"Ismail Bey Gasprinski," trans. Alan W. Fisher, The Tatars of Crima: Return to the Homeland, ed. Edward A. Allworth, pp. 127-152. Copyright 1998, Duke University Press. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.*
Ismail Bey Gasprinski, 1851-1914
"Ismail Bey Gasprinski, 1851-1914," Shura, nos 21 (1 November 1914), 22 (15 November 1914), 23 (1 December 1914), 24 (15 December 1914): 641-44, 673-75, 705-8, 737-41. Translated by Alan W. Fisher.
This very long obituary for Ismail Bey appeared in four issues of the Tatar-language journal Shura, published in Orenburg in November and December 1914. Published bimonthly from January 1908 to January 1918, Shura was one of the most important literary and political Tatar journals in the last years of the Russian Empire. Its editor was Rizaeddin kadi Fahreddin, a reform-minded religious official. As one can easily see in the obituary that follows, "Shura was certainly, of all Muslim journals, the most deeply influenced by Russian culture." (Alexandre Bennigsen and Chantal Lemercier-Quelquejay, La Presse et le Mouvement National Chez les Musulmans de Russie avant 1920 (Paris: Mouton, 19641, p. 77.) I wish to thank Professor Edward Allworth both for informing me of this obituary's existence and providing me with a photocopy of it.
1 November 1914: Ismail Bey Gaspirali, 1851-1914
Ismail Bey was someone who was respected in the world for his preoccupation with the affairs of humanity; he was a man of ours who was revered for his writings about and on behalf of our nation; our man and our leader, Ismail Bey Gaspirali, is now at rest and has departed for another abode. It was the product of Ismail Bey's pen that gave us the route to follow for the future; he provided for us the necessary lessons to learn in order to reach the future. With the death of Ismail Bey, Russian Muslims have lost a person with "a thousand" faces, a person who himself was our educational center and institution. We are now separated from the person who was most clearly the servant of knowledge for and among our people.
He was born in a very traditional village, moved to the city and spent his life there. He had a sharp intellect, great ability, natural aptitude, courage, firmness, was a hard worker, and because of all of these, contributed as much as any one man can to the well-being of Russia's Muslims. He showed them, through his own example, what their potential for renewal is. He was the cause of a revolution among Russia's Muslims which was all encompassing: in science, in literature, in their society as well as in their economy. Until today there has been no Muslim in Russia who has contributed as much as Ismail Bey.
His entire adult life Ismail Bey devoted to serving his nation, his people, his society [millet ki, khalk ve cemaat ki]. He helped all of the rest of us to develop our material and intellectual welfare and potential. He was a servant to all of us without parallel.
The lives of our people have greatly benefited from all of the years, months, days, and even hours of Ismail Bey's own life. It is unfortunate indeed that someone who is of such great service to his people and all humanity is so short-lived. Yet his good works and services remain behind as his legacy. Too often the long-lived of us contribute far less to society than does someone who has a relatively short life. Let us be grateful, though, for his short life, for it was so important to the very fiber of our existence.
Although Ismail Bey's life was not long, it was filled with "a thousand" blessings and good deeds for the rest of us. Everyone who knew him, and knew of him, recognized that everything he did was for the benefit of knowledge and the people. Let us all rejoice in Ismail Bey's life, not be too sad about his death!
All of the important people as well as the ordinary people have a great debt to Ismail Bey. He was indeed one of God's greatest gifts to mankind. Let us raise our thanks to God Almighty for this gift. Ismail Bey would have wished that we remember him most for what he did to improve the intellectual and spiritual life of our people. While there were and are many who remain pessimistic about the future of Islam and humanity in general, Ismail Bey showed us how to attain a good future.
Our nation [millet ] will benefit forever from what lsmail Bey accomplished. He led the way in showing how to raise and educate the next generation of young people who will be the ones to serve our nation in the future.
Ismail Bey's contributions have become the guide [rehber] for the difficult-to-find route out of our difficult present, the warnings against mistaken policies, and the plans for our nation's future. For these reasons, it is important that his biography be written and that it be studied by all of the students in our schools. However, up to now, this has not been written. This must be written so that we can fully appreciate what lsmail Bey did and so that we will be able to benefit from his accomplishments.
