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the Caucasus
 
The spread of Islam in the Caucasus was concomitant with the period of the Islamic conquests. In 22 AH (643 AD), `Abd al-Rahman b. Rabi`ah reached the city of Darband (the land of Bab; Derbent). The Iranian governor of the region, Shahr Baraz, sued for peace. Subsequently, Saraqah b. `Amr sent a letter to the second caliph, `Umar, who conceded. Upon his accession to caliphate, `Uthman (23 – 35 AH / 644 – 656 AD) ordered Mu`awiyah, his governor in Syria, to dispatch Habib b. Muslimah Fahri, at the head of an army, to Armenia. The Muslim force reached Qaliqala (Erzerum), whose people initially engaged the invaders, but later came to terms and agreed to pay tribute. This resulted in the mass migration to Byzantium of a large portion of the region’s population.
Around this time, news reached Habib of a great force being gathered by Arminiyaqus against the Muslims, composed of the people of Alan, Abkhaz and Samandar. Habib rushed a letter to `Uthman asking for aid. The latter called on Mu`awiyah who sent a Muslim army to assist Habib b. Muslimah, which camped at Qaliqala. `Uthman also ordered his governor in Kufah, Sa`id b. `As b. Umayyah, to dispatch a second army, headed by Salman b. Rabi`ah Bahili. Salman, along with an army of six thousand Kufians, joined Habib in Qaliqala. There, however, arose disagreement between the two armies, which was settled by `Uthman who tasked Salman b. Rabi`ah with the capture of Aran.
Subsequently, the Arab army was split into two groups: Habib b. Muslimah marched toward Georgia, with the Syrian army, and succeeded in capturing Tbilisi; while Salman b. Rabi`ah, at the head of the Kufian contingent, conquered the cities of Bardha`ah and Bilqan. Next, he captured Qabalah (Kabalak) and reached Darband. There, his march came to a halt upon his arrival at the Balanjar River, where he encountered the forces of Khaqan, the ruler of Khazar. In the ensuing battle, Salman b. Rabi`ah fell along with four thousand members of his army. `Uthman appointed, and later removed, Mughayrah b. Shu`bah as the governor of Azerbaijan and Armenia.
At the time of the Muslim invasion of Iran, the military commander (ispahbad) of the Caucasian Albania (Aran) was an Iranian by the name of Jawanshir. The author of the History of Albania considers him as having been a descendent of Mehran and a member of the family of Khosrow II Parviz, since Khosrow’s maternal uncles by the names of Nabduy and Bastam (Wastahm), who took part in the conspiracy to assassinate Khosrow’s father, Hormuz IV, hailed from Mehran’s line. For many years, Jawanshir fought the Arabs alongside the Iranian army, but he left for Albania in 15 AH (636 AD) after the latter’s eventual defeat. In 40 AH (660 AD), Jawanshir united with the Byzantine emperor, Constantine II, against the Arab forces. Around this time, the Kkazars passed through Darband and invaded the lands lying to the west of the Caspian Sea. In 42 AH (662 AD), the Khazars, once again, launched an attack on Aran. As a result, Jawanshir twice traveled to Syria to conclude peace treaties with Mu`awiyah, who gave him his official endorsement as the governor of Aran.
In 50 AH (670 AD), Jawanshir was assassinated and the governorship of Aran was assumed by a figurehead by the name of Waraz Tirdad (50 – 80 AH / 670 – 699 AD) who was, in reality, controlled by the caliphs who ruled over the Caucasus; hence, the endemic series of revolts which convulsed Aran. In 81 AH, `Abd al-Malik Marwan (reigned 65 – 86 AH / 685 – 705 AD) dispatched his son, `Ubayd Allah, to Qaliqala, which was captured by the Muslim army. In the late 7th to the early 8th centuries AH, Muslim hold over Armenia was tightened and lasted for some hundred and fifty years.
