Returning to Khusain Faizkhanov’s Works

28 December 2023

On 11-12 December, the Faizkhanov Readings International Scientific and Educational Conference was held in Moscow. The topics of the conference sessions covered theology, philosophy, history, archaeology, philology and other branches of knowledge. The 20th anniversary Readings coincided with the 200th anniversary of Tatar and Russian theologian and orientalist Khusain Faizkhanov, whose scientific heritage relates to almost all of these scientific fields. Participants in the forum included religious and state figures, museum staff, and representatives of scientific, educational and cultural organizations from many countries.

In his welcoming speech Mufti of Tatarstan and Doctor of Islamic Sciences Kamil Samigullin expressed his gratitude to the organizers and participants for their attention to the national Muslim theology. The scientific heritage of Khusain Faizkhanov, his ideas and works have not lost their relevance to this day: the project to create a system of Muslim education, works on the problems of the history of the Tatar people, studies of epigraphic texts and archival medieval Turkic documents are still worthy of attention and the fact that modern scholars refer to them.

In his report Kamil Hazrat also mentioned the works of the scholar in the field of Quranic studies and his close cooperation with Shigabutdin Marjani. The Mufti emphasized that Khusain Faizkhanov’s work needs to be studied and expressed hope that the conference will be another step towards this. The welcoming words of Kamil Hazrat Samigullin, due to the listed areas of activity of the recognized enlightener, can indeed facilitate the search for a route to return to the works by Khusain Faizkhanov.

In the XIX century, Tatar educators realized that without the mastery of modern knowledge, the Tatars would not rise to the same level as the Russian and European peoples. Having realized the need to open a madrasah of a new type, they thought about their own projects for such institutions. Khusain Faizkhanov, one of the first to see the advantages of a progressive system of education, came to the idea of the need to transfer the new methods of education to Tatar soil.

In the winter of 1862 and 1863, Khusain Faizkhanov wrote School Reform and Treatise, in which he outlined the project of reforming Muslim education. In School Reform he considers the reasons why the Tatars lagged behind the Russian and European peoples. According to the enlightener’s views, the reason for this is the lack of aspiration of the Tatars to progress and utilize the opportunities offered by the Russian state. Khusain Faizkhanov believes that the state provides rights that must be properly utilized, no matter how difficult it may be.

The main reasons for the plight of the Tatars, according to Faizkhanov, are fear of Christianization, especially among ordinary Tatars, that is fear of losing Islam. The scholar also notes the ignorance of the majority of the population. Sharing the concerns of the Tatars, Khusain Faizkhanov tries to solve the problem of the nation’s progress by opening madrasahs where Islamic Shariah will be taught without being imbued with a medieval spirit. The scholar attributes many of the woes of Tatar madrasahs to the copying of the Bukhara system of education.

According to Khusain Faizkhanov, an alternative to the Bukhara type of madrasah is the method of education in the Russian gymnasium. Among the advantages of teaching children in Russian gymnasiums, the scholar notes the age of students (from ten to eighteen) and the large amount of knowledge acquired in such a short period of study. Students master well the grammar of their native language, study religion several lessons a week, and learn world history, foreign languages, algebra, logic, natural sciences. It is not about perfect knowledge, but about familiarity with the subject, terms, basic problems of science.

In such a madrasah, Shariah sciences, oriental languages, some gymnasium disciplines, such as mathematics, the history of Islam and logic, are taught in Tatar, while other subjects are taught in Russian. Khusain Faizkhanov gave priority to the Tatar language because he believed it was necessary to study the native language before familiarizing oneself with foreign languages. The scientist believed that a person who can read and write in his native language learns a foreign language faster than an illiterate person.

In addition to knowing his native Tatar language, Khusain Faizkhanov mastered written Turkic, Arabic and Persian. Thanks to his zeal for knowledge, young student Khusain established himself as a trustworthy specialist for responsible work. Thus, orientalist Alexander Kazembek Kasimovich attracted Faizkhan to compile an index published in 1859 under the title The Complete Concordance of the Quran, or Key to All Words and Expressions of its Texts to Guide the Study of Religious, Legal, Historical and Literary Principles of this Book.

It was A.K. Kazembek, who became the first dean of the Faculty of Oriental Languages at St. Petersburg University, who facilitated the transfer of his colleagues from Kazan to St. Petersburg. Having no official employment, for a long time Khusain Faizkhanov earned his living by copying oriental manuscripts. This work, being primarily a source of livelihood, enriched Khusain Faizkhanov considerably in terms of knowledge. In 1860 he became a member of the Imperial Archaeological Society and was sent to Kasimov, and then the researcher visited the Orenburg region.

During his business trips in 1862 and 1863, Khusain Faizkhanov managed to discover and examine several Volga-Bulgarian epitaphs, the results of the decipherment of which he published in his scientific article Three Bulgar Tomb Inscriptions. The identification of the language of the deciphered inscriptions as close to Chuvash turns out to be correct, and acquires crucial importance for further research into the history of the language and origin of the ancient Bulgars.

The discovery prompted Khusain Faizkhanov to investigate the origin of the Volga Bulgars in connection with the history of the Chuvashs. These questions were not yet sufficiently studied in the science of that time, so Khusain Faizkhanov makes a simplified, from a modern point of view, conclusion about the origin of the Bulgars from the “mixing of Finns and Turks”. It is important to note that the work on the study of the Volga-Bulgar epitaphs during Khusain Faizkhanov’s business trips to the Orenburg region was carried out by him on his own initiative.

In any case, after this discovery, Khusain Faizkhanov started writing new works, one of which is devoted to the history of Volga Bulgaria, the other to the history of the Kazan Khanate. This work, as well as another work devoted to the history of the Kasimov Khanate, was included by Shigabutdin Marjani in his famous work A Treasure Trove of Information about the Affairs of Kazan and Bulgar.

The friendship and creative cooperation between Khusain Faizkhanov and Shigabutdin Marjani began in 1850. This was the time when Marjani returned to his homeland after an eleven-year absence, disillusioned with the medieval methods of teaching implemented in the madrasahs of Central Asia. The fame of the young Hazrat, appointed Imam I of the Kazan Mosque, quickly spread throughout the capital. Many people wanted to come to Shigabutdin Marjani for training.

Khusain Faizkhanov’s inquisitive mind was striving for new, unexplored horizons. Marjani became a guiding star for Faizkhan at this stage of his life. The difference between the student and the teacher was only ten years. But these were the ten years spent by Shigabutdin Marjani in Bukhara and Samarkand, where, despite all the criticism of his teaching methods, he brilliantly mastered the knowledge of Muslim religion, history and culture. Realizing this, Khusain Faizkhanov strove to make up for the lacking knowledge of his teacher, who could not fail to notice the abilities and erudition of the great-aged student.

After the end of Khusain Faizkhanov’s life journey in this world, Shigabutdin Marjani received his manuscripts School Reform, Treatise and Fundamentals of Teaching. Marjani left his remarks in the margins of the manuscripts, which were also of great importance for the development of the Jadidist project of reforms in Muslim education. Returning to the works of Khusain Faizkhanov within the limits of a short article is able to show that historical facts and knowledge, and even methods of education were not always well-known truths. The achievements and development of modern scientific thought, to a greater extent, are due to the passion and incredible efficiency of their predecessors, who devoted their entire lives to research.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

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