True Lithuania

Sunni Islam in Lithuania

Islam came to Lithuania well before many other European nations when Grand Duke Vytautas the Great brought Muslim Tatars from the southernmost limits of his lands to defend Vilnius and the boundaries. This happened in the 15th century.

The passing centuries blended the medieval soldiers into the Lithuanian landscape. Their square wooden mosques (19th century) are more reminiscent of Lithuanian village houses than Arabic religious buildings. These mosques are unique and with only three left (in Raižiai, Nemėžis and Keturiasdešimt Totorių, the latter two near Vilnius) – a sight not to miss for anybody interested in Islam.

A mosque inspired by Arabic style was built in Kaunas for Vytautas the Great jubilee in 1930.

The 20th century brought new Muslims to Lithuania, firstly from the Soviet Union and after independence – from the volatile Middle Eastern and African lands. These new Muslims may be already outnumbering the traditional Tatar community. But, as of now, there is not even a mosque in Vilnius since the Soviets torn down the old wooden Tatar one that until 1968 stood in the old district of Lukiškės.

The practice of faith itself was heavily impeded under the Soviet occupation with most mosques closed, Quran hardly possible to get and Hajj outlawed. When the independence (1990) brought back the religious freedom Islam made some comeback in its communities.

There were almost 3000 Muslims in Lithuania during the 2001 census (some 0,1% of the population). Most Lithuanian Muslims follow Hanafi madhhab.

A traditional wooden mosque in Raižiai village (Alytus district municipality, Dzūkija), famous for its minbar made in 1686. The current mosque itself was built in 1889. Minaret is above roof but is not used for the original purpose. The door to the left is used by the women whereas the door to the right is the entrance for men. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

See also: Top 10 Islamic sights and locations in Lithuania

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