The Muslim Community in Poland
The Muslim Community in Poland
1. Brief history of Islam in the country.
Over 600 years ago the Tatars fled from their homelands at a time when they were engaged in civil wars. They moved west and settled in Lithuania, which was part of the Polish empire subjected to the Polish king.
Enlisted into military service they were rewarded with land and privileges. They were allowed to build mosques, marry local women and bring up their children in the Islamic faith. This was a flourishing era of the Polish Muslims. Some reports from this time mention a number of 200.000 Muslims and as many as 160 mosques.
On the turn of the 16th century, many of these Tatars lost their mother tongue and began to use the Slavonic languages.
With time many of them also accepted the Polish customs and traditions. Unfortunately many also lost their religion, mostly through marriage with the local Christians, who later brought up their children in the Christian faith.
However the remains of the Muslim ummah in Poland formed an organisation named “Polish Muslim Union” in 1917. After the second world war the borders of Poland were changed, which dramatically decreased the numbers of the Muslims, mosques and the position of the mufti also ceased to exist. Under the following communist regime many Muslims were also deported to Siberia, their lands were taken away from them and many mosques were closed.
Today the remains of these Tatar settlers count about 5000 persons, and two old mosques in Bohoniki and Kruszyniany. Most of these remaining Muslims have very limited understanding of religion, mainly due to the lack of Islamic educational establishments. The old Tatar mosques are used mostly for eid festivals and cultural gatherings.
The reestablishment of Islamic activities began through the contact with Muslims coming mostly from the Arab world. The first active group that started serious da’wah work were the students. In 1989 they formed the “Muslim Students Society in Poland”. Amongst other things they established some elementary Islamic education for the Tatar children.
2. Present status of the Muslim community.
Today the approximate statistics of the Muslim population in Poland are as follows:
Tatars – 5.000
Foreign Muslims – 25.000
New Polish Muslims – between 500 and 1.000. There are currently no statistics available concerning this group.
Total population in Poland – 40.000.000.
Due to the small percentage we do not represent any political or economic strength. The social status of the Muslims living in Poland is in general similar to the rest of the Polish population.
3. Main problems that the community is currently facing.
· Poland is a country dominated by Christians, by as much as 99 per cent.
· The Muslim ummah is too small and not active enough to enforce anything on the Polish government.
· Islam is viewed as something exotic and the majority of the Poles have a vague understanding of Islam and Muslims.
· There is only one halal shop in Poland, in Warsaw.
· There are not enough places to hold the daily prayers. In Poznan where there is quite a large number of Muslims they have to pray in the student hostels.
· Not enough finances for Islamic activities.
· The Ummah in Poland is poorly organised.
· We do not have a leader, nor a headquarter which would co-ordinate the work.
· Lack of co-operation between the Muslims and their respective organisations.
· There are no full-time resource persons committed to da’wah activities. Persons that are actively working with da’wah do this on a part-time basis.
· The economic situation of the Muslims living in Poland is quite poor.
4. Educational level of the Muslim community and the problems relating to education.
Lack of educated personnel and funds to establish educational institutions. There is some elemental education in cities with Muslim communities. However there aren’t any Imams or scholars who would have good knowledge of Islam, the Polish language and who would have understanding of the Polish society.
5. Problems of Da’wah work.
As Poland is becoming very much like other western European countries, so does the anti Islamic propaganda increase. Many people have wrong idea about Islam and Muslims. Many Poles believe in the superiority of Christianity over Islam, in terms of mental, social and economic capabilities of the two Powers.
Islam and Muslim are often identified as third world citizens. Even when somebody does try to find out about Islam, he/she is often given false teaching of Islam, either through orientalist publications, or sects such as Ahmedija. Existing publications based upon the true teachings of Islam are unfortunately not easy accessible to the general public. Bookshops, schools and libraries only hold copies of Islamic literature written by non-Muslims.
As an example can be mentioned that the only to available translations of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an are written by non-Muslims. One by an orientalist (Bielawski) with misrepresentative commentary. The other by Ahmediya, which is the one most commonly sold in bookstores.
As mentioned earlier, there is a lack of co-operation and unity among the Muslims, as well insufficient human resources with good understanding of Islam and the Polish society.
