* In the last 2-3 decades, Sunni Islam has seen a rise in Chechnya, leaving small room for what was once the dominant and specific religion in Chechnya – Sufi Islam. Today, only the elderly resume to these old practices.
Kunta Haji Kishiev was a mystical Sufi sheikh, the founder of a Sufi branch named Zikrism, and a preacher of non-violence and passive resistance. He is considered a saint and the site of Kunta-Haji’s mother’s tomb (located in Chechnya) is a place of pilgrimage for believers.
Kunta-Haji Kishiev was born in 1830 in Melch-Khi village (Gudermes District of Chechnya). At the age of 18 he made his Hajj to Mecca. Soon after, he brought Qadiriyya, “one of the four oldest and most prestigious Sufi brotherhoods”. He also introduced the Loud Zikr (as opposed to silent Zikr), a mystical Sufi prayer-dance of the Caucasus.
In contrast to the ideology of Holy War or Jihad of Imam Shamil (military leader who fought against in the Caucasus wars), Kunta Haji preached the idea of spiritual independence and non-resistance to evil.
“Because of systematic wars, our population is drastically diminishing. The tsarist power is already firmly entrenched in our region. I don’t believe that help will come to us from Turkey and that the Sultan of Turkey wishes our liberty and our salvation. Any further war is disliked by Allah.”
The Zikr became prevalent among Chechens, Dagestani and others; the movement was known as Kunta Haji tariqat.
The movement was first accepted by Russia due to its peaceful purpose. But soon after, Russia became wary of the the potential of Qadiri uniting the population.
In 1864, the tsarist authorities arrested him. Thousands of his adepts, ” the murids”, protested his arrest in the town of Shali and demanded his release – but hundreds were killed and the rest arrested and deported. Kunta Haji died in 1867 in a Russian jail in Novgorod.
After Kunta Haji’s arrest, the Zikr was strictly forbidden but this measure only encouraged further the spread of Zikr which was practiced in the privacy of people’s homes.
Zikr (or Dhikr) is a is an Islamic devotional act which involves the recitation of the names of God. In other words, it is a form of prayer.
Some adepts recite it quietly “the silent Zikr”, while the Qadiri Sufi Islamic brotherhood practices the loud Zikr (group Dhikr).
They join together in a circular dance to express their love for God and achieve spiritual perfection. The repetitive words are “La ilaha illa ‘llah” which means “There is no god but God”. The physical effort leads to a trance-like state through mental and physical exhaustion, a state which will bring them closer to God.
Zikr (Dhikr) is also performed by women in a slightly different manner but the same words are recited – “There is no god but God”.
Video and text belong to Swiatoslaw
From the early morning late into the night, Badi is on her feet and she is at work. She is cooking, at 6 AM she wants to feed her guests with three courses and glasses of grape vodka, she runs around her giant Chechen house, and around her beautiful village in Pankisi valley, in front of the mosque she chats with tough men who listen to her humble like little boys, she takes care of other women, organizes them, motivates. She is one of the leaders of zikr, Sufi ritual, partially forgotten and abandoned, even by men, and here carried on by women.
Eastern voices, here Eastern Europe marries Central Asia. Acceptance, peace, coexistence. This is passion of Makvala Margoshvili, for this is real name of the one everybody calls Badi. She is a founder and leader of folk band Daimoakh, protecting Chechen tradition, chairwoman of Marshua Kawkaz, which means Peace for Caucasus. In the lyrics of their songs, in what they do, in whom they are, there is warmth and peace, love for own kind and for guest, here you can find the essence of what Sufism is in practice, here you will find archetype of grandmothers and hospitality from Caucasus.