It was around the end of November 2002 that I first met and spoke with the most famous theologian in Central Asia, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf (April 15, 1952–March 10, 2015).

Approximately a year and a half before this meeting, the Shaikh had been allowed to return to Uzbekistan following a forcible exile from the country that began in early 1993. At that time, the politicians and part of the religious elite compelled him to leave his post as mufti after he refused to coordinate his actions with the government agencies working on the formulation of religious policy. The Shaikh himself later explained that he had been trying to incorporate Muslims’ constitutional right to the “separation of religion from the state.” This legal formula, which he understood and interpreted in his own way, remained his political credo to the end of his life.

Author: Bakhtiyar Babadjanov


Bakhtiyar M. Babadjanov, Visiting Researcher of the Institute of Iranian Studies (Austrian Academy), Vienna. He is a professor, historian, and scholar of Islamic studies. In 1996, he defended his PhD thesis on the political activities of the Sufi sheikhs of Naqshbandiya in Transoxiana. In 2007, he defended a doctoral thesis (Habilitation) titled “Kokand Khanate: Power, Politics, and Religion.” His research interests include: Islamic culture and the history of Sufism in Central Asia, the Russian Empire’s Islamic policy in Central Asia, Islamic institutions in the former USSR, the revival of Islam in the post-independence period, and the religious motivations behind modern jihadist ideology

When I arrived at his home, the Shaikh was concluding an interview with some Russian television station. As far as I understood, the main question concerned the events in the Dubrovka Theater, where a group of Chechen rebels headed by Mowsar Baraev took more than 900 people hostage and held them captive for three days. Shaikh Muhammad-Sodiq stated on camera that such violent acts do not solve Muslims’ political problems and only serve to discredit Islam. As he always did in similar cases, however, he noted that the guilt for the tragedy lay not only with those who had committed the crime, but also with those who had driven Muslims to such a condition.

Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf

As expected, the correspondent concluded his interview with the question, “What should be done with Chechnya, and how can the bloodshed there be stopped?” The Shaikh answered that it was necessary to allow Muslims themselves to solve political and other such problems, and that to do so, power should be placed in the hands of the theologians. “Only they are capable of solving the problem. You with your troops, tanks, and rockets will not solve it,” he concluded. It is possible that he was hinting that the future president of the Chechen Republic would be the late Ahmad (Ahmet) Kadyrov (1951-2004), his disciple and later close friend, who would contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in a “hot spot” of the Caucasus.

After the film crew had departed, I took advantage of the situation to continue the “Chechen theme” with my own cautious questions. These primarily related not to the “Chechen problem,” a solution to which clearly required complex political, social, and economic maneuvering, but to the stances of Muhammad-Sodiq himself. Roughly three years earlier, he explained, he had refused to cooperate with a delegation from the then-leadership of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The latter sought his support as a well-known authority in the Islamic world who consulted with Islamic organizations on the “issues of Muslims in the CIS.”

The Shaikh’s frankness on these questions pleasantly surprised me. He explained his position by saying that some newcomers had come to power in the Republic who were far from both politics and Islam. They were, he said, incapable of evaluating reality and uninformed about shari‘a law, and refused to listen to the theologians. To wit, instead of trying to “center their affairs according to shari‘a law” or resolve conflict by peaceful means, they sacrificed the lives of hundreds of Muslims. The Shaikh used a number of Hadiths from the holy biography of the Prophet (Sira’) to justify his position.

The Shaikh recounted that in one of his letters to Ahmad (Ahmet) Kadyrov, he made it clear that it was in no way necessary to declare “shari‘a rule” in order to implement shari‘a law among Chechens, as this would produce no more than a parody of an Islamic government. In his view, it was unacceptable to build an Islamic government through violence and executions of “shari‘a courts,” with judges who knew nothing of shari‘a law. Instead, the first step should be to develop an Islamic education system and nurture future scholars.

This position evidently made a great impression on Ahmad Kadyrov, the Shaikh said, as he soon changed his position, entered into conflict with the leadership of Ichkeria, and within a year became the President of the Chechen Republic. From that time forward, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf openly supported the new president of the Chechen Republic and later his son and successor, Ramzan Kadyrov.