The Islamic faith saw a rapid expansion in the lands west of the Caspian Sea, whose inhabitants were mostly adherents of the Zoroastrian religion. This was especially true with regard to craftsmen and merchants. However, in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus, people continued to cling to their long-standing Christian and Zoroastrian practices. The strategic position of the mountainous regions of Dagestan came to attract the attention of Arab commanders, especially owing to the fact that the protection of the fortifications at Darband, which dated back to the Sasanid period, was deemed crucial to the caliphal government. The eastern Caucasus, which was also important in terms of its economic position, had turned into a battleground between the caliphate and the Khazar khanates. The Eastern Roman state also supported the Khazars’ opposition to the caliphate. The population of Darband sided with the Khazars in their first attack against the city, in 31 – 32 AH (652 – 653 AD), which resulted in the expulsion of the Muslims, who succeeded in recapturing Darband in 65 – 66 AH (685 – 686 AD). The control of the city continued to change hands over the years.
In 91 AH (710 AD), Muslimah b. `Abd al-Malik arrived in Darband and captured a number of towns and fortifications. In 105 AH (723 AD), Jarrah b. `Abd Allah launched an attack on Alan, capturing a number of cities and fortresses until he reached Balanjar. One year on, Hajjaj b. `Abd al-Malik concluded a peace treaty with the people of Alan, on the condition of their payment of tribute. In 110 AH (728 AD), during the reign of Hisham b. `Abd al-Malik, Muslimah b. `Abd al-Malik marched against the Khazars, which are referred to by Tabari as a people of Turkish stock. One year later, Hisham appointed Jarrah b. `Abd Allah to the governorship of Armenia. From the above, it may be deduced that the early part of the 2nd century AH (8th cen. AD) was a period of increasing Muslim attacks on the western regions of the Caspian Sea, a territory whose complete conquest spanned an interval of a hundred years. Darband was eventually wrested from Muslim hands by the Khazars. A battle was joined some sixteen kilometers from the border of Armenia, which lasted three days and which resulted in the death of Jarrah. Next, Hisham appointed Muslimah b. `Abd al-Malik as the governor of Armenia and Aran, in 112 or 113 AH (730 or 731 AD). He stationed 24 thousand Syrian soldiers in Darband, one of the most significant Arab migrations to the region of the Caucasus. Mas`udi notes, “In between the land of Jaydan and Bab al-Abwab, there exists a group of Arabs who know but the Arabic language and who are scattered throughout the meadows and the woods and who are feared by the people of Bab.” In the period after Muslimah b. `Abd al-Malik the various parts of Dagestan were attacked by Marwan b. Muhammad six times. In 117 AH (735 AD), he dispatched two separate armies to Alan, who conquered three of its fortresses, and to Tumanshah, whose inhabitants were forced to make peace. In 121 AH (739 AD), Marwan marched to the Sarir region of Dagestan, that which is referred to by Tabari as Sarir al-Dhahb (the Golden Throne). He destroyed many of its fortresses and caused the Khazars to sue for peace, after which he reinstated its khaqan.
The `Abbasids came to power in 132 AH (750 AD) and, initially, enjoyed the support of the rural and artisan classes. This situation lasted but for a short while, after which the Caucasus came to witness a string of revolts against the `Abbasid caliphate. The Khazars broke the `Abbasid army in the region of Darband, as a result of which some seven thousand Muslim families, from Syria and Mesopotamia, were settled in the vicinity of the city. The border of the Islamic territory in the Caucasus was along the Terek River. Islam began to spread at a rapid pace in the southern regions of this border and, over time, became the sole religion of the area, so much so that the northern and eastern Caucasus became one of the most flourishing centers of Islamic culture. In the Caucasus region, apart from Armenia and Georgia which remained strongholds of Christianity, in the late 2nd century AH (8th cen. AD), the Caucasian Albania was divided into the three provinces of Aran, Mughan and Shirwan, whose governors were directly appointed by the caliph. The collection of taxes was the responsibility of caliphal agents, while matters of religion fell into the purview of the jurists. Initially, there existed Arab garrisons in the cities of Darband, Bardha`ah, Baylaqan and Nakhichevan, which were utilized by the caliphate. Later, local emirs replaced the agents from Baghdad. These took up the responsibility of collection of taxes and their transfer to the caliphal seat, as well as furnishing the caliphs with soldiers, in times of war.
