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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Quranic motifs in the Kumyk religious literature

Akamov Abusup'yan Tatarkhanovich

Doctor of Philology

Chief Scientific Associate, G. Tsdasa Institute of Language, Literature and Art of Dagestan Federal Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences

367000, Russia, respublika Dagestan, g. Makhachkala, ul. M. Gadzhieva, 45, kab. 208

Other publications by this author

Bekeeva Aigul' Muratovna

Scientific Associate, Tsadasa Institute of Language, Literature and Art of Dagestan Federal Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences

367000, Russia, respublika Dagestan, g. Makhachkala, ul. M. Gadzhieva, 45, of. 208

Other publications by this author








Abstract: The object of this research is the Kumyk medieval literature, dominated by thee ideas of enlightenment and religious unity. As a result of adoption of Islam by the peoples of Dagestan, including Kumyks, their written literature grounded on Quran, acquires a pronounced Muslim character. The Kumyk religious literature existed in the forms of sermons, cogitations, philosophizing and homilies, commonly known as “turki”. The concept of “turki”, which encompasses numerous religious poems of various contents and forms, represents a uniform system of genres, namely religious poetry. It is determined that alongside consolidation of the position of Islam in Dagestan in the XVI century, the religious themes become increasingly popular in the literary works of Kumyk poets and theologians. The authors examine  the Quranic motifs in the Kumyk religious literature  on the example of the collection “Majmu ul-Manzumat al-Ajamiyya”. Eschatological motifs in the aforementioned work can be divided into two parts: edifying that provide moral and ethical instructions, and descriptive that depict perturbations that await people for non-compliance with such instructions.  


human destiny, the Doomsday, the angel of death, the Eastern literature, spiritual literature of the Kumyks, tyurki, eschatology, Koranic motives, Islam, the prophet

The doomsday, resurrection of the dead, intercession, burial torment and other eschatological elements constitute the Muslim creed. It is worth noting that eschatological motives are reflected not only in religious works, but also in works of fiction of various genres, as well as works of folklore. In relation to Kumyk literature, we can speak of eschatological motifs in spiritual poetry, which are the result of borrowing ideas and figurative systems from Arab-Muslim culture and literature.

The mentioned motives in the spiritual literature of the Kumyks will be considered mainly in the works included in the collection «Madžhmū ul-manzumāt al-adžhamīja» (Collection of works of Sufi content in Ajām. – Temir-Khan-Shura, 1914), compiled by A. Akaev.

This edition includes the «tyurki» of such authors of the XVIIIth and the beginning of XXth, as: Abdurakhman from Kakashura, Gasan oglu, Ibragim Kara-Mirza oglu, Abdullakh, Khadzhi oglu, Mukhammad-kadi, Abubakar, Il'yas, Abusupyan, Yunus, Umar, Musa, Bagdad Ali, Shejh Ali oglu, Gamzat-Il'yas, Akaj-hadzhi, Halimat. The book also contains many anonymous works. It is one of the poetic anthologies of the spiritual literature of the Kumyks.

Here it is important for us to consider the problem in the composition of the religious literature of Islam, in the context of the culture that gave rise to it.

The ideological basis of medieval literature was religion Islam, the basis of which is the Koran. It marked a new stage in the development of verbal art and led to the birth of almost all philological disciplines. [1]. The awareness of the death, one of the eschatological motives, in Islam is the separation of the spirit from the body, after which the body decomposes [1, p. 110–118]. Every person will taste death (Kor, 3:185), despite all the ways to avoid it (Kor, 4:78). God is the master of life and death (Kor, 57:2). [4]*(Here and further, the Koranic verses are given according to the edition: The Koran: trans. Ignatiy Krachkovsky, Moscow, Publishing house «Science», 1986.) He controls every step of a person and determines his death – not the end of life in general, but the end of a certain period of earthly life – «azḥzḥāl». For example, the poet Umar thinks of death in this way:

Bir gyun biza gelir elchi,

Dyun'yany elekden sal chy,

Shag'adatyng g'azir k"yl chy,

O'lezhag"yng g'ak" tyugyulmyu?

