Imam Shamil (Turkish: Şeyh Şamil also spelled as Shamyl, Schamil, in Urdu/Arabic/Persian امام شامل ; 1797 – March 1871) was an Avar political and religious leader of the Muslim tribes of the Northern Caucasus. He was a leader of anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian War and was the third Imam of Dagestan(داغستان) and Chechnya(شیشان) (1834-1859).
Imam Shamil (امام شامل) was born in 1797, in the small village (aul) of Gimry, which is in current-day Dagestan (occupied by Russia). He was originally named Ali(علی) , but following local tradition, his name was changed when he became ill. His father, Dengau, was a free landlord, and this position allowed Shamil (امام شامل) and his close friend, Ghazi Mullah, to study many subjects including Arabic and logic. Shamil (امام شامل) established himself as a well-respected and educated man of Quran and Sunnah among other Muslims of the Caucasus.
Shamil (امام شامل) was born at a time when the Russian Empire was expanding into the territories of the Ottoman Empire and Persia(فارس). Following the Russian invasion, many Caucasian nations united in resistance to harsh Tsarist rule in what became known as the Caucasian War. Some of the earlier leaders of Caucasian resistance were Sheikh Mansur(شیخ منصور), and Ghazi Mollah(غازی ملا). Shamil (امام شامل) was actually childhood friends with the Mollah, and would become his disciple and counsellor.
In 1832, Ghazi Mollah(غازی ملا) died at the battle of Gimry, and Shamil (امام شامل) was one of only two Murids (مرید)to escape, but he sustained severe wounds. He went into hiding and both Russians and Murids(مرید) assumed him dead. Once recovered, he emerged out of hiding and rejoined the murids(مرید), led by the third Imam, Gamzat-bek. When the latter was murdered by Hadji Murad(حاجی مراد) in 1834, Shamil took his place as the premier leader of the Caucasian resistance and the third Imam of Daghestan(امام داغستان). In 1839 (June-August), Shamil (امام شامل) and his followers, numbering about 4000 men, women and children, found themselves under siege in their mountain stronghold of Akhoulgo, nestled in the bend of the Andee Koisou River, about ten miles east of Gimry. This epic siege of the war lasted eighty days, resulting finally in a Russian victory. The Russians suffered about 3000 casualties in taking the stronghold, while the rebels were almost entirely slaughtered after extremely bitter fighting where typical of the war, no quarter was either asked or given. Shamil and a small party of his closest followers, including some family miraculously managed to escape down the cliffs and through the Russian siege lines during the final days at Akhoulgo. Following his escape he once again set about regaining his following and resisting the Russian occupation. Shamil (امام شامل) was effective at uniting the many, frequently quarreling, Caucasian tribes to fight against the Russians. He made effective use of guerrilla warfare tactics and the resistance continued under his leadership until 1859. On August 25, 1859 Shamil (امام شامل) and his family surrendered to Russian forces and were jailed in the Dagestan (داغستان)aoul of Gunib.
After his capture, Shamil (امام شامل) was sent to Saint Petersburg (سینٹ پیٹرزبرگ)to meet the Emperor Alexander II. Afterwards he was exiled to Kaluga, then a small town near Moscow (ماسکو). After several years in Kaluga he complained to the authorities about the climate and in December, 1868 Shamil received permission to move to Kiev, a commercial center of the Empire's southwest. In Kiev he was afforded a mansion in Aleksandrovskaya Street. The Imperial authorities ordered the Kiev superintendent to keep Shamil (امام شامل) under "strict but not overly burdensome surveillance" and allotted the city a significant sum for the needs of the exile.
In 1869 he was given permission to perform the Hajj to the holy city of Mecca (مکّہ مکرّمہ). He traveled first from Kiev to Odessa and then sailed to Istanbul(استنمبول), where he was greeted by Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz(سلطان عبدالعزیز). He became a guest at the Imperial Topkapi Palace for a short while and left Istanbul (استنمبول) on a ship reserved for him by the Sultan. After completing his pilgrimage to Mecca(مکّہ), he died in Medina(مدینہ منوّرہ) in 1871 while visiting the city, and was buried in the Jannatul Baqi(جنت البقیع), which is a site where Prophet Muhammed (محّمد صلّی اللہ علیہ وسلّم)and other prominent personalities from Islamic history are buried.