Jadids of Central Asia
Education was at the heart of Jadid activities. A more secularised type of education was introduced in much of the Muslim world in the nineteenth century, but it was pragmatism that triggered the reforms. A new kind of education was necessary in order to increase efficiency. For the Jadids of Central Asia reforming the educational system was not simply about efficiency and pragmatic considerations.
The plans for reform reflected the Jadid’s world view, which in Khalid’s words-was dominated by a perception of “knowledge as salvation”19 Rather than a dichotomy of native as opposed to Russian, what predominated in Jadid thought was the opposition between “progress” and “backwardness” or “decay”. In the eyes of the Jadids, Central Asian society was in a state of decay. Moral decay had led to prostitution, alcohol and drug usage, and to other un-Islamic practices.
The essence of the political decay was the subordination of the region to Russia. For the Jadids moral decay and Russia’s political dominance were really two sides of the same problem and it is important to note that Russian dominance was a symptom rather than the problem itself.20It was the most prominent symptom of the disease of backwardness which troubled Central Asian society, and from which it had to be saved. If this did not happen, prospects were dismal. Manawar Qari put it in this way in 1906:
If we continue in this way for another five or ten years we are in the danger of being dispersed and effaced under the oppression of developed nations ….O coreligionists, O compatriots! Lets be just and compare our situation with that of other, advanced nations. …Let’s secure the future of our coming generations….and save them from becoming slaves and servants of others What was at stake therefore was much more than political sovereignty..It was the continued existence of Central Asian culture, or more precisely Central Asian culture as perceived by the Jadids.
The reason for the decay was ignorance All the ills that plagued Central Asia could be traced back to the lack of knowledge, which was the result not of Russia’s recent conquest of the region but of long-term tendencies. In the Jadid perception, the disastrous ignorance was the result of moral corruption within the religious and societal elite Occupied exclusively with their own position and material well being the Ulema had neglected the interests of the Central Asian Society, which in the eyes of the Jadids deprived the Ulama of their legitimate authority.
This clearly demonstrates the differences between Jadid thought and the notions upon which Ulama authority was based. The latter was based entirely on religion, that is, on the acceptance by others of their specialized religious knowledge and competence. Accomodating the interests of society, however defined, was not a part of the Ulama’s claim to authority. For the Jadids, however, the interests of society were at the centre of attention.
In Khalid’s perspective on Jadidism, the main adversary of the movement was the traditional elite of Central Asia, and not Russians or the Russian regime. The failure of the traditional elite was the main reason for Central Asia’s troubles; the Jadid reform project was formulated on this background. Attitudes towards Russia, on the other hand, were far from unequivocally antagonistic. In his detailed analysis of Jadid texts ,Khalid finds an image of Russia that is generally positive. The reason is that from the point of view of the Jadids, Russia could be a useful temporary ally that could make it easier to facilitate the accomplishment of the program of modernization and reform. Russia produced the conditions that made reform possible.
On the matter of Jadid attitudes towards Russia, one may therefore distinguish between a short-term and a long-term perspective. Certainly, in the long term, the goal of the Jadids was for Central Asia to become independent of Russia. Certainly in the long term the goal of the Jadids was for Central Asia to become independent of Russia. But in the short term they believed that the same Russia might help to reach this goal. Consequently, the Jadids did not represent “nationalism” in the sense of embodying a reaction to foreign dominance. Nevertheless it might be argued that Jadid thinking introduced the idea of the nation and the national community to Central Asia and that Jadidism , in this sense, represented a presage to the territorial political reorganization of the 1920s.
The Jadids, nation and politics
If nationalism is exclusively understood as a political phenomenon aimed primarily at achieving the political sovereignty of a particular group of people defined as a nation, the Jadid’s cooperation policy towards Russia would make any link between Jadidism and nationalism impossible. Nationalism is as much a cultural as well a political movement. In the literature on nationalism, several scholars make a distinction between an ethnic and a civic national community There was certainly a” civic element” present in Jadid thinking.
This was expressed through the Jadid’s emphasis on the “interests of society” or by extension, its members or citizens. Focussing on the interests of society, the Jadids challenged the legitimacy and claims to authority of the traditional elites, and in particular the Ulema. This represented a break with Central Asian traditions. In the three dynastic states of Bukhara, Khiva and Khokand, the source of legitimacy was of a religious or theological character, while the interests of the population were not an issue.
Like the traditional elites of the Ulema, in the final analysis the Jadids based their arguments on Islam. This was typical of Islamic modernism,with its ambition to reconcile Islam and western-style modernity. In the reformed schools of the Jadids, Islam and religious subjects also held a central place. Using as an example Munawwar Qari’s school, Carriere d’Encausse argues that, “despite the anxieties expressed by the qadimis (the traditional elites) religion lost none of its rights there (in the reformed schools of Central Asia)”.
