What kind of Muslims were in Central Asia before the Soviet Union? Were they integrated in the Muslim world or were they on the sidelines of the mainstream events? How much did they contribute to Muslim heritage? How hard was it for the soviet houses of culture to influence the Muslims of Central Asia? This paper attempts to explore these questions and these aspects of the history of Central Asia.
I begin by very briefly going over the history of Islamic expansion into Central Asia. The expansion in my view can be separated into two periods, the pre-Abbasid period and the Abbasid and post-Abbasid period. Pre-Abbasid period is the period before the Abbasid Empire took hold of expansion in Asia, and it can be characterized by fluctuation. Fluctuation in terms of which lands the Muslims had expanded into; many times the Muslims will defeat an army, the defeated armies regroup attack the Muslims and so on. The Post-Abbasid Empire period is characterized by stability and fruitfulness; the period after which turmoil had settled in the area and the people and land got a chance to flourish under the ruling of Islam. And while the beginnings of these effects does start in the Umayyad Empire before, the full results of Islam’s rule over Central Asia can be most clearly seen during the Abbasid era.
Expansion into Central Asia begins as early as the year 637 during the time of the Muslim Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab. At the time, the Muslim army leader Al-Ahnaf Ibn Qays (1) in the battles with the Persian empire had pushed the last king of the Sasanian Empire Yazdegerd III all the way back to Amu River near Balkh at the Battle of Oxus River (4). The Amu River is in todays’ Turkmenistan and so is in the western side of Central Asia. The expansion continues in the time of the Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan all the way to Khorasan and then settles for a while due to internal Muslim struggles (3).
The next big phase of Islamic Expansion into Central Asia is expansion under the Umayyad Empire. While there conflict persisted in the beginning of this era, Muslims held their ground with multiple Muslim leaders being appointed as mayors of Khorasan. The main expansion happened during the time of the Caliph Al-Waleed Ibn Abdul Malik (year 705 - 715) under the leadership of the Muslim general Qutayba Ibn Muslim Al-Bahili (6). By the end of his life, Ibn Muslim had taken control of most of current day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and he had built the first Mosque in Bukhara in the year 713 (3). His Brother Saleh Ibn Muslim took over after him and stabilized the Muslim expansion into Fergana near current day Kirgizstan (3). After the death of the Caliph Al-Waleed Ibn Abdul Malik and Abu Muslim, some of the areas they had expanded into whom were still ruled by the old Turks, revolted against the Muslims. Struggle for power continued for some time, and in parallel the Muslims focused on teaching Islam to the indigenous people of Central Asia, especially during the time of the...