! Ин саҳифаи хусусии Каюмарси Ато, хабарнигори Радиои Озодист. Аммо навиштаҳои ӯ дар ин саҳифа мавқеъ ва дидгоҳҳои Радиои Озодӣ нест.

05 сентября, 2010

Tajiks Increasingly Turn To Shari'a

By Tajik Service (RFE/RL) correspondent Kayumars Ato

DUSHANBE, September 3, 2010 (RFE/RL) -- When Bibi Zaynura's ex-husband's

failure to pay alimony made it difficult for her to support her young

children, the Muslim woman first turned to the Tajik state for assistance.

But when official channels brought no results, Zaynura followed the advice

of other women in her village located just outside Dushanbe and sought the

help of a religious leader.

In consultation with the hadith and the guidance of the Koran, the

imam-khatib of the local mosque spoke to Zaynura's ex-husband and reminded

him of his responsibility to care for his former wife and children.

"We all live in the same village, and the mullah can speak to my husband

and reason with him. It's possible that this problem was solved much

faster with the mullah's help, because (my husband) wanted to prevent any

rumors from circulating in the mosque."

Where the state had failed, the imam provided Zaynura the solution she was

looking for, and she is not alone. Even as the Tajik government maintains

tight control on religion, the majority Muslim population is increasingly

turning to Shari'a law -- which is not sanctioned by the state -- to

resolve disputes, family affairs, and personal matters.

One resident of the northern city of Khujand, explains 

why his family eventually went to a mullah to help them settle a family

argument over inheritance from their grandfather. 

"If we took this issue to court, we would have to cut all our family ties.

Thank God, our mullah, who is an intellectual and respectable man, solved

our problem peacefully."

Following decades of suppression under the Soviet Union, religion has a

prominent place among Tajiks today.

Said Ahmadov, former head of the Committee for Religious Affairs in

Tajikistan, told RFE/RL in early August that there has been an increase in

the observance of Shari'a law among Tajikistan's majority Muslim

population since the country's independence nearly 20 years ago. A Gallup

poll released this week (August 31) found that 85 percent of Tajiks said

religion was an important part of their life, with only 12 percent saying

it did not, making Tajikistan first among Central Asian states in terms of


But religious allegiance is not the only factor that leads Tajiks to let

religious institutions weigh in on their problems.

In some cases, fear of corruption in state courts factors into the

decision, with Tajiks saying that court officials sometimes request bribes

in exchange for a particular verdict. In others, people prefer the

personal approach of a religious leader they know to the formulaic

approach of a state bureaucrat. And sometimes going the route of a

religious decision is simply the cheapest alternative.

Islam "has many laws that are close to human nature and make one's life

pleasant," explains Zubaidulloh Rozik, a member of the Council of Ulema of

the Islamic Revival Party. "When we explain to them the benefit of the

teachings of Islam they understand, they agree, and they really express

their satisfaction."

Rozik notes, that "as they say, going to the court has a high cost while

going to see two mullahs, does not cost anything." But he says people

"talk, they listen to advice" and they understand that "from the method of

advice their problem will be resolved."

Qobiljon Boev, leader of the Fatwa Department of the Council of Ulema

(religious leaders) of the Islamic Center of Tajikistan, says most of the

people who appeal to religious leaders seek not only solutions to their

problems, but rulings on the good or evil of their actions from the

perspective of Shari'a.

Boev says the majority of appeals brought before mullahs concern divorce

cases. Often, after a couple has split up,  they regret the decision and

choose to live together again.

He points out that while this would not contradict state law, it would be

haraam (forbidden) under Shari'a law.

Religious officials maintain that consulting Shari'a law does not conflict

with the secular law of the state, and say it can be applied to many

aspects of society that are regulated by secular law.

Referring to court punishments of thieves and drunks, Roziq of the Council

of Ulema of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan argues that consulting

a religious leader is more effective in changing such behavior.

When a thief or alcoholic is released from jail or a rehabilitation

center, he or she will inevitably turn again to stealing or drinking,

Rozik says, whereas religious intervention provides better results.

"Some behavioral problems in some young people happen after they are

affected by 'dark forces.' We read some surahs with them and they get


Strolling through the streets of Dushanbe, the influence of religion is

ever-present. One can see young people listening to sermons instead of pop

music. Religious speeches and sermons are used as ring tones, and groups

of students can be seen listening to the speeches and sermons of their

favorite imam-khatibs out loud on their phones.

The number of people attending Friday prayer also continues to rise, to

the extent that some mosques have been required to build second or even

third floors and widen the area of worship to house all the attendees.

Since he took office in 1992 following a bloody civil war that resulted in

the defeat of a mostly Islamic opposition, the government under President

Emomali Rahmon has prohibited polygamy, banned the wearing of the hijab in

government offices and in universities, and has outlawed prayer outside of

the mosque.

But Said Ahmadov, former head of the Committee for Religious Affairs of

Tajikistan, says that 70 years of living under communism has made people

more focused on religion and its benefits.

"Using this awareness," he explains, "they are trying to follow Shari'a

law. In the meantime this positive move disclosed many shortcomings of

Tajik secular law."

"People have by now gained more knowledge of Islamic culture and Shari'a

rules. And the fact that some secular laws have not been properly

implemented or are not being followed appropriately plays a role here."

Professor Ibrahim Usmon, dean of the journalism faculty at Tajik State

National University, says there are some who are attempting to rapidly

apply Shari'a law to the lives of Tajik citizens.

He says that this goal, which he argues is in contradiction with the

secular law of the government and more precisely with the government's

policies, has the potential to lead to radicalization.

According to Professor Usmon and other analysts, if Shari'a law continues

to be implemented on the current scale, Tajikistan will little by little

exchange the secular business suit with the robes of Shari'a.

But Akrami Abduqahor, a resident of Dushanbe, believes that Sharia has

become so integrated into the lives of Tajiks that the government cannot

dislodge it by imposing secular laws.

"If you go to universities, you'll still see girls wearing the hijab

(despite the government's ban). Recently, authorities in some villages

detained mullahs who taught religious classes to children. There is no

guarantee that these campaigns will eliminate hijab or stop mullahs from

teaching children."

(RFE/RL correspondent Ella Mitchell translated and contributed to this


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