Antiquity and the medieval period in the ideas of Russian educators

21 February

The rise of Muslim culture of the 9th-12th centuries, which absorbed the intellectual heritage of the states of Antiquity, became a monumental pillar of human progress. At the same time, an important component was the pedagogical system developed by brilliant scientists at a completely different, higher quality level: Al- Kindi, Al- Farabi, Brethren of Purity, Ibn Miskawayh, Ibn Sina, Keikavus, Ibn Rushd, Al- Ghazali, Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardī, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and many others. There is an opinion that pedagogy as a science formed in the 17th century, but the foundation was made by the research of scientists of the Islamic Renaissance.

Ideas of Eastern thinkers of the Middle Ages and Muslim educators of pre-revolutionary Russia, such as Shigabutdin Marjani, Zaynulla Rasulev, Ismail Gasprinsky, Miftahetdin Akmulla, Alimjan Barudi, Rizaeddin bin Fakhreddin and many others show the consonance of their opinions about education as a system. The views of Eastern scientists and Russian enlighteners were built on the pillars of faith and adherence to the sacred primary sources of the Quran and Sunnah. The role of religion was to determine ethical values and rules for organizing everyone's daily life. The social nature of man dictated the social nature of the educational process.

Ibn Sina (also known as Avicenna) is a prominent representative of Islamic pedagogy, who determined education by the mental characteristics of a person. The scientist convincingly proved the dependence of processes such as imagination, memory, thinking and others on the physiological state of the body. The brain, in his opinion, it’s the substrate of mental forces. Avicenna studied affects, considering them as forces which enliven the inner life of a person, determining actions and deeds. The scientist was one of the first to substantiate the connection between psychological and pedagogical science. His successors in these matters were thinkers of later times.

In the pedagogical process, Zaynulla Rasulev paid attention to the formation of the value of a healthy lifestyle. Having sufficient experience in traditional medicine, a wealth of Islamic literature and psychological techniques of suggestion, he helped many of his followers get rid of addictions. Some of Rasulev's practical discoveries were widely used in progressive madrasahs in Russia. The clarity of Ismail Gasprinsky’s manuals, which is still relevant, is based on knowledge of the physiological characteristics of children. The author accompanied the books with drawings, excerpts from the classics, and instructions for teachers.

Ibn Miskawayh thought that a person cannot achieve either physical or spiritual perfection without interaction with others. Ibn Sina, developing his thought, calls cooperation on the basis of morality, reasonable laws and justice an important condition for people’s lives. Intellectual development is associated with the moral development of the individual. A smart person, as Avicenna thought, must be honest and responsive. Ibn Rushd, agreeing with social nature, also represented man as a separate microcosm, which comply to the laws of the universe. Similar reflections are found in the works of Russian educators.

Miftahetdin Akmulla thought that the result of education should be behavior that is valuable for society and significant for the individual. Education is the leading idea of all pedagogical theories. So, for Al- Farabi, the goal of education expresses the harmonious development of a person. The core of morality forms the personality and is identified with reason. A highly moral person is reasonable and other way round. Following this principle, Alimjan Barudi saw the goal of personality development of high character, with an active social position, doing useful work to society, living not only in his own, but also in the interests of the nation.

Islamic thinkers in their own way explained and continued the traditions of ancient pedagogy, striving for a comprehensively developed personality. The core of education is always a system of ethical ideas contained in religion. For Islam, the educational process is an integrity that plays the role of teacher, educator and inspirer. Exactly in the Islamic pedagogy of the Middle Ages the teaching stood out as a special form of the educational process. In the treatises of the Brethren of Purity, great importance is attached to learning and cognition: “Learning is an impulse emanating from the soul that knows actually to the soul that knows potentially”.

For the “Brethren of Purity”, training and education are interconnected processes, therefore they are aimed not only at the intellectual sphere, but also at the spiritual. In the Muslim worldview, a person is conceived as a single being, in all his forms: physical, mental, spiritual, sensual. Russian educators also agree with this. Miftahetdin Akmulla said that education is an integral process in the dialectical unity of word and deed, enlightenment and spirituality, harmony of personal and public interests. Rizaeddin bin Fakhreddin argued that education is not a one-time act, but the organization of the child’s entire life activity.

The organization of the educational process is an important component of any pedagogical theory. In the works of Ibn Miskawayh, the principles of compliance of upbringing with the level of development of the child are highlighted. Education should occur in stages, taking into account the characteristics of the student. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi also emphasizes the accessibility, consciousness, and humanity of education. The scientist thought that learning should proceed from easy to hard, from sensory to rational, from axiom to theorem. Teachers are recommended to conduct lessons in a volume and content that is understandable: “The teacher should often repeat the lesson and explain difficult parts of the books”.

At a later time, already in progressive madrasahs, Ismail Gasprinsky highlighted such consonant principles as consciousness, rationality, consistency, as well as reliance on the native language as the language of teaching. The religion of Islam is based on the idea that the national characteristics of the nation, their traditions, foundations, everything that is called the word “adab” shouldn't be destroyed. Along with this, one of the common features of Muslim culture was the tradition of practical training and education. Knowledge based on research, experience and logical evidence was valued. Like, for example, the educational book "Qabus nama" by Keikavus, answering many questions of its era.

The named principles of education and training were defended in discussions and polemics, implying an independent search for the truth. A feature of Islamic pedagogy was its reliance on a unique fusion of national, and at the same time, common culture for humanity. The parallels in the ideas of Eastern thinkers of the Middle Ages and Russian enlighteners demonstrate a single framework of pedagogy as a science. But, on the other side, Muslim culture determined the formation of a national model of education, which, in turn, contributed to the formation of the identity of the Muslim nations of pre-revolutionary Russia.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: Iñaki del Olmo/Unsplash