A rare pamphlet in Tatar language is a transcription of a manuscript, which is the first known travelogue of a person from Russian territory to Mecca. It was issued in Kazan in 1903 by a Bashkir / Tatar scholar Rızaeddin Fahreddin (1858-1936).
The text includes an original introduction by the editor and commentaries. The last two pages list the foreign literature on the travels to Mecca, known to the editor, starting in 1762 with Carsten Niebuhr and ending in 1885 with Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje.
A 1751 Journey to Mecca and Medina through India
The journey was made in 1751 by a Tatar merchant Ismail Bekmukhamedov from Orenburg, accompanied with four companions. Their itinerary looks today quite unusual, but was before the railroads the logical route through a difficult geographical areas.
From Orenburg it took them 22 days to reach the Silk Road in Konye-Urgench (today Turkmenistan). There they joined the caravan for 12 days until the arrival in Bukhara (Uzbekistan). From there they continued to Kandahar, entered India, travelled through Delhi, Benares, Hyderabad and Surat. In Calcutta they boarded an European boat and sailed to Medina, and from there travelled to Mecca, Damascus and Jerusalem. Bekmukhamedov then joined a group of Crimean Tatars on the way to Istanbul, where he stayed for the next 25 years, earning his money to return home.
Ismail Bekmukhamedov, who was according to the text the only one to survive the trip, left a manuscript with memoirs of the Hajj. It is today the first known report from such kind, made by an inhabitant of the Russian territory. By the late 19th century more first-hand accounts of the travels to Mecca appeared. Most of them are preserved in forms of manuscripts in libraries or private collections (Kane 2015, p. 50).
Bekmukhamedov text offers a series of interesting information on the travel and local customs, but is disputed by several scholars as a partly romantic fiction.
The text was transcribed and published for the first time in Kazan in 1862 by Gordiy Semionovich Sablukov (1804–1880), a Russian expert in Islam, known for the first Russian translation of the Quran. The transcription of Bekmukhamedov’s travelogue was published together with two other texts. Unfortunately we could not trace any examples of the book or more references to prove, if Sablukov published the whole text or only parts of it.
In 1903, the manuscript was transcribed again and issued for the first time as a separate publication with a commentary by a Tatar intellectual and Rızaeddin Fahreddin (1858-1936). Fahreddin authored numberless important works for the Tatar history, most notably a two-volume edition of biographies of Central Asian Scholars.
Fahreddin was a member of the Jadids, Muslim modernist reformers within the Russian Empire. After the Soviets taking over the Tatar territories in 1921, he entered a religious stand. He was mufti of the European part of Russia until his death in 1936 and was avoiding the cooperation with the Soviet government.
The pamphlet is exceedingly rare and we could not find any institutional examples on Worldcat.
References: Cf. Ömer Hakan Özalp, Kazan’la İstanbul arasında bir âlim: Rızâeddin bin Fahreddin, 2001, p. 157; Michael Kemper: Festschrift Mirkasym A. Usmanov: Istočniki i issledovanija po istorii tatarskogo naroda: Materialy k učebnym kursam, ( Diljara Usmanova – Iskander Giljazov, ed.), Von Orenburg nach Indien und Mekka: Ismails Reisebuch als Genremischung Kazan 2006; Eileen Kane, Russian Hajj: Empire and the Pilgrimage to Mecca, 2015, pp. 10-51.
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