Russia: The famous Rasulia Madrasa to reopen a century after its closure

In the summer of this year in Troitsk, Chelyabinsk region, we will witness the opening, after a forced closure for a century, of the world-famous Muslim educational institution, the Rasulia Madrasa, which was founded in the late 19th century by the great spiritual mentor Zainullah Ishan Rasulev.

In connection with this truly epoch-making event for Russia and the post-Soviet space as a whole, the Muslim leader Ildar Safargaleev, addressed the participants with an introductory speech:

“This year in July in Troitsk, Chelyabinsk region, the famous Rasulia Madrasa will reopen. Founded in 1883, thanks to the activities of Zainullah Rasulev, it became an important education center for Muslims in the Russian Empire and a base for the further spread of the Naqshbandi-Khalidi Sufi Order.

The Rasulia Madrasa’s teachers included Tatars and Bashkirs, as well as Kazakhs and various other peoples of the Russian Empire. It gained a reputation as one of the best Islamic institutions in Russia. The French historian Alexander Benigsen described the Rasulia Madrasa as “one of the best academic institutions in the Muslim world.”

In 1893, the madrasa introduced a solid training method, a class-based system, as well as the study of secular disciplines. At the beginning of the 20th century, the madrasa had a 11-year course of study. Thanks to the son of Zainullah Rasulev, Abdurrahman Rasulev, who took leadership of the madrasa from his father, the educational program included doctrines, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, calligraphy, reading, memorization and interpretation of the Quran and hadith, mathematics, Russian, Turkish and general history, Islamic, sacred history, theology, Islamic law, ethics, geography, natural science, physics, chemistry, zoology and pedagogy. Classes were conducted in the Tatar language, and Tatar history and literature were studied. The first printing house in Troitsk was operated at the madrasa, and it was there that the first Kazakh newspaper, Aikap (Zarya), was printed.

The madrasa eventually turned into a center of religious life for the Trans-Ural Bashkirs, and also became a center of Tatar culture. The madrasa had a library with an extensive book fund. But after the October Revolution, in around 1919, the Rasulia Madrasa was closed and turned into a Tatar-Bashkir pedagogical college.

At long last, in July 2018 during the 7th “Rasuliev Readings” event, it will be solemnly reopened.

In this connection, it is necessary to pay tribute to the selfless efforts of the descendants of Zeinullah Ishan, and first of all Nelyufar Anvarovna Rasuleva, who is present at our round table. This great-granddaughter of the shaykh, who lives in Chelyabinsk, publishes books and even textbooks about him and based on his books. She deeply feels the connection with her great-grandfather, who perhaps directs her in matters related to the revival of Tasawwuf and the madrasa in which he practiced. Among Sufi Muslims, it is believed that great shaykhs can communicate with and guide people even after they die.

I was quite surprised when Nelyufar Rasulova proposed to make a video, audio and online course for the future Rasulia Madrasa students, which is to be based on a collection of my modest works relating to Tasawwuf, so that they can get knowledge about the spiritual tradition practiced by Zeinullah Ishan.

In addition, the great-granddaughter of the shaykh, foreseeing difficulties establishing a permanent composition of teachers during the early stages of reestablishing the madrasa, expressed the wish that I will have the ability to go for short-term (from a few days to a week) trips to Troitsk with a series of lectures on matters of Tasawwuf. It is clear that these are only dreams and aspirations of the relatives of the great spiritual mentor. However, the desire for direct descendants of Sheikh Zeinullah Rasulev is in my opinion not worth it. This is very well understood by those who practice and know what the Naqshbandi Tariqa is, where the souls of the deceased Murshids can take part in the training and education of followers and after their physical death.

Tasawwuf’s stronghold in the Tatar-Bashkirian environment, in my opinion, is today the memory of his great mentors such as Zeinullah Ishan Rasulev, who was the most significant last Tatar shaykh of the pre-revolutionary past. And the revival of not only the memory, but also the truly unique technique of combining the teachings of traditional Muslim sciences with the training of Tasawwuf in his famous Rasulia Madrasa, as well as the use of opportunities given by the Internet, could really accelerate the full return of these great spiritual traditions not only in the Ural-Volga region, but also in the entire post-Soviet space.

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