Tashkent, the Capital of Islamic Culture

Issue #2 • 2532

With the attainment of independence, people’s life in Uzbekistan has changed dramatically. The capital city has become ever more beautiful, the protection of religious convictions of the citizens has been enhanced; they rehabilitated and restored sanctuaries, mausoleums, tombs and burial-vaults of prominent representatives of the Muslim world such as Abu Iso Muhammad ibn Iso at Termezi, Bakhoutdin Nakshband, Khoja Ahrar Vali, Imam al-Bukhori, Imam Moturidi, Abdukhalik Gijduvani, Amir Temur and Burkhoniddin Margilani.

Tashkent was the native land of many scholarly theologians known all over the world. The city is rich in historical architectural monuments and was a model city of ideas for the entire Turkestan area.

The names of many of our famed ancestors will forever remain in its history. They are Kaffal al Shashiy, Sheikh Khavand Tokhur, Khoja Ahrar Vali, Bakhriddin Chochi, Khafiz Kukhaki and Abubakr Shashi.

Uzbekistan has acquired big authority in the Islamic world, which prepared the ground for proclaiming its capital city Tashkent the Capital of the World’s Islamic Culture in 2007. This honorary title is given by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), which is one of the units of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

In 2007, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (ISESCO), which is one of the units of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, pronounced Tashkent the Capital of the world’s Islamic culture. This title is given to certain cities in the Muslim world, which make an important contribution to the development of cultural links, to the studies, revival and promotion of historical heritage, and to the strengthening of inter-confessional and inter-civilization contacts. Tashkent, the most ancient city in Asia, the rich history and culture of which occupy a special place in the history of global civilization, has earned this high and honorary title for the remarkable achievements and contribution Uzbekistan made into the Islamic culture and science, the preservation of monuments and further enrichment of Islamic heritage.

With the attainment of independence by our country, people’s life in Uzbekistan has changed dramatically. The capital city has become ever more beautiful, the attitude towards religion has changed and the protection of confessional beliefs of the citizens has been improved. Owing to the policy pursued by the country’s President Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan has earned even greater authority in the Islamic world, which largely facilitated the award of the title of the Capital of the world’s Islamic culture to its main city.

Tashkent was the home place for the whole Pleiades of world-famous scholars and theologians. Over the recent years the country rehabilitated and restored sanctuaries, mausoleums, tombs and burial-vaults harbouring the remains of prominent representatives of the Muslim world such as Abu Iso Muhammad ibn Iso at Termezi, Bakhoutdin Nakshband, Khoja Ahrar Vali, Imam al-Bukhori, Imam Moturidi, Abdukhalik Gijduvani, Amir Temur and Burkhoniddin Margilani.

Tashkent was an ideological model for the entire Turkestan area, the school of education and enlightenment. The names of our famed ancestors such as Kaffal-ash-Shashiy, Sheikh Khavand Tokhur, Khoja Ahrar Vali, Bakhriddin Chochi Banokati, Khafiz Kukhaki and Abubakr Shashi will forever remain in its history.

A well-known scholar Yekut al Khamavi in his book titled “Mu’jam al-Buldon” offers the following description of Tashkent: “The city of Shash where many a scholar, writer and story-teller was born and grew up, is situated beyond river Saikhun, in the area bordering on the Turkic land. Its buildings, adjacent to one another, stretch as far as the foothills of the mountains. The city, the largest on this territory, is located on a plane with soft soil. Its spacious buildings are constructed with clay, and aryks stream water through most of its yards. Green orchards are everywhere. It is the cleanest city in Mavarannakhr.”

Tashkent is rich with historical monuments of Islamic architecture. The most ancient and well-known district of Tashkent is makhalla Khastimom, the former religious, spiritual, academic and educational centre. In recent years a large-scale work has been done to rehabilitate and restore the Khazrati Imam religious complex that keeps one of the most ancient and sacred copies of the famous Koran of Usman. Also located in this part of town are the Khazrati Imam mausoleum, Barak-khan madrasah that graduated hundreds of theologians, Tilla Shaikh Cathedral Mosque (presently the Tashkent Islamic Institute) and the library of the Administration of Uzbekistan’s Muslims in which the priceless Muskhafi of Usman, the first compiled copy of Koran, and copies of Koran in different languages are kept. Kaffal Shashi mausoleum is erected over the tomb of a scholar and theologian, a gifted writer and poet who was known under the name of Abubakr Muhammad ibn Ali al Kaffal-at-Shashi al Kabir (904-976).

