007 - 18500, in 2008 - 26500 (www.islamnn.ru). By 2016 this figure was more than 16,500.
 
It is absolutely real and possible to perform Hajj these days, and every opportunities are open through any route. Alhamdulillah, we survived up to such a day that, without being embarrassed by anyone and not hiding from anyone, we can fulfill our duty!
 
Hajj is performed by persons who have physical and financial opportunities. And May Allah grant opportunity to everyone who wishes to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam! Amin. Source: islam.ru

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