In the early 4th century AH (10th cen. AD), the governorship of Aran was in the hands of Yusuf b. Abi al-Saj, but it was later assumed by Salar Marzban b. Muhammad. Following his death, the region of Aran was ruled over, for a period of a hundred years, by the Shaddadis, who were eventually supplanted by the Saljuks. The inhabitants of Aran were mostly made up of Sunnis throughout the reigns of the Mongols, the Timurids, the Shirwan Shahs, the Kara Koyunlu and the Ak Koyunlu. Beginning with the reign of the Safavid Shah Isma`il, Shi`ism started to spread in the region and was made the official religion in the 10th century AH (16th cen. AD), after the model of Iran.
The domination of Russian Empire over the Muslim regions of central Asia, the Volga River and its adjacent areas, and the Caucasus and the northern Black Sea region transformed the idea of the unification of the Muslims of these lands as a single front against Russia into a social exigency. In 1905, the Third Congress of Russian Muslims gave its official recognition to Ithna `Ashari Shi`ism alongside the four Sunni schools of Hanafism, Malikism, Shafi`ism and Hanbalism; a move intended to foster unity among the Muslims of the world. Over four million Muslims resided in the former Soviet Union, seventy percent of whom were in the Republic of Azerbaijan and the rest were scattered in the central Asian regions. Today, the Shi`ites of these areas follow the religious leaders in the cities of Najaf, Qum, Mashhad and Karbala.
The decline of the `Abbasid caliphate led to the establishment of independent governments in Egypt, Iran, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and the lands of central Asia and the Caucasus. In the eastern Caucasus, especially in Shirwan and Darband, there were established governments of occasional Arab origin. Therefore, the Arabs came to leave a deep impress on the people of Dagestan, most of whom practiced idolatry. The spread of Islam uprooted the simplistic beliefs of the people. The idea of the equality of all men before God became an expression of people’s dream of social justice and equality. The people of Darband and Samandar were the first to convert to Islam. Later, Darband became a major center of Islamic culture in the Caucasus. In the days of Harun al-Rashid (170 – 193 AH / 786 – 809 AD), Yazid b. Mazid was, after ten years, reappointed as the governor of Armenia in 183 AH (799 AD). He was given the rule over Azerbaijan, Shirwan and Bab al-Abwab. Yazid b. Mazid broke the army of the Khazars, who had invaded the Caucasus, and captured the fortress of Darband after heavy fighting, over which he ruled until his death in 185 AH (801 AD). In 205 AH (820 AD), Yazid’s son, Khalid, was appointed as the governor of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Aran, a position he held until 220 AH (835 AD).
In 237 (851 AD), Bab al-Abwab and its dependencies were awarded to Muhammad b. Khalib by the `Abbasid caliph, Mutiwakkil, as a form of grant (iqta`). The city of Ganjah, in Aran, was founded by Muhammad b. Khalid in 245 AH (859 AD). His brother, Haytham, ruled over Shirwan. In 247 AH (861 AD), in the aftermath of the death of Mutiwakkil, and the ensuing chaos, Haytham acted on his own initiative in waging war against the infidels of the region of Sarir (Ard al-Sarir), a move which earned him the title of Shirwan Shah. After his death, his son, Muhammad b. Haytham, engaged in much jihad. Around this time, the affairs of Shirwan and Darband became intertwined, where the revenue from the sales of Baku’s oil and salt was spent on bolstering the fortifications at Darband. In 255 AH (869 AD), Hisham b. Saraqah ascended to the emirate of Bab and set up an independent government. His family, referred to in historical sources as Bani Hashim, ruled over Shirwan and Bab for 215 years, until around 470 AH (1077 AD). After 300 AH (913 AD), a man from Syria by the name of Abu Muslim arrived in Dagestan and built a number of mosques. Islam also began to spread in other parts of southern Dagestan, which came to have their own mosques.
