Tuesday, 29 November 2011

History: Islam and Eastern Europe

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

 Tunka Valley, Siberia

Media always trying to blacken others and I don't know what is the benefit of making people around the world scratching each other faces because of the difference in religion or values and demanding people to leave behind their religion. As for me, I don't care if my neighbor is a Christian, a Jew, or even a Hindu or a Zoroastrian. They can live all they want as long as they respect the normal convention of civilized human-being and practicing morality code preached in scriptures of their faith. I was myself a Buddhist and I live and sustained by my parents who are Muslims.

Some "Muslims" traditions practiced by certain nations are not in accordance to the Glorious Quran and also prophetic tradition. And those things intentionally or unintentionally were brought into the media as representing Islam. Some people might say Islam is making the people radical because it changes people so radically and they can't go for their hedonism culture anymore. Islam must be uprooted because they hate Islam (the God). The person who said that kind of thing actually has no soul inside himself. He is just an empty clay. He doesn't really hate anyone but himself, he does not understand himself nor environment around him : )

As far as I am being a Muslim now, I never act a barbarian but trying to behave as a human-being. My sisters have access to jobs, education and they can go out hanging out with friends. I even had scolded my little sister for not studying well and forcing her to sit for exams when she fails for her own sake but she refused. I can do nothing about that. In the early times, my sisters never wear hijab. They wear hijab because of their own decision and I as their brother never hit them nor do my dad forcing them to cover themselves up. We believe in personal decision and consideration based from knowledge and revelation.

We understood ourselves as human-being and not an angel nor demon. Islam is the religion of the meek who is always being tyrannized by others. In the beginning I thought that I do not want to continue this blog anymore. I was extremely bored at the beginning that made me open up this blog but some brothers in faith had advised me to keep it on so I just keep it on. I think it would also be beneficial if I share anything that I have including my notes so it would be kept as documented records before saying goodbye to the world. Now let us begin in general with its historical part. 

Early History

According to what we read in Wikipedia, Islam came in contact with Europe in different ways, and it is also through conquest. So, the conquest part is always being highlighted and magnified by war-monger Western world who now proclaim themselves as peaceful like they never wage any war before. The new research has discovered a Boszormeny Muslim community in 12th century Hungary. They were Muslim merchants who conducted trade with Asia over Silk Road. These people were Ismaili Shi'ite Muslim. These people were forced into Christianity after the establishment of Hungarian Kingdom. There are also significant Muslim community of Lipka Tatars who lived throughout Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. They hold their prayer services in wooden masjids and playing key role in the history of Poland and Lithuania.

Eastern Roman Empire

Muslim Arabs fought the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire soon after the re-establishment of Islam. They took hold the provinces of Roman empire colony in the East for example in Syria, Armenia, Egypt, and North African. Later, Constantinople was besieged twice. Once in the blockade between 674 and 678. Once again between 717 and 718. Byzantine Empire managed to successfully defend Constantinople and were able to control much of Anatolia areas again. It blocks the expansion of the caliphate toward Eastern Europe.

The armies of Umayyad caliphate also conquered much of Kavkas (Caucasus) which were inhabited by Turkic speaking Khazars during the Khazar Arab Wars. However, the instability in Umayyad caliphate made permanent occupation impossible. The Umayyad armies withdrew and leave Khazar. So, the contact with Islamic civilization in Eastern Europe was shut down for some time. What I learned in European Union studies, Eastern Europe is not so peaceful even without Islam in it. The people are nationalistic and racist among each other. 

Around 824, Byzantine Crete fell to Umayyad caliphate under the amir of Cordoba who was al-Hakam Ibnu Hisham Ibnu Abd al-Rahman. In 960, Nikephorus Phokas reconquered the island. 

European Russia

In the early of 10th century, in the part of European Russia today, the Volga Bulgarian under Almush accepted Islam and established it as their state religion. Ibnu Fadlan was sent by the Abbasid caliph, al-Muqtadir in 922-923 to establish diplomatic relations and bring Qadis (jurists) and teachers of Islamic jurisprudence to Volga Bulgaria as well as to help them build a fort and a masjid. The first Christian rulers of Russia was Olga and her grandson, Vladimir. Olga was baptized into Orthodox Christianity around 957 while her grandson was baptized in 988. Therefore, Islam acquired a state religion status earlier than Christianity in European part of Russia. 

I think I had borrowed brother in law's fictional novel called Eaters of the Dead about Ibnu Fadlan journey who traveled with a group of Vikings to their settlements in Europe from Iraq in 10th century. It is based from an old manuscript and rewritten by an American writer, Michael Chrichton. I found it quite interesting so I juts grab the book without asking permission and at that time I read it, I was a Buddhist boy in disguise. Brother in law was not yet married to elder sister.

