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Biographical Data :

Name :Shaikh Shamil
Period :1796 - 1871
Biographical detail : Shaikh Shamil is a legendry Caucasian Muslim, born in the town of Gimry which is in current-day Daghestan. While still a young man, he was drawn to a great contemporary Daghistani leader and Naqshabandi activist, Ghazi Muhammad, who challenged the Tsarist Russian rule and died in combat.

Shamil took up the mantle of leading the Chechen and Daghestani Muslims in defending their homeland from a corrupt occupation: "under the pretext of collecting taxes and fines, their best belongings were taken [by the Russian inspectors]; it happened that completely innocent people were arrested because of a denounciation....". Shamil beseeched the Ottoman Sultan for help, but to no avail. The Ottomans themselves were embroiled in internal disputes between the Sultanate and the pasha of Egypt, Muhammad Ali.

Unaided, Shamil's forces made significant gains in the 1840s through adept military tactics - the use of feints, the principle of 'moving separately and fighting together' and the use of artillery - his lieutenant Jabrail al-Unsukuluwi built and managed a gun foundry and a gunpowder mill.

This is an example of Shamil's declarations in this period: "With trust in God, His slave Shamil to the valiant Chechen people, peace and God's blessing be upon you, Amen...with God's help I took with no difficulty at all the town of Ghazi Ghumuq..."

Shamil created an administrative structure within the liberated territories, based on a hierarchy of mudirs (directors), na'ibs (deputies) and maz'ums (village elders). Additionally there was a separate structure of muhtasibs,who travelled around incognito and had the powers of inspection. The executive authority of the na'ibs was kept separate from the judiciary - the muftis and qadis of the shariah courts. Shamil did not baulk from changing cultural practices, in particular the need for young men to make exorbitant payments to the bride's family, and the injustices of serfdom.

The exasperated Russians responded with both a show of force, mobilising the entire Caucasian Corps and the Fifth Infantry Corps, and a strategy of bribing local chieftains. By the summer of 1859, Shamil and his forces were outmanoeuvred and encircled. They took their last stand on Mount Ghunib and were beseiged for two weeks. With no help coming from the Ottomans, in the end Shamil surrendered. In 1869 he was given permission to retire to Mecca, and he travelled there through Istanbul. He would die in Medina in 1871 while visiting the city, and was buried the Jannatul Baqi.

A historian notes that "Shamil's struggle was known, and sympathised with, all over the Muslim world...all they could do, in fact, was to pray for Shamil's success, as the amir of Bukhara was reported to have done".

Source: Muslim Resistance to the Tsar - Shamil and the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan, by Moshe Gammer, Frank Cass, 1994
 (Compiler : M A Sherif)


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