Because of Ismail Bey's death, we have lost a man who was of use to our people in a thousand ways. He was a man who worked hard, remained firm in his convictions, and now he is gone. Today we feel deep grief and believe we have experienced a great calamity. But God knows best, and let us take up the paths that lsmail Bey had built, to complete the tasks that he had begun. This is the best way for us now to serve our nation.
Although some elements of Ismail Bey's biography have appeared in our newspapers and journals over the past several years, no serious attempt has yet been made to provide a complete story of his life. At Shura we have decided to begin that task by providing here an outline of his biography. We hope that in the future a much more serious and complete effort will be made. We have benefited in our project from the information printed in Tercüman by Hasan Sabri Efendi, who was one of Ismail Bey's closest friends and associates.
Biography. The founder of the newspaper Tercüman, Ismail Bey Gaspirali, was born on 8 March 1851 (1267) in a village called Uchuköy, which was a two-hour journey from Bahçesaray. His mother came from a Crimean noble family and was named Fatma Hanim. His father, Mustafa Aga, came from a noble family of the second rank. Mustafa Aga had been born in the village Gaspra, which was on the Crimean Black Sea coast. Ismail Bey took the name Gaspirali from this origin. (Information on this fact was published in Tercüman, no. 19 .) There is some evidence that Ismail Bey's ancestors originally came from the Khazar Turkish branch, but the information is unclear. Some time ago, in Tercüman, in an article entitled "Gün Dogdu," a story was presented about Ismail Bey's possible ancestors. A certain Daniyal Beg came to Crimea from the Circassian region and was considered by some a Circassian, by others a Turk. Ismail Bey believed that this Daniyal Beg was one of his early ancestors. We are not taking a postion on this question, which does not seem very important anyway.
Ismail Bey's father and mother lived in Aqyar (Sevastopol) during the 1855 war and at its end moved to Bahçesaray. At this point Ismail Bey was four years old. When Ismail Bey was ten years old, he found a girl friend named Habibe who lived in Bahçesaray. After attending a military training school in Moscow, Ismail Bey went to Istanbul and then to Paris. After his stay abroad, he returned to Russia and to his own homeland. In 1874 (1291) Ismail Bey became a teacher in Yalta where he taught Muslim adults the Russian language. Two years later he came to Bahçesaray and gave Russian lessons at the Zincirli medrese.
In 1879 (1296) he was elected mayor [golova]. In this position he served four years. After that period he began what would become his life's work. He would also make a number of journeys in the coming years: in 1885 to Baku, in 1893 again to Baku and then on to Bukhara, in 1907 and 1908 to Egypt, and finally in 1911 to India.
About his second journey to Baku, Ismail Bey wrote a short account in Tercüman, a portion of which we include here:
His Family. Ismail Bey married in 1879 (1293), but after a number of years, he divorced that woman. In 1882 (1299), Ismail Bey married Zahire Hanim, the daughter of Isfendiyar Akchurin from Siberia. These two lived together for twenty years. (A biography of this lady appears in the book Meshhur Hatunlar.) Although after Zahire Hanim's death Ismail Bey married one of her sisters, it was Zahire Hanim who was his prime companion throughout his active life.
Ismail Bey had three sons: Rahmet Bey, Mansur Bey, and Haydar Bey; and three daughters: Hatice Hanim, Shafiqa Hanim, and Nigyar Hanim. He had one living sister, Zeyneb.
His education. Ismail Bey studied first with Haci Ismail. At that teacher's death, Ismail Bey entered the gymnasium in Akmescit, and after two years' study there, entered the Voronezh military academy. From there he advanced to the Moscow higher military school. It is interesting to note that Ismail Bey, who spent more than thirty-five years serving the interests of Russian Muslims and Turkish nationalists, had his first educational experiences in Russian schools. Yet his nationalist activity ultimately cut him off from the Russian families he grew to know and love, the Russian writers, and the Russian professors.
