by Antonina Zhelyazkova
The Islamisation of the Albanians and its impact on the Albanian religious identity...  (2)

The significance of kinship, clan, brotherhood had grown into a serious, rich and branched, ideological system which rested upon the Kanun of Lek, and the Code of Skanderbeg, ousting any attempt at domination by some other ideology in the Albanians' value system. The fis, or the brotherhood, tolerated no influences, no intrusion by alien elements. They even had their own graveyards where no member of another brotherhood or clan could be buried.

Especially typical of the tribal system is collective liability. In a trial, which, in conformity with customary law, requires the defendant's "vow of negation" - "I have not committed this", the jury are selected from among the vllaznija or vëllasëri (brotherhood) of the accused, because customary law did not recognise the individual as a legal entity, such was, in its perception, the collective of relatives holding equal responsibility for the wrong-doing of one of its members.52  Obviously, the legal system effective among the Albanians in the period of the Ottoman rule, was far from the dogmas of Sheriat law.

The official Sunni Islam in the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire was maintained prevailingly by the upper classes, the administrative and religious functionaries. In the adoption of Islam by the Balkan Christians, a much more essential part was played by the Muslim sects whose rituals and rite system were closer to folk beliefs. Even the period of the Seljuk Sultanate in Anatolia, saw an expansion of Islam in consequence of the spread and influence of mysticism, Sufism, and the dervish orders from the mid-13th century, a process that intensified even further in the 14th century. Although the Sufi orders differed from one another, they shared the quality of approaching religious life emotionally rather than in a legal-dogmatic way. The followers of Sufism believe it is possible to achieve immediate communion of man with God with the help of contemplation, one's personal qualities and individual experience. As a matter of fact, by its simplicity this view makes Sufism attractive to broad social strata. The philosophy of Sufism built into the fundaments of Islam a new conceptual layer, more distant from dogmas and more open to man. Sufi adherents performed primarily mystic rituals that appealed to both the lower and the more educated social classes.53

The Sufi-dervish orders were the most persistent agents of the worship of saints. In this way they met a basic need of the broad lower strata of society for protection and support against the injustices of earthly ways and rulers. The dervish brotherhoods established their tekkes and zavyes usually near the tomb of some righteous person (or fighter for the faith and justice), who was very soon declared holy. At the same time, the Muslim sects were religiously tolerant in celebrating some Christian saints who were close to their own martyrs by moral qualities, exploits and "miracles".54  This attracted the people from the neighbourhood to the tekkes, while the ?eyhs and dervishes suggested to them that religions and rituals were not differing greatly or at least that the invisible meaning of values and philosophy were very close to one another, no matter whether they were Judaic, Christian or Muslim in origin. All endeavours by theologians and by the authorities to put an end to the sanctification of new saints in popular Islam, failed. Their efforts to end the overgrowing of Islamic rituals with local customs and traditions were of no avail either, and controversies in the sphere of dogmas, as usual, wound up in compromise. 55

52 Ibid., p. 84.
53 Vryonis, Sp. Islam and cultural change in the Middle Ages. Wiesbaden, 1975, p. 127.
Historical background. Ethnogenesis
The Albanian identity and the geographical environment.
George Kastrioti - Skanderbeg's resistance to the Ottomans. Heroicity as part of the Albanian individuality.
Ottoman colonisation and establishment of the new administration.
The Islamisation of the Albanians and its impact on the Albanian religious identity.
The Balkans Revival in the 19th century and the Albanian patriotic ideas
The two world wars, the occupation periods and the frustration of the Albanian national strivings and anticipations for independence.
The survival of the Albanian identities under Enver Hoxha. The role of the isolationist policy of the regime in Tirana.

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