Imam Shamyl was born in 1796 to a noble family from the Avar people of southern Daghestan. . The difficult spiritual discipline required of him as a young scholar seemed to come naturally, and by his early twenties he was renowned for all the virtues which the Caucasus respected: courage in battle, a mastery of the Arabic language, Tafsir and Fiqh, and a spiritual nobility which left a profound impression on all who met him.
Imam Shamyl was born at a time when the Russian Empire was expanding into the territories of the Ottoman Empire and Persia.
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, and Ghazi Mullah. Imam Shamyl was
actually childhood friends with the Ghazi Mullah, and would become his disciple and counsellor.
Together with Ghazi Mullah, he bacame the disciple of Muhammad Yaraghi, the strict mystically-minded scholar who taught the
young men that their own spiritual purity was not enough: they must fight to make Allah's laws supreme. The Shari'ah must
replace the pagan laws of the Caucasian tribes. Only then would Allah give them victory over the Russian hosts.
Imam Shamyl's first exploits as Imam were purely defensive. The Russians under General Fese had launched a new attack on
Central Daghestan. Here, in the aoul of Ashilta, as the Russians approached, two thousand Murids took an oath on the Quran to
defend it to the death. After a bitter hand-to-hand fight through the streets, the Russians captured and destroyed the town,
taking no prisoners. The stage was set for a long and bitter war.
The weakness of Imam's position in the Caucasus was his need to defend the aouls. His men, moving with lightning speed, could
always dodge an enemy, or deal him a surprise blow from behind. But the villages, despite their fortifications, were
vulnerable to Russian siege methods backed up with modern artillery. In order to establish an independent state in Dagestan
(1834), Imam Shamyl reorganized and enlarged his Chechen and Dagestan forces and led them in extensive raids against the
Russian positions in the Caucasus region. In response, in 1838, the Russians sent a fresh expedition against Shamyl.
By this time, the Naqshbandi army numbered some six thousand, divided into units of five hundred men, each under the command
of a Naib (deputy). These Naibs, tough and scholarly, were a mystery to the Russians. In the thirty years of the Caucasian
war, not one was ever captured alive. The war lasted eighty days, resulting finally in a Russian victory. The Russians
suffered about 3000 casualties in taking the stronghold, while the freedom fighters were almost entirely slaughtered after
extremely bitter fighting where typical of the war, no quarter was either asked or given. The expedition captured Ahulgo, the
mountaineers' main stronghold, but not Imam Shamyl who miraculously escaped. In fact, despite triumphant conquests of the
forts and towns of the region, neither that expedition nor subsequent expeditions succeeded to defeat Shamil. Following his
escape he once again set about regaining his following and resisting the Russian occupation.
During the struggle Russian's lost around 500,000 troops.
Eventually, in 1857, the Russians concluded that they must suppress Imam Shamyl once and for all; his reputation had spread
not only among the peoples of the Cacausus but throughout western Europe as well. Dispatching large, well-equipped forces
under generals N. I. Evdokimov and A. I. Baryatinsky, the Russians surrounded Shamyl from all sides. Imam fought back. The
Russians, however, doubled their efforts making the situation untenable not only for Shamyl but for his followers and
supporters in the villages. The latter began to gradually give in. Capitalizing on this situation then, the Russians stormed
Imam Shamyl's fortress at Vedeno (April 1859) with the hope of capturing him alive. Imam, however, was nowhere to be found.
Recognizing the trap that the Russians had prepared for them, he and several hundred of his adherents had already withdrawn
to Mount Gunib. Eventually, however, on August 25 (September 6, New Style), 1859, recognizing the futility of his resistance
in the face of overwhelming odds, Imam Shamyl surrounded to the Russians himself and, indirectly, the independence and freedom of the peoples of the Caucasus. He was taken to St. Petersburg.
From St. Petersburg, Shamyl was exiled to Kaluga, south of Moscow. In 1870, with the Russian tsar's permission, he made a
pilgrimage to Mecca. Shamyl died in March 1871, at Medina, Saudi Arabia & was buried in Jannat Al Baqee.