From the beginning of the conversation, I was surprised by the Shaikh’s openness and the exactness and brevity of his wording. It was clear that he had long since determined what was “good/acceptable for Muslims” in this fractious world, in which it was possible and necessary to demonstrate flexibility, uncompromisingly defend your position, and “not allow Muslims to be made into toys” (a phrase he often repeated).

He had long since determined what was “good/acceptable for Muslims” in this fractious world, in which it was possible and necessary to demonstrate flexibility, uncompromisingly defend your position, and “not allow Muslims to be made into toys”.

Long before I ever met the Shaikh, I read his works. These included “Tafsiri Hilol,” a commentary on the Quran in the Uzbek language that appeared semi-legally in the city of Osh in the mid-1990s; “Ikhtiloflar haqida” (“On disagreement”), which is dedicated to the conflict between the Hanafis and Wahhabis; “Ahli zikrdan so’rang” (“Ask the people of the dhikr”), a tract on Sufism; and others, including dozens of articles from his time as editor of the journal Sovet Sharqi musulmonlari (Muslims of the Soviet East) and rector of the Islamic Institute under SADUM. Several portions of these works were of professional interest to me. Some of them I translated into Russian (a portion of which were published); I also edited works that had already been translated at the request of the Shaikh.

Read more: SADUM: An Effort To Establish Soviet Islam

The Shaikh gladly recalled some of the articles from the Soviet period and even referenced his later works where he was developing his thought. But when other publications were mentioned (say, ones written in the spirit of the socialist era), a slight grimace appeared on his charismatic and stern face. It became clear to me that he preferred not to recall those.

I came to understand that any personality in the public sphere, and especially in the “religious field,” is contradictory; his views can and probably should evolve depending on a host of circumstances. This was even more true of the Shaikh, who had to endure unbelievable pressure from politicians and bureaucrats (with whom he was uncompromising), but enjoyed the respect of a mass of believers and growing international authority.

Through surveys, I have found that the majority of the Shaikh’s followers read very few of his works, many read none at all, and others understood little even from his interviews or from his rare public speeches. My conversations with followers suggest that they were largely satisfied with the Shaikh’s severe charisma: through his image and deeds, he embodied a stalwart and uncompromising defender of Muslims. As is traditional, his image came to be cloaked in various types of legends. For instance, stories of his “karamat” (ability to foresee events) fully corresponded with the old traditions of hagiographic literature.[1]

I cannot help but mention his critics, a large portion of whom prefer to voice their complaints against Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf in private due to his great authority. A particular criticism is that he used the work of a number of modern and medieval Arabic authors almost without citing them and had a small circle of his students collect material for a significant number of his books. Some imams suggest that the Shaikh’s forcible emigration and extended sojourn in the complex Islamic world influenced him to support original and “non-mathab Islam” (bi-la mathakhib), which is seen as a “retreat from Hanafism.” As far as I know, the Shaikh was well informed about such persons and called them by the old term “mutaasibchilar” (retrogrades), considering it for some reason the legacy of Soviet Islam. On his website, there are discussions with different groups of readers from the Uzbek intelligentsia, eg. a discussion with literary figures on approaches to interpreting the classic poets of the Islamic world.

My goal in this article is limited. To begin, I will go through a brief biography of Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf, which I have enriched with many interviews (including with the Shaikh himself) and observations from his supporters and those who opposed him. Then I briefly refer to several of his works, since they reflect to a great extent the complex and changing intellectual world of the author, who, like many modern theologians of the Islamic world, tried to defend the purity of the faith, unite modern realities with the primal tradition of “prophetic Islam,” and instill Muslims with forms of personal and public ethics in line with religious writings. These works, which have become quite popular in Central Asia (especially in Uzbekistan), have become a powerful driver for the post-Soviet revival of Islam as an alternative ideology, especially against a backdrop of extremely unconvincing forms of “national ideologies” initiated by the official regimes of the new republics.

In addition, due to the sheer volume of work he has produced (more than 60 books and hundreds of articles), the Shaikh has long deserved the crown of most important Muslim theologian in the former USSR. In these books, we find the author’s views on the place of Muslims in the modern world, “Islamic democracy,” the relationship of Muslims to the conventional “West,” the place of shari‘a law in secular states with majority-Muslim populations (such as the Central Asian states), discussion of a number of dogmatic questions on the “truly Islamic family,” discussion of questions on relations between married couples (including sexual relations and raising children), the norms and rules for paying zakat (Islamic tax) in the context of existing secular legislation, the place of Sufism in the history of Central Asia, etc. No issue goes unaddressed, almost as though the Shaikh knew that his life was short and that he needed to do everything he could to return Muslims to their identity, correcting their lives according to religious norms and completely ignoring modern secular legislation, as though trying to formulate an alternative to it.

