Islam in Georgia (country)

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History of Georgia
Central Mosque in Tbilisi.

Islam in Georgia was introduced in 654 when an army sent by the Third Caliph of Islam, Uthman, conquered Eastern Georgia and established Muslim rule in Tbilisi. Currently, Muslims constitute approximately 9.9%[2] of the Georgian population. According to other sources, Muslims constitute 10-11% of Georgia's population.[3]

In July 2011, Parliament of Georgia passed new law allowing religious minority groups with “historic ties to Georgia” to register. The draft of the law specifically mentions Islam and four other religious communities.[3]

Mosques in Georgia operate under the supervision of the Georgian Muslim Department, established in May 2011. Until then the affairs of Georgia's Muslims had been governed from abroad by the Baku-based Caucasus Muslims Department.[4]

In 2010, Turkey and Georgia signed an agreement by which Turkey will provide funding and expertise to rehabilitate three mosques and to rebuild a fourth one in Georgia. While Georgia will rehabilitate four Georgian monasteries in Turkey.[5] The Georgia-Turkey agreement will allow the reconstruction of the historical Azize mosque in Batumi, Ajaria demolished in the middle of the last century. Turkey will rehabilitate the mosques at Samtskhe-Javakheti and Akhaltsikhe regions, Kobuleti District, build the Azize mosque burned down in 1940 and restore the Turkish bathhouse in Batumi.

History

Emirate of Tbilisi

The Arabs first appeared in Georgia in 645. It was not, however, until 735, when they succeeded in establishing their firm control over a large portion of the country. In that year, Marwan II took hold of Tbilisi and much of the neighbouring lands and installed there an Arab emir, who was to be confirmed by the Caliph of Baghdad or, occasionally, by the ostikan of Armīniya.

During the Arab period, Tbilisi (al-Tefelis) grew into a center of trade between the Islamic world and northern Europe. Beyond that, it functioned as a key Arab outpost and a buffer province facing the Byzantine and Khazar dominions. Over time, Tbilisi became largely Muslim.

Timurids

Between 1386 and 1404, Georgia was subjected to invasions by the armies of Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur, whose vast empire stretched, at its greatest extent, from Central Asia into Anatolia. In the first of at least seven invasions, Timur sacked Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and captured the king Bagrat V in 1386. In late 1401, Timur invaded the Caucasus once again. The King of Georgia had to sue for peace, and sent his brother with the contributions. Timur was preparing for a major confrontation with the Ottoman dynasty and apparently wished to freeze the currently prevailing situation in Georgia, until he could return to deal with it more decisively and thoroughly at his leisure. Thus, he made peace with George on condition that the king of Georgia supply him with troops.[6]

Ottoman Empire and Iranian Period

Rostom of Kartli, a Muslim Georgian ruler of the 17th century appointed by the Iranian Safavids.

The Safavid dynasty was in constant conflict with the Ottomans over full control and influence in the Caucasus. From the early 16th to the course of the second half of the 18th century, the Safavids had to deal with several independent kingdoms and principalities, as Georgia was not a single state at the time. These entities often followed divergent political courses. Safavid interests were largely directed at Eastern (the kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti) and Southern (the kingdoms of Samtskhe-Saatabago) Georgia while Western Georgia came under Ottoman influence. These independent kingdoms became vassals of Persia as early as in 1503.[7]

Botanical Street and Sunnite Mosque. Middle of 1880

On May 29, 1555, the Safavids and the Ottoman Empire concluded a treaty at Amasya following the Ottoman–Safavid War (1532–55) by which the Caucasus was divided between the two. Western Georgia and the western part of southern Georgia fell to The Ottomans, while Eastern Georgia (comprising the kingdoms of Kartli and Kakheti) and the (largest) eastern part of southern Georgia fell to Safavid Iran. The bulk of Georgia and the region which had historically always been the most dominant stayed therefore in the Iranian sphere. This partition of the Caucasus and therefore including Georgia under Islamic rule was again confirmed in 1639.

In 1703, Vakhtang VI became the ruler of the kingdom of Kartli. In 1716, he adopted Islam and the Safavid ruler confirmed him as King of Kartli. However, at a decisive moment Vakhtang was ordered to discontinue military campaigns, leading Vakhtang to adopt a pro-Russian orientation, though the Russian failed to tender him the promised military aid.

For several centuries, the Georgian kings and aristocrats converted to Islam and served as courtiers to the Iranian Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar dynasties, who ruled them.[8]