Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani – a Man who Played a Significant Role in the Muslim World

26 March


There are special people who, through their activities, principled views and concern for public life, have left a significant mark on the history not only of their own people, but also of the whole world. Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani was this kind of person. He became a landmark figure in the Islamic history of both the Dagestan people and the whole of Russia, as well as the Ottoman Empire and even the entire Muslim world.


It was Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani who prepared an abridged text of Sahih al-Bukhari, the second most important book for Muslims after the Quran and one of the Sunni hadith collections. He selected 1500 hadiths out of 7500. And experts from the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan translated Sahih al-Bukhari by Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani into the Russian language. Thus, both the original source and its translation transmit the values of the Sunnah by native theologians, which helps to consolidate the true values of Islam and stop the spread of pseudo-Islamic traditions in the native Ummah. The uniqueness and relevance of this edition is also related to the fact that other available translations of this book are banned in Russia because they contain distorted meanings. In addition to it, the publication of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan has the potential to arouse active interest in the countries of the Islamic world and consolidate the image of Russia as a part of the Islamic world and, as a consequence, to expand contacts with a focus on the expansion of scientific and theological, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.


In order to fully understand the significance of the work, it is crucial to get familiar with the personality of Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani himself.


A Scholar who Learned the Entire Quran in Six Months and Knew 200 000 Hadiths


Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani, of Avar origin, played a special role in maintaining peace and order in Turkey in the XX century, when the Ottoman Empire was literally torn by internal contradictions, succumbing to the influence of the West and external forces. He knew all the problems of the Ottoman Empire from within and tried to help people by urging them to abandon the ideas of nationalism. He also reminded them that the Quran called people to treat each other with respect, remembering that “there is no advantage for an Arab over a non-Arab”.


Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani was a prominent scholar who wrote over 20 scientific works, including ‘The Mirror of the Constitution’, ’40 Hadiths about the Rights of the Sultan’. In the work ’40 Hadiths about the Rights of the Sultan’ the author expressed his main principles: the center of the Caliphate is Istanbul, while the right of supreme power belongs to the Caliph of Muslims. It is not surprising that he played an important role in the history of the Ottoman Empire.


Umar Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani was born in the village of Myatli in the Gumbetovsky District of the Republic of Dagestan. He spent his childhood in his native village and received an excellent education from his theologian father. Thanks to his knowledge, he easily entered a madrasah in Istanbul, where he found an invaluable mentor – Sheikh Ahmad Ziyavuddin Gyumyushkhanov, who later gave Umar his name. The Dagestani moved to Istanbul with his father at the age of 29.


Umar’s contemporaries and scholars note that he possessed remarkable abilities: it took him literally six months to learn the entire text of the Quran and another six months to publish his first book on Tajwid methodology. It did not take him long to memorize the entire collection of al-Bukhari’s ‘Sahih”. Umar Ziyauddin knew about 200 000 sayings of Prophet Muhammad with the entire chain of hadith transmitters. In doing so, the scholar always said that in the Ottoman Empire a man could achieve any desired heights relying only on his knowledge and work and became a vivid example of it.


Hafiz and Mentor of Murids


After completing his studies in the madrasah, Umar Ziyauddin became a member of the expert hafiz community. As one of Sheikh Ahmad Ziyavuddin Gyumyushkhanov’s favourite disciples, he received the right to mentor murids from him.


In 1879 he was appointed Regimental Mufti of Edirne (a city and district in northwestern part of Turkey). His duties included not only advising on religious matters, but also maintaining morale. It was here that he wrote about 20 works, in which he covered issues of Islamic law, hadiths and tariqat. The works were published in three languages: native Avar, Arabic and Turkic. Undoubtedly, the scholar’s activities were accompanied by malicious tongues of detractors, as his influence in society was growing.


In 1908, led by Major Ahmed Niyazi Bey, an uprising began, during which Sultan Abdul-Hamid II had to make concessions: The Constitution was adopted and the Parliament was formed. Umar Ziyauddin could not remain aloof from such an event and returned to Istanbul. He knew all the problems of the society from within, understood that he was a danger to the people and wanted to join the Upper House whose members were appointed directly by the Sultan. However, he was refused. He then asked to be included in the State Council or the Education Assembly and to be allowed to give lectures to special services at the Imperial University. However, he was refused everywhere, indicating the increasing influence of the Young Turks on the Sultan. 


In the same year 1908, Umar Ziyauddin wrote two of his most important works - ‘The Mirror of the Constitution’ and ’40 Hadiths about the Rights of the Sultan’. For these works Sultan Abdul-Hamid gave him 40 gold coins. In his works, ad-Daghestani said that Istanbul should remain the center of the Caliphate, and the right of supreme power should remain with the Caliph. In ‘The Mirror of the Constitution’ the author explained the 119th article of the proclaimed Constitution in term of Islamic doctrine.


