The Grand Mufti of Bosnia
Issue 91 April 2012
Dr. Mustafa Ceric´ is a genial man who has travelled the world promoting peace and justice. A graduate of Al-Azhar and Chicago, he combines traditional learning with a forward-looking agenda. On the 20th anniversary of the war in Bosnia, Asim Zubcˇevic´ speaks to the Grand Mufti.
How would you describe your life so far?
I was born on 5th February 1952, so I have just turned sixty. I am grateful to God that he gave me life in Bosnia. My father, Ibrahim, died in 1983 and my mother died last year. I have four sisters and one brother. I am married to Azra, and we have three children—Amina, Adila and Kemal. I have two grandchildren, Nadir who is four, and Ahmed who was born in January.
In my first decade, I was a happy child with dreams of becoming an imam and a khatib, and to be in the service of the mosque. I belong to a modest Bosniak Muslim family. My paternal grandfather, Mustafa, loved me very much. He was a widow, and I was his first grandchild, so we had a special relationship. My surname Ceric´ comes from Cher, which is of Turkish origin and means soldier, and so we have a military background.
My maternal grandfather was a merchant and very rich. But he also lost his wife when my mother was in her teens. My mother was a real hero, in raising us up during difficult times. Through her inheritance, we were all able to go to the school. My eldest sister was the first Muslim girl in the village to finish elementary school, which was very unusual. This progressive view of individual freedom came from my mother’s family, especially her brother Mustafa, who had studied shari’ah and was a Qadi (judge).
My second decade is a symbol of my frustrations and my hopes. That was the time of my elementary school, which I did not like because many of my teachers were from Montenegro, who openly hated Muslims and were spreading disbelief in God. I developed a double personality. At home, we would not have dinner before the maghrib prayers. Then it was isha’ prayers, and then homework. At school, the teachers told us there is no God, and religion is the opiate of the people. This decade was a real struggle. There was a conflict between my desire to believe in God and be what I want to be on the one hand, and the need to finish school.