H. B. Paksoy

Annals of Japan Association for Middle East Studies No. 7, 1992. Pp. 173-220. [Reprinted in Yeni Forum Vol. 13, No. 277, Haziran 1992.

Let us mow consider how one culture flourishes and, a millennia later, influences another. In this case, without any intention to do so.

A booklet, issued by the U.S. Congress, contains the following information:

The 23 relief portraits in marble are of men noted in history for the part they played in the evolution of what has become American law. They were placed over the gallery doors of the House of Representatives Chamber when it was remodelled 1949-1950.

Created in bas-relief of white Vermont marble by seven different sculptors, the plaques each measure 28" in diameter. One is full face, and 22 are profile. From the full face of Moses on the north wall, 11 profiles face left and 11 face right, ending at the Webster quotation on the south wall above the speaker's chair. The subjects of the plaques were jointly chosen by a group from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Columbia Historical Society of Washington D.C. in consultation with authoritative staff members of the Library of Congress. The selection was approved by a special committee of five Members of the House of Representatives, the Architect of the Capitol and his associates.

The plaster models of these reliefs may be seen on the walls of the Rayburn House Office Building subway terminal.

In chronological order the lawgivers are:

Thus we learn that Suleiman (1494-1566), whose epithet is Lawgiver (he recodified the laws of the Ottoman empire), is regarded as an individual whose actions and thoughts have influenced the formation of the U.S. law; therefore our actions.

One can learn more about Suleiman's reign by reading works about him. However, a critical factor concerning Suleiman needs to be considered: What influenced his mind?

Suleiman's ancestors in the Ottoman dynasty (13-20 centuries) have established a palace school. The purpose of this institution was twofold: to educate the future rulers (their own off-spring) and to simultaneously train the future high-level bureaucracy. In this manner, the high level bureaucrats and the rulers would know each other, from their earliest ages. As can be expected, Suleiman was a student.

The palace school instructors also had to train future teachers, to maintain successful continuity. Among other subjects, statecraft (what we now call Public Administration) was taught at the palace school. One of the earliest known manuals of statecraft anywhere is Balasagun'lu Yusuf's Kutadgu Bilig. It was completed in 1070/1 C.E. in the heart of Asia, four centuries prior to the voyage of Columbus, and dedicated to Tavgach Han, the ruler of the Karakhanids. An English translation by Robert Dankoff is available, under the title Wisdom of Royal Glory: Kutadgu Bilig (Chicago, 1983).

Kutadgu Bilig has three known mss. One of them is referenced as the Herat copy. According to a note found on this particular mss, the volume was brought to Istanbul in 1474 (still before the Columbus voyage) from Tokat in Asia minor by Fenerizade Kadx Ali, for the use of Abdi-xrrezzak xeyhzade Bahshi. Professor Rexit Rahmeti Arat makes the following observation concerning this note:

In the Ottoman bureaucracy, there were chanceries managing the official correspondence with the Central Asian states. At their head, there was an educated individual with the title 'Bahshi' who knew the Central Asian conditions well; often they themselves were from those regions. xeyhzade Abd-xrrezzak Bahshi is such a person during the time of Fatih Sultan Mehmet (Mehmet II), working in Istanbul. Thus we understand why the said copy of Kutadgu Bilig is brought to Istanbul in 879/1474. However, it becomes difficult to trace the peregrinations of that work afterwards. On page 190, there is another note: "purchased from blacksmith Hamza; next to Molla Hayreddin's friday chapel; as witnessed by Hoca Hacx Dellal. This Hoca Hayreddin mentioned is a teacher of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, and died in 880/1475.

Recalling that Fatih died in 1481, his son Bayazit II in 1512, and so his son Yavuz Selim in 1520; Selim's son, Suleiman, ruled 1520-1566, one might place Kutadgu Bilig into perspective, by briefly considering similar works from other cultures, contents and messages.

