Many Muslims seem to ignore the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine — and Russia and the West in general. Perhaps Muslims may feel that Ukraine is not a Muslim country and as a result, the situation will not have any effect on the Ummah.
This is far from the truth and there are many ways Muslims would be affected if war were to break out.
Let’s look at some of these issues more closely.
1. Ukraine is a non-Muslim majority state but here too, there is a Muslim population. It is estimated that the Muslim population of Ukraine numbers around 500 000 to a million. That would amount to around just under 1% of Ukraine’s population of 44 million people. These people would be negatively affected by war just by virtue of being citizens. The honor and blood of a single Muslim is sacred. And the suffering of these thousands of Muslims should be our concern as an Ummah.
2. Crimea is a peninsular of Ukraine that was annexed by Russia in 2014 after the pro-Russian government of Ukraine was overthrown by weeks of protests. Crimea has a bigger Muslim population. Here around 12% of the population is Muslim, mostly Tatars. There are reports of systematic oppression of the Muslim minority. Many Tatar Muslims have also settled in the territory of Ukraine in order to escape persecution in Crimea.
3. Muslims also have history in Crimea and Ukraine. Crimea was under Muslim rule from 1313 to 1779 when the territory was annexed into imperial Russia by Catherine the Great. This is thus a former land of Islam just like Spain and India. Muslim Tatars were always persecuted under Russian rule and in 1944 Stalin deported the entire population from their homeland. Thousands were killed during this heartbreaking event of cruelty and oppression. They were only allowed to return years later. A heartbreaking event that the many in the Ummah have forgotten.
There is one aspect of Islamic history in Ukraine as well. The wife of the Ottoman Sultan Selim I was a princess from the Crimean Tatars. Additionally, Hurrem Sultan, also known as Roxelana, was the wife of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. She hailed from Ruthenia, a Ukrainian City along the sea of Azov. Today, there is a Masjid in the City known as the Suleimani Masjid, built in her memory.
4. Ukraine is close geographically to Turkey and this influential Muslim country is already involved to a degree. Turkey supports Ukraine and has been selling drone technology to Ukraine. President Erdogan has also offered to mediate a peaceful end to the crisis.
Turkey is on good terms with Russia, yet massive potential for conflict remains. Turkey and Russia are on opposite sides in Libya, Syria, and Azerbaijan. Turkey is also a member of NATO. Turkey is also vocal on the plight of the Crimean Tatars. The Turks will try to balance relations between East and West, but things could heat up in the event of war. In 2018 for example, after a deadly clash in the Kerch Strait, Ukraine pressured Turkey to block Russian ships from the Bosporus. War would certainly cause tension in the Black Sea and strategic waterways.
5. Syria is another hotspot. Russia intervened in Syria to help Assad against his own people. Today, there are several militaries involved in Syria fighting a multi-faceted war. Russia could heat Syria up to apply pressure on Turkey. Russia might cool Syria as its focus turns to the West. And tensions could increase between US troops and Russian troops who are close to each other in the chaotic area of Northern Syria where both are pitted against ISIS but hardly see eye to eye on most other issues.
Like Syria, similar tension could erupt in Libya, Azerbaijan, and the Balkans, where the geo-political interests of the West, Turkey, and Russia clash.
6. Ukraine is also a wheat exporter. North Africa imports a significant portion of its wheat from Ukraine, and this reliance will increase as the region battles drought and poor harvest domestically. War in Ukraine would decrease these imports, creating food shortages and pushing up prices as well. Social unrest could erupt in these countries if the situation is not properly handled.
7. And then the worst scenario. China and others could join in the conflict, and the war could go global. Could such global war turn nuclear? While this possibility is remote, it’s not impossible. In such a situation, the entire globe would be catastrophically impacted. Thankfully, chances of this are low.
To conclude, we can say that, although Ukraine is not a Muslim country, a war here would have a huge impact on the lives of many Muslims.
May Allah make things easy for the Ummah. May he protect the Muslimeen and guide the disbelievers to the truth of Islam. Islam is the only path to salvation and is a mercy for all of humanity.
The following are links for further reading and more information about the points listed above.