In the mid 4th century AH (10th cen. AD), the local rulers in the regions of Jaydan and Tabasran (Tabarsaran) were all Muslims. Later, the Lazgis and Tabasra’is also converted to Islam. The conversion of the inhabitants of the mountainous regions of Dagestan has been attested in many works of 1st – 4th centuries AH (7th – 10th centuries AD). Beginning in the 4th century AH (10th cen. AD), the spread of Islam in Dagestan assumed an accelerated pace, and Darband was transformed into a center of Islamic propagation for its adjacent regions. Around this time, one of the city’s gates came to be named as Bab al-Jihad. A large group of the people of Dagestan sacrificed their lives in an attempt to spread the Islamic faith. Darband’s cemetery is connected with the names of martyrs and is referred to by the Turks as the “Qarikhlar” (the murdered). Islam was on continued ascent in the region. In the 7th century AH (13th cen. AD), the city of Darband was protected by twelve iron gates and numerous towers, with adjoining mosques used by seminarians as schools of religious studies. Hamd Allah Mustawfi notes the people of the region as having been the followers of Shafi`i school, whose Pahlavi tongue had affinities with the Jilani language. Also instrumental in the spread of Islam in various parts of Dagestan and its adjoining areas were the Turks, including the Kipchak and the Saljuk Ghuz; since up until the mid 6th century AH (12th cen. AD) the rulers of Darband were subordinate to Saljuk rulers. Up until this time, the inhabitants of the Zarih Garan region of Dagestan had yet to convert to Islam. However, the invasion of the region by a combined force of the rulers of Darband and the Turks laid the groundwork for the acceptance of Islam by its inhabitants.
In the 7th – 9th centuries AH (13th – 15th centuries AD), the position of Islam in southern Dagestan entered a new phase of consolidation. The strength of Islam in southern Dagestan is borne out by the numerous stone inscriptions and other relics of the period. However, Ibn Athir’s note on the invasion by Tartars of Darband, in the Caucasus, and the massacre of the people of Lakz, in 617 AH (1220 AD), implies that there still existed those who were yet to convert to Islam. Beginning in the first half of the 7th century AH (13th cen. AD), the Mongols, who initially showed little inclination toward adopting the ways of Islam, had a change of heart and became advocates of the Islamic faith. In the wars against their Il Khan rivals, the Mongols took advantage of this factor as a means of attracting support for their cause, as was done by some of their Turkic allies, such as the Uzbeks. Around this time, the Muslim clergy of Dagestan came to enjoy the support of the government of the Golden Horde, as a result of which Islam became the ascendant religion in Dagestan, in the 8th century AH (14th cen. AD). Dagestan is characterized by one of the most diverse ethnic make-ups in the world. In spite of this, apart from a small population of Jews, referred to by the Turks as Dagh Juhudlari (the Jews of the Mountains), plus other groups such as Ukrainians, Russians and other non-native Christians, the bulk of the region’s population is mostly made up of Shafi`ite Muslims. There also exist scattered pockets of Shi`ites, predominantly, among the Lazgis.
The Avars are among the oldest inhabitants of the area falling within the modern-day Dagestan Republic. In the period of the 5th – 7th centuries AH (11th – 13th centuries AD), in Dagestan and the lands of the Avars, Islam and Christianity were on opposite sides; Islam had penetrated the region from the south (Aran and Shirwan), and Christianity from the west (Georgia). This confrontation was more pronounced among the Avars. One of their first written Islamic works dates from the 8th century AH (14th cen. AD), concomitant with Timur’s attack on Uskujan. The first introduction of Islam among the Avars is said to have taken place in the 7th century AH (13th cen. AD) by a person named `Abd al-Muslim, who converted a wide range of Avar tribes, from the Qaraqitaqs to the Chiriyurt. He, then, fought and killed the leader of the Avars, Surukat. `Abd al-Muslim ascended to the imamate of Dagestan in 663 AH (1265 AD). At the time of Timur’s attack, in 880 AH (1475 AD), the Avars of Gitadil region embraced Islam.