Ma"mur ajladyng harabyn,

Tutma iblis tarabyn,

Ichersen azhal sharabyn,

Gyochazhag"yng g'ak" tyugyulmyu? [3]

One day the prophet will come to us, (will say):

Pass the world through a sieve,

Prepare your certificate,

Is it not true that you will die?

Loved the destroyed,

Don't follow the devil's path,

Drink the drink of death,

Is it not true that you will migrate?

The topic of death in general is very important for the Koranic sermon. The reminder of death is one of the leitmotivs constantly repeated in the Koran, designed to make a person remember that his life is not infinite. This leitmotif is often accompanied by a call to accept the faith (iman), which will prepare a person for a good fate in the other world.

G"apul turma, k"art tyugyulmen yashman dep,

Azhzhal etse, urup jyg"ar dushman dep,

Any bilip durus yuryu g'ar yolda,

Otuz da gyun oraza tut g'ar jylda,

Bilmege besh haslat bardyr g'ar k"ulda,

Any bilmej umut etme k"ulman dep,

Taza suvlar bulan namaz zhuvunup,

Ruku" verub, suzhud k"ilub olturup,

K"ol gyoterip, gyozyung suvdan tolturup,

Dua tile: «gech Allag'ym menden» – dep [3, p. 38].

Do not be careless thinking that you are not old, but young,

If the time comes, you will be defeated like an enemy,

Knowing it, be right in everything,

Thirty days every year keep a fast,

Every slave [of Allah] must have five qualities,

Without knowing it, don’t even dream that you are a slave [of Allah],

Clean waters, having made ablution,

After genuflection, having made a bow,

Raising your hands, filling eyes with tears,

Beg Allah for forgiveness.

This motif of the inevitability of death is also present in the pre-Islamic beliefs of the Arabs. However, the Muslim concept of death differs from the pre-Islamic one not only in that the place of blind fate is occupied by Almighty Allah, who commands fate. In Muslim beliefs, death itself, that is, the process of parting with life, is different depending on how a person has lived his life. In other words, the concept of death is organically intertwined with an ethical moment, which is characteristic of the Koranic faith, which is distinguished by a distinct ethical orientation.

The souls of believers are withdrawn painlessly, «with pity», while the souls of non-believers are roughly torn out of the chest. People tend to fear death. This is especially true for sinners. Some of them, as the legends tell, stubbornly resist the deprivation of their lives. However, a completely new motif is not fear, but «the expectation of death», which is attested by several Koranic verses. In them, the believers turn to Allah with a request to «rest them and count them among the righteous» (see Kor, 3:193; 7:126; 12:101). For example:

«Our God! So, forgive us our sins and cleanse us from our evil deeds, and rest us with the righteous» (Kor, 3: 193).

Gyunag'lar avur gelmak"dan,

Geche-gyun azab bermak"dan,

Imansyz bolup o'lmak"dan,

Ya rabbi sen sak"la bizin [3, p. 14].

From the fact that the sins will be heavier,

From torment day and night,

From death without faith,

Oh, God, you keep us safe.

In other Koranic Surahs, people are called not to die as unbelievers, but to surrender to God (Kor, 2:132, 3.102). This motif is often found in the works of spiritual literature of the Kumyks:

Mavlam k"adir Allag' sen bolg"un yanym,

Zhanymy alanda alma imanym,

Amandyr Azrail, k"yjnama zhanym,

Rag'mu bulan gelgin aman Azrail [3, p. 51].

O my God – Almighty Allah, be on my side,

When you take my soul, don't take away the faith,

Please, Azrael, do not torment my soul,

Come with compassion, oh Azrael.

The angel of death (Malāk al-mawt), whom tradition calls Azrael, is one of the four archangels, along with Jabrael, Mikael and Israfil. He is described as a creature of gigantic proportions: if the seas and rivers of the whole world are poured over his head, not a single drop will leak to the ground. His throne (sarīr) of light is between the fourth and seventh heavens.