On this touchy question, Yusuf Bey Akchurin once wrote:
Ismail Bey found the strength to remain firm against those who were uneasy about change, against those "masters" of the past who wavered on the question of renewal. He understood better than they that true service to our religion required an acceptance of renewal. He often wrote in Tercüman that the old stone "walls" were crumbling and that they needed to be rebuilt with new materials. He learned from Katkov that Russia and Russians also needed renewal, that their own "walls" were in a state of deterioration. He knew that it was not necessary to pursue renewal in exactly the same way that Katkov and Russians were doing it but that one did not need to fear what they were saying solely because they were Russians. Indeed, he learned a great deal from the newspapers that such Russians were publishing, especially the Moscow Gazette [Moskovskiia Viedemosti]. Journalism needed men who were knowledgeable about the world. Ismail Bey was a man whose strength and desire combined to produce for us a useful and modern journalism that could address the needs of our people. He believed that Katkov was just such a man for the Russians too. When Katkov died, Ismail Bey showed sincere grief and in Tercüman offered sympathy for his family. He wrote that Katkov had provided great service to the Russian people through journalism, that he had worked hard at that task for thirty years, that Russians would recognize the true value of his service. And he concluded than he hoped, after he had completed thirty years of service, that our people would consider him [Ismail Bey] in the same light.
During his time in the Moscow military academy, Ismail Bey began to develop a great affection for his own Turkic-Tatar nation. After those years, although he traveled as far as Paris and Istanbul, he thought about the problems of our schools and our books. He decided on these trips that he would focus much of his life on improving the intellectual life of our schools and books, and would emphasize renewal of the teaching and journalistic professions.
15 November 1914
Ismail Bey published a book, in Russian, entitled Russian Muslims. With this work, Ismail Bey initiated a debate on some very important questions. He wrote, "Our ignorance is the main reason for our backward condition. We have no access at all to what has been discovered and to what is going on in Europe. We must be able to read in order to overcome our isolation; we must learn European ideas from European sources. We must introduce into our primary and secondary schools subjects that will permit our pupils to have such access." Ismail Bey found the means necessary to introduce these ideas among the Turkic-Tatar people. He understood that this means was primarily the responsibility of the publishing industry.
Because of this, he published on 8 May 1881 a volume entitled First- Born [Tonguç], which was soon followed by a second, Daybreak [Shefak]. Together, these two works have been considered to be the famous "Ismail Publications." Ismail Bey, in the years since, explained that it was the reception that these two works found that persuaded him to venture the publication of his famous newspaper Tercüman. Although Ismail Bey was not able to gain assistance from any quarter at first, and despite the fact that such a venture was considered to be extremely bold at the time, Ismail Bey persisted and produced the first issues of Tercüman on his own. Ismail Bey had to travel to St. Petersburg in order to receive permission to begin publication and had to incur considerable personal expense in time and money. But on 10 April 1883 (1300) the first issue appeared. Ismail Bey continued to face one obstacle after another, but the issues of Tercüman continued to appear. In 1882, he also published a Turki Yearbook [Salname-i Turki] and a beautiful almanac. In the introduction to the former, Ismail Bey wrote: "We have put together a Turki Yearbook and an almanac for the benefit of all Muslims in Russia, both for the first time. We are conducting an experiment to see if what is regularly done in Russian, Ottoman, and French languages, which provide statistical and geographical information for those peoples, can also serve a useful purpose for Russian Muslims."
Throughout his life, Ismail Bey published innumerable books, brochures, essays, treatises, and collections, all with the purpose of serving Russia's Muslims. But the most beautiful and most useful of all of the things that he published was Tercüman. This newspaper allowed Russia's Muslims to awaken, to come out of seclusion, to enter the world. It permitted Russia's Muslims to cease being so far behind the rest of the civilized world and provided the needed remedy for many of our ills.
Ismail Bey once wrote about the costs and rewards connected with Tercüman in this way:
In an editorial appearing in Tercüman in 1903, in the twentieth anniversary issue, Ismail Bey wrote the following, referring to ideas he had presented in the very first issue in 1883:
In another issue of Tercüman, Ismail Bey wrote the following on the matter of renewal and reform within Islam:
Toward the beginning of 1896, Ismail Bey published an evaluation of the various reform movements involving Russian Muslims:
After founding Tercüman, Ismail Bey made a journey along the Volga, and then into the districts east of Itil. In Ufa he met with Selim Geri Mirza. He then traveled through the Caucasus. He learned of the current conditions of the Turkic and Tatar peoples living in these areas. He came to the conclusion that they were living in a deplorable situation, in a society that was gravely ill. Then, many years later, when he traveled to Egypt to attend the general Islamic Congress, he learned that the Turkic world was not unique in this regard, that the entire Islamic world was gravely ill. He wrote there an essay that was published in Arabic and addressed these issues. He called for a plan for all Muslims to follow, to use new methods in education as the remedy for its grave illness.