The neighboring regions of Dagestan and the Avar area, in northern Caucasus, were home to the Chechen and Ingush, the Awst (As, Irun), the Qubartah-Bulgar (Kabardin-Balkar), the Charkas, the Karachai and Adighah (Adighe). Up until the 10th century AH (16th cen. AD), the Chechens remained faithful to their ancient beliefs. Christianity has also been attested in the region, which appears to have been introduced in the 2nd century AH (8th cen. AD) through Georgia; since, today, there still exist remains of stone churches with crucifixes, especially in the valley of Argun, which were brought to light in 1303 AH (1886 AD). In the 10th century AH (16th cen. AD), Islam was introduced in Chechnya by the way of Dagestan. The Avar and Kumyk clergy would travel to Chechen villages in order to spread the message of Islam. Later, there arose Muslim clerics from among the Chechens themselves. These received their religious education in the villages of Kumukh, Akushi and Andri A’ul. The spread of Islam was much faster in the plains than in the mountainous regions.
Beginning in the early 13th century AH (late 18th cen. AD), concomitant with the rise of Sufi orders in the region, the struggle against infidelity, as a means of combating the Czarist aggression, was initiated as a movement of jihad. This was mainly spearheaded by the shaykhs of the Naqshbandi and, at times, Qadiri orders. The first Sufi master to declare jihad against the Russians was Mansur Ushurma, a Naqshbandi imam from Chechen. His movement spread to the northern regions of Dagestan and Kuban, but met with defeat in Kabardin. Imam Mansur was arrested by the Russians in 1205 AH (1791 AD) and died in prison in 1207 AH (1793 AD).
The period 1235 – 1246 AH (1820 – 1830 AD) witnessed a series of uprisings which were especially fueled by the migration to Shirwan of Sufis from Asia Minor. Shaykh Muhammad Afandi Yaraqluri was the second Naqshbandi master to declare jihad against the Russians. He was the master of Ghazi Muhammad and Shaykh Shamil, the first and third imams of the Naqshbandiyyah of Dagestan, whose movement is referred to in Russian history by the title of Muridism (Muridiyyah). The movement persisted for a period of thirty-five years, from 1239 to 1275 AH (1824 – 1859 AD), and was brought to a tragic end by the arrest and subsequent death of Shaykh Shamil.
The expansionist designs of the Russian Empire for Muslim regions, the Caucasus in particular, gave rise to fundamental changes. The Islamic lands were referred to as dar al-Islam and were governed by Islamic rules. The non-Muslim populations of these areas were under Muslim supervision. On the other hand, the territories which fell under Russian control, and whose inhabitants were forced to submit to non-Islamic rules, came to be considered as dar al-harb; a circumstance which obliged many Muslims to leave their ancestral homes.
In the aftermath of Shaykh Shamil’s defeat, the Naqshbandi Sufis created an underground organization which was active in Chechen and Dagestan, a move that coincided with the rise of the Qadiri Sufi order in the Caucasus. The Qadiri ideology was initially marked by mystical and ascetic tendencies. But soon this gave way to a policy of armed resistance. In fact, the Qadiris stood alongside their Naqshbandi brothers in the anti-Russian revolts in Dagestan and Chechen, in 1295 – 1296 AH (1877 – 1878 AD). Among such movements in the post-Russian Revolution period mention must be made of the Dagestan-Chechen uprising of 1920 – 1923. The Naqshbandis, led by two masters by the names of Najm al-Din Gutzu (Gotzo) and Shaykh Uzun Hajji, fought for five years; first, with the White Guards and, later, with the Red Army, in a revolt which swept across Dagestan and Chechen. Finally, with the introduction of the 11th Army, and after many bloody battles, Imam Najm al-Din was arrested in 1344 AH (1925 AD) and executed. In 1347 AD (1928), several revolts broke out throughout the Muslim regions of the northern Caucasus, all of which were put down by the Soviet government. The years 1934 and 1941 – 1942 witnessed a resurgence in movements of resistance, which, though marked by nationalist sentiments, were joined by large groups of combatants from Qadiri order.