In the beginning, the angel of death was a simple angel. When Allah wanted to create man, He ordered Jabrayil to go down to the earth and bring a handful of it. However, the earth began to beg him not to take from it what would be the torment of hell. The Archangel took pity on her and returned with nothing. So did the Archangel Michael. Only Azrael did not spare the earth and brought from it four types of clay: white, black, yellow and red, which symbolize the human races. For his ruthlessness, Allah assigned him the functions of the angel of death.

Shad oluban shadlyk" ilyan gezersen,

Zhan almak"ny g'allaryndan bezersen,

Azrailni gyorseng umut u'zersen,

Inanma dyun'yag"a, aldatyr miskin,

Azrail gelip alyr zhanyngny,

Zhan alanda k"artyllatyr sanyngny… [3, p. 56]

Having fun, you will wander in joy,

You will languish from the ways of withdrawing the soul,

When you see Azrael, you'll lose hope,

Don't believe this world, it will deceive you, poor man,

Azrael will come and take your soul,

Taking your soul will make your body shake…

The Koran about the angel of death says: «Say, 'The angel of death to whom you are entrusted accepts your death, then you will be returned to your God'» (Kor, 32: 11).

When the time of death of a person comes, a leaf with his name falls from a tree growing below the throne (arsh) of Allah into the hands of Azrael. Within forty days, a person's soul can be excised from the body by the angel of death.

The belief in the existence of two worlds, this world and the other world, two lives, this life and life after death, is present and is one of the basic beliefs in Islam. To refer to the other world or the future life in the Muslim tradition, the term al-aḥīra (aḥir zamanā) is most often used – one of the most common terms of the Koran.

The belief in life in the other world (ahīra), as in the Koran, is confirmed many times in the works of spiritual literature of the Kumyks. Those who are convinced of this – «they are on a straight path from their God», and those who deny it are blamed.

Sheksiz bolazhak"dur ahiru zaman,

Tirgizer alamny, k"alyrlar g'ajran,

Amal chekmak uchun varur mizana,

Songra halk"g"a g'isab-sual etdirer,

Kima zhennet verub, tahg"a mindirer,

Kimni zhag'annemde ota dyondurur,

Allag' k"azi olub varur divana [3, p. 7].

Surely, Ahir Zaman will come,

the whole world will be resurrected, and they will be surprised.

To weigh the deeds go to the scales,

Then people will have a trial,

Who will give heaven and they will ascend to the throne,

Whoever is put into the Fire of Hell,

Allah will be the Judge.

The works we are considering pay great attention to the ideas of what is the fate of a person after death, before resurrection, in other words, to the images of a state that can be defined as intermediate. In Islam, this is primarily related to the idea of punishment in the grave and the barrier. The grave is the first stage that a person goes through after death.

Ag"ach atg"a gyoterilip,

Majdaj k"ark"alabiz irip,

K"arangy k"aburg"a girip,

Munkar-Nakir sorazhak"dur.

Nasibli k"ul zhavap tabar,

Nasibsiz barmag"yn habar,

Yatuvu k"ap-k"ara zhabar,

Sanyn hurtlar talazhak"dyr [3, p. 52].

Climbing on a wooden horse,

Melting like butter, our body,

Enter the dark grave,

Munkar and Nakir will arrange an interrogation.

A happy slave will find the answer, an

Unhappy one will bite his fingers,

His bed is black earth,

His body will be shredded by worms.

The qualitative difference between this stage and the subsequent stage that comes after the resurrection of the body is that in the grave the body and soul are separated. Heaven and hell exist, but the resurrection from the dead, when the bodies and souls of people are united, and the judgment after which Allah decides where He will send a person, will come only at the end of days (Yāwm al-akḥīra).

According to Muslim beliefs, souls and bodies remain separated until the resurrection from the dead: the bodies are in the grave, and the souls are either in heaven (the souls of the righteous), or in the horn of the archangel Israel, which he will blow on the day of resurrection. The number of horn holes is equal to the number of people who have ever lived on earth. And on the Day of Resurrection, they will come out and be reunited with the bodies. Thus, a person is in some middle or intermediate state until the resurrection, when the final judgment will be made on them, granting either eternal bliss in paradise or eternal torment of hell.

