Islam in Crimea: The story of a beautiful era

Europe Contributor
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Islam in Crimea
The Juma-Jami Mosque, the largest mosque of Crimea, is located in Yevpatoria, Crimea. Built between 1552 and 1564, and designed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. © Nobilior | Dreamstime.com

Our culture and religion have various interesting stories to tell, but nothing is more interesting than the advent of Islam in Crimea. If a true Muslim wants to visit a number of mosques in Ukraine, he had to start his journey towards Crimea.

Islam in Crimea: The inception

The advent of Islam in Crimea almost dates back to the early days. Islam set the foot in the part of the world when our beloved Prophet (PBUH) was alive. Islamic traders and Ulemas came to this peninsula around the 8th century. They mainly came from Central Asia and Iran.

According to the author who wrote chronicles of Ibn Bibi, Islamization of the Crimean peninsula started around the 13th century. Afterward, it was expanded in the city of Solkhat which was situated in Old Crimea. This was vehemently supported by Berke Khan.

It was evident that Islam in Crimea was establishing slowly. In the year 1256, the dervish movement happened. These dervishes represented the Sufi Babai movement and spread Sufism in Crimea.

After that, around 1263, the first mosque was established.

The beginning of royalty

At that time Crimea was ruled by the famous Mongolian Golden Horde. But Islam got its due place during the reign of great Oz Beg Khan. In the year 1313, he got coronated after the death of his uncle Tokhta.

He determinedly spread Islam among the regions of the Golden Horde. He even allowed ulemas and Imams to expand Islam in surrounding regions. Also, he is known for the construction of places of worship and other Islamic architecture. Under his patronage, the mosque in Solkhatwas was built. Moreover, Crimea witnessed the construction of its first Madrasas or Islamic schools. The ruins of these schools still depict the rich history of Islam in Crimea.

The Crimean Khanate period

In the year 1443, the Crimean Khanate dynasty was established. It was founded when certain clans of the famous Golden Horde decided to make Crimea their yurt or homeland. In the year 1474, the khanate became a feudatory to the great Ottoman Empire. But the Ottoman empire was generous. It did not restrict the development of Khanate. Thus, the position of Islam in Crimea only became strong. The Sultan became the spiritual leader.

During this period, Islam became the state religion. The native Muslims along with the Tatars created a unified identity and ethnicity. Actually, Islam in Crimea bound people.

A lot of mosques, Khatibs or tekas, Madrasas, Kazaskers ( Court of religious matters) emerged during this period. The culture reached a new height. It is called the Golden age of Islam in Crimea.

Present-day Islam in Crimea

At present, almost 325 mosques, eight madrasas, and Muslim charity concerns are active in Crimea. The general people are deeply religious. Though only 7% of Tatars pray 5 times a day. And 22% do it sometimes. Most Crimean Tatars are Muslim. There were 470 or more Muslim communities registered in Crimea in 1921. But now, the Tatars create a Sunni Muslim minority.

According to social scientists, the people of Crimea are believers. But very few of them understand their faith as an exercise of religious doctrines. Islam in Crimea once had a golden past, it is still striving in the glory of it.