The Murder of a Sufi Leader

We have received recent reports of a Russian woman whose husband somehow persuaded her to commit suicide in the presence of a certain Sufi leader active in their community. Russian media quoted police as saying that Said Atsayev, a renowned Sufi Muslim spiritual leader popularly known as Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi, was killed in an attack when the woman entered his home disguised as his follower and detonated an explosive belt around her waist. The blast happened in the village of Chirkey in the southern republic, which borders Chechnya.

The Russian authorities on Wednesday identified the female suicide bomber as Aminat Kurbanova, a 30-year-old resident of Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala. A news agency claimed she was an ethnic Russian woman (Saprykina) who had converted to Islam after marrying an Islamist militant.

Witnesses say as many as 150,000 of mourners converged on a cemetery for the burial of Said Afandi, and thousands more flocked to his grave the following day. President of Dagestan Magomedsalam Magomedov officially announced August 29 a day of mourning in the republic.

Any psychiatrist would diagnose the married couple from Russia, or any other Muslim who commits suicide for any ostensible reason, as psychotic in the extreme. In fact, the use of suicide by Osama bin Laden, for whatever patriotic or false religious conviction, has opened the door to a practice that has brought disrepute and total rejection of Islam as a religion by millions of secular individuals throughout the world, especially the United States of America.

If we examine the teachings of the Sufis in Pakistan who have come under attack, or most others for that matter, we will find that they are peace-loving, warm-hearted individuals. They seem particularly strong (such as, for example, among the traditional Islamic learning institutions here in Malaysia) in social care and concern for others. Why, then, are some of these most peaceful of Muslims coming into dangerous times?

One possibility is that they are living the true values of Islam more effectively and openly than most Muslims themselves, and so many Muslims-by-habit may feel jealous toward them. And then, in particular, when the humanistic values in social and compassionate political relations emerge among Muslims with some emphasis, the more left-brained and rigidly theological Muslims, such as the Russian husband most recently reported, somehow feel justified, under Muslim auspices, to resort to such an extreme example as using the suicide of one’s own spouse or even child as a weapon against them.

There can be no argument in their favour, even if their enemies the “Sufis” come to use the term “saint” and are buried in elaborate tombs. No illegal or clearly immoral action may be taken in the name of Islam against these Muslims who, like Imam Malik, are striving for an equitable balance of the laws and regulations of the Qur’an and Hadith with the right-brain compassion and empathy developed by various systems of zikir which all Tariqat use.

We may well object if a certain spiritual leader pays more attention to wrong priorities than to the real Islamic teachings itself, yet the only action we can peaceably take against them is to decline to participate. If the residents of the villages of the Saudi group which performed the murders on 9/11 still emulate and speak proudly of their sons (which we are told they do), all we can do is ask Allah’s protection from the Shaitan who exploits such uneducated and basically criminal sentiments. As we pray for protection from this unbalanced Russian couple who have desecrated their own marriage and created more fear amongst peace-loving community.


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