Musa Jarullah Bigeev was born on December 25, 1873 (Old style) in the Mishar village of Kikino of Kamenskiy region in Penza Governorate. Thereat his father after getting tenure as an akhoond was ready to move with his family to Rostov-on-Don. These facts are known from Bigeev’s wife words as told to his youngest daughter Fatima Musovna Tagirdjanova, who diarized them, and were introduced into scientific use in 2010 after publication of biographical “Book about Musa-effendi, His time and Contemporaries”. Bigeev himself didn’t give due attention to the date and place of his birth, which lead to various readings. Bigeev got secular and theological education. He graduated from the non-classical secondary school in Rostov-on-Don, studied in madrassahs in Bakhchysarai, Kazan, Bukhara, at the oldest Cairo University – Al Azhar. After returning to his motherland he married a daughter of merchant and leader of the Ismaili community from Tatar town of Chistopol M.Z. Kamalov, who also founded madrassah “Kamalia”.
Bigeev moved to St. Petersburg and there he attended lectures at the Law Department of St. Petersburg Imperial University as a non-matriculated student, was published in Abdrashid Ibragimov’s newspaper “Ulfat” (Consonance), worked on initiation of a party “Ittifaq al-Muslimin” (The Union of the Muslims), and its line was similar to Kadets. Bigeev participated in the work of the first Muslim’s Organizational Congress on August 15, 1905 which was held during the largest Nizhny Novgorod Fair. He was an activist of the second and third convention of Muslims in 1906, was selected as a member of the party’s Central Bureau. Bigeev published a tract in Russian “A Statute of All-Russian Muslims Union” with an introduction “The Beginning of Our Movement”. He was a secretary of the fourth Muslims congress, which took place in Petersburg in 1914. Hereafter he published congress materials in his book “Reform Principles”. Bigeev started to publish his theological since 1906. Soon he enjoyed wide popularity. Bigeev published a book of his deceased elder brother Muhammed-Zakir Bigeev “A Trip to Mesopotamia” in 1908 (1870 Kikino, Penza oblast – 1902, Rostov-on-Don). Muhammed-Zakir Bigeev was one of the first Tatar writers, an author of secular novels “Thousands, or a Beauty of Khadich” (1887) and “The Great Sins” (1890).
At the end of 1909 Bigeev started his teaching activities at madrassah “Husainia” in Orenburg, but it didn’t last long. He gave lectures in Islamic Law, Arabic Language and Literature. From then on Bigeev signed his articles in Turkic – Musa Jarullah. Bigeev worked on a translation of Quran to the Tatar language. He finished this work in 1912, however the publication was postponed because of wide disputes of part of the Islamic clergy and hostile opinions of the Orenburg mufti, who believed that Quran, as God's words shouldn’t be translated – it is enough to use numerous interpretations. An article “Islamic Luther” (N. Fedotov), published in the magazine “Historical Herald” in 1914, developed the essence of some of the theologian’s original opinions. Bigeev was a co-owner of the publishing house “Amanat” of the merchant Muhammed-Alim Maksutov and made fonts for its print shop.
During the February Revolution Bigeev participated in the work of All-Russian Muslims Union congress in Moscow in May 1917, and was elected as a member of All-Russian Muslims Council. At the end of 1917 he headed the 1st Mohameddan living, became an imam of Petrograd Mosque, published a newspaper “Al-Minbar”. He attempted to cooperate with Soviet government: he wrote a statute of the Muslims community co-authored by activists, won permission for opening schools for Tatar children where they could learn the Tatar language, history and literature of the Turco-tatars.
In 1920 at the congress of the Islamic clergy in Ufa Bigeev acquainted the delegates with his suggestions on how to rebuild Islamic society “Appeal to Islamic Nations”, a sort of Islamic constitution. The fundamental principles of that address provided the basis for his book “Islam ABCs”, which was published in Berlin in 1923. After this publication Bigeev was arrested in Moscow where he stopped on his way from Petrograd to the conference in India. This arrest provoked upsurge of indignation: the Tatars of Finland requested assistance of the Turkish government, friendly to the Soviet Russia. The leading newspapers of Istanbul and Ankara published telegrams seeking to set a prisoner free. Bigeev was released on condition to live in Moscow during 2 years under surveillance of the government.
The exiled Bigeev was included into the delegation of the Soviet Muslims to work at the Congress in Mecca in May 1926. Thereat B. went to hajj. The community of Leningrad Tatars chose him to become a delegate at the regular congress of clergy held in Ufa in 1926. Bigeev was elected as a member of the Academic Board.
Bigeev returned to Leningrad in 1927 and saw the activity of the League of Militant Atheists and government campaign against non-proletarians and non-peasants. All organizations and institutions without any exception were purged. Lots of specialists were dismissed, and active workers were appointed to their positions. Bigeev continually applied to academician Ignaty Krachkovsky for assistance to get a teaching position at the Leningrad University, intending to teach Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages. Bigeev even applied to the government of Afghanistan looking for a job in 1929. Although Bigeev didn’t work, he had to pay taxes as he was a scientific worker. City authorities decided to deprive a group of citizens, including clergy and its family members, of food coupons. At the end of 1930 Bigeev decided to emigrate and by that he saved his own life and lives of his family. A lot of people left their homes, pulling through the actions of the League of Militant Atheists. Tatars from the Volga region, Nizhny Novgorod and Bashkiria emigrated to their adherents in Central Asia and Azerbaijan.
