Rabbi of Makhachkala synagogue
Jews for Islam
Every person has a different way of coming to the Truth.
For Moisha Krivitsky this way led through a faculty of law, a
synagogue and a prison. The lawyer-to-be becomes a Rabbi, then
he converts into Islam and finds himself in prison. Today Musa
(this is the name he has adopted when he became a Muslim)
lives in a small mosque in Al-Burikent, a mountain area of
Makhachkala, and works as a watchman in the Central Juma
- Musa, before we began talking, you asked what we were
going to talk about. I said: ‘About you.’ ‘What’s so
interesting about me?’ you wondered. ‘I live in the
mosque’. How did you come to live in the mosque?
- Well, I just dropped in... and stayed.
- Did you find the way easily?
- With great difficulty. It was hard then, and it isn’t
much easier now. When you go deeply into Islam’s inner
meaning, you understand that this Religion is very simple, but
the way that leads to it may be extremely difficult. Often,
people don’t understand how a person could be converted into
Islam ‘from the other side’, as it were. But there are no
‘sides’ here: Islam is everything there is, both what we
imagine and what we don’t imagine.
- Musa, as a matter of fact, we were given this fact as
a certain sensation: a Rabbi has turned Muslim.
- Well, it has been no sensation for quite a long while
already - it’s more than a year that I did this. It was
strange for me at first, too. But it wasn’t an off-the-cuff
decision. When I came into Islam, I had read books about it, I
had been interested.
- Did you finish any high school before coming to the
- Yes, I finished a clerical high school. After graduation,
I came to Makhachkala, and became the local Rabbi.
- And where did you come from?
- Oh, from far away. But I’ve already become a true
Daghestani, I’ve got a lot of friends here - both among
Muslims and people who are far from Islam.
- Let’s return to your work in the synagogue.
- It was quite a paradoxical situation: there was a mosque
near my synagogue, the town mosque. Sometimes my fiends who
were its parishioners would come to me - just to chat. I
sometimes would come to the mosque myself, to see how the
services were carried out. I was very interested. So we lived
like good neighbours. And once, during Ramaḍaan, a woman came
to me - as I now understand, she belonged to a people that was
historically Muslim - and she asked me to comment the Russian
translation of the Qur'an made by Krachkovsky.
- She brought the Qur'an to you - a Rabbi?!
- Yes, and she asked me to give her the Torah to read in
return. So I tried to read the Qur'an - about ten times. It
was really hard, but gradually I began to understand, and to
get a basic notion of Islam. (Here, Musa looked at my
friend’s son, the six-year old Ahmed, who had fallen asleep
in the mosque courtyard. “Should we probably take him inside
the mosque?”, asked Musa.) And that woman had brought
back the Torah. It turned out to be very difficult for her to
read and understand it, because religious literature requires
extreme concentration and attention.
- Musa, and when you were reading the translation, you
must have begun to compare it with the Torah?
- I had found answers to many questions in the
to all of them, of course, because it wasn’t the Arabic
original, but the translation. But I had begun to understand
- Does it mean that you couldn’t find some answers in
- I don’t know, there’s Allah
’s will in everything.
Apparently, those Jews who became Muslims in the times of the
Prophet (let Allah
bless and greet him), couldn’t find some
answers in Judaism, but found them in Islam. Perhaps, they
were attracted by the personality of the Prophet (let Allah
bless him!), his behaviour, his way of communicating with
people. It’s an important topic.
- And what exactly were the questions that you
couldn’t find answers to in Judaism?
- Before I came into contact with Islam, there were
questions which I had never even tried to find answers to.
Probably, an important part here had been played by a book
written by Ahmad Didat, a South African scholar, comparing the
Qur'an and the Bible. There is a key phrase, well-known to
those who are familiar with religious issues: “Follow the
Prophet who is yet to come”. And when I studied Islam, I
understood that the Prophet Muhammad (let Allah
bless him!) is
the very Prophet to be followed. Both the Bible and the Torah
tell us to do it. I haven’t invented anything here.
- And what does the Torah say about the Prophet (let
- We won’t be able to find this name in the Torah. But we
can figure it out using a special key. For example, we can
understand what god this or that particular person in history
worships. The formula describing the last Prophet (let Allah
bless and greet him) is that he would worship One God, the
Sole Creator of the world. The Prophet Muhammad (let Allah
bless him!) matches this description exactly. When I read
this, I got very interested. I hadn’t known anything about
Islam before that. Then I decided to look deeper into the
matter and see whether there were any miracles and signs
connected with the name of the Prophet (let Allah
The Bible tells us that the Lord sends miracles to the
prophets to confirm their special mission in people’s eyes.