Songra Mag'shara varilur,

Mizan-tereze k"urilur,

G'ar isha zhaza verilur,

Allag' k"azi olur bir gyun.

G'isab-sualyn etdirur,

Zhumlanun ishin bitdirur,

Kimin zhannata etdurur,

Kimin nara salyr bir gyun. [3, p. 50].

Then they will go to Mahshar Square,

Build a scale,

For every transgression there will be a punishment, and

Allah will be the judge on that Day.

They will arrange an interrogation,

They will consider the cases of all,

Who will be sent to heaven,

And who in the hell fire one day.

In Muslim traditions, much attention is paid to the question of when and how Muhammad came to think about the existence of punishment in the grave. Ibn Qasir, in his commentary on the Koran, where he expresses the opinion that this idea was revealed to the Prophet in the Madinah period, quotes the following hadith: Aisha was served by a Jewish woman. Every time Aisha did her any service, the Jewish woman would say to her, «May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave». Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), told: «The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came to me and I asked him, 'Messenger of Allah, is there any punishment in the grave until the Day of Resurrection?' He said, «No, who told you that?»: This Jewish woman said. Every time I do something nice to her, she tells me: «May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave». He said, «The Jews have invented this, and they say many things about Allah. There is no punishment before the Day of Resurrection». Then some time passed, and one day he came out in the morning, dragging his clothes behind him, with red eyes and shouted with all his might: «The grave is like a thief in the night. People! If you knew what I know, you would cry a lot and laugh a little. People! Ask Allah to spare you the punishment of the grave. Punishment in the grave is the truth». These motives are given a lot of attention in the spiritual poetry of the Kumyks:

Avur toprak" basar nazik bashimi,

Ag"u ajlar shonda shirin ashimi,

Ak"yrablar chajnar inzhi dishimi,

Hurt-k"omursg"a toyar k"anyma menum,

Aman zaman gelub divan k"uranda,

Dag"y Munkar-Nakir k"arshy turanda,

Tyurlyu-tyurlyu k"abur azab veranda,

Kim k"arar ag' ilan zaryma menum?[3, p. 56].

The heavy earth will press down on my tender head,

They'll turn my sweet food into poison there,

Scorpions will chew on my mother-of-pearl teeth,

The worms and ants will feed on my blood.

When the time comes and the interrogation is arranged,

When Munkar-Nakir will be opposite,

When they will be punished with various grave punishments,

Who will take pity on me, the sufferer?

The function of testing the grave is performed by two angels – Munkar and Nakir. The following Koranic verses are associated with the names of Munkar and Nakir:

«And how, when the angels have laid them to rest, they will strike them on their faces and on their spines!» (Kor, 47:27).

«...If you had seen the unrighteous in the depths of death, and the angels stretching out their hands: «Bring out your souls, today you will be rewarded with the punishment of humiliation for speaking against Allah not the truth and being exalted over His signs!» (Kor, 6:93).

«If you had seen those who disbelieve end their lives, the angels strike them in the face and on their backs: 'Taste the punishment of the Fire!'» (Kor, 8:50).

They leave the righteous alone until the end of the world, and beat the sinners on their faces and backs until the Day of Resurrection. In almost all the works included in the collection under consideration, there are images of Munkar and Nakir. Here is how they are described by Kumyk authors:

K"ara chachly, yashyl gyozlyu,

Adama k"ork"unchlu yuzlyu,

G'ar syozyu munazhat syozlyu,

Eki malak gelir miskin.

Sorarlar iman-islamdan,

G'arisi gelir bir yandan,

Tajyshma er bolmas andan,

ZHavablaryn ojla miskin.

Syozyune zhavab bermeseng,

Yaratg"anyng g'ak" bilmeseng,

Iman yoluna gelmeseng,

Urazhag"yn ojla miskin [3, p. 41].

Black-haired, green-eyed,

With a terrible face for a person,

Every word is heard from everywhere,

Two angels are coming, poor man.

They will ask about faith, Islam,

Each will fit on one side,

Move away there will be no place there,

Think about the answers, poor man.

