Thursday, 1 December 2011

Imam Shamil & Haji Murad.

Al Salamu 'Alaykum.
Imam Shamil and Hadji Murad, little known in the West, loom large in Russian history. Here is what Wikipedia says about them: Imam Shamil (1797 - 1871) was an Avar political and religious leader of the Muslim tribes of the Northern Caucasus. He was a leader of anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War and was the third Imam of Dagestan and Chechnya (1834-1859).Imam Shamil was born in 1797 in the small village of Gimry, which is in current-day Dagestan. His father was a free landlord, and this position allowed Shamil to study many subjects, including Arabic and logic. Shamil established himself as a well-respected and educated man among other Muslims of the Caucasus. He made a pilgrimage or hajj to Mecca in 1828 and there he met Abdel Kadir, from whom he learned guerrilla war tactics.

Shamil was born at a time when the Russian Empire was expanding into the territories of the Ottoman Empire and Persia (see Russo-Persian War, 1804-13 and Russo-Turkish Wars). Supported by the Persian Shah, many Caucasian tribes rebelled against Russian rule in what became known as the Caucasian War. Some of the earlier leaders of Caucasian resistance were Sheikh Mansur, and Ghazi Mollah. Shamil was actually childhood friends with Mollah, and would become his disciple.

In 1834, Ghazi Mollah died at the battle of Ghimri, and Shamil took his place as the premier leader of the Caucasian resistance. Shamil was effective at uniting the many, frequently quarreling, Caucasian tribes to fight against the Russians. He made effective use of guerrilla warfare tactics and the resistance continued under his leadership until 1859. On August 25, 1859 Shamil and his family surrendered to Russian forces and were jailed in the Dagestan gaol of Gunib.

After his capture, Shamil was sent to Saint Petersburg to meet the Tsar, and then was exiled to Kaluga, then a small town near Moscow. In 1869 he was given permission to retire to the holy city of Mecca, and he travelled there through Istanbul. He died in Medina in 1871 while visiting the city, and was buried in Jannatul Baqi which is also the site where many important personalities from Islamic history are buried. His two sons (Cemaleddin and Muhammed Efi) became officers in the Russian army. Shamil continues to be revered in the Caucasus for his resistance to the Russians, and is held up as a role-model by those leading the current fight against Russian control of the region. The Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev is named after him.

Hadji Murad (18??-1853) was an important Caucasian leader during the national resistance of the Caucasian peoples in 1711-1864 against the Russian Empire's seizure of the region. Leo Tolstoy's posthumously published novel Hadji Murad (1912) is a fictionalized account of Murad's struggle with the Russian Empire.

Hadji Murad was born in a small oul named Tselmas, in the first quarter of the 19th Century. He is a famous Caucasian hero, coming as second only behind Shamil himself. Murad is ethnicly an Avar and was arguably among the best marksmen of his time, having a reputation for not shooting twice at the same target. Leo Tolstoy had written a masterpiece about him with the his name Hadji Murad. Although his life was short and full of heroism, at first he was actually on the Russian side (the historical enemy of his people and his way of life. But later when Russians arrested him after one of his rivals set him up for a crime he never did, his attitude changed against them. He was being escorted by a troop detachment to exile, but Hadji Murad escaped by jumping off a cliff with one of his captors whom he grabbed in the last second.

 Hadji Murad was severely wounded from the fall (always cartying the injury from the fall thorugh the rest of his life), while the Russian soldier died instantly. He stayed at a nearby village and decided to join Imam Shamil. He sent a letter to Shamil and asked to join him. Shamil gladly accepted him (Shamil had asked for his help early on but was refused by Murad). While fighting under Shamil, Hadji Murad performed many successful raids against the Russian invasion forces. He also invented some totally new military tactics to give a quite well known example; reversing the shoes of horses so anyone who folled him went to the wrong direction. For some years the two great warriors wrecked havoc and fear among Russian Army, causing many problems. This partnership was not to be long. Some of the Shamil's naibs turned Shamil against Hadji Murad because of their jealousy against Murad.

Shamil named his son as his successor, and this angered Murad. Learning Murad's reaction, Shamil ordered him to be stripped of his rank and the war tribute he captured earlier. Hadji Murad wrote an angry reply; "the only thing I have with me is my sword and let Shamil take it with his own!" Shamil was enraged by this and immediately prepared for a duel, but he was stopped, and bloodshed was avoided, but the partnership that began with a letter ended with another one. Shamil secretly arranged to kill Murad as soon as his talents were no longer needed.

Hadji Murad was a clever man. He suspected the plot by Shamil against his life, and he escaped and went over to the Russians with four of his loyal friends. The Russians were pleased to see this great warrior on their side. They had hoped that this new development would end the long and costly war. When Shamil learned about this, he reacted by imprisoning Murad's whole family. Hadji Murad was enraged when he heard the news, and he asked Russians assistance to save his family. But the support never came... The Russians were suspicious of Hadji Murad from the beginning, and they held him in a Russian fort in the Caucasus. During this time discouraging news kept coming to Murad's ears about his family's condition, while Murad was a prisoner far away.

He even asked to lead a Russian-Caucasian force to crush Shamil, but the Russians refused all his offers. Finally Hadji Murad couldn't stand waiting while his family were being held prisoners by his new enemy. Murad planed his escape with his four loyal men. He made his escape when only five Cossacks were left to escort him on an innocent looking ride. It was an even battle in numbers, but the Cossack guards did not know what hit them, and only one managed to escape and warn the Headquarters back at the fort. Now Hadji Murad had no time to waste and had to move quickly if he was to have a chance...

According to Leo Tolstoy's fictionalized account of Murad's life, he was killed during this attempt at escaping from the Russian fort in which he was imprisoned. He was permitted to ride out with five of his men with the escort of five Cossacks. Hadji Murad and his force fled on horseback, killing the pursuing Cossacks. But one Cossack, Mishkin, managed to escape and informed the fort of the situation. The Russians hastily raised a posse of police forces and bounty hunters. Murad and his force stumbled into a swamp. Murad was killed.

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