Magna Carta (1215) is a well-known document. It was forced on King John, by his subordinates. It does not address the concerns of the British population; but regulates only the relations of barons with their king. The barons grew weary of the king confiscating their wealth, and the basis of the document reflects this aspect. By signing Magna Carta, King John promised not to expropriate the lands and money of his nobles. By contrast, Kutadgu Bilig is concerned with the happiness of the masses, as the basis of the legitimacy of the ruler. In other words, according to Kutadgu Bilig, the ruler should rule by the consent of the ruled. The ruler ought to be impeachable, if she does not bring forth happiness for the masses.

It should be remembered that Kutadgu Bilig was completed some century and a half before Magna Carta. It is also of interest to note that Magna Carta has been held as a model "constitution" for many a successor document.

The Prince (1513) is another well-known work. Written almost five centuries after Kutadgu Bilig, The Prince sides with the Italian rulers (of the city states of the time); again, as opposed to the masses. We may consider that as a requisite of the time and the locality. There is no proposition in The Prince, as the U.S. constitution states "...for pursuit of happiness..." for the individual citizen, or the society in general.

The aforementioned decision of the US House of Representatives in 1950, then, is a tribute not only to Suleiman, but by extension a celebration of the pluralism of Kutadgu Bilig. This can be considered an example of the educational "leavening" process in societies at large.

Change is inescapable. One who does not adapt to change, is likely to pass from the scene. This holds true not only for individuals, but especially for political states, and cultures. Each successful community --one that prospered within its environment-- devised its own method of coping with change. Each successful society also transmitted its cultural values to future generations. The study of the means of those transmission methods is a fruitful endeavor.

One example of such adaptation is the American transition from a fundamentally theologically inspired educational environment to a liberal arts college system. This transition was essentially designed by a handful of individuals in the 18th and 19th century U.S., by the likes of Jefferson, Washington and Franklin. That change was primarily effected in the hopes of giving the fledgling republic a sound intellectual future base, because the liberal education was by then regarded a vanguard of an open mind towards a balanced world-view. The U.S. founding fathers were well read, and knew the tribulations of previous cultures and civilizations.

Accordingly, the founding fathers were acquainted with Plato (c. 4th B.C.E.), who in his book entitled Republic suggested that the true function of the state is to balance the social forces for the advancement of society. Revolutions and social upheavals may be started by seemingly simple reasons. In actuality, they are the result of accumulated injustices. In the end of sometimes protracted struggles, democracy may be achieved. The principle of democracy is the independence and self governance of the people. However, the masses must be educated in order to select their suitable governing representatives. If a population cannot choose wisely, democracy may decay into autocracy. Demagogues, through their superior orations, may gain leadership. It may even seem that those able to garner votes are capable of governing. The true democracy requires education.

It was the Greeks who first disregarded Plato's teachings, and their democracy was lost to empire end dictatorship. The Roman Republic shared the same fate in the hands of Julius Caesar (100-44 C. E). The Roman historian Tacitus (First Century C. E.), in his Agricola and the Germania [H. Mattingly, Tr.] outlined the policy of the Roman empire in Britain:

[We] elevated King Cogidumnus to the throne, who served us loyally... in this manner, enslaved masses were governed for the Roman Empire. Britons were at first living in scattered settlements thus prone to rebellion. [The Roman Governor of Britain] Agricola privately encouraged Britons to build temples, baths and Roman style public buildings, in order to gather them into large settlements and to induce them to live in luxury and in pursuit of pleasure. In his official capacity, Agricola helped those Britons who undertook his wishes, and rewarded them. Those who were slow to accept Agricola's invitation were scorned and criticized. In this manner, Agricola sought to control the Britons not through state coercion, but by introducing private competition and sowing discord among them. Moreover, Agricola sought to educate the children of the Britons in the Roman way, and in Latin. In a short span of time, Roman clothing and ways proliferated among the Britons. The Britons began to lose their indigenous customs, commenced attending baths and hosting magnificent parties. Due to their inexperience, Britons thought of their new ways as civilization. In actuality, it was nothing but a requirement of their servitude.
On the other hand, in the same work, Tacitus also records the thoughts of some Britons, apparently obtained through informers, who were aware of the predicament their society was facing. These opponents of Roman policies resorted to physical fight in order to free themselves. This is akin to the Basmachi movement of Central Asia during 1916-1930s, as described by one of their leaders, Togan:

