“The stronger one is the one who can absorb the violence and the anger from the other and change it to love and understanding…This is the real jihad.” – Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari
Sheikh Bukhari died last week, and is much mourned by religious Uzbeks, and especially the exiled opposition leadership, to whom he was close. Bukhari was a direct descendent of Imam Muhammad Ismail al-Bukhari of Bukhara, the ninth-century author of the Hadith al-Bukhari. Sheikh Bukhari led a colony of Palestinians of Uzbek descent, mostly now in Gaza, who have maintained their Uzbek identity for generations.
He died shortly before a scheduled meeting with Turkish PM Erdogan to discuss reaction to the Gaza Flotilla attack. He devoted much of his life to seeking, through working with like-minded Jewish religious leaders, to use religion as a force for peace and agreement, rather than hatred and division.
This often placed him in a difficult position. For example, he lead a delegation to Sderot, to show sympathy for the population there but at the same time to explain to them the sufferings of his own relatives in Gaza. This attempt to promote understanding drew criticism from all sides.
The danger also exists that a non-violent tradition will be exploited by oppressors. Others, particularly Sheikh Kabbani and the Sufi Muslim Council, sought to hijack the Sufi Naqbandi tradtion and put it at the service of the linked Karimov and Israeli regimes and US neo-con organisations, and received a great deal of money for doing so.
Unlike them, Sheikh Bukhari never endorsed Karimov or the “War on Terror”. He never abandoned the rights of ordinary oppressed people. He lived a simple lifestyle, and was a living rebuke to those who seek to malign and misrepresent his religion.