The major obstacle that Ismail Bey faced in the Turkic world in Russia, and in Egypt, was the concern that many Muslims, even educated and intelligent ones, raised about the compatibility of new educational methods with Islamic tradition, with Islam itself. But Ismail Bey was willing to go to Egypt, even as far as India, in order to carry his message and concerns.
A great many people who wished to continue to rely on Islamic traditions as they understood them and who resisted considering many of the new ideas and new methods proposed by Ismail Bey put obstacles in the way of Ismail Bey at every chance they found. Books, pamphlets, essays, introductions to other books, all were used to oppose the new methods. But Ismail Bey countered every obstacle, responded to all criticisms, with his own books, pamphlets, introductions, and essays. It is our opinion that in the contest, Ismail Bey won, and he achieved "checkmate" [mut] against his opponents.
He made a journey to Bukhara to confront some of the most influential of his opponents. There were many there, in the schools both secondary and primary, who argued that his ideas and methods were contrary to Islamic culture and law. He understood that even in the medreses of Bukhara the knowledge of the modern world had to be introduced.
Ismail Bey's road was long and difficult, but the correct one to follow. He was a modern man [cadid bir adam] who served truth and reality. He strove to free us from ignorance, from ideas that were both meaningless and useless. Muslim students, he argued, who attended medreses that remained deaf to modern ideas were a national waste. He was willing to devote all of his time and energy at home and to make long and difficult journeys for no personal gain or profit, but on behalf of the possible gain and profit of all of us. The Islamic world has been restricted by the tight bonds of an outmoded past, of outmoded methods. He argued that Muslims should find themselves obligated to break these bonds, to free their imagination, to advance. Everywhere else, it was in the last century [nineteenth] that "modern civilization" was born. The Western peoples began to place knowledge and science at the forefront, to give them highest priorities. They were able to discover a great deal about nature, and with these discoveries were able to greatly improve the life of their peoples. There have been "a thousand" real benefits to humanity from these discoveries. Merchants, factory owners and workers, artisans, all have found new skills, talents, abilities, as results of these discoveries. "A thousand" great works have resulted.
Russian Muslims have tended to experience the reverse of all that we wrote above. We have not had access to the discoveries, to the science and knowledge that the Western peoples have produced. And we have not been able to add our own contributions to those discoveries. The debate has centered on two issues coming from this state of affairs: Is it right that we do not contribute, and is it wrong to learn how to contribute?
Ismail Bey, and we, believe[d] that the Islamic world and Muslims in Russia have the responsibility to join the people who are producing these discoveries. The Turkic language is an excellent means to achieve these goals; those who are determined to depend on Arabic and Persian as the official languages of our past, will remain in the past. This was why Ismail Bey worked so hard to gain acceptance of a common Turkic language, "Turki."
In general, all Muslims and the Turkic people have the innate capacity to become leaders in the production of new knowledge. This action is not "against God." Rather, almighty God demands no less from human beings. We have a great inheritance from our ancestors, Turkic and Muslim. Our ancestors from centuries ago were leaders in the production of new discoveries and knowledge. They developed great talents and achieved great works.
The Muqadamat of Hariri is a good example of what we are arguing here. He wrote in Arabic it is true. But he gained his knowledge, acquired ideas, from all over. His contributions were important for his age. What Ismail Bey has worked for in our own age is similar.
1 December 1914
According to Tabiri, Bedri Hamdani once wrote a poem that consisted of one possible act or accomplishment after another, intended for memorization and recitation as instructions for a future leader. But according to Tabiri, this poem could be memorized and utilized only by one person in a given age or era, that its effects are meant for the one rare individual who is meant to dominate a particular time. Parts can be memorized by anyone, but the whole poem only by the one unique person. We know from other sources of such a poem by Hariri, in the maqam form, written in Nishapur. This latter poem contained a story about talent and ability, and indicated that a man who has such rare talent and ability can fulfill his destiny only when his talent is used on behalf of religion and humanity.
