What role does religious education play in preventing extremist manifestations? What is the future of Islamic education in Russia? Is this knowledge valued in the global Muslim community? We have discussed these issues with Rector of the Russian Islamic Institute Rafik Mukhametshin.
-What is the role of a full-fledged system of Muslim religious education in strengthening inter-religious dialogue?
-In fact, the system of education plays a rather significant role here, as it is the issue of forming confessional policy in order to reach peace and harmony in our society. For this purpose, the system of education must train both appropriate specialists in theology and religious figures. Within the system of Islamic education, we make our graduates ready to work in multi-confessional environment. This is reflected in study of centuries-old traditions of the Hanafi maddhab, which, by the way, has always been functioning in the conditions of multi-confessional society; in introduction of new subjects that will allow graduates to adapt and socialize to the Russian realities. Nowadays, the system of education is trying to respond to all these requests.
-What are the prospects for the development of higher religious Islamic education in Russia?
-One should mention the fact that the Russian Ummah is developing and its demand for specialists is certainly growing. There is a need not only for the Muslim community itself, but also for the intelligentsia, that one which should work in mass media, in economic and theological spheres. From this point of view, Islamic education nowadays is more in demand than ever before.
In addition to it, in 2013 in Ufa President of Russia Vladimir Putin set us the task of competitiveness of Muslim educational institutions, which is certainly of great importance. One should understand that our educational institutions must not only be full-fledged but, on the other hand, it is important that fewer of our young people go to foreign countries. Today there is the Bulgarian Islamic Academy that trains Masters and Doctors. One can say with full confidence that current level of the Russian Islamic education is rather high. We are known in the world, our graduates are warmly welcomed in the world. From this perspective, one can say that we not only keep the bar, but also raise it.
-We know that Muslim peoples of Russia have very rich theological heritage. To what extent can the study of this heritage, its preservation and further popularization help to establish harmonious relations with Muslim countries?
-There are certain stereotypes, according to which only Arabs have rich Islamic past. However, it is worth mentioning that Islam in Russia appeared in the VIII century and already in the X century Volga Bulgaria became a Muslim state. It is very important for Russia as a whole, for the image of Russian Muslims, to know and tell about this heritage. But, of course, primarily it is very important for us. For instance, Shihabeddin Marjani is the greatest theologian for the whole Islamic world. Today, I can say with full confidence that there is not a single major Islamic scholar who deals with the issues of Islamic law and who does not know this person. There are prominent theologians who have made a significant contribution to developing theological thought of the Islamic world in general, not only in Russia. From this point of view, we should study and promote them. Today our work in this direction is at the initial stages. I believe that it is high time for us to become full participants of the world Muslim community, including through the acquaintance with our rich theological heritage.
The interviewer: Ilmira Gafiyatullina