The Intersection of Shamanism and Islam

Men pray the Eid al-Adha prayer in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: theislamawareness.blogspot.com

Fatima Sartbaeva is a doctoral candidate of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying female shamans among Muslim Kyrgyz.

Is there a compatibility between Islam and shamanism in Central Asia? How do nomadic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz intertwine Islam and shamanism in their religious cosmology? And are there any contradictions between Islam and shamanism among Kazakh and Kyrgyz?

In answering these questions, I sat down and spoke with Professor Oraz Sapashev of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An ethnic Kazakh from Altay, Kazakhstan, and a scholar of Central Eurasian Turkic languages and culture, Sapashev shed some light on the relationship between shamanism and Islam. The following excerpt is a translation of our conversation in Russian.

Q: Could you tell me more about Altay and its cultural history?

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The Bubu Shaman Women of Kyrgyzstan

Traditionally Dressed Kyrgyz Woman

Fatima Sartbaeva is a doctoral student of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying female shamans among Muslim Kyrgyz and Kazakhs.

The Central Asian Republics, which include Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, make up one of the geographically largest Muslim populations in the world. For example, in my homeland of Kyrgyzstan eighty percent of the population is Muslim, consisting of various ethnic groups such as the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tatar, Tajiks, Kazak, Uigur, and Dungan. At present, although the Kyrgyz are officially categorized as being Sunni Muslims, their pre-Islamic Shamanic believes and practices are still visible in their everyday lives.

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Hillary Clinton Visit to Kazan, Tatarstan

This is a guest post by Uli Schamiloglu, professor in Languages and Cultures of Asia and the Director of UW-Madison’s Middle East Studies Program.

On Wednesday, October 14, 2009 Hillary Clinton traveled to the city of Kazan, capital of the Muslim republic of Tatarstan. On October 9 the Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Liberty reported that Hillary Clinton would be visiting Kazan and meeting with local political and religious leaders. Continue reading

Interview with Uli Schamiloglu

A member of the Inside Islam executive committee, Uli Schamiloglu is also a professor in Languages and Cultures of Asia (a department that he helped to create) and the Director of UW-Madison’s Middle East Studies Program, among many other things. I first met him in 2007 when he was a guest on the Here on Earth radio show to talk about Sunni-Shia conflict and lessons from WWI. He was so knowledgeable and articulate about the past and present in the Middle East that the show has invited him back a couple of times to launch our Inside Islam radio series and to comment on Obama’s outreach to Muslims and his speech in Cairo. Continue reading

The Sound and Feeling of the Koran

Today, we introduce a new element of Inside Islam — digital stories. These short pieces will complement our radio series and blog to help exemplify and demonstrate the diversity of the Muslim World. This first digital story was produced by Fatima Sartbaeva and the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You can listen to the story — “The Sound and Feeling of the Koran” — by clicking on the player following the introductory comments and acknowledgments.

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President Obama to Visit Kazakhstan

The speaker of the Senate (upper house) of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Qasymzhomart Toqayev, is quoted as saying that President Barack Obama is expected to visit Kazakhstan soon as part of a wider tour of Central Asia. According to RFE-RL, President Obama met with Toqayev in Istanbul this week and told him he planned to become the first US president to visit the oil-producing country. United States oil companies have major investments in Kazakhstan, and most recently Kazakhstan has agreed to allow transit of non-military supplies to support NATO trips in Afghanistan across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan via the territory of Kazakhstan. For additional details on this matter see “Kazakhstan Says Expects U.S President To Visit” on Radio Free Europe.

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