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FAKHREDDIN, RIZAEDDIN (17 January 1859-11 April 1936), Volga-Ural Muslim religious scholar and reformist. One of the most prominent Muslims of the Volga-Ural region of the Russian empire, Fakhreddin was born on 17 January 1859 in Kichu Chati village in Samara guberniya, the son of Sayfetdin, the village mullah, and Ma-huba, the daughter of Ramkol Maksud, imam of Iske Ishtirak village. It is remarkable that Fakhreddin, an outstanding Islamic scholar, educator, writer, and journalist, was a product of Tatar village madrasahs and never attended school in Kazan or Bukhara. He studied first at his father’s madrasah but at the age of seven went to study at neighboring villages, ultimately spending ten years at Tuban Chirshili studying Islamic theology, jurisprudence, Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish, while also learning Russian on his own. He was an avid reader in all these languages and never missed an opportunity to buy books from the itinerant book merchants who frequented Tatar villages. The library he began to accumulate was further enriched by, copies of books he copied by hand.

Upon graduating from the madrasah in 1889, Fakhreddin was appointed imam in the village of Ilbak where, in addition to providing religious guidance to the community, he also taught at the madrasah. By the time of this appointment, however, Fakhreddin had already attracted the attention of leading scholars such as Shakhabaddin Merjani by publishing works including an Arabic grammar (Kitaba-at-tasrif; Kazan, 1887), a text on methodology (At-tokhfat al Anisiya; Kazan, 1887), a book of jurisprudence (Kitaba mokaddima; Kazan, 1889), and one on social issues (Kitaba ig’tiraf; Kazan, 1889).

In 1891 Fakhreddin left Ilbak and moved to Ufa, having been elected a kazi (Ar., qadi; judge) and member of the Religious Board of the Muslims (Muftiat). This move launched the “first Ufa period” (1891-19o6) of his life, characterized by impressive productivity and breadth in his writings. When Fakhreddin assumed the duties of a kazi, the Muftiat had been in existence for more than a hundred years. Its rich archives, however, had never been organized, and he began compiling a systematic catalog of its holdings. He also made copies of those archival materials that interested him most for his personal library. Energized by the wealth of information that surrounded him in the Muftiat archives and by the ongoing discourse concerning the reasons for the backwardness of Muslims of the Russian empire, Fakhreddin entered a most productive period of his life, marked by the publication of literary works and studies on religion, social issues, and pedagogy, as well as contributions to major Muslim newspapers such as Terjuman, Vaqt, and Sharkiy Rus.

In 1906 Fakhreddin resigned from the Muftiat and moved to Orenburg to become editor of the newspaper Vaqt, a leading forum of Muslim reform-ism, to which he also contributed under the pseudonym Murat. In January 19o8 he became the chief editor of the bimonthly journal Shura, retaining that position until the end of 1917, when the last of the journal’s 240 issues appeared. Fakhreddin chose the name of the journal, meaning “council, forum,” and he acknowledged his intention of opening its pages to all those “interested in bringing science and education to their people.” Fakhreddin’s own contribution to Shura amounted to some seven hundred pieces ranging from articles on the history of the Turkic peoples, to essays on the social, cultural, political life of the Tatars, to profiles of famous Western and Muslim thinkers.

Fakhreddin welcomed with hope the February 1917 revolution with its promises of liberty for all but watched with anxiety the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in October 1917. When the first post revolutionary All-Russian Muslim Congress met in May 1917, Fakhreddin was elected kazi in absentia and in January 1918 moved to Ufa to begin his work at the Muftiat. This new assignment inaugurated his “second Ufa period” (1918-1936). In 1922 he was elected mufti and as the head of the Religious Board of the Muslims embarked upon the most difficult period of his life, marked by the twin tragedies of personal poverty and imprisonment and the oppression of Muslim communities under the anti religious policies of the Soviet government. He died in Ufa on 11 April 1936, at the age of seventy seven, leaving a rich legacy as a religious scholar, writer, journalist, and foremost spokesman for the movement of Muslim reform-ism.

Fakhreddin published some sixty books and seven hundred articles; he left many unpublished works comprising some forty volumes of manuscript on scraps of paper, since during the last years of his life he lived in such poverty that he was forced to sell some of his books in order to buy bread. Many of Fakhreddin’s works were so widely read that they were published in ten or twelve editions. Fakhreddin’s books fall into the following categories: Islamic history and the history of the Turkic peoples; biographies of famous Muslims; Muslim reformism, education, and curricular reform; enlightenment, women, and the Muslim family; theology, jurisprudence, the Qur’an and the hadiths; and social and political issues among Russian Muslims.

Fakhreddin’s thought developed under three equally important influences-Shaykh Merjani, Isma’il Gasprali (Gasprinskii), and Jamal al-Afghani. Like Merjani, he valued the importance of education, science, and the Russian language. Fakhreddin accepted only what was scientifically sound and ethically moral, but he always extended tolerance and respect to other people’s ideas. From Gasprali he acquired the idea of the racial and cultural unity of the Turkic peoples, but he rejected political Pan-Turkism while advocating “social unity” for the Turkic peoples. Al-Afghani’s emphasis on the need to reconcile Islam and modernity in order to defend the Islamic world against the encroachments of the West appealed to Fakhreddin, who as a Volga-Ural Muslim had experienced at first hand the meaning of Russian encroachment. [See the biographies of Gasprinskii and Afghani.]

The importance of Fakhreddin’s religious writings rests in his emphasis on the integrative capacity of Islam, his restatement of the shari`ah as an all-inclusive concept that integrates the legal and the spiritual into one religious whole, and his advocacy of the codification of Muslim legal practices in Russia. He advocated reform of the Muslim religious administration to enhance the position of the Religious Board and placing the mufti under its control. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of having the mufti elected by the community on the basis of his competence in religious and secular sciences rather than accepting the nominee of the Russian government. Fakhreddin also considered it necessary that the Muftiat supervise Muslim schools and devise a centralized curriculum for them. His emphasis on ijtihad (creative interpretation of dogma) and on education as a weapon against economic backwardness and political encroachment were perhaps Fakhreddin’s most enduring legacies to the Muslims of the Russian empire.


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Gosmanov, M. Utkdnndn Kilachdkka. Kazan, 1990.

Karimi, F. “Rizaitdin Khazrat kitu.” Ydnga Vaqt 2.13 (19i8). Khalikova, Raisa Kh. “125 let so dnia rozhdeniia Rizy Fakhretdinova.” Sovetskaia Tiurkologiia, no. 2 (1984).

Kharisov, A. I. “Kollektsiia rukopisei Rizaitdina Fakhretdinova v

nauchnom arkhive Bashkirskogo filiala ANSSSR.” In Iuzhnoural’skii arkheograficheskii” sbornik. Ufa, 1973-.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/fakhreddin-rizaeddin/

  • writerPosted On: November 7, 2012
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