Frank, Allen J., ‘Companions of the Prophet’, Die Welt des Islams, 2021

Frank, Allen J., ‘Companions of the Prophet as Anti-Colonial Fighters: The Political Evolution of ʿAlī Tales in Siberia and the Kazakh Steppe’, Die Welt des Islams (2021), pp. 1-19

Tales about the Caliph ʿAlī have circulated as popular entertainment throughout the Islamic world since the mediaeval era. While their meaning to their audiences has varied, on the frontiers of Islam, including in Siberia and the Kazakh steppe, the battles of ʿAlī and other Companions of the Prophet against infidels took on special meaning. Among Kazakh nomads under Russian rule, these tales gained broad popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century as the status of Kazakhs as a Muslim community came under threat from changing Russian policies. It was at this time that Kazakh-language ʿAlī tales were composed and published by Muslim publishers in Russia. One of these was the Qiṣṣa-yi Ṣalṣāl, by the Siberian poet Mäulekey Yumachikov, in which the infidels whom ʿAlī and the other companions battle are clearly identified as being Russians, although placed in the earliest period of  Islam. This tale enables us to see the political evolution of such tales, which constitute a response to the cultural and political pressures of Russian colonialism.

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