Tuesday 6 December 2022

Islam in North Macedonia

North Macedonia, earlier Macedonia prior to 2019, officially the Republic of North Macedonia, is a country in Southeast Europe. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the majority faith of North Macedonia, making up 65% of the population, while Muslims constitute 33.3% of the population. This makes North Macedonia with the fifth-highest proportion of Muslims in Europe. The Macedonian Muslims are largely the descendants of Orthodox Christian Slavs from the region of Macedonia who were converted to Islam during the centuries when the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans.

According to the census of 2002, making Islam the second most widely professed religion in the country. Muslims in North Macedonia follow Sunni Islam of the Hanafi madhhab. Some northwestern and western regions of the country have Muslim majorities. A large majority of all the Muslims in the country are ethnic Albanians, with the rest being primarily Turks, Romani, Bosniaks or Torbeš. As of 2011, there were 1,842 churches and 580 mosques in the country. [2]
Šarena Džamija [Photo: Wikimedia Common - Author: Photo Balkan]
One of the oldest mosques of Macedonia is the Šarena Džamija, meaning Decorated Mosque in English but also variably translated as Painted Mosque. Located near the Pena River in Tetovo, North Macedonia, the mosque was originally built in 1438 and later rebuilt in 1833 by Abdurrahman Pasha. Unlike other mosques of the Classical Ottoman period, the Šarena Mosque is more characteristic of traditional mosques in Anatolia, as it was constructed before the conquest of Constantinople, when Byzantine-influenced Mosque domes became the standard design.
The cultural and historical features of the Macedonian Muslims have contributed to their position within the relatively harmonized Macedonian society. Although Macedonia is renowned for being secular, with separation between state and religion, its constitution implicitly recognizes Islam as equal to other religions. The establishment of the Association of Macedonian Muslims, also known as Dar al-Ifta, was an important factor in helping to preserve the position of Islam and its legal manifestation and practices. This Islamic institution manages the affairs of the Macedonian Muslims, and defends their rights as citizens of Macedonia. [3]

The rule of Ottomans has left many architecture and shopping areas, Bazars, which still exCommoist and remind of the days of their glorious rule. Following is a photo of Old Bazar, located in Skopje, North Macedonia.:
{Photo: Wikimedia Common / Author: Stotosenik ]

The Old Bazaar is one of the oldest and largest marketplaces in the Balkans, it has been Skopje's centre for trade and commerce since at least the 12th century. During Ottoman rule of Skopje, the Old Bazaar developed rapidly to become the city's main centre of commerce. The Ottoman history of the bazaar is evidenced by roughly thirty mosques, numerous caravanserais and hans, among other buildings and monuments. Besides its importance as a marketplace, the Old Bazaar is known for its cultural and historical values.
Ishak Bey Mosque located in Old Bazar 
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons/author: de:Benutzer:Dominik.Tefert]

Ishak Bey Mosque, also known as the Decorated (Aladža) Mosque is famous for its floral decorations, inscriptions and coloured tiles found on its walls, the Ishak Bey Mosque was constructed in 1438 in the northern part of the Old Bazaar. The mosque's minaret rises 30 meters (98.4 feet). There is a türbe located behind the mosque. Within this mosque was one of the first Islamic libraries in Europe. [5]
Many Macedonian Muslims are involved in agriculture, and also work abroad. Macedonian Muslims are well known as fresco-painters, wood carvers and mosaic-makers. In the past few decades large numbers of Macedonian Muslims have emigrated to Western Europe and North America. [4]

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, 64% of Macedonian Muslims responded that religion is "very important" in their lives. The same survey found that 43% of Macedonian Muslims pray all five salah,[14] 51% attend mosque at least once a week, and 46% read Quran at least once a week. That makes Macedonian Muslims the most religious Muslim community between the Balkan countries with the Muslim communities in Montenegro and Serbia. [6]

As per one of the reports published by Al Jazeera in 2013, there are a number of cultural and educational organisations, publishing houses and relief organisations, that focus on care for Muslims and on raising awareness. They also aim to celebrate Islamic culture, defend the legitimate constitutional rights of Muslims and uphold the rights according to the Islamic educational and spiritual upbringing. There are a number of political parties that consist primarily of Muslims, and they have about 30 representatives of a 123 in parliament. Additionally, a number of Islamic youth forums work extensively on bridging the gap between religions, and on spreading the virtue of tolerance among the youth both within and outside of Macedonia. [3]

Now despite a sizeable portion of total population being Muslims, all is not well between the non-Muslims and the Muslims. Following is some of the reports published by Al Jazeera:
Despite the established and sound cooperation between Muslim and non-Muslim political circles, especially within the Macedonian parliament and other political circles, tension still prevail on the religious level with the lack of trust in Muslims. Lack of confidence in the Muslim population and the future uncertainties have become entrenched despite a lack of logical or historical justification.[3]
Presence of Muslims is a thorn in the eye of the anti-Islamists who exert unremitting efforts to defame Islam, stigmatize Muslims and fight their presence through political, cultural and media-oriented pressure groups. There are reportedly a number of new right-winged extremist and fascist politicians have launched several campaigns in a number of Western European countries in order to incite fear of Islam among the general populations. [3]
However, despite indifferent attitude of non-Muslims, Muslims are also to be blamed for not making their presence felt with higher strides in education and other service fields. With regards to education, Muslims fall at the bottom in the overall context of the country, and they are the poorest of the Macedonian social sects. Moreover, their political participation in the public sector is scarce compared to their representation in society. According to a survey, Muslims of Albanian origin are in a much better position than those of Turkish origin, while the position of the Bosniak, Toribash/Gorani and Roma Muslims are at the bottom.

Another problem facing the Muslims is the unity. The Islamic Religious Union of the Republic of Macedonia is an organization that is recognized by the state, but cannot sufficiently represent the Muslims of the country. Within the Islamic Religious Union, Albanians make up the majority. The needs of the Turkish and Slavic Muslims are not sufficiently met by the union. There is a dire need that the Islamic Religious Union of the Republic of Macedonia adopt policies that include all the Muslim communities in the country and become an organization through which they can make their voices heard in social and political spheres. [7]

The Islamic Relief organization is helping the poor Macedonian Muslims and alleviate some of the difficulties faced by low-income families in Macedonia. They provide seasonal assistance in the area. Their Qurbani and Ramadan programmes provide much-needed food for struggling families at the most important times of the Islamic year.[8]

You may like to watch a short video clip on history and culture of Macedonian Muslims - Ottoman traditions kept alive in Macedonia:

Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references given below. If anyone differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non-Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo: Macedonian Flag | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
If you like Islam: My Ultimate Decision, and to keep yourself updated on all our latest posts to know more about Islam, follow us on Facebook

Please share this page to your friends and family members through Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or any means on social media so that they can also be benefited by it and better understand Islam and the Holy Qur'an - Insha Allah (Allah Willing) you shall be blessed with the best of both worlds.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More