If you don't answer the questions,

If you don't know the Creator,

If you don't follow the path of faith,

Think about what they're going to hit, poor man.

In the Muslim tradition, it is also said about the punishment of the pressure of the grave after the interrogation of angels:

«The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘When a man dies, two angels come to him. Both with black faces and blue eyes. One is called Munkar, the other Nakir. They ask, ‘What do you say about the Prophet, peace be upon him?’ If the deceased is a believer, he answers, ‘He is a slave of the God and His Messenger. I bear witness that God is one, and Muhammad is His Messenger’. Then they widen his grave (to the size of) seventy by seventy cubits, illuminate it and fill it with light, saying, ‘Sleep’. He asks: ‘Let me see my relatives’. They say to him, ‘Sleep as the bride sleeps, sleep in such a way that nothing will wake you, except the one you love most’».

If the deceased is a hypocrite, then he answers: «I don't know. I heard from people who said something to me there, and I also said it». In this case, they command the earth: «Shrink!» And it shrinks. All sides of it are pulled up one to the other. So, he remains in torment until the Day of Resurrection». This eschatological motif of pressure over the grave is also found in the spiritual poetry of the Kumyks:

Tak"ta tyupde tam artynda jyg"ylyp,

K"abur k"ysyp, k"aburg"alar syg"ylyp,

K"any syjly, k"ara erge ag"ylyp, … [3, p. 48]

Under the board [of the grave], spread-eagled,

Squeezed by the grave, with crushed ribs,

Noble blood spilled on the black earth…


Tam yaruban Munkar-Nakir geldimu,

Rabbing, nabing kim dep sual aldimu,

Dahy k"abur k"ysyp azab berdimu[3, p. 40]

Having cut through the wall, did Munkar-Nakir come,

Asking about the God, the Prophet,

Did he conduct an interrogation?

And by squeezing even harder, did the grave bring torment?

Sometimes, as can be seen from this example, when talking about Munkar and Nakir, singular verbs are used. The transformation of two angels into one should perhaps be associated with their identification with one or two guardian angels who accompany a person during life: «Indeed, there is a guardian over every soul» (Kor, 86:4); «And there are guardians over you-noble scribes. They know what you are doing» (Kor, 82, 10-12).

In the works of spiritual literature of the Kumyks, as we have already mentioned above, simultaneously with the teaching about the posthumous fate of a single person, the eschatological motif − the end of the world is clearly expressed. In the Koran, the main events of history are the beginning − the creation of the world and its end, followed by the resurrection of the dead and the Day of Judgment.

The picture of the universal end in the Koran is associated with the Day of Resurrection. The end of the world will be preceded by signs. Usually in the tradition there are ten main signs: sunrise from the west, smoke, the beast, the exit of Jadžūdzh and Madzhūdzh, the descent of the prophet ISA, the Dadzhzhāl, three eclipses: from the east, the west, the Arab peninsula and the fire coming from under the bottom of Āden [2].

Some of the signs are mentioned in the Koran: «The Hour is at hand, and the month is split! But if they see a sign, they turn away and say, ‘Sorcery is long!’ And they considered it a lie and followed their inclinations, and every matter is established. The news has already come to them, in which there is restraint, ultimate wisdom, but the admonition has not helped». (Kor, 54: 1-5).

The motives of waiting for the end of the world are a red thread in all the works we are considering:

Aj, erenler, aj k"ardashlar,

K"yyamat gyun gelir bir gyun,

G'am pitneli, g'am k"ajg"yly,

K"ork"uvlu gyun gelir bir gyun.

Dyun'ya elenir un jimik,

Tav-tash atylyr yun jimik,

Adamlar gyobelek jimik,

Sarchardan gyun gelir bir gyun [3, p. 50].

Hey men, hey brothers,

Judgment day will come one day,

Also, vague and sad,

A terrible day will come one day.

The world will sift like flour,

Mountains and rocks will be like wool being churned,

People are like moths,

They will be dispersed; such a day will come one day.