I asked the alims about this, and they said: “Here’s a
collection of true Hadiiths which describe the miracles
connected with the Prophet (let Allah
Then I read that the Prophet (let Allah
bless him) had
always said that there had been prophets and messengers before
him (let Allah
be content with them). We can find their names
both in the Torah and in the Bible. When I was only starting
to get interested, it sounded somewhat strange for me. And
then... Well, my own actions led to what happened to me.
Sometimes I get to thinking: why did I read all this? Perhaps,
I should say the tauba (a prayer of repenting) right
now for having thoughts like that.
- Should I understand you, Musa, that you now feel a
great responsibility for becoming a Muslim, or do you have
some other feelings?
- Yes, responsibility, but something else as well. I
can’t put my finger on it now. When a person knows Islam
well, he’s got both his feet firmly on the ground. Islam
helps a person I would be insincere if I said that the all the
Daghestani are such ‘knowing’ Muslims. We sometimes talk
about it in the mosque and I like to say that there are not so
many real Muslims in Daghestan - only the ustaths (learned
theologians) and their students, and the rest of us are
just candidates. I can’t say that we do what the sunna
requires, we’re only trying to. And when we don’t do what
we should, we’re trying to invent some clever excuses. These
efforts should have better been applied to doing our duty.
It’s hard for me to watch this. Sometimes, I’m distracted
by what is happening around me, as well. I haven’t got
strength enough to fight this, and the weakness of my nature
shows clearly here. I can’t say I’m totally helpless, but
I have no right to say that I’ve achieved anything in Islam.
I’ve only got torments.
When I understood that I had to become a Muslim, I thought
that Islam was a single whole - one common road, or a huge
indivisible ocean. Then I saw that there were a lot of trends
in Islam, and new questions appeared. All these trends are
like whirlpools, they whirl and whirl... it’s very hard! If
a person tells you: “Look, we fulfil all the Hadiiths, only we
understand еру Qur'an correctly”, then you
follow this person, because you think that he speaks true
things, and because you want to please Allah
. But then, after
a couple of months, you understand that these claims were
controls us. And you think: if this way is the
right way, then why is there something that goes the wrong
- Musa, and what brought you into the prison?
- A good question, this, isn’t it?
- Who welcomed you there?
- If there’s Allah
’s will to everything, then this was
His will as well. Regarding life from behind the barbed wire,
going through all of this, that was a certain school for me.
- How did it happen?
- I’ve recently seen a programme on the TV, and a
representative of the Chechen republic in Moscow - I forget
his name now, I believe he had some beautiful, French-sounding
name, something like Binaud - he said that if the authorities
were going to carry on like they had done before - barging
into homes, planting drugs and weapons on people - then the
people would be out in the streets protesting. This has
happened to many here. So there was something planted on me.
Then they came and took me away at night.
Before that, I had had a certain notion about he forces of
the law here... well, I couldn’t think they would use such,
well, not very polite methods. Islam doesn’t let me use a
stronger word. Allah
estimates what every man does, and those
people will have to answer for what they have done.
But the three months I spent in prison, they probably
helped me to make my faith stronger. I saw how people behaved
under the extreme circumstances, both Muslims and non-Muslims,
how I behaved.
It would be good, of course, if the people in power would
pay their attention to this problem. They shouldn’t be
trying to eradicate Islam with such unsavoury methods.
- Musa, why were the authorities frightened by you?
- No idea. Even children aren’t afraid of me.
At this moment, our conversation was interrupted by a
stunningly beautiful azan.
- Is there a muezzin in your mosque?
- Yes, his name is Muamat Tarif, it was him that we’ve
- And there’s only you and him who works in this
- Well, as a matter of fact, only he works. He allows me...
I still can’t get used to things after prison. He allows me
to live here. It’s hard to recall this. I had a certain
trouble with the people whose flat I was living in, the
understanding between us somehow failed. I started perceiving
them in a different way. But it’s probably bad to be looking
for other people’s drawbacks, I’ve probably got more.
People started arriving to the mosque. We rose and
hastened for the prayer, too