The funeral of Sheikh Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf drew thousands to Tashkent (RFE/RL)

Rocky Road from Soviet Mufti to Eminent Theologian: A Brief Biography

Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf (Mamasodiq Mamayusufov) was born on April 15, 1952 in Andijan Region, and died on March 10, 2015 in Tashkent as the result of a massive heart attack. He received his primary religious education from his father, Muhammad Yusuf qori, who was appointed to the leadership of SADUM (Spiritual Boarding of the Muslims of Central Asia) in 1953 as the main Shaikh-Protector of the relics of Bakha’ ad-din Nakshband (Bukhara), where he served until it closed in 1958.

After completing high school, Muhammad-Sodiq successfully passed entrance exams to the Mir-i ‘arab (Bukhara) madrasa and completed his studies there in three years (graduating in 1973), taking a large share of his exams as an external student. He was not alone in this: private education (in the family, with relatives) had become a serious alternative to the religious educational institutions sanctioned by the Soviet authorities. Thus, young men with significant religious education were applying to the madrasa (often with explicit patronage), bypassing the educational system of SADUM.

Several famous theologians and future political leaders studied in the same class as Muhammad-Sodiq, among them Turajan-zadah (Akbar Turayevich Kahhorov), who would become one of the leaders of the Islamic Movement of Tajikistan in the 1990s and later a member of the Commission for Reconciliation, a deputy of the Supreme Assembly, and a leading government figure (until 2005). Turajan-zadah always showed the greatest respect for his older classmate.

In 1973, Muhammad-Sodiq entered the Higher Islamic Institute (Oliy Ma‘had, Tashkent) and graduated with honors. In 1975-76, he worked as the editor of the journal Sovet sharqi musulmonlari (Muslims of the Soviet East). Judging by his editorials, he demonstrated significant flexibility in his evaluation of “the conditions of Muslims in the Soviet Union,” insisting that Muslims had adapted to the socialist way of life and Islam could easily flourish under it.

In 1976, Muhammad-Sodiq matriculated into the faculty of ad-Da’vat ul-islamiyya at the National Islamic University of Libya (Tripoli), from which he graduated with honors and a monetary prize. After returning to Uzbekistan in 1980, he worked in SADUM’s department of International Affairs and simultaneously taught in the Higher Islamic Institute, giving lectures on Quranic exegesis, Hadiths, and fiqh. He actively participated in the organization of a number of international conferences, meetings, and symposia of Muslim public figures that took place in the 1980s in Tashkent and Moscow. In 1982, he was appointed deputy director (prorector) of the Higher Islamic Institute and a year later became the rector. Muhammad-Sodiq drastically reorganized the methodology of teaching and the process of learning itself, adding a number of new disciplines that had not previously been required (on the Quran, Hadiths, dogma/Aqida, and others). His students later became famous theologians: Ismail Berdyiev held the position of Mufti of the Caucasus in the Soviet Union, Ravil Gainuddin was the High Mufti of the Russian Federation until the division of the muftiates, the late Ahmad Kadyrov became President of Chechnya, and Muhammad Rasul was a famous imam from Dagestan.

Their fates played out in different ways, but they, their teacher, and his colleagues made up a powerful and active constellation of the last Soviet muftis, who found themselves transformed overnight into independent and authoritative muftis of the new countries and autonomous republics created from the shards of the former USSR. It was they who ruled over the explosion of religiosity among Soviet Muslims. However, many of them easily lost power over the minds of their fellow believers, giving way to a new generation of young theologians who went from words to actions, preferring to earn political and social capital rather than tread the long and difficult path of obtaining theological knowledge and authority, above all through their written works.

During perestroika, in addition to everything else, there was a noticeable revival of religiosity among Muslims. In one of his most interesting later works, “Ikhtiloflar haqida” (On disagreement), Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf would explain that the divisions between the old and new theologians were due to the lack of widespread religious education in the country and other limitations. Unfortunately, however, much of the book’s message about ideology and political intrigue was lost as the book began to be pulled apart into quotations, often without reference to the author. Indeed, there were theologians who accused Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf of trying to use the “religious opposition” for his own purposes.