These lines from the work of Gasan oglu «Gelir bir gun» («One day will come») are like a poetic exposition of the following verses of the Koran, which describe the natural disasters that must occur near the end of the world:

«That day, as tremble the earth and the mountains, and become mountain hill loose!»; «the day that makes children hoary» (Kor, 73:14, 17).

«The day when people will be like dispersed moths, and the mountains will be like wool yarn» (Kor, 101, 4-5).

«When the sun is twisted, and when the stars are darkened, and when the mountains depart from the field, and when ten months pregnant camels are unattended, and when the animals gather, and when the seas overflow, and when the souls are joined, and when the buried alive is asked for what sin he was killed, when the scrolls unfold, and when the sky is pulled down, and when hell is kindled, and when heaven is close» (Kor, 81-1-13).

«When the stars are darkened, and when the sky is split, and when the mountains are scattered» (Kor, 77, 8-10).

«When the earth is shaken with a great shaking, when the mountains are crushed with a mighty crushing and become crumbling dust» (Kor, 56, 4-6).

«On the Day when the sky is like molten copper, and the mountains will be like wool» (Kor, 70, 8-9).

«And on the Day when the sky is split with clouds, and the angels are brought down» (Kor, 25:25).

«After all, the concussion of the last hour is a great thing. On the day you see it, every nurse will forget the one she has fed, and every bearer will lay down her burden. And you will see people drunk, but they are not drunk. But the punishment of Allah is severe» (Kor, 22, 1-2).

It should be noted here that most of the works we analyze tell about the collapse of the three main elements of the Koranic universe: the sky, the mountains and the earth. Their authors seem to emphasize that everything that has happened and is happening on earth is only a prelude to the main event in the history of mankind − the end of the world, when evil will be finally overthrown, and good will prevail. In the works, numerous phrases and whole phrases are used to indicate the end of days. For example: Judgment Day (k"yyamat gyun), an hour (sag"at), the last day (ahyr gyun), the Day of Judgment (k"azilik etegen gyun), that day (ol gyun), painful day (k"ajg"yly gyun), tough day (k"yjyn gyun), resurrection day (tirilter gyun), day of reckoning (divan k"urag"an gyun).

There are also descriptive expressions that imply the end of the world: a day in which there is no doubt (sheksiz gyun); on that day every soul will find represented all that it has done: what it has done good and what it has done evil (amallaryna gyore sorav alag"an gyun); on the day when faces turn white and faces turn black (yuzler k"aralazhak", yada ag"arazhak" gyun); that day, when you blow into the pipe (syur chalazhak" gyun); the day when the parent does not compensate for the child, and the born does not compensate for his parent in any way (ana baladan, bala anadan k"achazhak" gyun) etc.

Verbal name k"iyama translated into Russian language as the resurrection, insurrection, rising. In spiritual works, as in the Koran, it means a specific meaning, i.e., resurrection from the dead.

Thus, the composition of the works under consideration is a fusion of conversation-edification with an exposition of eschatological motives. They can be divided into two parts − edifying, prescribing how to behave, and descriptive (description of the horrors that await people in the event of non-compliance with these instructions).

Almost all works begin with an edifying conversation about spells from the instigations of Satan, as well as how to protect yourself from them by appeals to the Almighty. Then begin the actual descriptions of the End of the world, when there will be a universal catastrophe and the resurrection of the dead, the trial of people, with its two important elements – a book with a record of human deeds, and the scales on which these acts will be weighed. Then we are talking about the obstacles that people must overcome on their way to paradise. At the end, the authors bring us back to the picture of the Day of Judgment, in which each of them responsible for yourself and for your actions.

1. Aleksey Hismatulin, Viktoriya Kryukova, Death and Funeral Rites in Islam and Zoroastrianism, St. Petersburg, 1997.
2. Ibn Kaṣṣīr, Abu Abdallāḥ Muḥāmmad ibn Ismail, Interpretation of the Great Koran, vol. 14, Er-Rijād, 1989.
3. Madzhmu ul-manzumat al-adzhamija, Temir-Han-Shura, 1914.
4. The Koran: trans. Ignatiy Krachkovsky, Moscow, Publishing house Science, 1986.