The Greatness of Abai

In the book "The Greatness of Abai, or an attempt to create a portrait of a thinker in the XXI century", the famous Azerbaijani historian, theologian Teymur Atayev studied with great interest the famous "Words of Edification" of the outstanding Kazakh educator Abai Kunanbayev, comparing the ageless thoughts of Abai with the verses of the Koran
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Фото: e-history.kz 01.10.2022 12:35 1094

In the book "The Greatness of Abai, or an attempt to create a portrait of a thinker in the XXI century", the famous Azerbaijani historian, theologian Teymur Atayev studied with great interest the famous "Words of Edification" of the outstanding Kazakh educator Abai Kunanbayev, comparing the ageless thoughts of Abai with the verses of the Koran. The author tries to comprehend the connecting thread between the revelations of the Koran and the "Words of Edification". For a more complete understanding of Abai's ideas, the author turns to the most important pages of Kazakh history and significant episodes of the thinker's biography. According to him, this will allow a deeper understanding of Abai's lines, relevant at all times. Azerbaijani historian, publicist, theologian Teymur Atayev researches the problems of history, religion, literature, art, author of the works "The Versatility of Gabdulla Tukai, or the Unbroken Flight" (2019), "To be a believer in the whirl of today's life... Difficult? Easy? Is it possible?" (2020), etc.

Teymur Atayev wonders how the glorious pages of Kazakh history and important episodes from Abai's biography shaped his personality, allowing the outstanding educator to make an invaluable contribution to Kazakh thought, to approach him from various sides, including comparing Abai's thoughts with the revelations of the Koran? In the third part of his work, the author made a deep analysis of Abai's famous book "Words of Edification". In this chapter, the author tried to touch the nerve of the famous and ageless "Words of Edification" of the scientist, the creation of which he began at an advanced age – 45 years old (and 45 Words!) and I've been writing them for almost nine years.

These Words are the quintessence of Abai's thoughts. His experiences, thoughts, doubts. They are the result of reflections. The richest and widest inner world, which he found it possible to share with both close and distant people. And, as it seems, not only with Kazakhs.

But what kind of translation of Abai's works into Russian is desirable to use in order to join his thoughts? Translations by Viktor Shklovsky, Satimzhan Sanbaev, Roland Seisenbaev, Clara Serikbayeva and others are well-known. A partial translation of the "Words of Edification" was also carried out by Bishop Gennady (Gogolev), rector of the cathedral, elected Bishop of Kaskelensky, vicar of the Astana and Almaty diocese. The author decided to get acquainted with the translations of all these specialists, as well as the Kazakh doctor, poet Anatoly Kornienko (pseudonym Anar Lizari), without even being aware of the degree of their semantic similarity or difference. Already at the stage of familiarization with them, the author decided to selectively use those that, in his opinion, better correspond to Abai's way of thinking.

At the same time, familiarization with the lines of Abai allows you to literally immediately see the connecting thread between them and the revelations of the Koran. And a deeper acquaintance with "Words" shows how strong it is, and the author also tries to reflect it in his research.

At the same time, the author tried to consider what he read not in accordance with the chronological order of the "Words", but from the point of view of their thematic "unity" (in his own understanding, of course). Moreover, the "Words" were numbered not by Abai, but during the editorial processing of the collected works after the author's death.

Abai's work is so modern due to the versatility and breadth of his ideas that acquaintance with him generates various associations. Immersing yourself in Abai's thoughts, you pass through individual episodes from your own life and rethink it based on the words of the scientist, which is also reflected in the book.

Already in the "First Word", the initial lines of Abai's address to the reader carry a shade of the purest truth. The truth of the experienced and experienced. Life experience allows Abai to speak out loud about the painful. And, besides, the thinker immediately makes it clear that he is not going to give edification based on some selfish considerations. He is driven by caring for his children, and through them – about the Kazakh people.

What is happening in society today? What to expect tomorrow? Who will lead the people forward, and to what? To what ideals? With what appeals? All these doubts and worries are felt in the unfading lines of the first Word of Abai.

A poet, novelist, publicist-philosopher, he does not hide that before deciding to share his vision of the world with others, he talked about himself, about his vocation and further steps in life: should he make efforts to take a "leading position" in the hierarchy of power or, say, to engage in scientific research? But no, all this is not for him, and this is not his vocation. The semantic message of the appeal is the desire (intention, need, urgent need) to express their thoughts to fellow Kazakhs solely because of concern for their future.

