Muslims in Ukraine
Modern Ukraine belongs to a group of European countries that have their own native Muslim populations. The spread of Islam in the Ukrainian lands is a natural process, which stems from the location of Ukraine at the peripheries of great civilizations –
Muslim and Christian, as well as from the complex ethnic composition of its population, some of whom profess Islam. Islam on the territory of Ukraine has a thousand-year-old history. The first Muslims who regularly lived on or roamed the lands of modern Ukraine were steppe people (archaeologists date Muslim burial practices of the Ossetians-Alans to the seventh and eighth centuries).
At the same time, it is difficult to date the spread of Islam in Ukraine. From the historical perspective, the Islamization of the population of Ukraine has been a gradual, slow process. However, in comparison with the process of Islamization in Central Asia, Transcaucasia, and the North Caucasus, the spread of Islam in Ukraine has had a slightly different nature with respect to local ethnic groups. Here, Islam has played a significant role as a factor in the ethnic self-preservation of the Crimean Tatar and Bulgar (Volga Tatar) peoples.
Historically, Islam in Ukraine had two sources of influence: eastern (Bulgaristan, the North Caucasus) and southern (Crimea and Turkey). More recently, Turkey, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and several Arab countries that have ties with independent Ukraine have had the most religious and cultural influence in Ukraine.
Today, Islam has spread all over Ukraine, not only in isolated Muslim settlements. Muslims of Ukraine do not have a single focal point; currently, there are five officially registered centers: the Spiritual Directorate of Crimean Muslims (SDCM), the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine (SDMU), the Spiritual Center of Muslims of Ukraine (SCMU), the Religious Directorate of Independent Muslim Communities of Ukraine “Kyiv Muftiat,” and the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine “Ummah” (SDMU “Ummah”). There are so many spiritual centers because each one is made up of a different ethnic composition: the SDCM – Crimean Tatars; the SDMU – Caucasians (Dagestanis, Chechens, etc.), Crimean and Volga Tatars, Pakistanis, Afghans, Arabs (Lebanese, Tunisians, etc.), ethnic Russians and Ukrainian; the SCMU – Volga Tatars; the Kyiv Muftiat – Kazan and Volga Tatars; and the SDMU “Ummah” – Arabs (Palestinians, Jordanians, etc.), Uzbeks, and ethnic Ukrainian and Russian. Ukrainian Muslims are united in 1,135 registered and unregistered religious communities in various regions. The majority are Sunnis of the Hanafi school. It should be noted that no accurate population count has been made for Muslims in Ukraine, so even in scholarly literature the number ranges from 450,000 to 2 million.
In addition to the above-mentioned Muslim religious centers, there is a significant number of civil organizations that bring Islam into Ukrainian society.
The Spiritual Directorate of Crimean Muslims (SDCM), the central body of the Muslims of Crimea, was founded on August 31, 1992, on the basis of the Kadiat-Muhtasibat, which existed in Crimea since 1991. Since 1999, the SDCM has been headed by Mufti Haji Emirali Ablaev (re-elected in 2004 and 2008). The muftiat, comprising the mufti, his deputies, and the representative of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, is elected by the Congress of Crimean Muslims every four years. The SDCM is the biggest of the spiritual administrative centers of Muslims of Ukraine. The SDCM engages in religious and educational activity, helps to create new communities, establishes international links with coreligionists, establishes educational and charitable institutions, publishes the newspaper Hidayet, and maintains a website (http://www.qirimmuftiyat.org.ua/).
The Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine (SDMU) is the official organization of Ukrainian Muslims. The SDMU was registered on September 9, 1992, and is headed by Sheikh Akhmed Tamim. The SDMU is the highest body of the Congress of Muslims of Ukraine, which elects the presidium and head of the directorate. The main activities of the SDMU are religious education and opposition to Islamic extremism. Other areas include social service, tending to the religious needs of believers, and helping resolve issues concerning the allocation of plots for constructing religious buildings and Muslim graves. The SDMU is actively engaged in external activities, such as participation in international academic and Islamic conferences. It is a member of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations. Since 1993, the SDMU has been affiliated with the Islamic University, as well as with the Research and Translation Center and publishing house Al-Irshad. The SDMU publishes a religious and educational newspaper Minaret and maintains a website ( http://www.islamyat.org/).
The Spiritual Center of Muslims of Ukraine (SCMU) – the central body of Muslim communities that are subordinated to the presidium of the SCMU – has its origins in the Independent Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, registered in 1994. The SCMU coordinates the activities of Muslim communities in the Vinnytsia, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv oblasts. Since 2005, the mufti and head of the SCMU imams has been Ruslan Abdikyeyev. The governing body of the center is in based in Donetsk. The Donetsk Oblast Islamic Cultural Center and the Ukrainian Islamic University are affiliated with the SCMU. In 1997, in the SCMU formed the Muslim Party of Ukraine, which in 2006 joined the Party of Regions.
The Kyiv Muftiat is a religious directorate of independent Muslim communities of Ukraine. It was registered on July 5, 2007. The organization arose from the Independent Association of Muslim Communities in Kyiv, and is a religious organization that voluntarily joins independent Muslim communities of the Hanafi madhhab and other Muslim organizations working to meet the religious needs of Muslims. The chairman of the presidium of the Kyiv Muftiat is Kanafiya Khusnutdinov; he is also rector of the Islamic University of Kyiv. The imam of the Kyiv Muftiat is Ildar Hazrat Hussein. The muftiat’s main goals include the following: to celebrate religious rituals; to revive and introduce in everyday life Muslim cultural and historical values ??and traditions; to organize conferences, seminars, libraries, photo and video libraries in order to acquaint the Muslims of Kyiv with the basics of Islam; to engage in charitable work; to create proper conditions for Muslim to practice their religion (building mosques, organizing pilgrimages, etc.); to publish newspapers, magazines, books, audio- and videotapes that cover issues of spiritual life of Muslims of the Kyiv Muftiat; to establish friendly relations with communities and congregations of other denominations in Ukraine and abroad; to maintain Muslim burial plots and cemeteries, and help hold Muslim funerals. The muftiat publishes a magazine called Ukraine and the Islamic World and maintains a website (http://kievmuftiyat.wordpress.com/).
The Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine “Ummah” (SDMU “Ummah”) is the central body of Muslim communities, which operates according to the Sunni Islam doctrine. The directorate was registered on September 11, 2008. The General Assembly – the highest governing body of the SDMU “Ummah” – elects the mufti and the board (a council of 6 imams) who serve for two years. The main task of the SDMU “Ummah” is to coordinate and provide necessary conditions for worship and to preach Sunni Islam. The objectives of the SDMU “Ummah” include reviving cultural and historical Islamic values ??and traditions, organizing trainings in religious institutions, and publishing. The SDMU “Ummah” seeks to establish dialogue and cooperation with all communities and the spiritual directorates of Sunni Muslims. The SDMU “Ummah” coordinates the activities of Muslim communities in 14 regions of Ukraine: Kyiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Odesa, Simferopol, Chernivtsi, Vinnytsia, Poltava, Kharkiv and Stakhanov (Luhansk Oblast), Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk, Snizhne and Kostiantynivka. Most communities are made up of ethnic Ukrainians, but the goal is to work with the entire Muslim community of Ukraine. The chairman of the SDMU-Ummah is Ihor Karpishin, Mufti Said Ismagilov. The directorate publishes the religious and educational newspaper Ummah and maintains two websites (http://Ummahinua.wordpress.com/ and http://www.islam.in.ua/).