Bigeev was the last progressive Islamite, who illegally left the Soviet Russia. He left Leningrad where he lived with his family for Moscow, then he went to the Central Asia by train, crossed the border and found himself in Kashgar. After that he moved from Chinese Turkestan to Afghanistan, where through Nadir shah’s help he got passport and went to India, then to Egypt, where he reissued his work “Address to Grand National Assembly of Turkey”, referred to Atatürk.
He lived in Berlin in 1933. Bigeev issued 3 books in A. Mukhammedov’s printing house with financial support of the Tatars of Finland: “Arguments of the divine Mercy Inclusivity”, “Yajuj within the Meaning of the Miraculous Messages of the Holy Quran Ayats”, and “A Woman within the Meaning of the Holy Quran Ayats”, dedicated to his wife. Bigeev lived and worked a small time in Finland, lectured to Tatar youth.
In 1934 he left Finland to travel in Iran and Iraq and studied Shia Islam, in India he studied Sanskrit and Hindu texts – Mahabharata and the Vedas. In 1938 Bigeev as a missionary went to Japan, China, Java, Sumatra. At the end of 1939 he again went to India intending to settle in Kabul, Afghanistan, however, he was arrested by colonial authorities and spent 1.5–2 years at Peshawar prison. In consequence of interference of the governor of Bhopal Muhammad Hamidullah Bigeev was set free, but due to 1945 he lived in Peshawar under the Brits surveillance. This period of his scientific work was very productive. He wrote and published 8 books. He donated the circulation revenue to building a madrassah for Bombay immigrants’ children. Since 1946 Bigeev lived in Egypt, sometimes travelled to Turkey. Many times he went to hajj. In 1947 he tried to return to his Motherland.
In October 28, 1949, Bigeev died in Cairo. A prayer for the dead was said in Sayyeda Nafisa Mosque. He was laid to rest in Afifi at the Hedivie family royal cemetery. Bigeev left his private collection of books to the National Library of Turkey.
Bigeev included 120 theologian writings and articles to the list of his works, among them were:“Knowledge is Power”,
“Arabic Literature and Islamic Science”,
“The History of Quran and Holy Scriptures”,
“A Side Glance on the Religious Faiths”,
“Evidence of the Almighty Mercy”,
“Abstinence on Long Days”,
Quran translation into Tatar language,
“Graphical Amendments to Quran Editions”,
“Translation of Hafez’s Divan”,
“Biography of the Author of 'Al-Luzumiyat' ('Unnecessary Necessity') Philosopher and Imam Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri”,
“Small Thoughts on the Grand Subjects”,
“Thought on the book review of Fakhr ad-Din al-Razi “Religious and Social Issues”,
“Yajuj within the Meaning of the Miraculous Messages of the Holy Quran Ayats”,
“A Woman within the Meaning of the Holy Quran Ayats”,
“Comments on Shiite Views”,
“Days of the Prophet’s Life”,
“Human Reality in Pre-Islamic Era”,
“A Programme of Islamic University of Science”,
“Constitution in Islam”,
“Progress and Banks in Islam”,
With the beginning of perestroika and glasnost the forgotten name of the theologian came back. Nevertheless, Bigeev was extremely famous, even before the revolution his last name was taken from the Muslim sources and written in different ways: Bikeev, Bigeev and Bigiev. The older generation of authors wrote “Bigiev” in Tatar as they declined to write the version of his last name in Russian, and their younger colleagues continued their tradition with Russian texts without going into details. His brother’s last name was distorted after that too.
Bigeev’s works are translated into modern Tatar and English languages in Kazan, one of the city’s streets is named after him. In 2006 in the frames of project “Ijma=Consensus” of Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of Russian Academy of Sciences a movie “Return” about Bigeev was shot – script writer associate professor Efim A. Rezvan . A documentary “And The Moon Has Split” (film director B. Baishev, script writers Khairutdinov, R. Hakimov) took a special prize “For a contribution to Islamic Enlightment” at the IV International Festival of Muslim Cinema “Golden Minbar” in 2008.
In 2010 a reprint translation of Quran was issued, the galleys saved by descendants were printed.
In 2013 a number of activities were held in Kamenskiy region of Penza oblast dedicated to the 140 birth anniversary of M. Bigeev. On June 23, 2013 in the city of Kikino, at the ulema’s small motherland, a commemorative plaque dedicated to the famous natives of this area was fixed at the wall of the school. “Bigeev’s moral and spiritual readings” took place in Kamenka on December 21, 2013. Maktab and a garden near the mosque were named after Musa Bigeev.
Bigeev’s descendants live in Russia (in Ufa, Moscow, St. Petersburg) and in Ukraine (Dnepropetrovsk). His follower associate professor Abdurahman Tagirovich Tagirdzhanov (1907-1983) – orientalist, professor of the Leningrad State University was his son-in-law. Associate professor Abdrashit Museevich Bigeev (1917-2010) – metallurgical scientist, professor of Magnitogorsk State Technical University, honoured worker of science and technology of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialistic Republic, honoured freeman of Magnitogorsk – was Musa Bigeev’s first cousin at one remove.
He has been described as among "the most notorious Sunnite polemicists against Shiism in the 20th century", along with such figures as Muhibb-ud-Deen Al-Khatib and Ehsan Elahi Zaheer. This followed after he wrote such well known anti-Shia books as al-Washi'ah fi naqd 'aqa'id al-shi'ah. Among its contents, Bigiev notes that during his travels in Iraq and Iran he had not met even one Shia individual who knew the Quran to a satisfactory level.
It has been stated that Bigeev left "a deep imprint on the history of the reformed madrasas and the Muslim press of Russia in the 1910s."