My Century Home Page

Broadcast on Tuesday 30th November 1999


My name is Ravil Bukharaev. I was born in the city of Kazan, on the River Volga, in 1951, to a family of mathematicians. By birth, I am a Muslim. But the situation was that up to 1989 I didn't have any clear idea of Islam, because I lived through the decades of the Russian Soviet state atheism. Nowadays, I am a radio journalist, in a way a religious scholar, a linguist, an author and poet - and a believing |Muslim. My parents were both born before the Second World War, during the '30s. So it means that the Soviet state atheism was already at its height. They knew about their background, but they never practised Islam as a religion. As for myself, it was even less with me, because I was born in the '50s. And at that time not only Islam as a religion but even my mother-tongue, which is the Khazan Tatar tongue, was effectively banned, banished from the school curriculum. Almost all Tatars of course knew about Islam. Whosoever they were - they were party officials, or they were managers or schoolteachers or professors of the university, for that matter - they never did anything without saying: "In the name of God". So in this sense, we can say that the Tatar culture - which is about one thousand years old - was always based on Islamic values. I can't say that I was a secret Muslim, who was always thinking about going to the mosque and offering my prayers. That wasn't the case, of course. I was a student. I was a young man - with everything that comes to mind in this situation. But if a person would like to learn something more about Islam or about his roots, his national roots, it always looked suspicious to the authorities. And the authorities, who were most prominent in persecuting and pursuing their ideas were not Russian authorities. They were local Tatar authorities, who would build their careers on it. They were very much feared. The atmosphere in 1989 became more liberal, not only in religious terms, but in all other terms as well. But to be a religious person it's not enough only logically to understand what religion is. Faith is given by God Himself. And that's why I was kind of in a jam. Because rationally I could understand that Islam is good, because it teaches good. But nothing was in my soul. And the only thing which saved me from this doubt was that in London I met some people whom I now count as true Muslims, although they are being persecuted in the big outside Muslim world as heretics: the Achmediat Muslim Society. The main idea of Achmediat is that you can't love God as a creator without loving his creation and helping his creation. Here I realised that this was my place. Because everything came together: my education, my thirst for knowledge and rationality, and my search for a purely religious and spiritual experience. And now I believe very strongly that nothing disappears in this world. You can suppress something, even ruthlessly. But you succeed only in hiding something very deep. In fact, Islam cannot be destroyed. Because it is not politics. It is not a culture, after all. It is a state of mind. E N D