The Shia Bureaucratic Experience

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In 1862 the Sheikh ul-Islam of Tiflis and superintendent of the Shia Muslim school, Ahmed Husein Zadeh (Saliansky), was appointed the Sheikh ul-Islam of Transcaucasia (No. 28). After demonstrating and proving that he was loyal to the government and an interested person, he prepared a series of regulations and draft statutes aimed at organizing the life and activities both of ordinary Muslims and of clerics.

In August 1863, on the orders of the Caucasus viceroy, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich, the Sheikh ul-Islam of Transcaucasia was sent to Tiflis and Baku gubernias and the Derbent town governor’s office, and in September 1864 to the Erivan Gubernia for an inspection of the activities of religious institutions. While he delivered sermons at mosques on obedience and allegiance to the Russian Emperor Alexander II, Ahmed Husein Zadeh provided these institutions with special regulations for uezd kadis [judges] that governed the activities of religious judges. Initially the draft was sent in 1863 to state councilor A. L. Graf for his review, and he in turn, after adding his comments, forwarded it to the General Department of the Interior Ministry. According to §31 of the “Regulations on the Governance of Muhammadan Clergy of the Teachings of Ali,” guides of this kind were the responsibility of the Sheikh ul-Islam and did not require approval from the top leadership.

In January 1864 the Sheikh ul-Islam of Transcaucasia, Ahmed Husein Zadeh, sent the chief of the main administration of the Caucasus viceroy, A. P. Nikolai, a draft of “Rules” on the management of property belonging to Shia mosques, as well as his comments regarding the organization of Muslim religious governance in the Transcaucasian Krai. The question of determining and organizing wakf property was of considerable interest to Russian officials. This was tied not only to the determination of the living standards of clerics but also to the possibility of using the income derived from the wakfs to cut government spending on supporting the clergy and religious schools.

Following the regulations for the uezd kadis and the rules on management of wakfs, the Sheikh ul-Islam in February 1864 presented a draft statute on the structure of Muslim religious governance in the Transcaucasian Krai. Two years later Ahmed Husein Zadeh sent the deputy director of the administrative department a Russian translation of the “Rules” prepared in 1865 for management of the activities of Sharia majlises, a directive on the procedure for electing clerics and the form of announcements of approvals for religious positions and titles.