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The Day of Islamic History and Culture at St. Petersburg State University

The day of Wednesday, December 7, 2016, can rightly be called “The day of the history and culture of Islam” for the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of St. Petersburg State University . The program of events was extremely rich: students and staff of St. Petersburg State University had the opportunity to attend lectures of leading Russian Islamic scholars and Muslim religious leaders in one day.

The first lecture was held by D. Mukhetdinov, Imam-muhtasib of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation.  The lector presented his books “Russian Islam: Ummah Traditions in the Conditions of Eurasian Civilization”, “Islam in Europe” and “Islam in XXI century: renovation program (collection of reports) “. The presentation took the form of a lecture, during which the author, in his characteristic bright and fascinating manner, spoke about the most topical issues and trends addressed in recent publications. D. Mukhetdinov outlined his vision of such topical issues as the situation of Muslim communities in Russia and Europe, problems and prospects of Islamic education in the Russian Federation, the current significance of the works of Muslim enlighteners of the past, the relationship between religion and ethnicity in the identity of Muslim communities.

On the same day, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Head of the Scientific Laboratory for Analysis and Modeling of Social Processes, A. Knysh, conducted a seminar with students on topics of interest to them. The most difficult were the questions of reforming or modernizing Islam. Is such a phenomenon possible or not? Is it possible to unite Muslims? Students were eager to share their thoughts and to know the point of view of Alexander Dmitrievich himself. The conversation took place in a friendly and warm atmosphere, and the students gained invaluable experience participating in this scientific discussion.

In the end of the day there were also held two lectures of the Russian orientalist and historian, deputy director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, A. Alikberov dedicated to the Quran narrative, biblical prophecies and the nature of traditional Islam in Russia. The first lecture “Between History and the Sacred Tradition: Sources and Historical Foundations of the Koranic Tale of Zu’l-Karnayn, Ya’juj and Ma’juj, and the Biblical Prophecy of Gogh and Magog” was held for bachelors and graduate students of St. Petersburg State University who study on specialists with an in-depth knowledge of the history and culture of Islam and is devoted to a comparative analysis and historical retrospective of Quranic stories about Zu’l-Qarnayn and the peoples of Ya’judj (Gog) and Ma’judj (Magog). A. Alikberov illustrated his words with colorful slides on which students could see the pages of ancient manuscripts, medieval book miniatures showing scenes from the lives of the peoples of Ya’juj and Ma’juj and ancient maps of the area where they supposedly lived, compared to modern photos from space.

The second lecture “On the nature of traditional Islam in Russia: features of formation, points of bifurcation, development prospects” was held for all students and staff of St. Petersburg State University. The topic of the lecture was veryinteresting for the audience due to its undoubted relevance. A. Alikberov talked about the history of Islam in the Caucasus, from the period when the Arab conquerors came to this region to the present day, about the history of ethno-religious interactions in the Caucasus region, about the relations between various Muslim groups during the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, and about the prospects for the development of Muslim community already in modern Russia.

The day, saturated with so many events, will certainly remain in the memory of the students, which is confirmed by the comment of one of them: “I received intellectual pleasure. Thanks to all the lecturers! ”

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