Salafi Sinusoid. 21 century

Today, with high technologies, A.I. developments, cognitive researches and nearly every day scientific discoveries that change the modern society and everyday life, the world is facing the global religious conflict. 


This is the conflict, the subject matter of which is not evident even to those people who are directly involved, needless to say of those who may happen to be in subway or at a railway station close to a suicide bomber with the Shaheed belt.

The international jihad as the phenomenon seems to be beyond the atheistic Christian-based comprehension of the ordinary European, Russian or American. What are the origins and causes of this religious conflict and is this clash actually based on religious contradictions?

We have discussed this problem with Dr Prof Efim Resvan, a Russian analyst of Islam, Arabist, Deputy Director of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


  Where is the border between the classic Islam, a peaceful religion as any other confession, and all kinds of pro-Islamic religious sects and movements which advocate jihad and extremism?

– Islam is fantastically diverse, and we hardly can say any “classic” version does exist. Initially, Islam contains adaptation mechanisms of a mobile ideological system.

This religion was born at crossroads of the key trade routes of the Silk Road. Sasanian Iran and the Byzantine Empire were constantly fighting for areas of influence in this region, bringing the destabilization and threatening the safety of caravans. The people settling down in the Inner Arabia, traders and merchants who had organized and controlled all passing caravans became the first audience for Mohammed the Prophet. The political goal of the arising Islam was to reconcile opposing forces, partly, for pragmatic commercial profit. In fact, Islam is the religion of merchants; all ancient Islamic scholars were merchants who wrote religious texts when they were out of duty.

It is worth mentioning that the route of commercial caravans was also the route for pilgrims; when traveling, the trader could praise the God and worship sacred places. In an attempt to avoid conflicts, the initial Muslim khutbas called for tolerance and forgiveness, recognizing the holiness of all prophets of the key monotheistic religions, who had preached before Mohammed. In Islam, Moses is referred to as Musa the Prophet; Jesus is Isa, Word of God and the Spirit from Him.

Tolerance and the concept of reconciliation were the basis of the Muslim religion in the period of its rise and forming. In the process of Islamization – from the Middle East to India and Africa – Islam gained the unique feature in every region, closely intertwining with local traditions and cults.

The key role in the expansion of Islam was played by Sufi teachings and practices, the important part of which was connected with the sacred places. Meditation practices of Sufism played a certain role – dervishhood rites, which are often accompanied with playing musical instruments, reciting the Quran ayats, special rhythmized movements, devotional attitudes, and breath control. These practices easily absorbed elements of the local culture, thus contributing to the expansion of Islam. However, after a short period of time, other preachers or “Salafis” appeared. They blamed local Muslims for the digression from the values and “ritual purity of true Islam”.

At the beginning of the 20th century one could find the Salafi movements both in Volga and Pre Tibetan areas, the Salafi state – Saudi Arabia – appeared… In several cases the theological debates over rituals turned into clashes and violence. As usual, there were powers attempting to solve, first of all, their own economic and political problems under the guise of theological debates. In the 21st century, we can see the same situation.

One can mention here the peculiar “swing”, the circularity in the development of Islamic communities – varying from Sufi preferences and rituals to “appeal to origins”. Powerful and poorly studied Salafi waves regularly roll over the entire Muslim world and cause the response “Sufi reaction”. On the other hand, the energy of Sufi preaching often encountered the response growth of popularity of the concepts of “purifying Islam from distorting novelties”

As a result, the whole history of Islam can be represented as the peculiar sine wave. As a rule, regional forms of its existence are self-sufficient and, no doubt, “equivalent” As for me, it becomes evident that for many centuries the development of the Islamic civilization has been passing in the form of conflicts between conventionally “local” and “Salafi” forms of Islam. This is the “inner engine” of the development.

Now, we can see the next rise of the Salafi movements that the representatives of radical Islam are trying “to saddle”. It is first of all the interim Islamic conflict, which is indicated through everyday reports on deaths and killings in the Muslim lands. New technical capabilities only contribute to going over old ground. However, my expeditionary experience shows that not all Salafis are jihadists by definition, and not all supporters of the Sufi movements are necessarily peaceful.

  Does the text of the Quran contain so-called “dangerous sections”: words that can be manipulated by interpreting them in the opposite or distorted meaning for somebody’s interests and for justification of military aggression? If yes, please give a couple of examples.

– Of course, there are such text sections. Muslim scholars (as, by the way, scholars in other religions) often interpreted the sacred text in accordance with the urgent political request. For instance, in the 13th–14th centuries Ibn Taimiya and his apprentice Ibn Kathir were searching spiritual grounds for the possibility of military confrontation with Muslims prohibithed in the Quran: the Chingisids who had already accepted Islam intensely conquered the territory of Levant, the motherland of scholars. The peculiar interpretation of the 5th surah helped answer many questions arising among faithful Muslims fighting the aggressors.

