The People of Uzbekistan, Religion
mystical form of Islam, Islam Karimov, Andijon, Uzbeks, religious literature
As in the other Central Asian states, the predominant religion in Uzbekistan is Islam. Uzbeks and other Muslim peoples of Uzbekistan are primarily Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. There are small, yet growing, communities of Muslims whom government authorities allege are fundamentalist Wahhabis. The Russian and Ukrainian minorities are traditionally Orthodox Christians.
Islam first appeared in the area of present-day Uzbekistan with Arab invaders in the 8th century. Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, became a strong influence in the political and economic life of the region between the 11th and 13th centuries. Sufi travelers brought Islam to non-Muslim conquerors of the region, who used the faith to increase their legitimacy among the local population. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Naqshabandiya became the dominant Sufi order. Naqshabandiya Sufis such as Khoja Ahrar (1404-1490) became wealthy landholders and powerful political brokers, maintaining this position until the Russian conquest of Central Asia in the 19th century. Sufis participated in and occasionally led revolts against Russian and Soviet rule, such as the revolt led by Dukchi Ishan in Andijon in 1898.
During the Soviet period, the officially atheistic Communist regime sought to restrict Islam, and most of Uzbekistan’s mosques were forcibly closed in the 1920s. Since 1989, when Islam Karimov rose to the leadership of Uzbekistan, restrictions on Islam have been relaxed. Since then many mosques have been restored or built in Uzbekistan, and religious literature has become much more accessible. Nevertheless, Uzbekistan's leaders have made it clear that the government will not tolerate the mixing of religion and politics by independent groups.
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