The Khazrati Imam mausoleum is also known under the name of Khastimom. According to some sources, Khazrati Imam himself had a nickname Kaffal (Kulfchi, lock-man) that he earned by inventing a lock and a key that weighted 0.5 grams. For his profound knowledge and great deeds he was also referred to as Imam al-Kabir (“great name”). The legend has it that he knew 72 languages and translated the Old Testament (Torah) into Arabic. For the first time the mausoleum above the tomb of this scholar was erected during the time of Amir Temur. The building that survived till present days was completed already under Amir Barak-khan in 1542 (architect Gulam Khusan). It is a large praying hall, in its red corner facing kiblah there is a tomb of Imam Kaffal Shashi; on either side of the tomb there are chillakhona and a bit lower the tombs of the scholar’s two sons – Muhammad at Shashi and Nizomiddin Shashi. Also buried in this sacred place are Muhammad Nomi who came to these parts from Baghdad and lived here ever since, his father Makhmud Nomi and his son Khoja Kalan. On the right side of the entrance to the mausoleum there are tombs of Khafiz Kukhaki and Ali Kushchi, the grandson, disciple and follower of the great scholar of that time Ulugbek; the tomb of Vasifiy is on the left.

As soon as the government of Uzbekistan took the decision to improve the area of the sacred place Khazrati Imam, a large-scale rehabilitation work began. The Kaffal Shashi mausoleum was also restored: they freshly painted the domes whose colours faded from rain and wind of many centuries; the collapsed walls were raised again. As the Kaffal Shashi mausoleum is a sacred place of pilgrimage, new structures were built around it to create a single architecture ensemble.
The Barak-khan madrasah, the Tilla Shaikh Cathedral Mosque and the Namazgokh located in this historical complex were also restored.

An integral part of the ongoing large-scale work is the restoration of calligraphic inscriptions artfully created on the portals of buildings. The history of calligraphy in Central Asia begins in medieval times. The architects of the epoch of Amir Temur and the Temurids paid much attention to calligraphic inscriptions, putting them on the walls of madrasah, mosques, mausoleums, praying halls and other buildings in Samarqand, Herat, Baklh, Mazori Sharif, Khiva, Bukhara, Tashkent and other cities. The specimens of calligraphic inscriptions that survived through the centuries are as important spiritual heritage of the Uzbek nation as the architectural monuments themselves.

The area of makhalla Khastimom where Muyi Muborak madrasah and Tilla Shaikh Mosque are located was also called Makhvatayi Mulloen, i.e. the place where scholars and clergy concentrated. The Muyi Muborak madrasah was erected in the 15th century. The madrasah acquired its name (“the sacred hair”) because the hair of Prophet Muhammad was kept here. According to some sources, one of the prominent representatives of Sufism, Khoja Ahrar, used to teach in this madrasah.

In 1856-1857, following the order of Kushbegi, the governor of the Kokand khan in Tashkent, the Muyi Muborak madrasah was reconstructed. Books presented by Eshan Babakhan ibn Abdumajidkhan provided the basis for establishing a library under the madrasah that has survived till present day and has become the library of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims. Currently, the library counts over twenty thousand rare manuscripts in different languages.
Even today there is a ceaseless flow of pilgrims craving the sight of the holy of holies – Koran rewritten during the times of Usman ibn Afon.

During the time when Khazrati Usman was the caliph of the Muslims, disputed arose about the reading of selected verses (ayat) of Koran. To put the discord to an end, Koran was written down on buckskin in six copies in calligraphic hand kufi and sent to different parts. In the 50s of hijra one of the six copies was brought to Samarqand and for many years caringly kept in Nodira Devanbegi madrasah. In 1869, after the tsarist Russia took over Samarqand, this book known as Muskhaf Khazrati of Usman was taken away to St. Petersburg and placed into the Emperor’s library. After the repeated requests of Muslims, in 1918 the Muskhaf Khazrati of Usman was handed over to the city of Ufa to the Muslims of Russia. And finally, in 1924 the Muskhaf Khazrati of Usman returned to Turkestan. Initially it was kept in the mosque of the Turkestan Islamic Society, and since 1941 – in the Museum of History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan. Since 1989 the sacred manuscript has been kept in the library of the Administration of Uzbekistan’s Muslims. Muskhaf Khazrati of Usman is the rarest and priceless gem, which is loved and revered by every Muslim.

