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A ‘Last Prophet’ Faces Jail for Land-Grabbing and Polygamy in Tajikistan

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Screen shot from Tajik first channel coverage of Sheikh Temur's arrest, uploaded via Vimeo.

A Tajik man that describes himself as ‘The Last Prophet’ and recruited dozens of unassuming villagers into his sect, has been detained on suspicion of ‘polygamy’ and ‘illegal seizure of land’, state media say. 

On Friday, February 6 Tajik state TV showed a half-hour special report on a 65-year-old man known as Sheikh Temur, who, as the report claimed, designated himself as ‘Imam Mahdi’, ‘a saint’ and ‘the Last Prophet’ as he constructed a sect in western Tajikistan that fuses Islamic teaching and local superstition. 

According to the report, Sheikh Temur ordered his followers to wear the blue sallah, a hat specific to religious figures and elderlies in Central Asia. Temur and his band thus came to be known as the sallahkabudon (blue hat wearers) in the area. Videos from the sect’s ceremonies show how followers of ‘The Last Prophet’ lay fabrics under the wheels of his luxurious car as a sign of respect, kissed the car's wheels and, according to the report, drank the water he washed his hands with. He is also accused by authorities of illegally grabbing land in several rural districts and ordering his rich followers to build him big houses there. 

Temur, who was apparently imprisoned once back in 1986 by a Soviet court for seducing and marrying a teenager while already married, has allegedly amassed seven wives in a country where polygamy is illegal. His latest wife, who he married five years ago, is 45 years younger than him, while the report notes that at least one of her predecessors was confined to a psychiatric institution at Temur's request. None of the 20 children from his seven wives attends school, the report states.

The blackening of Islam in Tajikistan?

The case of Sheikh Temur, was thoroughly-discussed on one of the biggest Tajik Facebook groups dedicated to religious issues, Tarbiyayi Imoni. There many people linked the growth of his sect with a lack of religious education:

Ин хама дастбусию дигару дигар аз бесаводии мардуми мост. Агар саводи исломи медоштанд ягон нафари онхо рафта дар назди ин чодугар арзи дил намекардад ва ё аз тарси дуои бади ин чодугар тарсида духтарони худро хадя намекарданд. Ачаб замоне шуд, инсонхо аз кадом чодугар метарсанд аммо аз Аллохи (ч.ч) наметарсанд. Хама намуди исломсиёхкунонро дар ВАТАН дидед аммо инаш ГАРЕНИ будай. Худоё тавба. Худо бахшад гуноххои моро.

The fact people kissed his hands and did these other things is due to their lack of education. If [people] had Islamic education, they would not go to this quack or give their daughters to him for fear of him cursing them. What a time has arrived, when people are afraid of a quack, but not of Allah! We have seen all types of blackening of Islam in this land, but this is a special one.

Yet other Internet users, such as an anonymous commenter on RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, tried to defend the sheikh, suggesting he had fallen victim to Tajikistan's biased state media:

Агар филмро тамошо кунед, мебинед, ки ин муйсафед аслан худро на пайгомбар эълон накардааст, на махдии охирзамон. Факат номаш Махди аст. Ин филмро боз хам барои сиёх кардани муллохо пахш карда, худашон обуранг додаанд. Агар бисёрзании уро гирем, имруз ягон вазиру раисе нест, ки чанд зану даххо маъшука надошта бошад. Ин муйсафед тавфик доштааст, ки занони беморро никох карда мегирифтааст ва онхоро таъмин менамудааст. Дар мавриди бусидани дасту нушидани оби дасташ, низ ин гуна “чиноятхо” пур аст дар Точикистон. Як мисол, дар дехаи Туркобод вакте падари Турачонзода аз масчид мебарояд, як гурух занону кудакон давида дастони уро мебусанд ва даст ба чомаи у зада ба чашмонашон мемоланд. Дигар мисол, дар Точикобод хамаи мардум дастони Домулло Хикматуллоро мебусанд ва бе гусфанду буз зиёраташ намераванд. Аммо азбаски у президентро таъриф мекунад, ба у чизе намегуянд. Чаро ба дигар муллохо ичозаи таълими дини нест, аммо Домулло Хикматулло садхо муллобачаро дарс медихад.

If you watch the report, you will see that this old man claimed to be neither a prophet, nor Imam Mahdi. Simply his name is Mahdi. The report is an attempt to blacken all mullahs. Regarding his polygamy – many ministers and chiefs now have several wives and mistresses. This old man showed mercy to mentally disabled women by marrying them and taking care of them. Regarding people kissing his hands and drinking the water he washed his hands with — people run to Turajonzoda’s father [religious leader] and kiss his hands in Vahdat, and they do the same with Domullo Hikmatullo [religious leader]  in Tojikobod, but as Domullo Himatullo praises the president, no one says anything of him.

 Commenting on the same service, Jomi responded:

Бовар кунед ман хайрон аз он нафароне мешавам, ки гуе акл надошта бошанд. Наход, ки инсон одами олимро аз чохил фарк накунад ин Шайх темур як чохил ва мунофикест, ки дар либоси Исломи даромада аз надонистани мардуми худ беш аз хад истифода кардааст. Бубинед боз як муриди бесаводаш шарм накарда мегуяд, ки амниятихо онхоро мачбур карданд!!! Ман хайронам ое шуморо кормандони кумитаи амният мачбур сохт, ки мошин ва балони мошинро буса кунед? Ое кормандони кумита шуморо мачбур кард, ки таьзим кунон аз назди шайхи чохилатон бароед? Ое дар ислом ба гайри Алох таьзим кардан ба касе дигар куфр нест? Ое кормандони кумитаи Амният шуморо мачбур сохт, ки духтари ба сини шавхар норасидаро ба касе дихи, ки аз худаш зиеда аз 50 сол калонтар аст? Касам ба зоте, ки чонам дар дасти уст ман корманди кумитаи амният нестам лекин ин хакикати ошкор аст.

I am surprised there are people who still consider Sheikh Temur a mullah. He just misused Islam for his benefit knowing that ordinary uneducated people have no information about Islam. A follower of his even says that they were forced by the Special Forces (to testify against the Sheikh)? Did the KGB force you to kiss the wheels of his car? Did the KGB force you to kneel before your fool Sheikh? Isn't it forbidden in Islam to kneel before anyone except Allah? Did the KGB force you to give your teenage girls to someone 50 years older than them?

It is worth mentioning that although most Tajik netizens believe that Sheikh Temur has committed crimes, the report on his activities is well timed, coming weeks before parliamentary elections. It is possible his arrest has been delayed in order to discredit the Islamic Rennaissance Party of Tajikistan, an opposition party government frequently portrays as using religion as a means for self-interested ends. IRPT chose blue as their party colour in 2010.

The final countdown

In Islam only Muhammad is considered the Final Prophet, which is clearly cited in Quran, the holy book of Muslims. Imam Mahdi is the name for the one to be born to rule the world before the Day of the Judgment. Islamic history knows of many examples of people who proclaimed themselves as Imam Mahdi, but who ended up killed or jailed as imposters.

In secular Tajikistan, ruled by President Rahmon for the last two decades, there are no laws forbidding a person from declaring themselves as God's messenger or saint. Taking into account his age, however, a lengthy prison term may not leave Sheikh Temur with much time to rule the world.

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