Intelligent person of the 20th century - Ahmadhadi Maksudi

14 March


Ahmadhadi Maksudi is one of the most famous Tatar Intelligent person of the early 20th century. Maksudi devoted his entire life to the education of the Tatar people. Being a moderate liberal, he didn’t fall into the extremes of revolutionary nihilism and conservative scholasticism. The domestic educator tried to make the heritage of world culture available to his people, so that the Tatar nation could take the path of independent development. Activities of Ahmadhadi Maksudi received recognition not only among the Tatars, but throughout the Turkic-Muslim world.

Since he was a young man, Hadi Maksudi began teaching primary school students at the Apanaevsky madrasah in the Kazan. Pedagogical practice allowed the young specialist to develop new teaching methods and write a number of schoolbooks. This is how was released the Mugallim Awal (“The First Teacher”) is the first schoolbook that helped to successfully master the skills of reading and writing in the Tatar language. The Arabic alphabet used by the Tatars didn’t allow the vowels in a word to be fully designated. Therefore, for ease of reading Hadi Maksudi was the first to add letters denoting some vowel sounds.

The second schoolbook published by Hadi Maksudi, became “Mugallim Sani” ("Second Teacher"). The primer taught reading and writing in Arabic. It turned out to be popular not only among the Tatars, but also Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Bashkirs. The schoolbook is still published in mass editions and is sold in almost every bookstore in Central Asia, the European part of Russia, the Caucasus, Dagestan, and so on. The secret of success is the unique simplicity of the material - both children and adults prefer an easy-to-understand schoolbook. A similar phenomenon is typical for many other schoolbooks of the author.

A recognized polyglot of his time, Ahmadhadi Maksudi was fluent in five languages - Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Persian, French. For each of them, he wrote detailed schoolbooks and manuals, including self-instructions. While studying at the madrasah Hadi Maksudi was learning Russian by himself. The young man took private lessons, communicated with Russians, and often appeared in their neighborhoods. In 1925 were published Russian language schoolbooks for Russian Muslims compiled by Maksudi: “Rusistan. Practical textbook” and “Tatar language self-teacher for Russians”.

Hadi Maksudi showed remarkable curiosity, interested in the life not only of the Kazan province, but also what was happening far beyond its borders. While studying at the madrasah, he was reading newspapers from the Ottoman Empire and corresponding with their authors, as well as with the journalists of “Tardzhiman” (“Translator”). The publisher of this authoritative newspaper, Ismail Gasprinsky, one of the founders of Jadidism, had an instinct for talent and appreciated the achievements of his future colleague in pedagogy. So Maksudi was invited to Bakhchisarai to teach at the Zindzhirli madrasah .

In 1893, before arriving in Crimea, Maksudi visited Türkiye for three months. He lives in Istanbul, where he meets local poets and writers. Historian Daniyar Gilmutdinov thinks that the young teacher’s stay in Istanbul - at that time the capital of a huge empire and the main center of Islamic education - played a big role in the understanding of educational psychology. And there Maksudi came up with the idea of publishing his own newspaper. Unfortunately, friendship with the famous Turkish writer and editor Ahmed Midhat will backfire on Hadi Maksudi already during the Soviet repressions.

Eventually Maksudi gets to Bakhchisarai, where he works for Gasprinsky as a teacher in his famous madrasah and newspaper “Tardzhiman”. Here he masters the basics of journalism: he learns not only how to write for a newspaper, but also the principles of organizing and promoting a publishing house. Upon returning home in 1896, Hadi Maksudi continues his own training. Later, during the revolution, certain political relaxations occur. Thanks to them, the first number of the socio-political newspaper “Yoldyz” founds its reader in 1906 - Maksudi’s “Star” rose up.

The problem of education was the most important for the educator. Maksudi was an ideologist of Jadidism – a progressive method of national education, which was opposed by the “Kadimists” (representatives of the conservative movement in Tatar society and among Muslims in Russia). Already in the second number of the newspaper “Yoldyz” Maksudi writes that “Kadimists” and “Jadidists” have practically no contradictions in the textbooks for primary schools. The publicist calls on the first ones to be fair and the second ones to be patient, thereby openly declaring his own sympathies.

Hadi Maksudi's popular work for madrasah students “Giybadete Islamiya” (“Fundamentals of Worship”), published in 1898, became the face of Tatar Islam. Conceived as a schoolbook on the basics of religion for the entry-level madrasah, the book became the format for the ideas about Islam of the entire people and their different generations who want to master the “basics”. The schoolbook was accepted by both the “Kadimists” and their opponents, both the secular intelligentsia of the Soviet Union and officials of religious institutions. The book has educated, and is expected to educate, more than one generation of Muslims in the future.

“Giybadete Islamiya” has outlived its time, becoming a “lifeline” for those Tatars who have lost their roots. The book restores the beginnings of religious ideas almost from scratch. It is known that it was also published abroad as a full-fledged schoolbook. However, despite the significance and relevance of this work, the book is a product of its era. Therefore, sooner or later it is necessary to replace it with work that is more in line with the spirit of the times. But despite this interesting opinion of some researchers, the book is still important for the Shakirds as a source of comprehensive knowledge.

Ahmadhadi Maksudi's heritage is not limited to the listed works and areas of activity. During his exile in Vyatka, he began translating the schoolbook on logic and fundamentals of philosophy he published in 1903 in Arabic, “Mizan al- afkar”. In the early version of the schoolbook, the main emphasis is on the need to study secular sciences and the development of society, while in “Eastern Muslim Logic” of 1934 a different line is traced: based on the presentation of the course, based on logical rules and conclusions, the existence of God is proven.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Tatar educators set themselves the goal of the comprehensive development of their nation, both in religious terms and in terms of secular sciences. But by the mid-30s, the need to study some disciplines had disappeared because of the atheistic orientation of the policy of the Soviet state. Therefore, Ahmadhadi Maksudi, who didn’t leave Soviet Russia, sets himself a more important goal, in his opinion. He wants to convey to the reader the idea of the inevitability of the existence of God. At the same time, both versions of the logic schoolbook contain excellently presented scientific material.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: Public Domain