Subject: Islam in Central Asia
1. “Jadidism was a movement for cultural and social renewal in Central Asia in the early 20th century. For all their belief in progress as embodied by modern Europe, the Jadids never wavered in their commitment to seeing themselves and their audience as Muslims.” What were the main elements of the Jadids’ project, and how did they synthesise Western modernity and Islam?
Islam reached the Central Asian region in the 8th century A.D. since then, the whole of Central Asian (except northern part of Kazakhstan) and Caucus regions were under Muslim rule. Over time, most of the local populations of these regions embraced Islam. However, with the advance of the Tsarist Russian forces into Muslim land in Central Asia in the 19th century A.D., it was becoming apparent to the Muslims of this region that they were facing a new challenge of immense proportion, particularly at the cultural, educational, social and economic levels brought to them by the new invaders.
Confronted with this new reality, the first generation of modern Central Asian intellectuals, who were given the label: “Jadids” (which is an Arabic word which means: New), came to the realisation that the current religious, cultural and social traditions are no longer capable of fulfilling the needs of the society. They had a perception that comprehensive reforms of culture and society was needed for Central Asian people to overcome the challenges of the modern world. Adeeb Khalid has proposed a preliminary definition of who can be called a Jadidi, namely, “those individuals who took part in efforts to reform Muslim society through the use of modern means and communication and new forms of sociability”.1
The Jadids embraced modernity with a great zeal, while at the same time they tried to reshape Islamic values and provide a new understanding of what it means to be a Muslim. The arrival and popular support of this new movement had significant implications for the power brokers of Central Asian culture, and the Jadids were met with opposition on multiple fronts from certain established groups in the society who were reluctant to accept reforms.2
The main thrust of this opposition came from the traditional, conservative Islamic leadership, who felt that their power was threatened as Jadidism's following grew and influence expanded. The traditional Islamic leaders, in particular, were worried that Jadidist education reforms would erode their conservative base, as the number of students studying at the traditional madrasas and the scriptures classes started to decline.
Modernity and Islam
In Central Asian countries, religion played a central role in the cultural, social, political, and economic aspects of the society, as well as in the lives of individuals. With the Tsarist Russian Empire expansion into that region and exposing Central Asian people to the new political, ideological, educational, social and economical systems, there was a critical need for a continuous reflection upon and understanding of religious traditions and values to face the new challenges and the needs of the society.
With the start of World War I, the spread of Jadidism created a debate about the true representatives of the Muslim community and the proper understanding of Islamic teachings. The Jadids encountered political opposition as well. Although the Jadids remained loyal to the Tsarist regime, the Russian Empire still considered them dangerous for their articulation of pan-Islamism and pan-Turkism. As such, the Jadids were often linked to the Young Turks, even though they rejected their vision of pan-Turkism. This impression led to the formation of political organizations, such as the Union of Muslims (Ittifak), which was composed of moderate liberal and pan-Islamic groups to oppose the possible threat of Jadids.3
At the same time, the Muslim intellectuals in other parts of the Muslim world were...
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