In any event, the fermentation of the perestroika years also affected SADUM, where serious opposition to then-mufti Shamsiddin Babakhanov (mufti 1983-1989) had grown up, as he had no serious authority among believers and relied on his “genealogical capital” as the descendant of seven Babakhanov muftis. Opponents of Shamsiddin Babakhanov managed to gather a “spontaneous rally of believers” (March 6, 1989), the participants of which moved from the square in front of the Barak-khan madrasa (then the office of SADUM) to Tashkent’s Lenin Square, under whose monument the rally continued. (A distinguishing feature of protest gatherings of that time was anti-government demonstrations under monuments dedicated to the creator of that government.) The Prime Minister of the Republic received a delegation of protesters, and he gave them a guarantee that he would not interfere in the planned “honest elections” of the new mufti.

In an interview, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf assured listeners that he had had nothing to do with the organization of this protest, but that he was among the opponents to Shamsiddin Babakhanov. In other interviews with protesters and SADUM officials, however, it was clear that the protesters knew who the new mufti would be. A month after the protests, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf was declared mufti during a session of the SADUM Qurultai (Assembly).

At the time, his allies and supporters were jubilant, although many of them later ended up as opponents to the mufti, some believing that he was exhibiting sluggishness and excessive caution “in matters of reviving shari‘a law,” others suggesting that the mufti should not “separate himself from the state.” Simply put, the coalition that had led him to the position of mufti gradually fell apart and the coalition of opponents gradually grew stronger. Nevertheless, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf made the most of his moment in the spotlight. He announced his candidacy for the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, as Moscow had issued a directive about the inclusion of “religious figures” in the deputies’ ranks. His status as mufti was strengthened by his status as deputy and vice versa. He deployed this unusual combination of power to maximum effect.

As deputy, he issued a number of inquiries. It is he who is credited with the deputies’ inquiry regarding raising the quotas for the Hajj (on the basis of a letter-inquiry signed by a large number of Muslims). Thanks to personal contacts with M. S. Gorbachev, he managed to achieve a positive resolution to the questions of freedom of Hajj for the Muslims of the USSR, opening new mosques and Islamic educational institutions, and the publication of Islamic newspapers and journals. However, he protested the publication of academic translations of the Quran (including I. Yu. Krachkovsky’s famous translation) as coming from those who “were not Islamic experts.”

Liberalization of religious policy during perestroika stimulated a new flurry of various kinds of traditional rituals: pilgrimage to graves (ziiarat) and corresponding rites, the rituals of commemorating the dead (khudaiy), etc. The mufti published a number of decrees from SADUM on this point, the goal of which was to circumscribe the ritual activities listed above and others like them within the framework of Hanafi scripture and the fatwas of local theologians. Almost every major mazar in the region was appointed a special imam who would clarify the Hanafi regulations of ziyarat, and decrees were sent to the mosques with the demand to clarify similar issues. There was an especially negative reaction to the lighting of candles at the grave sites, the wiping of “holy dust” from the graves of awliya, and other such rituals.

In the position of mufti, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf sought to sweep away the Soviet-era micromanagement of government agencies, for example by impeding the attempts of the Committee on Religious Sects to edit fatwas. He likewise believed that other governmental decisions and decrees in Uzbekistan should take into consideration the traditions of the Muslim majority of the population. The Mufti also defended SADUM’s autonomy in establishing contact with foreign religious organizations and authorities.

Like many other theologians, the new mufti gave poor grades to the government program “On Responsible Motherhood,” which proposed not only the use of contraceptives but also the legalization of abortion, since the demographic situation had become yet another factor aggravating sharp economic decline.

The main problem that Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf encountered as mufti was a split between the Muslims of the Fergana Valley and those from other regions of Central Asia.

The main problem that Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf encountered as mufti was a split between the Muslims of the Fergana Valley and those from other regions of Central Asia. From almost the very moment he became mufti, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf made considerable efforts to bring the so-called mujahideen (or “Wahhabis”) and the rest of the region’s Muslims to a peaceful solution. In May 1990, he managed to gather the two sides at the Kurultai (Assembly) and insist on the publication of a joint “peace fatwa” (Sulh fatwosi).