"Having had enough of everything, I discovered the frailty and fruitlessness of my deeds," Abai writes. And he adds that "knowledge turns into bitterness, bringing premature old age, when there is no person nearby with whom you can share joy and sadness," and besides, "there is no one with whom to say a clever word." So he "asked for paper and ink so that the simple and artless syllable would preserve My Words forever."

Is there a sense of hopelessness in what has been said? Or is it just sadness? Of course, the second, because if hopelessness were the driving motive of Abai's initial words, he would not have turned to anyone. But Abai is ruled by hope: "Maybe someone will like some of my Words, he will rewrite it for himself or just remember it."

It is said modestly, gently, unobtrusively. But there is a glimmer of hope. And it is real, as evidenced by the strong line of Words of edification.

Well, then it becomes clear the reasons for Abai's mood, talking about the frailty and futility of efforts: he sees the terrifying vices that have struck all strata of society. But he is not silent about them, but declares at the top of his voice, not hiding his inner perception of what is happening (just as the outstanding Azerbaijani educator of the XIX century Mirza Fatali Akhundov spoke about the society of his day).

Abai notes that instead of mastering crafts and engaging in useful work, his compatriots "spend time in humiliating discord among themselves." Hence, the disappearance of the Kazakhs' inherent delight and joyful laughter from "superiority over others".

Abai does not directly speak of disappointment with this state of affairs. He only conveys his perception of the prevailing atmosphere in society, asking questions about the reason for the disunity of compatriots, their "ill will towards each other", irrepressible love of power: our mutual "hidden hostility" develops into "open, irreconcilable enmity, we are angry, we are suing, we are divided into parties, we bribe influential supporters to have an advantage over opponents, fighting for the ranks."

"Idleness and laziness rule in society," he continues, but there is no "empathy for relatives" and "truthfulness" has disappeared. There are "enough patrons" around who "it costs nothing to cross the word of honor," while criminal cases are being fixed over "honest sons of the steppe on false denunciations, humiliating inquiries are being conducted, witnesses are ready to confirm what they have not seen and have not heard. And all in order to discredit an honest man, to prevent him from being elected to high positions." And "the proud and patient are prepared for one way – to while away their days in prison."

"No one was left out of this dashing whirlwind," Abai says with pain in his heart. "We even rejoice in the poverty of our people, because the more poor, the cheaper the labor." But after all, "it is necessary to have force for enmity," in connection with which "we began to dispute with each other the positions of volost elders and biys. Volost rulers achieve their position by cunning and guile", supporting "the wrong, because it is better to be friends with their own kind than to be at enmity."

However, the power "earned by adulation or bought for money is not worth much." Therefore, it is impossible to respect bai, because "he is not the master of his will and his wealth. Feuding with some, out of caution, he distributes cattle to others, ending up beholden to a good hundred people." But "he himself is dependent on them." So, "neither generous nor merciful can he be called," because "he fights with his people on his native land, wastes good, crucifying himself before the unworthy."

It remains only to "regret and wish well-being to those meek, humble bays" who live following the proverb: "If you want prosperity, avoid quarrels." Fate has taught them to "meekly give one half of their fortune to save the other, although they do not receive gratitude for what they give, and they cannot protect themselves from thieves, rapists and cheats."

As we can see, Abai's feelings and thoughts do not leave him. And how else, if in the current "turmoil, my people are getting smaller every year", becoming "more and more immoral"?

Abai's revelations are also shocking by the fact that in them the poet does not separate himself from society, but, on the contrary, ranks him among it. "We are," Abai exclaims. We, we and once again we…

But haven't other societies been in decline? Many have passed through it, and that is why Abai's message has universal significance.

Recall, for example, the bitter words of M.F. Akhundov about the ailments of the society in which he lived and worked. M.F. Akhundov wrote that the provinces are ruled for the most part by "ignorant" princes, deprived of any "knowledge", before whom "the people in shameful slavery express a sense of devotion." This was carried out, according to the magnificent figurative expression of the thinker, according to "etiquette": those in power "sit at the top of the official hall," and all subjects, "without distinction of rank and estates," stand before them, waiting for orders. "As soon as they open their mouths and utter a word," a voice of approval "rises and repeats" from all sides. At the same time, "the Persian dignitaries are in no way inferior to the princes in terms of immorality, greed and vanity."

But how one must love and cherish one's people in order, like Abai, to write such an unsightly truth about him with pain in his heart. And this is the strength of Abai and his justice.

Abai's love is not blind, but also not artificial and not ostentatious. Therefore, despite the fact that "I laugh, but I can't rejoice," because "everything is dead inside" and only "outwardly alive," I am still "angry, but I don't feel anger." Hence the sincerity in addressing compatriots:

But, brothers, I could not leave you!

