Ravil Bukharaev, Russia and Ahmadiyya Islam: The First Grain of Sand

The Musim Times: by Abdul Alim:  Very rarely have Ahmadi Muslim individuals been granted the honour and privilege of being remembered by the Khalifa of the age for a full one hour of a Friday Sermon. This is what happened on 27 January 2012, when Khalifa of Islam (Huzoor) mentioned the death of Ravil Bukharaev and spoke highly of him. While I had known Ravil as a warm and close friend before that, I developed a deeper sense of respect and of course a deeper sense of loss at hearing that sermon.

A revelation vouchafed to the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam prophesied about the spread of Ahmadiyya Musims like uncountable grains of sand in Russia. Ravil was that first grain of sand.

It was on a normal humid early morning on 26 January 2012 in Manila, when we got a call from Lydia, Ravil’s wife that he is dead. She told us how the ambulance came late and how he had suffered a massive heart attack the night before and could not survive.

We felt numb and sad. I could not believe that he was dead. Just two days back he had written to me about his worries for fulfilling his contractual obligations for work that he had been asked to do, which included doing a cultural history of Bangsmoro (Moro from Moors of Spain) living in the South of Philippines. Earlier we had talked just a few days back on skype on his plans to come back to Manila for a visit to complete his work. He looked tired but was full of life and excited about his work.

I cannot clearly remember how I got to know him personally. While working as a presenter for MTA UK Jalsa transmissions I had come across him sitting in the small mobile cubicles that were meant for the translators. Here I would see him enthusiastically moving about and all excited about meeting his friends from Russia and Central Asia. Then during one of these Jalsa’s in early 2000, he mentioned he will soon retire from BBC Russian service and will be available for consulting work. We finally got to an understanding and I was able to get him interested and working on children’s issues in Turkmenistan. It was only after he came to Ashgabat (Capital of Turkmenistan- where Mujahid-awwal- for Russia Maulvi Zahoor Hussain was imprisoned by Russians for allegations of being a British spy) and where I was posted for four years on behalf of my office that we got to know him more intimately.

What I remember of him is his absolute excitement and wonder about being an Ahmadi Muslim. He recalled with great fondness his fortunate but accidental contact with the Jamaat in London and how it turned his life around. His relationship with Khalifa Raabay (RA) was of utmost love and obedience. He never tired of saying how miraculous it is that as an Ahmadi Muslim you can start a conversation in one country with someone and continue the same conversation in another time and country with another Ahmadi Muslim without breaking the momentum of the conversations.  He had wonderful historical tales to tell about Muslim Tatar history and its shaping of Russian society. He had a masterly command on Central Asian and Eastern European history and it was a treat to sit with him and listen to his scholarly views, small anecdotes and meetings with many different people on his travels. Despite all his knowledge he was tremendously humble, always talked softly and never got upset with the ignorance of people around him. He had a real knack for tabligh work and it was a treat to watch and learn from him the art of conversation and how to bring people around to views of commonality.

Like all of us, he was absolutely in love with Huzoor. And like us he will find ways to meet him and talk to him. There were two occasions where we met Huzoor along with him and one could see his high level of respect, devotion and love that he had for the Khalifa.

He was instrumental in getting social contacts in Turkmenistan which is a very closed and controlled country. As a highly respected member of Central Asian Authors Associations he knew key people in all Central Asian countries and was able to help the cause of the Jamaat at different times.  In Turkmenistan he was highly respected for his knowledge and impressed all our visitors with the depth and diversity of his knowledge. I distinctly remember how deeply a Hungarian friend of ours was moved when he recited his own Hungarian poetry. It was that day that he told us that he had learnt Hungarian in only one day. The beauty and the depth of the poem were highly astonishing for our friend who still remembers him and could not believe how a non-Hungarian speak such refined language.

The gentle soul he was he loved children perhaps remembering how he had lost his young son in the prime of his life during the 1991 Soviet crisis. He loved to bring gifts for our daughter and always called her “my dear child” and would always spend time with her, answering her questions and never getting tired of it. He always had a glint in his eye, had a great and refined sense of humour and loved to give big hugs.

After having spent a wonderful four years in Turkmenistan with special prayers of Huzoor, we moved to Philippines. The South of Philippines is still majority Muslim and is deeply affected by internal rifts, rebellion and all the normal discontent that Muslims are now famous for. Ravil came to visit here twice and was assisting us to understand in depth the cultural and religious dimensions of problems facing Muslim Filipinos. He made deep impression on all the Muslim Filipinos he met and was able to carve out a space for engaging in constructive discussions about tolerance, love and peace.

