Pilgrimage of Shigabutdin Marjani

09 February


January 16, 2024 marks the 206th anniversary of the birthday of the Muslim theologian and educator Shigabutdin Marjani. The Tatar-Muslim community gathered to honor the memory of the scientist at the Novo-Tatar cemetery in Kazan, near his grave. Due to the cold weather, the event continued in the city mosque named after Marjani, where were given speeches by representatives of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan. The participants shared their opinions and visions for studying, preserving and popularizing the heritage of Shigabutdin Marjani.

The scientist is rightly called “the first ideologist of the Tatar nation”. Being a supporter of education, Shigabutdin Marjani tried to rescue his nation from an archaic state, to join the Tatars to world civilization by the reforms in Muslim education. The educator called for turning to the opportunities of cultural and social development contained in religion. Shigabutdin Marjani is the author of more than thirty works, including theological, philosophical and historical works written in Arabic. Thanks to this, the scientist’s legacy is famous not only in his homeland, but throughout the Muslim East.

In 1880 Shigabutdin Marjani went on a pilgrimage. The scientist begins his journey in Kazan: by steamship he gets to Nizhny Novgorod, from there by rail, by passing Moscow, Kursk and Kiev, he arrives to Odessa. A steamer from Odessa delivers Shigabutdin Marjani to Istanbul, where the scientist visits mosques and meets with foreign colleagues and some government officials. Turkish newspapers wrote about the arrival of a guest from Russia. Shigabutdin Marjani is even shown the military battleship "Masudiyya", assembled in England. The traveler also had a conversation with a descendant of the Prophet ﷺ Aun ibn-Muhammad ibn-Aun.

“You are a Turk, your people are Turkic, and therefore you should write books in the Turkic language. Why do you write in Arabic? – asked a noble descendant from the scientist, according to the travel notes of Shigabutdin Marjani. “Our scientists and shakirds know Arabic. Therefore, if books end up in other countries, they will be able to read them if they wish,” the interlocutor, satisfied with this answer from the scientist, admitted that Arabic is indeed a common language for all Muslims. Sharif (a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ ) also asked about Russian Muslims, reforms in education, and said that he had heard about the work of Shigabutdin Marjani “ Nazurat al- haqq”.

The full title of the theological work “Nazurat al- haqq” is translated as “A look at the truth about the need for evening prayer regardless of the onset of twilight”. The printed edition was published in Kazan in 1870. In this work Shigabutdin Marjani defends the principles of “ijtihad” - the right to make own judgment on issues of religious and social life on the basis of the Quran and Sunnah - in cases where they didn’t contain direct instructions on a particular issue. At the same time, he allowed the following to the Muslim tradition - “taqlid”. The book brought the author fame in the Muslim East, caused discussions among scientists and attacks from traditionalists.

Mr. Aun ibn-Muhammad ibn-Aun, who turned out to be a knowledgeable person in the sciences, asked Shigabutdin Marjani, upon returning to Kazan, send him a copy of the famous work and an article on modern astronomy authored by the scientist. Shigabutdin Marjani continued his journey from Istanbul to Alexandria by steamship. He stops in Izmir, describing in detail his own stay in the city. Shigabutdin Marjani’s detailed travel notes reproduce the sights seen by the scientist, rituals of worship in different mosques, portraits of fellow travelers and other people, representing a real and valuable historical source.

Marveling at the speed of the train (“when I was traveling from Moscow to Odessa, I managed to read the kilometer numbers on the telegraph poles, but this time I couldn’t do it… ”) traveling from Alexandria over the bridge over the Nile River, Shigabutdin Marjani arrives in Cairo. The traveler notes the class division inherent in the trains of the English colonies: Arabs, Copts, and “natives” couldn’t get into the first-class carriages. The scientist traveled in second class. Crossing to Suez, also by rail, Marjani writes about the large number of factories he observed. The traveler's short remarks vividly depict the reality of the late 19th century.

Upon arrival in Yanbo – city and port in Saudi Arabia – Shigabutdin Marjani’s travel diary is replenished with descriptions of the Arab world. From Yanbo, the scientist travels by camel caravan to the Radiant Medina, still commenting on the progress of the journey and the nature of the desert in his notes. In Medina, Marjani stays at the monastery of Sufi Kurban Ali, and the next morning, before noon prayer, he visits the mosque and the grave of the Prophet ﷺ . Shigabutdin Marjani also visits local Tatars - friends and acquaintances, meets and has conversations with many venerable sheikhs, “with whom they exchanged opinions and received mutual benefit”.

Leaving Medina with the Syrian caravan, passing Jeddah and Badr, Shigabutdin Marjani arrives in Mecca. In addition to visiting the Kaaba, the scientist meets with many colleagues in the holy city. Some of them were looking for a meeting with a pilgrim from Russia to ask about Kazan, Bukhara (where Mardzhani received his education when he was young), and much more. Shigabutdin Marjani personally visits Sheikh Rahmatullahi in his madrasah, where, during a pleasant and useful conversation, he receives books as a gift. One copy of “The Elimination of Illusions” and five of “Revealing the Truth” so that the scientist can give extra copies to deserving ones.

The journey to home is also rich in fascinating observations and interesting conversations with the people meets by Shigabutdin Marjani and his companions. The joyful hospitality of numerous fellow scientists from abroad, who honorably received and saw off the Russian theologian and educator during his pilgrimage, proves the fame and recognition of Shigabutdin Marjani’s books in the Muslim East. The scientist's travel notes show that he performed far from an ordinary hajj. Shigabutdin Marjani went on a journey like the famous Al- Yaqubi and Al- Masudi .

Medieval Arab historians acquired their extensive knowledge not only in the quiet of their cells, but also as a result of long journeys. Shigabutdin Marjani, who studied Islamic sciences in madrassas in Central Asia for eleven years, returned to his homeland and became a prominent representative of the Tatar nation in Russian society. Already a recognized Muslim scientist and public figure, Shigabutdin Marjani goes on a pilgrimage to describe not only the difficult and long journey to holy places that Russian Muslims made at the end of the 19th century, but also, as it turned out, to testify to the worldwide recognition of his ideas and merits.

Travel notes of Shigabutdin Marjani firstly was printed publication in the Old Tatar language in Kazan in 1897. They were prepared for publication under the title “Rikhlyat al- Marjani” (“Journey of Marjani”) by the qazi of the Orenburg Mohammedan Spiritual Assembly (and later the mufti) Rizaetdin Fakhretdin, providing the publication with his own comments. In 2003, translated into Russian text of “Mardzhani’s Journey” was included in the collection “Essays of Mardzhani on Eastern Nations”, fully prepared by Honored Scientist of the Republic of Tatarstan Professor Aidar Yuzeev. Already in 2022, the book “Rihlat al- Marjani” was published in Saudi Arabia.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: RBM RT