In the 16th century Navruz Akhmadkhan, the ruler of Tashkent, known by the name of Barak-khan, built Barak-khan madrasah (1531-1532) in front of Makhvatayi Mulloen. Inside the madrasah building there are two mausoleums. One of them was erected for Barak-khan himself at his own order. However, at that time he could not imagine that his dust was destined to rest in Samarqand.

The gates of the madrasah and the doors of its cells are enchased with ivory and non-ferrous metals. Bright blue domes of the madrasah have earned it a new name common among people – the Blue Domes. However strong the structure was, the time took its toll: weather and wind began to destroy the madrasah. In 1956, through the effort of mufti Eshan Babakhan the building was restored and housed the operations of Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

A building that presently hosts the Tashkent Islamic Institute named after Imam al Bukhari, with four large, richly decorated mosques situated around it, was once called Namazgokh. The Namazgokh mosque was built in 1845-1865 during the rule of the Kokand khan Khudoyar. Prayers in this mosque were mainly read on Fridays and religious holidays of Yid (Khait). In the years of revolution the mosque, like many other historical monuments of Islamic architecture, was looted and destroyed. In 1970 the building was handed over to the Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, following which restoration work started immediately. Through the efforts of a well-known master Nasib-ota, his son usto Karim who were aided by usto Naim-aka, the mosque was completely restored. At the about the same time the issue was raised about training of specialists who would have deep knowledge in the history of Islam and the Arabic language. Thus, in 1971 in Tashkent, in Namazgokh mosque the Islamic Institute was opened, which is still functioning.

The Tilla Shaikh Cathedral Mosque was built in 1903. Its founder Tilla Shaikh bobo was one of the wealthiest men of his time, famous for his justice, generosity and care for poor people.
Khoja Ahrar Vali Cathedral Mosque.

The Khoja Ahrar Vali Cathedral Mosque is known by the fact that it once kept the sacred book called Usmon Quroni (the Koran of Usman). In 1875 when the mosque was destroyed, the Koran was taken to Samarqand. With the attainment of independence by our country the mosque was restored to become one of the most majestic buildings that adorn the capital city. Khoja Ahrar Vali Ubaidullah was born in 1404 in Tashkent. He built mosques and madrasah not only in his native town, but also in Samarqand and Bukhara.

Kukeldash madrasah is a historical monument of architecture located in the centre of old Tashkent in Chorsu district. It was built on the order of Kulbobo Kukeldash who was the vazir (minister) of Dervish-knan, one of the sons of Barak-khan (Navruz Akhmad). Kukeldash madrasah is one of the oldest and unique buildings in the city. It trained the most educated people of that time – writers and poets, clergy and statesmen. Presently, Kukeldash madrasah houses a school run by the Administration of the Muslims of Uzbekistan.

Abulkasym madrasah was built in 1850. The building has embodied the experience of many centuries and the finest achievements of medieval architecture. Currently Abulkasym madrasah hosts the offices of a charity foundation “Oltin Meros” (The Golden Heritage). The ancient hearth of science and enlightenment, nowadays the madrasah became the school of renaissance and the development of traditional decorative and applied art of Uzbek people.

In the years of independence the country began to pay a lot of attention to religious education. The fact that Islamic University that trains highly skilled theologians, and special religious schools for women, such as “Kukeldash” and “Khodichai Kubro”, are functioning in the capital of Uzbekistan is the most explicit evidence that the government cares about religious freedom of the people.

In order to improve the quality of training, as well as material and technical facilitation of education institutions, student workstations are being equipped with modern technical means, including computers. Teaching methods in Islamic schools meet the requirements of today.

In the Khazreti Imam religious complex they built a two-domed mosque with two minarets. The altar section of the mosque consists of a large praying hall with two domed vaults. On either side of the entrance there is a spacious terrace with pillars adorned with carving.

Ancient Tashkent grows younger and more beautiful every year. Modern stately buildings are being erected, there is a lot of landscaping work done on streets and parks, and new art galleries, museums and fitness complexes are being opened. Under implementation is a program for socioeconomic development of the city, which was devised and initiated by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov.

Yusufjan Makhmudov, Bakhodir Akhmedov

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