In 2012 he was very busy travelling and started neglecting his health. On each visit we (as we both are doctors) tried to advise him on taking care of himself. He was a great eater and loved Pakistani food despite it being chilly and hot. He was very generous with his compliments.  In last few conversations with him I learnt how he was being honoured as a national Poet of Tataristan. He was happy about being recognized. I think extensive travels and not being careful with his health ultimately took its toll on his heart which just gave up. Though his heart gave up, we have him in our hearts and we will not give up the beautiful and fond memories of him. May Allah bless his Soul and make us earn the same Love of our Khalifa as Ravil did.

He was buried with state honours in Kazan late January last year. Rich tribute were paid to him, none of course equal to what Khalifa of Islam had to say. May Allah rest his soul in peace. Ameen

Century Home Page

His Personal account of Ahmadiyya Islam Broadcast on Tuesday 30th November 1999


My name is Ravil Bukharaev. I was born in the city of Kazan, on the River Volga, in 1951, to a family of mathematicians. By birth, I am a Muslim. But the situation was that up to 1989 I didn’t have any clear idea of Islam, because I lived through the decades of the Russian Soviet state atheism. Nowadays, I am a radio journalist, in a way a religious scholar, a linguist, an author and poet – and a believing |Muslim. My parents were both born before the Second World War, during the ’30s. So it means that the Soviet state atheism was already at its height. They knew about their background, but they never practised Islam as a religion. As for myself, it was even less with me, because I was born in the ’50s. And at that time not only Islam as a religion but even my mother-tongue, which is the Khazan Tatar tongue, was effectively banned, banished from the school curriculum. Almost all Tatars of course knew about Islam. Whosoever they were – they were party officials, or they were managers or schoolteachers or professors of the university, for that matter – they never did anything without saying: “In the name of God”. So in this sense, we can say that the Tatar culture – which is about one thousand years old – was always based on Islamic values. I can’t say that I was a secret Muslim, who was always thinking about going to the mosque and offering my prayers. That wasn’t the case, of course. I was a student. I was a young man – with everything that comes to mind in this situation. But if a person would like to learn something more about Islam or about his roots, his national roots, it always looked suspicious to the authorities. And the authorities, who were most prominent in persecuting and pursuing their ideas were not Russian authorities. They were local Tatar authorities, who would build their careers on it. They were very much feared. The atmosphere in 1989 became more liberal, not only in religious terms, but in all other terms as well. But to be a religious person it’s not enough only logically to understand what religion is. Faith is given by God Himself. And that’s why I was kind of in a jam. Because rationally I could understand that Islam is good, because it teaches good. But nothing was in my soul. And the only thing which saved me from this doubt was that in London I met some people whom I now count as true Muslims, although they are being persecuted in the big outside Muslim world as heretics: the Achmediat Muslim Society. The main idea of Achmediat is that you can’t love God as a creator without loving his creation and helping his creation. Here I realised that this was my place. Because everything came together: my education, my thirst for knowledge and rationality, and my search for a purely religious and spiritual experience. And now I believe very strongly that nothing disappears in this world. You can suppress something, even ruthlessly. But you succeed only in hiding something very deep. In fact, Islam cannot be destroyed. Because it is not politics. It is not a culture, after all. It is a state of mind. E N D

A poem by Ravil


I am sitting here and writing with a ball-pen;
To the window-pane above I turn my eyes.
In the porch outside a hazel-tree is blooming.
Like a little yellow cloud upon the skies.

The pollen hangs so heavy on the branches,
A brook runs bubbling through the deep ravine;
A bee crawls over my blue sheet of paper,
A wild striped bee that haunts the forest green.

Outside the bee has gone from flower to flower;
I carefully examine it and see
How it has stained its wings and its proboscis
With pollen from the flowers on the tree.

Indeed it has been working very wisely,
Collecting every drop of nectar there.
I must return to my blue sheet of paper,
So I release the bee into the air.

Working in a lonely house takes patience;
How long we need to wait to have our wish
For lines of verse like clear, transparent honey
To shine and sparkle on an empty dish!

1 reply

  1. We’ll miss you Ravil seriously what a great man. I wish he had lived a long life because he deserved it but it’s the doing of Allah and you never know when your time’s gonna come.
    RIP Brother

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