Shrines of Uzbekistan

At all times the ancient lands of present-day Uzbekistan – once the major crossroads of the Silk Road routes – were the place where various beliefs and religions came into being and evolved in harmony with each other. Many of the sights are associated with outstanding personalities of the past, whose holy sinless lives, spiritual virtues and philosophic views were powerful witnesses to their contemporaries and a pattern of selfless devotion and deep faith for the  next generations.  Today, a large number of pilgrims from all over the world come to Uzbekistan to kneel before its Islamic shrines and be blessed.          

      Hojja Daniyar Shrine

One of the most ancient, worldwide known legends is that of the Old Testament prophet Daniel. He is equally revered by the followers of three religions– Jews, Christians and Moslems. According to the Bible, Daniel, who was called Hojja Daniyar by Moslems, was a descendant of King Solomon and lived in the 5th-4th centuries B.C. in Jerusalem. God endowed him with ability to prophesy.

Daniel properly interpreted one of the Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, and was lavishly showered with the king’s favours. Having moved to Babylon, Daniel foretold many impending events including the destruction of the Persian Kingdom by the Greeks and the breakup of the empire of Alexander the Great into four parts. Daniel accurately predicted, four hundred years before the events occurred, the advent of Christ in Jerusalem, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. One of the visions was that of God imparting to the mankind the holy book “closed up and sealed until the time of the end”, which is the Koran.

Once Daniel had a vision of “a man clothed in linen”, who ordered him to make a journey to distant countries. Thus one day he arrived in Samarkand, to the court of the Persian Achaemenid satrap of Sogd. He lived in Samarkand through the last years of life, having reached a very old age. The Christians praise Prophet Daniel’s memory, and the Moslems alike revere Hajji Daniyar as saint. 

At Afrosiab archeological site, which hides the ruins of ancient Marakanda, at the edge of a cliff overhanging the Siab river, there is one of the oldest Samarkand burial places - Hajji Daniyar mazar. The Prophet’s mortal remains are buried here. 

Unusually long sarcophagus, 20 metres in length, can be explained by a mysterious quality of the saint’s body to grow. It goes on growing in the grave and has already become gigantic. (Some explorers believe that the tombstone of such a size was meant to protect the prophet’s remains from desecration: it is not easy to find the remains in such a big grave)

 Next to Hajji Daniyar’s tomb there is a spring. Its water is believed to be holy, able to heal both body and soul. All year round pilgrims belonging to various religions come to the shrine for cure from all over the world.


Imam al-Bukhari memorial complex

For centuries a center of Islamic theological activities was Bukhara, one of the oldest Central Asian towns. It won the honorary titles of “the Dome of the Faith” and “the Blessed Town”, and became sacred town to all the Moslems

To a great extent Bukhara managed to get such a status thanks to the eminent Sunni scholar Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari. He went down in history as the author of Al Jami as Sahih, a collection of the most authentic hadiths, the book second only to the Koran. From the extant records we know that al-Bukhari was born in Bukhara in 810. His grandfather was a fire-worshipper who accepted Islam. His father, Ismail ibn Ibrahim, was considered quite an educated man; he kept in memory a lot of dastans and legends, and was known as a muhaddith, a person who profoundly knew and narrated hadiths - oral traditions of the Prophet’s words and deeds. It is no wonder that in his childhood al-Bukhari, who had an inquiring mind and a lot of diligence, began to excel at theological subjects. But what he was particularly interested in was the study of hadiths.

Driven by his thirst for knowledge, young Al-Bukhari turned from one teacher to another and moved from Damascus to Cairo, from Basra to Baghdad,  from Hijaz to Kufah. Wherever he traveled he collected and put down hadiths. From almost 800 000 traditions he managed to collect, he finally selected 7397, those he believed to be authentic. In his book Al Jami as Sahih he arranged them according to the subject. The book contains chapters on history, law, ethics, medicine and other subjects. Many of the hadiths of the book were later included in Sharia – Moslem principles of jurisprudence, thus getting the status of a law for the faithful.

Another fundamental work by al-Bukhari dealt with the biographies of almost a thousand narrators of hadiths. The scholar had been working on the book for almost 16 years and accordingly entitled it At-Tarikh al-Kabir, which means “The Great History”. Altogether Imam al-Bukhari wrote about 20 works on theology, which dealt with a wide range of philosophical issues.

Al-Bukhari spent most of his life traveling from one country to another, collecting hadiths and enlightening the faithful. At the end of his life he returned home, to Bukhara. Emir Halid ibn-Ahmad summoned al-Bukhari to live in the palace and participate in the talks of the court scholars. But al-Bukhari did not want to change his mode of life. Emir ordered to banish al- Bukhari from Bukhara.

