person has a different way of coming to the Truth.
For Moisha Krivitsky this way led through a faculty
of law, a synagogue and a prison. The lawyer-to-be
becomes a Rabbi, then he converts into Islam and
finds himself in prison. Today Musa (this is the
name he has adopted when he became a Muslim) lives
in a small mosque in Al-Burikent, a mountain area of
Makhachkala, and works as a watchman in the Central
- Musa, before we began talking, you asked what we
were going to talk about. I said: ‘About you.’
‘What’s so interesting about me?’ you wondered. ‘I
live in the mosque’. How did you come to live in the
- Well, I just dropped in... and stayed.
- Did you find the way easily?
- With great difficulty. It was hard then, and it
isn’t much easier now. When you go deeply into
Islam’s inner meaning, you understand that this
religion is very simple, but the way that leads to
it may be extremely difficult. Often, people don’t
understand how a person could be converted into
Islam ‘from the other side’, as it were. But there
are no ‘sides’ here: Islam is everything there is,
both what we imagine and what we don’t imagine.
- Musa, as a matter of fact, we were given this fact
as a certain sensation: a Rabbi has turned Muslim.
- Well, it has been no sensation for quite a long
while already - it’s more than a year that I did
this. It was strange for me at first, too. But it
wasn’t an off-the-cuff decision. When I came into
Islam, I had read books about it, I had been
- Did you finish any high school before coming to
- Yes, I finished a clerical high school. After
graduation, I came to Makhachkala, and became the
- And where did you come from?
- Oh, from far away. But I’ve already become a true
Daghestani, I’ve got a lot of friends here - both
among Muslims and people who are far from Islam.
- Let’s return to your work in the synagogue.
- It was quite a paradoxical situation: there was a
mosque near my synagogue, the town mosque. Sometimes
my fiends who were its parishioners would come to me
- just to chat. I sometimes would come to the mosque
myself, to see how the services were carried out. I
was very interested. So we lived like good
neighbours. And once, during Ramadan, a woman came
to me - as I now understand, she belonged to a
people that was historically Muslim - and she asked
me to comment the Russian translation of the Qur´an
made by Krachkovsky.
- She brought the Qur´an to you - a Rabbi?!
- Yes, and she asked me to give her the Torah to
read in return. So I tried to read the Qur´an -
about ten times. It was really hard, but gradually I
began to understand, and to get a basic notion of
Islam. (Here, Musa looked at my friend’s son, the
six-year old Ahmed, who had fallen asleep in the
mosque courtyard. “Should we probably take him
inside the mosque?”, asked Musa.) And that woman had
brought back the Torah. It turned out to be very
difficult for her to read and understand it, because
religious literature requires extreme concentration
- Musa, and when you were reading the translation,
you must have begun to compare it with the Torah?
- I had found answers to many questions in the
Qur´an. Not to all of them, of course, because it
wasn’t the Arabic original, but the translation. But
I had begun to understand things.
- Does it mean that you couldn’t find some answers
- I don’t know, there’s Allah’s will in everything.
Apparently, those Jews who became Muslims in the
times of the Prophet (let Allah bless and greet
him), couldn’t find some answers in Judaism, but
found them in Islam. Perhaps, they were attracted by
the personality of the Prophet (let Allah bless
him!), his behaviour, his way of communicating with
people. It’s an important topic.
- And what exactly were the questions that you
couldn’t find answers to in Judaism?
- Before I came into contact with Islam, there were
questions which I had never even tried to find
answers to. Probably, an important part here had
been played by a book written by Ahmad Didat, a
South African scholar, comparing the Qur´an and the
Bible. There is a key phrase, well-known to those
who are familiar with religious issues: “Follow the
Prophet who is yet to come”. And when I studied
Islam, I understood that the Prophet Muhammad (let
Allah bless him!) is the very Prophet to be
followed. Both the Bible and the Torah tell us to do
it. I haven’t invented anything here.
- And what does the Torah say about the Prophet (let
Allah bless him!)?
- We won’t be able to find this name in the Torah.
But we can figure it out using a special key. For
example, we can understand what god this or that
particular person in history worships. The formula
describing the last Prophet (let Allah bless and
greet him) is that he would worship One God, the
Sole Creator of the world. The Prophet Muhammad (let
Allah bless him!) matches this description exactly.