Society of Muhammadan Union and the Exile


In 1909 Umar Ziyauddin became a member of the newly formed Society of Muhammadan Union, whose members opposed the policy of the Young Turks and stood up for the values of Islam and observance of Shariah Law.


After his arrest, the Daghestani scholar petitioned that the city of Medina was chosen for his life sentence. However, as early as April 1910 he escaped to Egypt. While he was in Medina, Abbas Hilmi, the ruler of Egypt at that time, saw the Prophet in his dream three nights in a row. The Prophet told him to invite and receive Umar Ziyauddin, who was in Medina. After that he immediately set out, found the scholar and invited him to his place, showing him all respect and esteem. After his arrival to Egypt, Umar ad-Daghestani stayed at Abbas Hilmi’s and became his adviser on religious issues.


World War I and Return to Istanbul


In 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered the World War I. Great Britain, on opposite side of the barricades, made Egypt a bridgehead for fighting against the Turks. Thus, the British Empire divided the Muslim world into two parts – Arabs and Turks – and tried by all means to aggravate that confrontation. It was no longer based on internationalism, but on nationalist views. Umar Ziyauddin urged his countrymen and co-religionists to abandon the idea of nationalism and warned the Muslims against taking part in the war. Despite the rigid censorship, the scholar repeatedly appealed to the population from the pages of the press not to be led by the West.


Logically, in December 1914 he was arrested, but was released a year later through the intervention of King George V of Great Britain, who acted on Abbas Pasha’s personal request.


In 1919 Umar’s life changed dramatically – after a dream about his teacher, he returned to Istanbul, where he became the head of the madrasah he used to study himself. In the same year, ad-Daghestani was invited to teach at Istanbul’s prestigious Dar ul-Khilafat University.


After his Sheikh’s second successor’s death, at the age of about 70, Umar Ziyauddin began a mission of spiritual guidance. With his profound knowledge, Umar simultaneously performed the duties of Sheikh in Gumushashahnevi and a teacher in the madrasah. Ziyauddin ad-Daghestani continued his mentoring activities for about two years, giving lessons on various religious issues, including reading and explaining hadiths.


During his lifetime, Umar Ziyauddin raised many prominent scholars, such as Mustafa Feizi Efendi, who succeeded Umar Ziyauddin, Seresi Hasib Efendi, Abdulaziz Bakkine and Mehmet Zahid Kotku.


Mehmed VI Wahyiddin, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at that time, offered Umar Ziyauddin the positions of Sheik ul-Islam of the Caliphate. However, the scholar refused because the Caliphate essentially no longer existed.


Published Works of Umar Ziyauddin


1) ‘Fatawa Umariyya fi tariqati aliyya’. It is written in the Arabic language and was published in Edirne in 1301. In this work the author touched upon a number of issues related to Sufism because during his lifetime some of them were actively discussed.
2) ‘Qisas al-Anbiya’ written in Umar Ziyauddin’s native Avar language.
3) ‘Mawlidi Sharif’ also in the Avar language.
4) ‘Miraji Sharif’ in the Avar language.
5) ‘Sunan al-Aqualini an-Nabawiyya min al-Ahadisi al-Bukhariyya’ (Istanbul 1308) containing 4541 hadiths.
6) ‘Zubdat ul-Bukhari’ (Cairo 1330), compiled from 1524 kawliyya hadiths.
7) ‘Al-As’ilah wa al-ajwiba fi ilmi usuli al-hadith al-mutarabbatan’ (Bursa 1307), dealing with the terminology of hadith science in a question-answer form.
8) ‘At-Taschilyatu al-atira fi kiraati al-ashara’ (Istanbul 1304) about the ten types of recitation of the Quran.
9) ‘Tarjama Aqaid an-Nasafiyya’ (Bursa, 1308).
10) ‘Adab kiraat al-Quran’ (Istanbul 1326).
11) ‘Mu’jiza an-Nabawiyya’ (Edirne 1304).
12) ‘Zawaid al-Zabidi’ (Cairo 1325).
13) ‘Mir’at al-Qanuni asasi’ (Istanbul 1324), in the Ottoman language, in which Umar Ziyauddin dealt with constitutional issues in terms of Islam.
14) ‘Hadith al-arbayin fi hukuqi as-salatin’ (Istanbul 1326) in the Ottoman language.
15) ‘Kitab al-mu’jiza lijdamii al-Anbiya’ (Istanbul 1338).
16) ‘Mawhibai Bari Tarjamai Bukhari’ printed in part.


In addition to his printed works, there are a number of manuscripts. Some of them are preserved in European archives, which show the importance of his research. And the translation of his collection by the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan is of particular importance, as it will make it possible to popularize and preserve the rich spiritual heritage of Muslims in Russia and around the world, communicating to society the true values of Islam and activities of Muslim theologians.



Ilmira Gafiyatullina