1. Our own age has had such an individual who could have fulfilled Hamdani's precepts, a man who possessed such rare talents and abilities, who could have memorized the entire poem, and who used these talents and abilities on behalf of this nation. This was Ismail Bey Gaspirali. There is no doubt that Ismail Bey fulfilled what Hariri and Hamdani called for. Ismail Bey is an example of the sort of servant of religion and humanity that the great poets described.
2. Ismail Mirza himself wrote an article in Tercüman about the responsibilities that leaders have toward their people and all humanity. We summarize here the main points that Ismail Bey raised in that article: "Every form of useful activity for mankind and for society must be in tune with the ideal. Without forethought and planning the desired results cannot be achieved, whatever the activity, it must be carefully planned out and be in accord with the ideal."
3. Ismail Bey saw that it was necessary for all the Turkic peoples and groups to use a common "Turki" language in order for them to advance, to coordinate their activities in line with what he believed to be the ideal.
4. He pressed for reform of the religious medreses. This could be accomplished only through a comprehensive plan that instituted a common teaching curriculum using a common new teaching method beginning with the primary schools. About these matters, he wrote a great deal in Tercüman. One of his most important articles on this subject appeared in our newspaper in Ufa a few years ago, which we summarize here:
Ismail Bey believed that the phonetic method of teaching literacy combined with the new method of general instruction was absolutely necessary. About this subject, we summarize some idea that appeared in Tercüman a number of years ago:
5. A great deal on the reform of spiritual conditions has been published in Tercüman. Ismail Bey's ideas on this question were most clearly expressed in issue no. 60 (1898) in Tercüman and may be summarized as follows:
6. We summarize here some of Ismail Bey's ideas on the education of women as they appeared in dozens of articles in Tercüman:
7. On the opening of social welfare societies and through them the renewal of society, there have been a great many articles in Tercüman and we encourage our readers to consult them.
8. In order to establish firm foundations for our national literature, it is necessary that we develop a pure, clear, and understandable "Turki" language. We have discussed this subject, and Ismail Bey's intense participation in its success, above. Here we will mention some of the problems, and successes, in this development, and draw from examples of the use of "Turki" by modern writers. Of all of the hopes entertained by Ismail Bey during his life, this one may well be the most difficult of achievement. It is very difficult to change one's language consciously. It is much easier to learn a foreign language than to reform in a considerable way one's own. But the initial steps in the reform of our literature and its expression have been achieved already.
In an article appearing in Tercüman in 1888, Ismail Bey noted that the most active of our writers and literary figures used a language that was for the most part not understandable by most Turkic readers in Russia. He wrote that for literary style and even language these writers owed their major debt to the past "greats" within our literary history. He hoped that in the future outstanding writers would emerge who could write in a language that the ordinary literate Turk could understand. We are happy to note that at the present time, many of our best writers have paid heed to Ismail Bey's call. Among our most active writers and literary figures today who would fit Ismail Bey's description are the following: (1) Mirza Fath Ali Ahundov (Tiflis). He has published in the "Turki" language a number of plays. (2) Hasan Bey Melikov (Baku). He founded one of the most important "Turki" newspapers among Russian Muslims. (3) Said Ansi Zade (Tiflis). He publishes a Turkic newspaper named Ziya-i Kafkasiya and is the author of many short stories. (4) Celal Efendi Ansi Zade (Tiflis). The brother of Said Ansi Zade, he is a writer and publishes the newspaper Keshkül. He wrote the wonderful treatise "A Short Guide to Knowledge." (5) Abdulselam Ahundzade (Shusha). He is the author of the highly respected book The Conditions Necessary for Knowledge. (6) Amiz Efendi Mekarav (Kuban district). He serves as a local kadi and is the author of the book A Catechism. (7) Ataallah Yabazidov. A writer in both Turkic and Russian of treatises on science. He is a lawyer in Petrograd. (8) Abdulkayyum Nasirov (Kazan). He writes almanacs in Turki and has authored five or ten treatises. (9) Shihab al din Merjani. A professor in the city of Kazan. He has written a number of important essays in "Turki" as well as in Arabic. (10) Husseyin Efendi Gaibov (Tiflis). He is a poet and has put together a number of books on the question of our national identity. He is also the mufti of Tiflis. (11) Muluka Bumajukov (Siberia). A poet who has published a great deal of poetry in "Turki." (12) Altinsarin (Orenburg). A Kazak poet. (13) Musi Akchibitov (Penza). A novelist of the first rank, author of the novel Husam Mela. (14) Zahir Bekiyev (Kazan). An author of novels in Tatar. (15) Abdulselam Kazyhanov (Kazan). He wrote and published a geography in "Turki."