Old al-Bukhari had to settle down in the village of Khartang located in 12 kilometres from Samarkand, where he died in the year of 870 at the age of 60. His grave became sacred. In the 16th century there was built a burial-vault and a mosque over his grave, with plane trees planted around. In the course of time these constructions dilapidated, and in 1998 there was built a memorial complex at the site. The complex consists of a mausoleum and a mosque which can accommodate up to 1500 believers at a time. A visit to al-Bukhari memorial is considered by the Moslems to be equal to a minor hajj.


At-Termizi Mausoleum

One of the best of al-Bukhari’s numerous disciples and companions was his younger contemporary Abu Isa Mahammad ibn Savra ibn Musa ad-Dahhak as-Sulami, known in the Moslem world as Imam at-Termizi (at-Tirmidhi). He was born in 824 in the village of Bugh, a suburb of Termez, Surkhandarya Province. His striving for knowledge of God’s revelations recorded in the holy Moslem book Koran and scrupulous study of hadiths had a great impact on young at-Termezi’s philosophical views. He set himself the prime task of giving scholarly interpretation of what was said in the Koran, as well as of the life, deeds and sayings of Prophet Muhammad. He performed hajj to Mecca and stayed in Arabia for many years. There he became a disciple and associate of hadith scholar Imam al-Bukhari. There he revised many interpretations of the Koran and hadiths and developed a clear and consistent system of views on the gist of the Moslem faith and on its first professor, the Prophet. At-Termezi set forth his views in the following theological works: “A Treatise on Differences and Interpretations in Hadiths”, “A Book on Piety”, “A Book on Names and Nicknames”. He wrote over 30 books. Of these the most popular was “The Great Collection”, which during its author’s life was translated from Arabic into Persian and Old Uzbek. In this book, in an impressive literary form, he presented 408 hadiths about the life, habits, tastes, nature and even the appearance of Muhammad.

At-Termezi went down in history not only as an outstanding muhaddith; he was also the founder and sheikh of the Sufi order Hakimi - “the order of the wise”.

At the end of his life at-Termizi’s eyesight deteriorated; he was in poor health and was homesick. When he returned to his hometown Termez in Surkhandarya, he settled in the suburbs, near khanaka - living abode and shrine of Sufi hermits. After his death in 892, he was buried in the courtyard of the khanaka. In the 12th century a mausoleum was built over his grave, which soon became a sacred site for many Moslem pilgrims. At the beginning of the 15th century a sagana-tombstone appeared over his grave. This white marble tombstone is a masterpiece of ornamental stone carving

Al-Maturidi Mausoleum

Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi as-Samarkandi immortalized himself as one of the first theorists of Islam who created a consistent philosophical doctrine of the Moslem faith. One of the great imams, he was the initiator of Moslem discipline of Kalom – a rationalistic interpretation of the basics of the religion, as well as a founder of the world’s largest Moslem Sunni school of Kalom. Called “Maturidiyah”, this school rests the interpretation of Islamic doctrines on reason, rejecting blind adherence to religious laws and citation of authorities. Al-Maturidi’s conception places the human power of reason really high; he calls upon everybody to base their beliefs on their own logic and popular traditions, without regard to God’s predestination; he professes personal responsibility of a man for his actions and keeping the society in harmony.

Al-Maturidi’s teachings became especially popular in Movarounnahr, because they were based on the local traditions and customs. His works on the fundamentals of theology and sharia, such as Kitab al Tawhid (Book of Monotheism), Ma’akhidh al-Shara’i (On origins, sources and practice of Islamic jurisprudence), Kitab Ta’wilat al Quran (Book of the Interpretation of the Koran) and others are of great value and topicality; the evidence to this is the fact that in Moslem countries they have been republished several times within a thousand years.  His main work Kitab al Tawhid is justly considered the earliest Moslem theological treatise dealing with theory of knowledge.

Muhammad Abu Mansur, known as al-Maturidi, was born in the village of Maturid, near Samarkand. In late 9th century, he studied at al-Aayozi madrassah in Samarkand, famous for its lecturers who were prominent theologians of the time: Abu Nasr al-Ayadi and Abu Bakr al-Juzjani.  Later Maturidi himself used to give lectures at that very madrassah. Maturidi was most concerned about the issues of ethics, sharia, and moral perfection of a Moslem person. It’s hard to overestimate the impact Maturidi’s teachings had on scholars of the next generations.

Abu Mansur al-Maturidi as-Samarkandi died in 944. According to his will, he was buried at the famous Samarkand necropolis Chokardiza. The necropolis, which had been set up in the 9th century, became the last resting-place of many prominent Moslem scholars. Over the grave of the great theologian there was erected a mausoleum. But time did not spare it. In 2002, when the world was celebrating the 1130th anniversary of al-Maturidi, his mausoleum was restored and the area around it was renovated. Today the memorial to the famous scholar of the Orient is visited by a large number of people from various countries.

                                                                           Rustam Mirzaev