Chapter 3: Muslim Revival Movement in Central Asia (1850-1920)

Muslim civilization and culture faced a great challenge in central Asia during the reign of the Tsar. At that time cultural, educational, religious and political revival was needed among the Muslims mainly to keep intact their identity and existence. The Muslim revival movements in central Asia of 19th century were influenced by different thoughts and doctrines which came from Russia, Turkey and Persia. At the end of 18th century and during the early 19th century Russia itself was highly influenced by post French revolutionary literature and thinking.

Democratic thinking spread widely among the educated Muslims of the Russia-ruled Muslim areas because of the influence of modern Russian literature of that time. Similarly Pan-turk and Pan-Islamic ideas entered in Russia. At that time the Russian Muslims used to send their youths to Turkey, Beirut or Cairo for higher education. Because then there was no sophisticated higher educational institute for Muslims in Russia. Pan-turk and Pan-Islamic ideas and movements entered Russia mainly through those students. At the same time Allama Jamaluddin Afghani and his disciples were preaching Pan-Islamic ideas in different parts of the world.

Pan-Islamic ideas spread widely in Muslim majority areas of Russia by the political workers who took political asylum in Turkey from the autocracy of Tsar. At that time the Muslim leaders of Russia were able to understand that the only realistic way to face the challenge from Russia is to be united against Russian rule. There were only two fundamental basis of this unity. One was Islam and the other was Turkic nationalism. In fact then there was no confrontation or any rivalry between Turkic nationalism and Islamic idealism in Russia because the Muslim unity initiated by Turkish language and nationalism got a momentum by the addition of Islamic idealism. So Islamic idealism and Turkish nationalism went hand in hand in Russia in the early 19th century to establish broad spectrum and multi-dimensional Muslim unity.

Among the Muslim leaders and theologists who led Muslim revival and spread of Pan-Islamic and Pan-Turk ideas in Russia, the names of Yusuf Akchura Oglu, Shihabuddin Marjani, Abdul Qayum Nasiri, Ismail Bogamprinski, Abdur Rashid Ibrahim and Muhammad Amin Rasuljada are to be specially remembered. Ismail Bey (1851-1914) played an important role in the propagation of Pan-Turk ideas by his famous journal, 'Tarjuman'. Besides he wrote a number of books and plays on Pan-Turkism. Ismail Bey was born in Crimea. After completion of his higher education in France and Turkey, he returned to Russia and dedicated himself in reformation of Muslim education and Turkish language in Russia. Yusuf Akchura Oglu (1871-1931) was trying to convince Turks of Russia towards Turkism by his renowned article 'Uch Torj-e-Siasat'( The three political system). That article was published in the famous periodical of Cairo named,'Turk'. In that article he said, 'Turkish nation is the inheritor of both Islam and western civilization'.

He published the journal,'Turk Yurdu(Turkish motherland)' in 1911. This journal became the spokesman of the Pan-turkism of Russia and Turkey. Yusuf Oglu was born in a Tatar family and got education in Istanbul and Paris. He played a major role in the All Russia Muslim political organization (Ittefaq-Al-Muslimin) during 1905-1906. He was also a member of the Duma [1. The Parliament established in Russia after the revolution of 1905 was called 'Duma'. That revolution forced Tsar to make constitutional amendment and to give democratic rights to the people.]. In 1908 he was exiled to Turkey when his understanding with the Russians ended. Famous Turkish thinker Zia Gokalp(1876-1924) and Caucasian thinker Ali-Be Husenzada(1876-1941) also believed in similar political thinking [2. Mariam Jamila; Islam and Modernism: page 101 &109]. Turkism mainly aimed to establish unity among Turk nation to achieve cultural freedom from the Russians and finally to establish an independent Turk state separated from Tsar ruled Russia.

Ultimate goal of Turkism was to unite all Turks of the world. It can be said that all Pan-Turk thinkers of Russia were also Pan-Islamic in their thinking because Turkism and Pan-Islamism were spreading parallelly in Russia[3. Bennigsen; Islam in The Soviet Union: page 80]. There was no confrontation between these doctrines, because all Turks were also religious Muslims. Pan-Islamism aimed to unite all Muslims of Russia, to protect their cultural identity and heritage from Russo-Slavic cultural aggression and to fight for their political freedom.

The Muslim Renaissance in Russia was initiated by the Pan-Turk and Pan-Islamic thinkers and leaders. They understood that without cultural, religious and political reform real advancement of Pan-Turk and Pan-Islamic idealism was impossible. Their struggle for modernization of education, language and culture is known as, 'Jadid movement' in the history. The meaning of the Arabic term 'jadid' is something new or modern. Jadid movement was also aimed to make Islam free from superstition and prejudice and to reconstruct it according to the guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah in the future.