The accounts of Ibnu Fadlan says that there were trade connections between Muslims and Rus, who were the Vikings who made their way East towards current day Russia. On his way to Volga Bulgaria, Ibnu Fadlan brought a detailed report about the Rus, and it also claims that some of them had embraced Islam. Ibnu Fadlan account mentions that: "The Rus are very fond of pork and many of them who have assumed the path of Islam miss pork very much." The Rus also relished their nabidz (fermented drink) where Ibnu Fadlan says that it is apart of their daily fare.

The Golden Horde or Turkic speaking Mongol began its conquest of present day Russia and Ukraine in 13th century. Despite that they were non-Muslim at that time, but western Mongols had adopted Islam as their state religion in the late of 13th century. More than half of the European portion of Russia and Ukraine were under suzerainty of Muslim tatars and Muslim Turks from 13-15th century. The Crimean Khanate became a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire in 1475. Ottoman Empire had also subjugated the Great Horde in 1502. The Khanate of Kazan was conquered by Ivan Vasilyevich in 1552. It makes Russia an empire because Russia had also conquered Astrakhan Khanate and the Khanate of Sibir (Siberia).

Balkans in Ottoman Period

Ottoman Empire began its expansion into Europe by getting the European portions of Byzantine Empire in 14-15th century. It captures the metropolis of Constantinople in 1453 and establishing Islam as its state religion. The Ottoman Empire continued to stretch outward and thrusting Hungary in 16th century. It reached Podolia in the mid of 17th century through the Peace of Buczazcz by which time most of Eastern Europe was under Ottoman control.

Ottoman expansion in Europe ended with their defeat in the Great Turkish War. In the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699), the Ottoman Empire lost most of its conquests in Central Europe. The Crimean Khanate was later annexed by Russia in 1783. Over the centuries, the Ottoman Empire gradually lost almost all of its European territories, until its collapes in 1922 when the former empire was transformed into a nation-state called Jumhuriyyah Turkiyyah (the Republic of Turkey).

Between 1354-1526, the Ottoman Empire conquered the territory of present day Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hungary. The Ottoman had crossed into Europe at Gallipolli to get there. The Empire laid siege to Vienna in 1683. The intervention of the Polish King broke the siege, and from then afterwards the Ottomans battled the Habsburg Emperors until 1699. When the Treaty of Karlowitz forced them to surrender Hungary, Croatia, and portions of present day Slovenia and Serbia. From 1699 to 1913, wars and insurrections pushed the Ottoman Empire further back until it reached the current European border of present-day Turkey.

For most of this period, Ottoman retreats were accompanied by Muslim refugees from these provinces. Those refugees most of all were the previous subjects of local population who embraced Islam. Only some remnants living in Hungary, Croatia, and Transylvania region of present day Romania, Bulgaria remained under Ottoman empire until 1878. The census of 2001 shows that the population includes about 131,000 Muslims (Pomak, 2001).


I am not a fan of blue-eyed Caucasians but just posting about Eastern Europe Muslim. I think around 1990s during the Balkan war many Bosnians were also sheltered in Malaysia and some of them were adopted by local families. Muslim could be of any appearance and color like black, yellow, red, blue or white. Bosnia was included into Ottoman empire in 1463. The large population of Bosnia embraced Islam in the first 200 years of Ottoman Empire ruling.

By the time Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia in 1878, the Habsburgs had shed the desire to re-Christianize new provinces. As a result, a sizable Muslim population in Bosnia survived into the 20th century. Albania and the Kosovo area remained under Ottoman rule until 1913. Previous to the Ottoman conquest, the northern Albanians were Roman Catholics while southern Albanian were Orthodox Christians. By 1913, the majority of Albanians were Muslim.

Apart of the effect from a lengthy period under Ottoman rule, many of subject population embraced Islam as a result of deliberate move by the Ottomans as apart of a policy in ensuring loyalty of the population to the empire and avoiding Venetian invasion. However, Thomas Walker Arnold mentions in his book The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith that Islam was not spread by force in the areas under the rule of Ottoman sultanate. Arnold explains the way on how Islam was embraced by Eastern Europeans through the quote a 17th century author who states that:

"Meanwhile he (the Turk) wins (over those who embraced Islam) by craft more than by force, and snatches away Christ by fraud out of the hearts of men. For the Turk, it is true, at the present time compels no country by violence to apostatise; but he uses other means whereby imperceptibly he roots out Christianity..."

The quote was taken from a Christian so the wordings is also according to what he understood from his view on his religion which is Christianity. However, it shows that nobody force nobody to accept Islam in Ottoman Empire period. Even if I found my friends who wanted to be converted to Christianity, I would myself help him or her to access the church of his or her choice because there is of no use if the faith is not in the heart though there is knowledge with him or her. In this matter we talk about the soul too : ) 

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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