The source of law for the people of Dagestan and Chechen was referred to as “adat”, a combination of ethnic traditions and the Islamic shari`ah. The religio-administrative system of Dagestan and Chechen was referred to as imamate, which was, in turn, divided into fifty-two other niyabats (deputyships). Each niyabat had its own religious and military organizations, subordinate to the imamate. Each nayib (deputy) was empowered to carry out penal and religious punishments, except executions. Nayibs appointed the muftis, who, in turn, presided over judges. Muftis and judges were obligated to enforce the orders of the imam. The mufti had the power to remove a judge, in case of a judicial indiscretion. Nayibs exercised control over all aspects of the lives of their subjects. There were also a body of muhtasibs tasked with keeping watch over the actions and behavior of the people. There existed thirty-two diwan khanahs, which carried out the administrative affairs of the realm. Issues of special import were sorted out in consultative gatherings made up of religious and official personages. Needless to say, this setup underwent significant changes under the czarists and was completely abolished after the ascendancy of the Soviets.
The Chechens are Sunnis of Shafi`ite orientation. In 1253 AH (1837 AD), there were 310 mosques in Chechnya. In the decade of the 1930s, the number of Chechen mosques and religious schools stood at 2,675 and 140, respectively. With the exile of the Chechens and the Ingush, in 1944, all the mosques and schools were closed down, such that by 1978 there were only two mosques left open in Chechnya. However, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union facilities have been created for the performance of religious ceremonies.
The Ingush, who live alongside the Chechens, are Hanafite Sunnis. Islam found its way into Ingush land via Chechnya and was declared as the official religion in the 13th century AH (19th cen. AD). According to the evidence, in the 11th – 12th centuries AH (17th – 18th centuries AD), the Ingush were Christians who entered Chechnya through the Georgian border.
The Awst (As), which refer to themselves as the Irwan, are people of Aryan stock who reside near the Chechen Republic and the land of the Ingush. The researchers consider them as being Iranians and Aryans of Saki-Sarmati and Alan stock who have mingled with the Caucasian people. Ostia is comprised of the two northern and southern regions. The first is part of the modern Russian Federation while the other falls within the Georgian state. The majority of the Ostain population is Christian, with a small Muslim minority. Islam was introduced into the northern region of Ostia (Kabardin), in the 11th – 12th centuries AH (17th – 18th centuries AD). The Muslim Ostians are Sunnis who follow the religious leadership of the northern Caucasus and Dagestan, centered in Makhach Qal`ah.
Qubartah-Bulgar region lies to the west of northern Ostia. The people of Qubartah are Sunni Muslims. Sunni Islam was introduced to the inhabitants of Qubatah by Ottoman sultans and Tatar khans of Karimah (Qaram; Qarim), in the 9th – 11th centuries AH (15th – 17th centuries AD). Prior to this time, Christianity was brought to the region by the Romans and the people of Georgia. In 995 AH (1587 AD), the Karimah khanate launched a major offensive against Qubartah which resulted in widespread destruction. With the infiltration of the Ottomans and the Tatars of Karimah, the rivalry between Islam and Christianity was settled at the cost of the former, such that apart from a small minority the rest of Qubartah converted to Islam. The Karachai and the Charkas reside in the western Qubartah-Bulgar region. They are Hanafite Sunnis who follow the clerical authorities of the northern Caucasus and Dagestan region, based in Mukhach Qal`ah. Islam was first introduced to both groups in the 12th century AH (18th cen. AD). It is reported that Ishaq Afandi, from Qubartah, played a crucial role in the transmission of the Islamic faith to the Karachai. There exist several mosques in the autonomous Karachai-Charkas state. The cost of construction of mosques and Islamic schools are met through zakat payments.