Here the key extracts of the ayats: And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the disbelievers (5:44); And judge between them by what Allah has revealed … Then is it the judgement of [the time of] (jahiliya) ignorance they desire?” (5:49-50)

Here is the scholars' comment: “Regard people who follow prescription and laws established by people in order to satisfy one's vicious wishes and whims rather than to strictly follow the Shariat regulations given them by Allah. That was happened to dwellers of Arabia at the time of jahiliya… Today, the same situation is with Mongols following Genghis Khan’s “Ifse”, which is partly the code of laws derived from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other law systems, partly established in accordance with Mongolian rulers' whims… Those who follow these laws established by people [not by God] are disbelievers”.

In combination with ayat (9:5)[1], which, as pronounced later, “supersedes” 124 ayats, pronounced earlier, we have a sort of guidelines to jihadists. That is one of the examples of quotations taken out of the context, which certain Muslim scholars are skillfully manipulating with. Such a tradition of the Islam adaptation to instantaneous political trends dates back to ancient times.

Which peculiarities of the Syrian religious environment may affect the fastest conflict resolution?

– In the historical point of view, Syria is one of the most important world’s regions where many religions and interests are represented. For centuries, people living here belonged to different religious trends, but they managed to get along with each other. Algorithms of relationship accumulated for centuries are still available. As soon as the massive external intervention tearing the country apart is stopped, these algorithms will be on full display.

In your opinion, what are religious, historical, probably, social grounds for appearance of the ISIS (the terrorist organization prohibited in Russia)? Which arguments of their preachers-recruiters influence young people, sometimes even Europeans, making them join Islamists and become suicide bombers?

– The global economic and political system refuses to take into account financial and economic capabilities of the Islamic world. Islamic countries are not represented in real “elite clubs” (Security Council, G7). The Islamic elite increasingly recognizes that in the conditions of the upcoming economic crisis associated with a new economic order the humanity is tending to, the first world countries can carry out a powerful confiscatory campaign. The alternative is likely to be the establishment of a powerful Islamic state (Khalifat) armed with nuclear weapons (Pakistan). Funds, organizations and mass media appear, acting as sponsors, coordinators and advocates for activities of the kind. At the same time, rich Islamic states are investing enormous funds in the sponsorship of leading western universities and research centers specializing in the Islamic studies. The situation is quite simple: money talks.

After the collapse of the USSR and discrediting communism as the ideology, no alternative to capitalism is left. With the absence of competition, capitalism has turned to severe formatting of the humanity and individuals. Now we can see the global expansion of the so called Western values, which are facing national traditions and the need for justice, which has not disappeared and cannot disappear. With the absence of the opposite civilization model, the ideological vacuum is filled by the “Black International”.

The increasing competition among the global centers of power (the USA, Western Europe, China, Russia, India) makes secret services create jihadist organizations and use them to fight competitors. For example, how to explain the fact that until recently, the “Dabiq”, the main ISIS propaganda magazine, has been available for purchase at

The national patterns of life and thought, rise in births and reduction in mortality led to decades of population boom in Islamic countries. In these conditions, the development of national systems of secondary and higher education leads to massive excess production of young ambitions graduates who cannot find the rightful position within the system under conditions of the insufficient economic growth. Means of social mobility stop working, giving birth to a numerous and dangerous group in the society, dissatisfied with authorities (besides, these concerns are associated with a scandalous statement by A. Fursenko, a former Minister of Education, that the main goal of the national education system is the education of qualified consumers). These young people are the main target for a jihadist preach in the East, West, and in Russia.

The global expansion of the Internet, the creation and development of social networks and messengers led to the formation of the unprecedented technological base for self-organization and propaganda of any extremist organizations.

The propagandist arguments are subdivided into three groups: social justice, economic disparity, long-time exploitation of the global South by the global North. The solution to all these problems is Islam in its jihadist version as the way to justice.

There is a group of arguments which emphasize the genuineness of Islam in relation to other religions. In the context, it is important to note the myth telling that unlike other important religious memorials, the Quran was supposedly created in such a way that neither a letter nor a sign were changed after the text had been recorded. However, the arguments of this type are defeated by the science, which shows through the history of the ancient Quranic manuscripts how difficult was the way to the text of the Quran, which is published in bulk issues nowadays.

New defence order. Strategy | 05 | 2018


[1] “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush!” The Quran, 9:5

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