When I read this, I got very interested. I hadn’t
known anything about Islam before that. Then I
decided to look deeper into the matter and see
whether there were any miracles and signs connected
with the name of the Prophet (let Allah bless him!).
The Bible tells us that the Lord sends miracles to
the prophets to confirm their special mission in
people’s eyes. I asked the alims about this, and
they said: “Here’s a collection of true hadiths
which describe the miracles connected with the
Prophet (let Allah bless him!)”.
Then I read that the Prophet (let Allah bless him)
had always said that there had been prophets and
messengers before him (let Allah be content with
them). We can find their names both in the Torah and
in the Bible. When I was only starting to get
interested, it sounded somewhat strange for me. And
then... Well, my own actions led to what happened to
me. Sometimes I get to thinking: why did I read all
this? Perhaps, I should say the tauba (a prayer of
repenting) right now for having thoughts like that.
- Should I understand you, Musa, that you now feel a
great responsibility for becoming a Muslim, or do
you have some other feelings?
- Yes, responsibility, but something else as well. I
can’t put my finger on it now. When a person knows
Islam well, he’s got both his feet firmly on the
ground. Islam helps a person I would be insincere if
I said that the all the Daghestani are such
‘knowing’ Muslims. We sometimes talk about it in the
mosque and I like to say that there are not so many
real Muslims in Daghestan - only the ustaths
(learned theologians) and their students, and the
rest of us are just candidates. I can’t say that we
do what the sunna requires, we’re only trying to.
And when we don’t do what we should, we’re trying to
invent some clever excuses. These efforts should
have better been applied to doing our duty. It’s
hard for me to watch this. Sometimes, I’m distracted
by what is happening around me, as well. I haven’t
got strength enough to fight this, and the weakness
of my nature shows clearly here. I can’t say I’m
totally helpless, but I have no right to say that
I’ve achieved anything in Islam. I’ve only got
When I understood that I had to become a Muslim, I
thought that Islam was a single whole - one common
road, or a huge indivisible ocean. Then I saw that
there were a lot of trends in Islam, and new
questions appeared. All these trends are like
whirlpools, they whirl and whirl... it’s very hard!
If a person tells you: “Look, we fulfil all the
hadiths, only we understand еру Qur´an correctly”,
then you follow this person, because you think that
he speaks true things, and because you want to
please Allah. But then, after a couple of months,
you understand that these claims were false. Allah
controls us. And you think: if this way is the right
way, then why is there something that goes the wrong
- Musa, and what brought you into the prison?
- A good question, this, isn’t it?
- Who welcomed you there?
- If there’s Allah’s will to everything, then this
was His will as well. Regarding life from behind the
barbed wire, going through all of this, that was a
certain school for me.
- How did it happen?
- I’ve recently seen a programme on the TV, and a
representative of the Chechen republic in Moscow - I
forget his name now, I believe he had some
beautiful, French-sounding name, something like
Binaud - he said that if the authorities were going
to carry on like they had done before - barging into
homes, planting drugs and weapons on people - then
the people would be out in the streets protesting.
This has happened to many here. So there was
something planted on me. Then they came and took me
away at night.
Before that, I had had a certain notion about he
forces of the law here... well, I couldn’t think
they would use such, well, not very polite methods.
Islam doesn’t let me use a stronger word. Allah
estimates what every man does, and those people will
have to answer for what they have done.
But the three months I spent in prison, they
probably helped me to make my faith stronger. I saw
how people behaved under the extreme circumstances,
both Muslims and non-Muslims, how I behaved.
It would be good, of course, if the people in power
would pay their attention to this problem. They
shouldn’t be trying to eradicate Islam with such
- Musa, why were the authorities frightened by you?
- No idea. Even children aren’t afraid of me.
At this moment, our conversation was interrupted by
a stunningly beautiful azan.
- Is there a muezzin in your mosque?
- Yes, his name is Muamat Tarif, it was him that
we’ve just heard.
- And there’s only you and him who works in this
- Well, as a matter of fact, only he works. He
allows me... I still can’t get used to things after
prison. He allows me to live here. It’s hard to
recall this. I had a certain trouble with the people
whose flat I was living in, the understanding
between us somehow failed. I started perceiving them
in a different way. But it’s probably bad to be
looking for other people’s drawbacks, I’ve probably
People started arriving to the mosque. We rose and
hastened for the prayer, too.