Abdul Qayum Nasiri [4. Abdul Qayum Nasiri(1824-1904) was simultaneously a teacher, linguist and historician. He was born in Kazan in a Tatar Alim family. After getting education in Kazan he served as a teacher in Russo-Tatarian school of Kazan. Due to his reformative effort there was an widespread expansion of Tatar literature in early 20th century. He and Marjani are simultaneously regarded as founder of Jadid movement.] initiated language reform activities. He believed that an important cause of backwardness and lack of development of Muslim culture and civilization was failure to use mother-language properly. He also believed that to popularise Muslim culture the approach should be based on a language which is popular and easy. At that time three languages were in use as a media of literature and education. These were Arabic, Persian and Chagatai-Turk. Of these Arabic and Persian languages were not used as spoken languages in any part of Muslim Russia. Though Chagatai-Turk was used very commonly as a language of Turkish civilization in Central Asia and Volga region from 15th to middle 19th century, yet it was not so familiar to general Turkish people of Russia because it was far different from their spoken language. In this situation Nasiri was able to popularise a new Tatar language based of Turk-Tatars of Kazan, which very rapidly took the position of Chagatai-Turk language in Volga region. At the same time a new Turkish literary language spread in Caucasian Azerbaijan by the influence of Hasan Bey Melik [5. Hasan Bey Malik(1837-1907) was born in Azerbaijan. After getting education in Moscow he devoted himself in teaching profession in Baku. He was simultaneously a biologist, economist and writer. In 1875 he published first Muslim newspaper of Russia named 'Ekenji' from Baku.]. This language was known as Azeri-Turkish. On the other hand Kazakh-Turkish language became popular in Kazakhstan as a language of literature by the influence of Abay Kunanbayev.

Though these new literary languages were easily understandable to the people but they created a new challenge on the movement to unite all Turks by the Pan- Turkists. Leaders and thinkers of Pan-Turkism realized the problem in right time. To solve this problem they planned to create such a Turkish language which should be very easy to understand by all Turkish Muslims of all parts of Russia. Ismail Bogamprinski had an important role in creating and popularizing this language by his paper,'Tarjuman'. Ismail thought that unity in language would be the first step towards cultural unity of Turks. He further simplified 'Osmani-Turk [6. Spoken language of Turkey during Osmani period.]' in his 'Tarjuman' by using more words from Tatari spoken language and avoiding too much use of Arabic and Persian words. His belief was that this language would be very easy to understand by all Turkish people from Balkan [7. Central Europe( presently Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Croatia, Masedonia)] to China and from Bosphorus to Kashgarh.

Within a short time this new language spread all over Crimea, Volga and even Central Asia by the 'Tarjuman'. By the end of 19th century this language reform activity created a very strong literature of the Tatars, Azeris and Kazakhs of Russia. The subjects of these new literature were problems like education-reformation, religious-reformation, equal rights with Russians, cultural and political autonomy and freedom of Muslim women.

Language reform activities created renaissance in the field of education.

Bogamprinski also took special efforts for education reformation. The existing Muslim education system in Russia which was developed on the model of Bukhara Madrasa of Central Asia was not sufficient to meet the needs of time. There was no modern knowledge, science and technology. There was also no scope of research. Ismail Bey advocated a total reconstruction of the old education system. He wanted to provide Islamic knowledge with the knowledge of modern science and technology. By the efforts of Ismail and his followers 5000 Jadid(modern) education institutes were established in different parts of Central Russia. Beside Russia, Jadid institutes also extended to Iran and Turkey.

Those who especially participated in religious reformation activities, the name of Shihabuddin Marjani and his two follower Riazuddin Fakhruddin Oglu and Musa Yarullah Bigi are to be remembered. Marjani was a Tatar of volga region. He thought that without religious reformation development of Muslims was impossible. It was a fact that Muslim renaissance in Russia was very difficult because Muslim society at that time had many superstitions and different types of shirk(polytheistic practices) and bidaah (religious innovation). Marjani believed that for the development of Muslims it is not needed to go far from Islam, rather the need was to return more consciously towards The Quran and The Sunnah. According to Marjani it did not mean to return to the past but to go ahead with Islam. He opposed blind imitation of old jurists and believed that every person had the right to make 'Ijtihad' in order to face problems of the time. After Marjani, his prescribed educational reformation was taken up by Ismail Bogumprinski. Actually Islamic reformation activity began in different states earlier than Russia. The name of the reformation movement led by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab in Najd of Saudi Arabia and Senousi movement led by Muhammad Ibn Ali Al Senousi can be mentioned in this connection. The movement initiated by Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab spread all over Arabia and India and Senousi movement spread all over the Africa. Both the movements aimed at moral, social and political revival of Islam [8. Muhammad Asad; Road to Mecca: page 110, 159, 160, 232, 282, 313] . The Islamic reformation movement initiated in Russia was influenced by these two movements. The Islamic thinkers and Alims of Russia came in contact with Wahabi and Senousi movement while they were performing 'hajj', besides the literature which came from Arabia also influenced Russian thinkers.

Musa Yarullah Bigi(1875-1949) was a Tatar Alim who helped Marjani in his reformation activity. He got education in Kazan, Bukhara, Cairo and Istanbul. He was an orthodox but couragious Alim. Bigi was in favour of the real evaluation of western civilization and taking their beneficial influences. Though he was opposed by anti-reformation Alims of that time but history has proved his opinion to be correct. He stayed in Russia even after communist revolution and tried to work in favour of Islam as much as possible within communist autocracy. In 1930 he left Russia and died in Cairo in 1949. Riazuddin Fakhruddin Oglu [9. One of the top Alims of Russia. He was the Mufti of Russia and Siberia from 1922 to 1936. He wrote a large number of books on history and Islam.] also helped Marjani in his reformation movement.

Reformation process in language, education and religious field initiated by 'Jadid' movement later initiated a great influence in political sector. The Muslim political parties in Russia began under the leadership of Jadids, though there is a difference in opinion about the historical role of 'Jadid' movement. Soviet scholars do not appreciate Jadid movement as progressive movement. Even they do not appreciate Jadid movement as pioneer of the national movements that came later [10. Devendra Koushik; Central Asia: page 75-77]. But this judgement of Soviet scholars is not unbiased and justified. Upgradation of social status of Muslim people and their creation of awareness about Russian colonialism were their progressive activity.