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Rabbi of Makhachkala synagogue embraced Islam



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 mosque.

- 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 synagogue?

- 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 Qur'an. Not to all of them, of course, because it wasn’t the Arabic original, but the translation. But I had begun to understand things.

- Does it mean that you couldn’t find some answers in Judaism?

- 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 Allah bless him!)?

- 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 bless him!). 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 bless him!)”.

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 false. Allah controls us. And you think: if this way is the right way, then why is there something that goes the wrong way?..

- 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 just heard.

- And there’s only you and him who works in this mosque?

- 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