Other writers who have appeared in the years since 1888 and who are contributing greatly to our national literature include: Selizazim Shirvani, Habtalla Ayshan, Ahdulmunih Haci, Chukr Mehmed Ali Ishasi, and a "thousand" beautiful poets. However, it is important to place at the forefront of all of the names mentioned above, the name of Ismail Bey.
Thirty years ago Ismail Bey explained to us what was necessary for us to really serve our people through writing. It involved making clear and available to our readers the most important ideas of our time. Ismail Bey was the best at doing this. One of his slogans might well have been "what is best for mankind is what is most useful for mankind." This slogan informed everything that he did.
At the opening of the General Islamic Congress that was held in Egypt a few years ago, Ismail Bey discussed these important questions openly and bluntly. He prepared a speech to present before more than three hundred guests and participants at the hotel Continental in the middle of October 1907. We summarize here the main issues that he raised, which we believe clearly focus Ismail Bey's aims at that time:
After delivering his speech, a great deal of discussion and argument took place. But the essence of the debate centered around the question of whether Islam could (should) be reformed or changed, whether Islam was doomed to fail or destined to succeed and survive. Ismail Bey was roundly applauded for raising the question in such a clear fashion.
One of Ismail Bey's greatest hopes was, in fact, that Islam would succeed and survive, that it would play what he believed to be its rightful role in the development of world civilization. But to do so it was necessary that Muslim teachers, particularly those who were involved in religious and legal education, be reformed and renewed. For this purpose, new and reformed teachers' schools would have to be founded.
It seems to us that in recent years this particular question has also been of utmost importance to the Turkic Muslim world. And it was in his last several years, when he was already becoming ill, that Ismail Bey began to focus more of his attention on the religious and spiritual education of Turkic Muslims. He was responsible for founding a special school in Bahçesaray that would concentrate its efforts on such renewal of religious and spiritual education; it utilized the "mother" Turkic tongue and has set the foundations for continued renewal in Turkic Islam.
15 December 1914: Ismail Bey's Journey to India
In order to publicize his "phonetic method" of teaching literacy, Ismail Bey journeyed to India. He was prepared to use whatever energy was necessary and to undergo considerable personal sacrifice in order to persuade others of the benefits of this teaching method. In fact, though, he was not the first "Ismail" to make such a journey to India.
In the year 1751, another Ismail, a Bukharan by birth, and a follower of Said Biste, left Orenburg for a similar trip to India. It was one hundred sixty years later that the second Ismail, this time from Bahçesaray, also journeyed to India.
Although the first Ismail went in an official governmental capacity, had with him a great deal of gold and silver, and was accompanied by many assistants and other officials, he had a great deal of difficulty reaching India and had almost no success when he arrived. The second Ismail made the trip accompanied only by forty verses [beyt] and a ten-piece alphabet together with some additional school [maktab] materials. But this Ismail was able to meet with many of the great and important members of the Indian Muslim community. His major worry was that these important people would listen politely, would not appreciate the possibilities of this new teaching method, might not be truly interested in raising the literacy of the mass of Indian Muslims, and would put the new alphabet and method into a "museum" when he left.
Ismail Bey began his visit with a few days examining the Muslim schools in Bombay. The schools of the Indian Muslims, like those for Muslims elsewhere in the world, were in a decrepit state. The leaders of some of these schools were beginning to believe that the problem was with the use of Arabic letters and were beginning to consider the introduction of another "more appropriate" alphabet. At least Ismail Bey recognized that some of these leaders saw the need for educational reform. After attending a meeting of the Enjumen-i Islam society in Bombay, Ismail Bey discussed his new method with school officials and, to the astonishment of society members and teachers, offered to demonstrate to them that he could teach illiterates to read in only forty days.
