Imam Shamil was born around 1797 is Gimry, Dagestan and died in 1871 in Madina tul Munawwarah. He is the famous lion of the Caucuses who delayed the Russian Conquest of the Caucuses for over 25 years. He is remembered as one of the great Muslim heroes of the 19th century who led an armed resistance against the Russian imperialists. Yet, even though he may have been the lionheart we know him as, he also remains as a humbled, pious scholar who worked for the sake of Islam and the hereafter.

Born to a religious Muslim family, Imam Shamil was actually very physically weak but highly intelligent. He spent his teenage years learning Arabic, jurisprudence, philosophy under the guidance of his Shaykh, Jamaluddin Al Ghumuqi from the Naqshbandi order. He soon travelled at a young age to learn from Shaykh Khalid Al Baghdadi, the 31st shaykh of the Naqshbandi order and became educated in the religious sciences.

However, due to the wits and knowledge of Imam Shamil, he apparently used to be beaten, and wounded badly with knives. It was known that from a younger age, Imam Shamil was physically weak and sickly. It has even been said that he used to called Ali but due to his sickness, superstitiously, his family changed it to Shamil as his family thought it would bring him better health.

So, how did this puny young boy become one of the greatest fighters in history? Well, by the time of his birth, the Russian-Turkish war, which lasted from 1787 – 1791 was ongoing. On one side the Russian fought to annex Dagestan whilst the Muslim people of the Caucuses allied with their Ottoman Muslim brethren to defeat the Russians. However, the Russian became victorious and signed a peace treaty with the Ottomans and seized Dagestan in 1813.

What the Russians didn’t know was that the Muslims were warriors and would never give Muslim land to oppressive Imperial forces like the Russians. So, in 1828, the Caucasian imamate was established to drive out the Russians. Under Ghazi Muhammad, they fought against the Russians. During one battle, Muhammad Ghazi was killed and out of 60 of the Muslim warriors, only 2 survived with one of them being Imam Shamil. According to an account by a Russian soldier, during the fight Imam Shamil was stabbed with a bayonet. After jumping from an elevated stoop “clean over the heads of the very line of soldiers about to fire on him. Landing behind them, whirling his sword in his left hand he cut down three of them, but was bayoneted by the fourth, the steel plunging deep in his chest. He seized the bayonet, pulled it out of his own flesh, cut down the man, and with another superhuman leap, cleared the wall and vanished in the darkness.”

In 1834, Imam Shamil was chosen as the 3rd Imam of Dagestan after Ghazi Muhammad and Gamzat Bek who were his predecessors. Under his leadership, he brought together many of the Muslim tribes and called to fight in the sake of Allah. Due to his strong build, Islamic knowledge and personality, he quickly gained the trust, respect and loyalty of his people. From 1834 until 1859, Imam Shamil destroyed the Russian forces in battle and defiantly pushed forth, winning one battle after another even though the Russians had more advanced military prowess than the army of imam Shamil. The news of Imam Shamil’s heroism, and his ability to thwart the Russian opposition reached the ears of everyone.

But as time went past, by 1859, due to internal conflict, he was eventually captured by the Russian Empire. With his capture, the resistance also ended. He was put in a 10-year exile under supervision in a small city outside Moscow. After living in that city, he was allowed to make his Hajj pilgrimage and then visited the city of Madinah where he soon died in 1871. He was buried in the Al Baqi cemetery alongside the family and Sahabas of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). May Allah grant us a man like him to restore our honour and our authority which was once feared and acknowledged as the most powerful force in the world.

By Muhaimin Hussain


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