And without harboring illusory hopes,

I will meet my last hour with you,

Misunderstood in the assembly of the ignorant.

How subtle... Cons that cause pain. Misunderstanding, forcing the heart to boil. And here is the expressed hope that the last days "will be able to live, hoping for the future."

Many social vices, to which the thinker drew the attention of his contemporaries and future generations, have not been eliminated today. But at the same time, what Abai said is striking in its "relevance to this day." On whom to blame, if not "on ourselves"? How can one not be annoyed when other "loudmouthed clickers", "not fearing God, not being ashamed of people", crave "a multi-faceted scandal on a hundred roads around"? How not to be offended when the chatter and "slippery talk" generated by misunderstanding or, even worse, indifference, "humiliate, detract from our independence and sovereignty?" And then, following Abai, you ask bitter questions: "Why do relatives get annoyed and offended at you when your horse comes first at the races?" Why are villains brave? Why are some poor people arrogant? And isn't "this cry of the poet's soul" addressed from the depths of time to us, to our society today?".

For us, modern Azerbaijanis, the unflattering, but invariably truthful conclusions about Azerbaijani society, voiced by Mirza Fatali Akhundov, Mirza Alekper Sabir or Jalil Mammadkulizade, are equally relevant. His words are completely in tune with the internal problems of Azerbaijani society.

Considering in the sixth Word (and, to some extent, in the thirty-ninth Word) the theme of the unity of the people, Abai exclaims: "Is it really just a community of cattle, food and clothing"? And if so, then "what is the benefit of wealth and what is the loss in poverty?" After all, why make efforts to earn money if you "have it in your family" and they "can be begged?". Therefore, the achievement of unity "at the price of cattle" is the beginning of a "moral decline".

But one of the most important qualities of the ancestors was called "striving for unity", which was manifested in the ability to "honor the best men", the "wisest and honest" of whom were "clothed with special powers and called "el-basy" (head of the people) and "top-basy" (leader of the community). But "now they are not friends. The mental disposition has been replaced by deception."

Unity should be ensured not by interdependence, but by a community of thought aimed at the good. Otherwise, society will gradually "forget God and not do business", mired in mutual insults, slander and deception of each other. How to achieve unity here?

Apparently, Abai here is talking about a national idea that can ensure the unity of the whole society. The thinker does not specify which points should be reflected in it, but clearly indicates the need to unite at the expense of the community of thought of everyone, community from the point of view of social progress.

Perhaps, in this case, Abai relied on the Koran, which advocates non–separation into branches, because "truly, believers are brothers" (Koran, 49:10). Then it is not surprising that in the sixth Word Abai touches on another topic directly related to the spiritual side of human life. But before that, Abai sarcastically writes about the love of "prosperity" and "saturation", which reduces life to the level of bestial existence:

Prosperity, satiety loving,

Devoting life to the service of the flesh,

We have likened ourselves to cattle

But this very life "in the body", conditioned and limited by "eating and assimilation of food", leads a person to fear only physical death. Therefore, there is no room for spirituality in it, although "the spirit must rule the flesh," allowing the soul and heart to be alive, and the mind to be clear. But if only carnal life prevails, and "your soul is dead," then "the words of reason will not reach" human consciousness.

As the Koran testifies, it is impossible "to make the deaf hear or to guide the blind and the one who is in obvious error to the right path." In other verses, it is shown what kind of blindness is being discussed: "Unbelievers are like cattle that a shepherd shouts at, while she hears nothing but a call and a cry. They are deaf, dumb and blind. They do not understand anything" (Kuran, 43:40; 2:171; 7:179).

And now let's recall Abai's thoughts about cattle and reason given just above. Do they have a discrepancy with the above-mentioned verses?

Be that as it may, the scientist concludes that only if there is spirituality, "everyone will call work art," thanks to which the acquired "prosperity", which was discussed in the second part of the sixth Word, becomes "appropriate."

As Teymur Atayev admitted, acquaintance with the biography of Abai, his unfading work brought him a lot of bright and joyful emotions. It was like meeting a Person who not only wished happiness to his people, but also tried to point out the paths leading to him. The lines of Abayev's Words caused a lot of emotional experiences – he grabs his soul very much with his truth of life. The author was able to pass the philosopher's work through himself. After all, in order to realize (feel) the pain and hope expressed by him, it is necessary to constantly return to his individual thoughts. Perhaps this method of cognition of Abai just helps to catch the echoes of his inner world.

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