Some of these officials took up Ismail Bey's offer, and on 2 March 1910, with all of the appropriate Muslim blessings made, the first "phonetic-method" school was established in India. The Enjumen-i Islam society agreed to provide two months' funding, to allow Ismail Bey to demonstrate the effectiveness of his method.
At the end of the forty-day period a number of the previously illiterate students were able to read some simple lines, and the firm foundations for a new era in Indian Muslim education were laid. Indian Islam had in glorious centuries past produced some of the leaders of Muslim intellectual and political life: emperors like Akbar Shah; philosophers like Mirzad-al Haruni, Muhiballah al Bukhari, and Mahmud al Chunkuri; poets like Feyzi and Azat; canonical jurists like Hamdani; statesmen like Ahmed ibn Ahdulrahman; mystics such as Ahmed al Sahrendi and Abdul ar-Rashid al-Chunkuri; masters like Riziya, Sekinder Bey, and Shahjihan Bey; writers like Abdullah and Sadik Hasan Han; rich merchants like Rahmetallah and Ahmed Han; it is indeed fitting that the first "phonetic-method" school was founded among the great Indian Muslims, and we can take great pride in the fact that it was a Russian Muslim who initiated this reform.
Ismail Bey said the following about his journey to India, as reported in Ikdam:
Men whose occupations are involved with knowledge and science usually need a great deal of testing, trying, and evidence before they will give up one set of ideas for new ones, one established method for another. And it was not clear at first to such people that the new methods were in fact superior to the older ones. But Ismail Bey was extremely persistent, was willing and able to devote a long time to persuading such leaders to cease defending the old and to consider a new road or path. Of course, one of Ismail Bey's important discoveries was that any particular orthography can be closely linked to questions of national identity. Ismail Bey, throughout a career of more than thirty years, worked to protect the old orthography and the use of Arabic letters. He continued to be able to provide answers to questions raised by the opponents, within the nationalist movement, of the old alphabet and spelling. He firmly believed that it was possible to combine the old orthography with a new "phonetic method" of teaching reading. He kept this effort up till the end of his life.
Beginning with the appearance of Tercüman, Russian Muslims got in the habit of using the term Tatar, despite the fact that it was not entirely appropriate for all Russian Muslims. But after 1906 they began to use more often the term Turk as less specific and more accurate. The change was one which Ismail Bey fostered.
On learning of Ismail Bey's death, there appeared in the newspapers and journals of Turkey, Egypt, and Syria a great many outpourings of sorrow and grief. We provide below a sampling of statements and testimony from journalists who were influenced by the ideas and actions of Ismail Bey, some of which appeared in print in recent years.
1. Ahmed Midhat Efendi. This person, who was a follower of Ismail Bey, delivered a speech about Ismail Bey at an Islamic Congress held in Istanbul on 19 April 1909, in which he said:
2. Cevdet Bey. This person, who was the leading journalist and one-time editor of the newspaper, Ikdam, wrote a long article about Ismail Bey, portion of which we publish here:
3. Huseyin Hüsnü. He is a sheikh of the Rufaiyah dervish order and has written a long article on Ismail Bey in the journal The Nile [al-Nil]:
Ismail Bey possessed a taste free from defect. He loved simplicity and for this reason wore simple clothes and ate and drank simply. His writing reflected this simplicity. He now is simply separated from us and is at rest. He eats his simple food there, drinks his coffee there, and remains at rest there.
He used to accept guests with hospitality at his home. He would arise early, at six or seven, would drink black coffee, and after that would begin to write. After the mail arrived, he would read his letters and daily papers. He took notes from his daily reading, and marked up the papers with a colored pen. He did much of his work while stretched out on his bed [kerevet]. He wrote very quickly and was writing up to the time of his death.
He smoked tobacco. Around ten in the morning he would leave his room and walk to the editorial office of Tercüman. In his last days, he still visited his office, talked with the newspaper's staff, but would soon return to his home and stretch out on his bed. We know that now, after his death, he will still "be present" in the offices of Tercüman.
Both his room and his office were cheerful, nicely colored, with flowers. He liked beautiful music. He used to say, "The world is colorful and beautiful; so too should our press be colorful and beautiful."
For Ismail Bey the greatest pain and worst punishment would have been to have no work to do, to be idle. Thus he never spent a day without some productive work to be accomplished. He was constantly busy with writing or reading or speaking or thinking.