There is a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of Islam among the Tatar population. There is also some unwillingness on the part of the Tatar population to join with other Muslims.
6. Names, objectives and programme of Muslim organisations in the area.
· “Polish Muslim Union”
Co-ordination of Islamic activities in Poland, translation and publication of Islamic literature, propagation of Islam through the Internet by maintaining two websites presenting Islam as well as providing on-line answers to commonly asked questions, publishing Islamic magazine in English as well as planning to publish two others in Polish from September 1999, gathering information about the Muslim population in Poland, holding regular meetings with the aim to deepen our Islamic knowledge, organising lectures for non-Muslims, contact with the media.
· “Polish Muslim Society” (MZR)
to cultivate Tatar traditions, to build a Mosque in Bialystok, to take care of the Muslim cemeteries. They have also lately established some religious education among the Tatar children in co-operation with the Muslim Students Society in Poland.
· “Muslim Society for propagation and culture of Islam”
education and care for persons who are ready to undertake the responsibility of Islamic activities in Poland.
· “Muslim Students Society in Poland”
spreading general knowledge about Islam, strengthening mutual relationships between Muslims in Poland, propagation of Islamic publications in Poland. They have so far published 21 books and organised many gatherings, lectures to the general public and youth camps. Sending suitable persons for Islamic education to Madrasa. Educating Muslim children in the Islamic faith.
7. The economic foundations of Islamic activities in the community.
All the Islamic activities are based on voluntary contributions mainly from within the country, with spontaneous help from outside.
8. Educational institutions run by Muslims in the Country.
There is no formal Muslim educational institution. However there is some Islamic education for children in many cities. The number of participants varies from 40 to 150 persons, with the greatest number in Bialystok and the surrounding area.
9. Islamic movements in Poland.
Currently no Islamic movements are present.
10. Publications produced by Polish Islamic Organisations.
Polish Muslim Union:
Muslim World Review, monthly Islamic magazine in English. Jihad Polska and ALIF magazines coming from September 99 in Polish. Four books have been translated and are waiting to be published. We are also maintaining two web sites in the Polish language:
Muslim Students Society in Poland:
Hikma, 42 issues. Al-Hadara quarterly magazine in Arabic. Twenty one books have been translated and published, future translations are planned. Among the book titles are:
Islamic System of Life: Abu ‘Ala Maududi.
Towards Understanding Islam: Abu ‘Ala Maududi.
Islam in Focus: Abdul Ati.
Monotheism and Polytheism: Ibrahim Hussain.
Fundamentals of Islam: Ibn Uthaimin
There were some publications made by Polish Muslim Union (MZR) in yearlier years, but currently there are no publications made by them.
12. Translation of the meaning of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith in Polish.
One translation of the Qur’an was made by a Polish Tatar Imam in the 19th century. This translation was however not completed and the remaining part was complied by a non-Muslim. One by Jozef Bielawski – an orientalist, and one by Ahmedija.
So far the only existing translation of Hadith is “forty hadith An Nawawi” and their explanation. It is translated and published by “Muslim Students Society in Poland”.
13. Islamic publications in the Native language.
The existing publications have been mentioned in point ten.
14. Addresses of Islamic Centres in Poland.
Islamic Centre in Warsaw:
Ul. Wiertnicza 103
Tel: +48-22-84 29 174
Islamic Centre in Bialystok:
Ul. Hetmanska 62
Tel: +48-85-651 40 21
15. Attitude of the Polish government towards Islamic Da’wah.
So far no problems as the da’wah is insignificant.
16. How other Muslim Institutes and organisations can help the Polish muslims in da’wah and other problems that community is facing.
Educational and financial help would be greatly appreciated.
17. Future priorities and plans of da’wah work in Poland.
· Acquiring knowledge.
· Gathering information about the Ummah in Poland.
· Co-ordination of Islamic activities in Poland.
· Translation of the meaning of the Holy Qur’an.
· Establishing an Islamic Library.
· Closer co-operation with other Islamic Da’wah organisations.
· Establishment of an Islamic educational institution.
If you have any comments, or questions concerning the situation of muslims in Poland, or if you would like to support the Islamic activities in any way please contact: Abu Anas