22 May 2003, 04:06

Beliefs of the Avars

Avars are Moslems - sunnits of shafiit kind. Before the adoption of Islam Christianity was common among the Avars, it came in the 4th -5th century from the neighboring Georgia.

The first attempts to convert the Avars to Islam were made by Arabs in the 7th-8th centuries, by the 15th century it became firmly established. Along with the orthodox Islam among the Avars there?s the Sufism of the Nakshbandhi kind with the so-called ?calm? or ?quiet? zikr with no dances.

The structure of Sufi community was used as a base for the organization of the imamat of Shamil that included all the Avar territory. After the defeat of imamat the so-called ?muridizm? retained among the Avars as a way of spiritual perfection. During the years of the Soviet power the Avars managed to keep both the Sufism and the orthodox Islam. In spite of the persecutions in some places there survived some live bearers of Islam traditions: sheikhs and alims-theologians. Secretly there were mosques in many villages. That?s why now Islam is not reviving, but gets from the underground to the social life. The mosques are being built actively, Arab literacy is being spread. Inability to perform a Mohammedan prayer is blamed by the public opinion. Main Moslem holidays are widely celebrated - the Breaking of the Lent and the Sacrifice. Mavlid is as popular - the birthday of the Prophet, celebrating it is considered a divine affair as thus the true believers communicate with the spirit of the prophet. Mavlid may also take place on any important occasion with no relation to the day and even to the month of the birth of the Prophet. The cult of the saints is widely spread. There survived some elements of the pre-monotheistic beliefs: faith in demons, following the agricultural and family rites. Recently vakhabit ideas got spread among the Avars.

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