No matter how great the difficulty, Ismail Bey's spirit was never daunted, and he never lost hope. However frail he might have appeared, he had great boldness and firmness inside. He gave spirit to those without spirit, hope to those without hope. No one could ever say that he ever was without goal or aim. He had a sensitive and compassionate heart. He constantly preached moderation in the midst of deep crisis. He gave consolation to those experiencing sorrow, even to those who went morally astray.
In the city, no matter how rich and powerful his friends or acquaintances, no matter how important the society he kept, Ismail Bey never distinguished himself from the poor, weak, and hungry. He really preferred the simple customs and traditions of his people. While being in great demand in "high society" in the cities, Ismail Bey preferred to have a simple life, to wander about the bazaar with ordinary people, to go into small coffeehouses and drink coffee, and to gossip with the people.
Ismail Bey did not much like food prepared in the European fashion. In culinary taste he was still an old timer. He was not in favor of replacing the old traditional customs and values with European ones [i.e. Russian] and felt pained to see many of the young Muslims adopting European taste in food and dress and abandoning what he believed to be good in the old ways.
Ismail Bey placed high value on the arts. He did like some European music, but preferred the Turkic national music as it was known and performed in typical Eastern villages.
Ismail Bey argued that even in traditional and isolated villages in the Crimea, such as Aksar Temir Dulusu and Temirlenk Marashi, "one day there will be primary and higher schools that will produce physicians, philologists, poets, and painters. Let there be music conservatories and medical schools open to all Muslim children."
From the first week of 1914, Ismail Bey began to complain that he felt weak and ill. In February he went to Petrograd but soon found it necessary to return to Bahçesaray and then to spend a couple of weeks at the shore taking in the Crimean sea air. By the beginning of summer, however, it was clear that he was very ill.
Throughout June, Ismail Bey was given a combination of the best waters and minerals, and its was hoped that these in combination with the wonderful Crimean air would restore him to health. Yusuf Beg Akchurin returned to be with him in the Crimea. His condition continued to deteriorate.
Yet he was still able to get around. He had a photograph taken of himself with the staff of Tercüman and again with the members of his family. Experiencing a good deal of pain, he went on 27 June to a hospital in Akmescid, spent three days there, and even was able to do some writing while in bed. The doctors reported that the final stages of his illness were about to begin. But his condition stabilized, and he remained unchanged by the end of August. Every day he spent one or two hours reading the daily newspapers. He spoke on political questions. But on 8 September he lost his ability to stand up, and it became clear that he was beginning to make his final journey.
Ismail Bey called his family together, on 9 September. They prepared a special bulgar pilaf for him, and in order to show them that he was still competent and able, he read to them his last will and testament:
Around noon on 10 September the "Yasin-i Sherif" [sura 36 of the Qur'an] was read, and afterwards, Ismail Bey gathered together enough strength to say:
This day passed. Everyone remained in his house, fearing the worst. The next day, 11 September, he remained in bed, though early in the morning, he was strong enough to give some important advice to his close friends and family. But at around eight in the morning, Ismail Bey died. Those around him wept bitterly.
On 12 September the Friday prayers were said. The funeral service was organized by the administration of Tercüman, and his casket was carried by six men, and he was buried, as he had wished, alongside of the Mengli Giray Khan türbe.
News of his final illness and death, published in Tercüman and then immediately in the rest of the Muslim press, produced deep grief and mourning among the Turkic and other Muslims of Russia. But most expressed the hope that it would be his life and achievements, not his death, that would inspire what Muslims would do in the future, their hopes and service.
Ismail Bey was our master teacher. We should not weep but now should take great pride in what he accomplished. Among Russian Muslims, Ismail Bey was one of our greatest. While we, at Shura, have received statements of consolation from a great many people, the following list gives some indication of the great variety and breadth: from the village of Chakmak, the imam and mudarris Mehmed Shakir Ahmed Veli Oglu Feyzi; from Tashkent, Muhsin Efendi Shiir Mehmed oglu Hanifa Asimet; in Kerki, Abd al Habir Abdallah; in Samarkand, Sidiqi; in Irkutsk, Habibullah Garbidov; in Kazan, Jelal; and so forth. Clearly, Ismail Bey meant a great deal to everyone. We will miss him! But we will carry on.
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