The Cathedral Mosque of Moscow was
built in 1904 according to the design of the architect Nikolay
Zhukov and has undergone some reconstructions since then.
In the 1980s,
Islam was the second most widespread religion in the Soviet Union.
In that period, the number of Soviet citizens identifying
themselves as Muslims generally totalled between 45-50 million. The
majority of the Muslims resided in the Central Asian republics of
the Soviet Union, which now are independent countries. In 1996 the
Muslim population of Russia was estimated at 19 percent of all
citizens professing belief in a religion. Major Islamic
communities are concentrated among the minority nationalities
residing between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea: the Adyghs,
Balkars, Bashkirs, Chechens, Cherkess, Ingush, Kabardins, Karachay,
and numerous Dagestani nationalities. In the middle Volga Basin
are large populations of Tatars, Udmurts, and Chuvash, most of
whom are Muslims. Many Muslims also reside in Ul’yanovsk, Samara,
Nizhniy Novgorod, Moscow, Perm’, and Leningrad oblasts.
There is much evidence of official conciliation toward Islam in
Russia in the 1990s. The number of Muslims allowed to make
pilgrimage to Makkah increased sharply after the virtual embargo
of the Soviet era ended in 1990. Copies of the Holy Qur’an are
readily available, and many mosques are being built in regions
with large Muslim populations. In 1995 the newly established Union
of Muslims of Russia, led by Imam Khatyb Mukaddas of Tatarstan,
began organizing a movement aimed at improving interethnic
understanding and ending Russians’ lingering misconception of
Islam as an extremist religion.
Russia’s 20 million Muslims join the month of fasting and
religious rituals as a way of making family ties stronger.
“Ramadan is a very good month for us because it teaches us
patience. We observe fasting from dawn till sunset. All Muslims
fast at this time, and that unites us, because we all do it for
the Allah and nobody else,” says Guzel Yakupova.
The Yakupov family is among an estimated two million Muslims
living in Moscow. Their population has significantly increased
throughout the whole of Russia since the collapse of the Soviet
Union, as has the number of mosques – from 300 in 1991 to over
The main mosque in Moscow will greet thousands of worshippers over
the next 30 days.
Muslims across Russia flock to mosques for the night prayers and
for Taraweeh. In some hostels too, students offer
prayers in congregation.
Leaflets and books on when fasting begins and when it ends as well
as a detailed calendar of prayer times for the whole month are
circulated among worshippers.
“Here, people have to make real efforts in order not to lose the
sense of goodness. In the Arab world people feed on this from
everywhere around them, while in Russia we have to make more
effort,” says Ildar Alyautdinov, the First Imam of the Moscow
For the first time in 2007, the Gallup Poll provided a rare look
at Russia’s estimated 15 to 20 million Muslims. Gallup asked
respondents in Russia: “Do you consider yourself to be religious,
or not?” Those responding affirmatively were then asked for their
religious affiliation. In addition to the national sample,
supplementary interviews were conducted in two regions, Dagestan
and Tatarstan, with high concentrations of Muslim residents.
Long fasting hours
Russia is well known for its cold climate and an environment
befitting for polar bears. But, for the temperature to reach over
30°C, and could sometimes reach 40°C, is something that the
Russian people are not used to.
Ramadan this year is much like the previous year in terms of its
high temperatures, which led to many forest fires in several
northern and southern Russian cities.
A distinctive aspect of Ramadan in Russia, which has been
occurring for the past several years, is the long fasting hours,
where the Muslims fast more than 18 hours a day.
On 14th August today, Fajr
time fell before 03:15 AM and Iftaar at 09.10 PM. In
northern regions it is even longer.
hardships for the fasting Muslims, especially those who work in labor. However, the Muslims do not mind fasting
despite the hardships they face.
“This year the weather is very harsh. Despite that, with the
coming of Ramadan we felt a sense of psychological ease that is
aiding us in overcoming all hardships. Ramadan only comes once a
year. Therefore, we must be patient and gain as much benefit from
it as we can. Ramadan truly has a distinct taste that we feel in
our hearts,” said Bashir Mohmameduf, who works as an engineer in a
important meal at Muslims’ banquets in Ramadan, whether Suhoor or
Iftaar, is soup cooked with meat, potatoes, onion and vegetables,
with almost 30 other possible variations.
Non-Russians always wonder why Russian Muslims do not go for
simple meals such as milk and jam.
The answer is rather very simple.
First, Russian Muslims wake up
at 6:30 AM for work.
They do not benefit from the lunch break granted by all
institutions and work places at 12:00, because they are not to eat
before the Maghreb prayer.
They finish work at 4:00 P.M. and rush home to fix the
Second, in a country like Russia, where temperatures are usually
below zero, milk or jam would not give Muslims enough calories for
a tough working day.
Only a strong meal would help them survive such temperatures and
hard work conditions.
Russian Muslims usually break their fast with milked dates.
In the Masajid dates,
water and food are provided for all visitors. Among the foreign
students too, who live in hostels, collective Iftaar are
For Iftaar, students from in and out of the hostel are
also invited, even non-Muslims also share.
Most people prefer Iftaar with their family members at
their houses. Special light dishes along with dates, fruits and
tea, etc. are common.
In the middle of the holy month, a
charitable “Ramadan tent” will be established near the main
memorial mosque in downtown Moscow. After sunset, Muslims and
guests will be able to try hot dishes prepared by cooks from
Turkey and Iran.
Ramadan in Moscow
Marat Arshabayev, Imam of Moscow Cathedral Mosque said in a
statement on the eve of 1st Ramadan, “The holy month of Ramadan
is a long-awaited month for every Muslim including those from
Russia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia and other
parts of the world. Remembering the words of the Prophet at least
on these days is considered to be a great advantage for our
businesses, deeds and actions.”
A student from Ghana, who visited Moscow during Ramadan
and spent one week there, narrates: Moscow is home to about two
million Muslims. The atmosphere of Ramadan here is well
experienced in and around the Masajid.
Last year more than 15 thousand Muslims along with the Minister
Louis Farrakhan, offered Eidul Fitr prayer at Cathedral Mosque of
Moscow. Many of them have to use their coats as Prayer Rugs. After
Eid Prayer and Sermon, the Minister offered Eid Greetings in his
The new regime of President Dmitry Medvedev is sympathetic towards
Muslims and wants their cooperation in nation building. Barely 20
days after Obama’s famous address to the Muslims in Cairo,
President Dimity Medvedev, addressed the Arab League Conference on
June 24 same year in the same city and insisted, “Islam is an inalienable
part of Russian history and culture, given that more than 20
million Russian citizens are among the faithful.” Consequently,
“Russia does not need to seek friendship with the Muslim world as
our country is an organic part of this world.”