She goes on to emphasise the fact that” 44 per cent of the local timetable of the school was devoted to purely religious subjects, and concludes that secular education (arithmetic, geography and the exact sciences) was in reality very limited, amounting to only 20 per cent of the time table”24 What this strictly based argument misses is meaning . It says nothing about the ways in which the “purely religious subjects” were taught. It can therefore witness continuity primarily on a nominal level.
From this perspective Adeeb Khalid has found important differences between the “Islam”of the Ulema and that of the Jadids. The Islam taught by the Jadids was less absolute than the Islam on which Ulama authority was based. The distinction introduced between Islam and other kinds of knowledge implied that Islam was no longer all- embracing but occupied its own separate space, however sizeable.
Islam was contextualized and historicized and the teaching of Islamic history made Islam subject to knowledge that was essentially worldly in character25. To a great extent, this represents a transformation of Islam from the realm of religious dogma to that of secular culture,and this Islamic culture became crucial in Jadid thinking about groups and identities. The Jadids sought to make their reform program compatible with the basic elements of this seculiarized Islam, but arguments for Islam were always based on what was good for the members of society. Any phenomenon was evaluated on the background of its supposed effects on society, as the essential aim of Jadid reform was to improve conditions in all spheres: health-care, culture, morality, economy and so on26
Indeed it was the nation (millet) that became the focus of the Jadid reforms. Although the Jadids emphasized their reforms were in accordance with Islamic principles, their ultimate legitimisation was to be found in their effects on worldly society, on the millet 27. .the Jadids called for a new kind of solidarity with the community. Accused by the traditional elites of disregarding Islam, Jadids such s Fitrat responded that the reformed schools not only strove to make their students good Muslims, but to make them patriots to their millat as well, arguing that that there was no contradiction between the two.28 Both the focus on what is good for society and the idea of solidarity with “significant sectors of the population”, as Smith puts it; represent important elements in the culture of national identity.
What was the territorial dimension in the Jadid’s thoughts about community? Some scholars have stressed that the Jadids continued a tradition where the territorial aspect had little importance, and the arguments have been based on the existence of different pan- movements or ideologies. First there is the notion of Pan-Islamism. According to Alexander Bennigsen, the Jadid movement in Central Asia soon took on the character of a pan-Islamic movement.29 Understood in political terms, the ultimate goal for a pan-Islamic movement would be a political unification of all Muslims. This was however not the goal of the Jadid movement of Central Asia, nor of any group. Instead various notions of pan-Islamism existed, but none of the really existed, butanone of them really focussed on the political unification of all Muslims.
Within Tsar-Russia’s Central Asian administration, fear of pan-Islamism was strong. In the Ottoman Empire, rulers had used the idea of pan-Islamism to increase or maintain influence in regions with Muslim population, but political unification had not really been the goal.30 Different identities do not exclude each other (Pakistan is a good example) and identifying with a comprehensive unit such as the “world of Muslims” is not the same as maintaining that all Muslims ought to unite in a political sense. While the Jadids recognized themselves as part of a comprehensive Muslim community, Turkestan remained the frame of their political activities.
Second the Jadids have been associated with the ideology of Pan-Turkism with its ultimate goal of the unity of the Turkic peoples of the world. Indeed, pan-Turkism had played a role among the Tatars, who strove to strengthen the connection between themselves and the Turkic speaking populations of Central Asia as well as the Ottoman Empire. Among the Jadids of Central Asia however, Turkic unity was not an issue, which is witnessed by the fact that the Jadids supported not only the conscription of Central Asians in 1916, but also indeed the entire war against the Ottoman Turks31
What the Jadids thought about groups and communities is one thing. A very different question is the implications of these thoughts for Central Asian society in general . Theoretically, the Jadids might have remained a marginal group without any significant influence whatsoever. Indeed, this is what they were at first. After the revolution however their status changed. When the Jadid movement developed in Central Asia in the first decade of the twentieth century, it consisted largely of young men who managed to occupy a new social space created by the establishment of Russian dominance in the region.
Towards 1917, the movement grew, but its influence remained limited, much as a result of Tsar-Russia’s attititude towards it. Until the revolution, Central Asian society was characterized by a triangular relationship in which the groups and actors included Tsarist Russia, the traditional elites and finally the Central Asian reformers. In this relationship Russia however held the ultimate power, a fact not contested by the two other groups.
While the Jadids favoured a short-term alliance with Russia for long-term benefits, they did not meet the desired response on the part of the Russian authorities that instead chose to support the traditional elite. There was also fear that the young reformers represented a potential for mobilization that was 32or at least could become, a threat to Russian interests. By 1917, the movement had developed from its modest beginnings around the turn of the century, but its relations to the traditional elite and to the Tsarist authorities remained the same.