“The North Caucasus realms of Chechnya and Dagestan had been under official Ottoman rule but effectively independent until the armies of the Czar began their drive for conquest in the 18th century. The Naqshbandi warrior Shaykh Mansur Ushurma declared a jihad and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Russians at the Sunzha River in 1785. He was briefly able to unite much of Chechnya and Dagestan under his rule. Shaykh Mansur’s followers continued their insurgency against the Czarist forces even after his death in prison in 1793. Full-scale armed revolt resumed in 1824, this time under the Naqshbandi Shaykh Imam Shamil, who rebuilt an Islamic state in Chechnya and Dagestan before his capture in 1859.Peace didn’t last long, but it was Russia’s own intolerance of sufism which broke it. In 1861, a Daghestani shepherd named Kunta Haji Kishiev became the first in the region to embrace the Qadiri order, which, unlike the Naqshbandis, allowed vocal zikr, ecstatic music and dancing. Initially, Kunta Haji counseled peace with the Russians. But as his popularity surged, many veteran fighters from Shamil’s disbanded army fell into his orbit—so alarming the Russians that he was arrested and exiled in 1864. That same year at Shali in Chechnya, Russian troops fired on over 4,000 Qadiri dervishes, killing scores and igniting a fresh wave of violence. Together with the rejuvenated Naqshbandis, the Qadiris rose up against the Romanovs repeatedly, hasrassing Czarist forces in the Caucasus through the Bolshevik Revolution.

“In the revolutionary years, a Qadiri-Naqshbandi movement led by Shaykh Uzun Haji battled both the White and the Red armies to create a “North Caucasian Emirate.” The intransigent Uzun Haji—whose tomb remains a pilgrimage site for Chechen Muslims—purportedly said: “I am weaving a rope, to hang engineers, students and in general all those who write from left to right.” His movement was crushed in 1925, but the Soviets, branding the sufis “bandits,” “criminals” and “counter-revolutionaries,” continued to arrest, execute and deport the “zikrists.” In World War II, Stalin accused the sufis of still-unproven collaboration with the Nazis, and in 1944 forcibly relocated six entire Caucasian nationalities, including the Chechen and Ingush, to camps in Central Asia. More than a million Caucasus Muslims were deported.”

Sufism and the Struggle within Islam

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