Muslims of Moscow: A thriving community
Islam is the second most widely practiced religion in Russia, the Muslims of Moscow is the ardent proof of it. The Islamic community is one of the most intense communities in Moscow. It is said, almost two million people live there. There are six grand mosques and over 150 Muslim Prayer houses in Moscow.
The history of Muslims in Moscow
The historical journey of the Islamic people of Moscow is connected to the Golden Horde. When Moscow was under its control in 1312, Islam was recognized as the official state religion. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Tatars and other Eastern communities settled in Tatar Quarter in the district of Zamoskvorechye. This district is now known as one of the important Muslim neighbourhood. It has an old mosque and a Tatar Culture centre.
Some Tatar communities flourished in Ordynskaya Quarter nearby. As a consequence, many historic centres of Moscow have names from Tatar origins. For example, the Balchug marshland. The word Balchug is a Tatar word. It means dirt. Similarly, Krymsky Val, which means people from Crimean Khanate. The first Muslim cemetery was built next to this Krymsky Val street. The residents of the Golden Horde noblemen were even situated here.
There is a legend about one Tatar clan Yusupovs. It is said that when a number of Tatar noblemen were converting to Christianity, the Yusupovs clan enquired about their origins. They found that they were the successors of a great ruler of the Nogai Horde named Yusuf. They also found that their great ancestor was Abu Bakr (R) who was the father-in-law of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). The palace of the Yusupovs can be seen in 21B. Kharitonyevsky Lane, the family crest with a Muslim symbol is still there on the palace gate.
The emergence of Mosques
In the year 1773, the Russian empress allowed the freedom to practice individual religions. Therefore, the Tatar community and the Bashkir community started practicing Islam. Thus the mosque building urge initiated.
The first mosque of Moscow was built in the year 1782. It was located in the Tatar quarter. But a devastating fire engulfed it in the year 1812. A second mosque was built in 28, Bolshaya Tatarskaya Street to pay homage to the Muslims who fought against Napoleon. In the year 1823, the first wooden mosque was built to appease the Muslims of Moscow.
The Moscow Cathedral Mosque saw many leaders of the Arab-Muslim world. For example, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Khatami, the Secretary-general “of the Islamic Conference” (OIC) Ekmeletdin Ihsanoglu, etc.
The present condition of Muslims in Moscow
The modern city of Moscow is a multi-ethnic formation. Among the 170 nationalities living in this city, 30 are Muslim. In the year 2005, Russia entered the OIC as an observer. Therefore, the friendship between the Arab and the Russians grew considerably. The Mufti council claims that Muslims are around 1.5 million of the city’s population. Therefore, it can be said that the Muslims in Moscow live a balanced and quiet life in this age-old city.