In 1995, Muhammad-Sodiq published a book (Ikhtiloflar haqida—On Disagreement) dedicated to theological analysis of the positions of each side. But at the time, it was not possible to overcome the split. What’s more, the mufti’s “centrist” position did not appeal to either side, which began to negatively affect his ratings. This was exacerbated by the fact that the mufti allowed the sale of a certain portion of the million copies of the Quran gifted by the King of Saudi Arabia with the request to distribute them for free to those desiring one (the copies enjoyed the status of charitable contribution—waqf). The main motivation for selling part of the publication run was to raise funds for the building of mosques and madrasa schools. The majority of the mufti’s opponents decided to take advantage of the situation and insisted on an investigation of the matter. This investigation did not come to anything, but it did seriously undermine the authority of the mufti.

In the first months of Uzbekistan’s independence, when SADUM’s demise became an established fact, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf became, for lack of any alternative, the mufti of the reorganized Muslim Administration of Uzbekistan. This exacerbated an already tense situation, and serious opposition arose within and beyond SADUM, based on an unlikely alliance between supporters of the former mufti, Shamsiddin Babakhanov, and the young generation of theologians from the Fergana Valley (headed by Abduvali Mirzayev). More than once, opponents of the mufti attempted to organize an emergency session of the Kurultai to elect a new mufti—though ultimately without success. Demonstrations by supporters and opponents of Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf became a common occurrence. The situation escalated to the point that on the night of December 31, a grenade exploded in the yard of the mufti’s old house. No one was injured, and the culprit was never found.

Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf’s relationship with the government did not improve either. In the end, he was removed from his post in mid-December 1992 by government verdict, which was signed in January 1993. This removal was justified by reference to the fact that the number of opponents to the mufti had begun to increase. The entire staff of the Spiritual Administration was let go, and a significant portion of the archive was seized and confiscated. This drew a sharply negative reaction from the supporters of Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf, and it nearly led to conflict with law enforcement. He managed to stop the demonstrators and convince them to disperse, but chose not to remain in the country, soon emigrating to Libya and then to Saudi Arabia. After that, he only occasionally went back to Uzbekistan to “visit relatives,” though he naturally took great interest in what was happening in the country.

“I Returned in Order to Strengthen Islam”: After Forcible Emigration

The removal of Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf from the post of mufti and his emigration from the country helped the government regain control over the Spiritual Administration, but it did not address growing religious opposition. Explosions in Tashkent organized by the religious opposition in March 1999 gave the security services an excuse for mass arrests, including of members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir party. Due to the weak authority of its muftis and theologians, the new Spiritual Administration did not become an instrument of confronting the religious opposition. What’s more, the government services pinned the blame for their inadequate religion policy on the theologians, whose position under government control removed all impetus for them to take initiative.

Under such conditions, the return of Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf to the country naturally came up and was supported by then-president Islam Karimov. The first president feared the religious opposition and, not knowing how to deal with them, awkwardly turned to religious rhetoric (especially in his fiery speeches after acts of terror) in an attempt to position himself as a ruler who highly valued “Islamic values and heritage.” In time, the president came to understand that neither the repressive apparatus nor the Spiritual Administration were in a position to stop the uncontrollable religious re-coding of the consciousness of a significant portion of the Muslim population (especially the youth), who often preferred extremist versions of “Islamic alternatives.” These and other circumstances pushed the government at the time to try to bring back Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf, for although he had been quite uncontrollable, he had more than once criticized the supporters of violent Islamic extremism.

The former mufti agreed to return to his homeland, understanding that his authority could be realized only in the place that had given birth to it. Moreover, his intellectual body of work was directed toward—and important to—an Uzbek audience, but was of little interest in the Arab world where the winds of fate had taken him.

By that time, the former mufti commanded solid authority, had joined a number of Islamic organizations, and was actively writing books, including his own multi-volume commentary (tafsir) on the Quran with a translation of the meaning of the ayats. The majority of these books were published in the city of Osh and sent illegally into Uzbekistan, and were, according to my observations, in demand among the reading public, especially imams.

In essence, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf chose a successful vector for his own activities: he won religious and social capital by producing accessible intellectual work. Against a backdrop of ineffective official propaganda slapped together from outmoded Soviet molds, the “alternative word” of a theologian of such prominence remained in demand.