The Charkas, who also go by the name of Adighah, like many inhabitants of the northern Caucasus region, were followers of Christianity throughout the medieval period. The remains of ancient churches are indications of the popularity of the Christian religion in the centuries past. Islam came to prominence in Adighah in the 10th century AH (16th cen. AD). However, some hill people clung to their original beliefs right up to the 12th century AH (18th cen. AD). Beginning in the late 18th and early 19th centuries AD, Islam and Sunnism started to infiltrate Adighah through the efforts of the Ottoman Turks. The acceptance of the religion by the people of the region resulted in the spread of certain elements of the Arabic language among them. Throughout the course of the Caucasian wars, Islam remained the symbol of resistance of the people of the region to Russia. The inhabitants of Adighah are adherents of the Hanafite school.
The Abaz are a native people of the northern Caucasus whose original homeland was in the northern shores of the Black Sea and who first migrated to their present location in the 8th – 10th centuries AH (14th – 16th centuries AD). The Abaz came into contact with the Nughay (Nogay), who were Sunni Muslims, following their migration to the Caucasus region. Islam gradually found acceptance among the Abaz people. However, there is little evidence with regard to the mode of the spread of Islam among the Abaz and its ascendancy to the status of the prominent religion. It is speculated that the Abaz first came into contact with Islam during the 11th – 12th centuries AH (17th – 18th centuries AD).
The Nogay reside in the northern Caucasus region and converted to Islam in the 7th century AH (13th cen. AD). However, the major phase of their conversion to Islam took place in the 8th century AH (14th cen. AD). These Nogay were originally part of the Nogay tribe who broke off from the Golden Horde following its decline in the later 8th century AH (14th cen. AD). The coming of the Nogay to the Caucasus led to the Islamization of the Abaz. The clergy were selected from among the literate Nogay, competent in Arabic reading and writing. In the 12th – 13th centuries AH (18th – 19th centuries AD), Arabic reading and writing was widely practiced among the Nogay. Boys were sent to traditional schools in order to learn the Arabic language. However, these schools were supplanted by Russian ones in the second half of the 19th century AD. The Nogay are adherents of the Hanafite school.
The Lak are natives of the Caucasus and reside in the southern flank of the northern Caucasus Mountains. They are followers of the Sunni branch of Islam. Islam first found its way into the Lak territory in the course of the Muslim conquests, but received official status in the 7th and 8th centuries AH (13th – 14th centuries AD). Like the Avars, the Lak are practitioners of Shafi`ism.
The Lazgis flourish in the southern regions of Dagestan. Both, Sunnism and Shi`ism are practiced by the Lazgi people.
In addition to the above, the following ethnic groups comprise the Muslim population of the Caucasus region: the Dargin (Darqin), the Rutul, the Tisakhur, the Kurds, the Abkhaz, the Ajar, the Tat, the Ayrum, the Akhwakh, the Andi, the Archin, the Bagulal, the Butlikh, the Budukh, the Chamal, the Didawis, the Gudubrin, the Kapuchin, the Qarapakh, the Qutray, the Khimshin, the Khinalug, the Khinzal, the Khuwarshin, the Kariz, the Qubachi, the Laz, the Turks of Misikhiti, the Iranians of the Caucasus, the Shahsawan, the Talish, the Tinadis, the Tiruchmin, and the Miskanu.
Today, there exist four Islamic clerical centers in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), two of which are in the Caucasus region: the first is the Islamic clerical center of northern Caucasus located in Dagestan, based in Mukhach Qal`ah, and the second one is the Islamic clerical center of the Caucasus, based in Baku. The former is of Sunni affiliation, while the latter is both Sunni and Shi`ite. These centers operate independently, both in terms of administration and religious orientation.
 
* source: Reza , Enayat Allah "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.546- 552
 
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