The moment he returned to his homeland, the independent theologian was glorified as “one having suffered for truth and for Islam,” which significantly raised his public approval rating.

The moment he returned to his homeland, the independent theologian was glorified as “one having suffered for truth and for Islam,” which significantly raised his public approval rating. This was reinforced by the fact that Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf’s mentality, erudition, and views on the political status and social role of Islam had changed substantially since 1993. According to him, he had been made wise by experience, and at the moment of his return, he began to look critically at his former career and evaluate the condition of “post-Soviet” society. In other words, he admitted that society—including the main body of believers—remained highly secular, meaning that this was not the time to push for “Islamization of the government,” which would only lead to confrontation (fitnah). It was more important, he thought, to return society to Islam. He dedicated himself completely to his theological work, believing that his experience could be brought to bear on the difficult religious situation in the region to “strengthen Islam and defend the Hanafi school of thought.”

He also admitted that full separation of government and religion had become fact and that to reopen this question was absolutely absurd, even while maintaining that the Caliphate—an Islamic state in which shari‘a law would be the basis of legislation as well as domestic and foreign policy—remained the political ideal. The most effective route for the “return of Islam,” he contended, was active intellectual work that would return religion to society and keep the latter from “falling into the abyss of faithlessness.”

It was an accurate analysis of the market for religious literature in the country. Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf’s books and radio programs were in great demand. He considered the main goal to be the “correct Islamic education” of Muslims, whose problems, he was sure, were caused by a departure from the rules of shari‘a law. This was indeed the most effective form of re-Islamization of society according to new standards formed on the basis of the eclectic legacy of the Shaikh. The bureaucrats who determined religious policy and controlled religious leaders, however, hardly read the Shaikh’s works and likely had little understanding of their end goal. It seems that the country’s current leadership finds itself in a similar situation, calling for the rehabilitation of the legacy of Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf.

After his return, the Shaikh offered to create an independent Ulema Council (Ulamolar Haiyati), which would independently issue fatwas with theologically correct evaluations of various phenomena, including the delegitimization of unofficial religious-political groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. The government would retain the right to print or not print any of the fatwas issued. Naturally, this suggestion was not accepted.

Last public speech

As such, there was nothing for the Shaikh to do except write books and an abundance of popular articles, appear on television, and later found his own website (http://islam.uz/). After returning to his homeland, his efforts were directed not only at explicating arguable theological issues, but addressing the political, social, and family problems of modern life. His writings are complex, and the argumentation is predominantly religious. For example, in determining the norms of family relations, he does not hide his critical view of the slogans “equal rights,” “personal freedom,” “sexual revolution,” “same-sex marriage,” and other Western theories and movements, which he claimed served to “weaken religion and centuries of tradition,” “negatively affected the stability of the family,” and led to tragedies.

At the same time, the Shaikh sought to protect women’s rights. For example, he called on men to treat their wives gently and with understanding, presenting a number of quotations from the Quran and Hadiths that prescribe peaceful solutions to family conflict. In essence, his works aim at the cautious but insistent re-coding of the “women’s question” to fully revise the results of Soviet modernization.

In his works on social issues, rights, and family issues, Muhammad-Sodiq Muhammad-Yusuf did not cite any norms of social or family rights, women’s rights, parental responsibilities, division of inheritance, or other such questions that are explicit in current law. For him, the sacral (Islamic) canon outweighs all forms of legislation that have been created by people. As such, the Shaikh demonstratively ignores legal and constitutional rights, treating them as obviously illegitimate from the point of view of religious prescriptions.

The Shaikh tried to fully use the fruits of the crisis of Soviet ideology and the beginning of the actual re-Islamization of society, along with the weakness of ideological formations of the independence period. The hefty baggage of published books and articles allowed him to claim the presentation of the one and only truth. He did not hide his claim to a decisive and singularly correct solution to a number of burning social questions, since he tries to draw them out of religious and theological sources.

In this way, essentially resorting to ijtihad, the Shaikh laid claim to the “renewal of Islam.” In truth, however, his argumentation looks like an emanation of contexts and instructions from scholastic texts of previous eras with a formal appeal to modern (current) Islamic discourse.


[1] See, for example, his website, http://islam.uz/onas/biografiya/1662-sheykh.html, which the Sheikh’s son and followers continue to maintain.

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