Basmachi is derived from "baskinji," meaning attacker, and was first applied to bands of brigands. During the tsarist times, these brigands existed when (Turkistan) independence was lost and Russian occupation began in Turkmenistan, Bashkurdistan and Crimea. Bashkurts (in Russian language sources: Bashkir) called the ayyar, by the Khorasan term. In Crimea (and, borrowed from there, in Ukraine) haydamak was used. Among Bashkurts such heroes as Buranbay; in Crimea, Halim; in Samarkand, Namaz became famous. These did not bother the local indigenous population but sacked the Russians and the Russian flour-mills, distributing their booty to the population. In Ferghana, these elements were also active during the tsarist times.... After the proliferation of cotton planting in Ferghana [with the forced the tsarist policy of replacing grain production] the economic conditions deteriorated. This increased the brigandage. Among earlier Basmachi, as was the case among the Western Turks, the spiritual leader of the Uzbek and Turkmen bands was Kxxroxlu. Basmachi of Bukhara, Samarkand, Jizzakh and Turkmen gathered at nights to read Kxxroxlu and other dastans. What has the external appearance of brigandage is actually a reflection and representation of the thoughts and spirit of a wide segment of the populace. Akchuraoglu Yusuf Bey reminds us that during the independence movements of the Serbians, the Hxxdxxk; the Kleft and Palikarya of the Greeks comprised half nationalist revolutionaries and half brigands... The majority and the most influential of the Basmachi groups founded after 1918 did not follow the Kxxroxlu tradition; they were composed of serious village leadership and sometimes the educated. Despite that, all were labelled Basmachi. Consequently, in Turkistan, these groups were regarded as 'partisans;' more especially representing the guerilla groups fighting against the colonial power. Nowadays, in Uzbek and Kazakh press, one reads about Chinese, Algerian and Indian Basmachi.

[See H. B. Paksoy, "The 'Basmachi'" (Turkistan National Liberation Movement 1916-1930s) Modern Encyclopedia of Religions in Russia and Soviet Union [MERRSU] (Academic International Press, 1991) Vol. IV. Pp. 5-20; idem, "The Basmachi Movement From Within: An Account of Zeki Velidi Togan" Nationalities Papers Vol. 23, No 2. June 1995. Pp. 373-399, Reprinted in H. B. Paksoy, Ed. Central Asia Reader: The Rediscovery of History (New York/London: M. E. Sharpe, 1994)

Not only did the Founding Fathers seek to avoid the errors of the old Greeks and the Romans, but went a step further. By establishing liberal arts institutions of higher learning, the Founders pursued a policy of educating the American masses, thereby ensuring the continuance of what was established; the Republic. Thus, in 1753 Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) helped found [among others], the College of Philadelphia, later to become University of Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson (1743- 1826) led the establishment of University of Virginia in 1819. George Washington not only gave his name to at least one college, but also supported the creation of others. These initiatives were followed by the founding of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago. These institutions were devoted to the development of Liberal Arts, as opposed to the training of clergy. Almost all colonial American colleges prior to 1776 were designed after the European model, including Harvard (1636), Yale (1701), Princeton (established in 1766 as College of New Jersey), and were first and foremost training institutions for preachers. The newly created Liberal Arts Colleges were to soon require the older universities and colleges to revise and reform their curricula, and adopt the liberal education approach. Most other institutions followed that lead.

Religion, or a given belief system, is also regarded as an essential ingredient of culture and civilization. Hence, approaches to religion of various cultures are important and the study of religion to the extent those societies have chosen to modify religion, to suit their own needs, is to be studied.

To summarize: We humans are influenced by events; whether we know their sources or not. If we are not cognizant of the sources of influences, it is too easy for us to be led astray. As a result, we may lose our humanity. There are many examples, not the least in the 20th century.

We are in search of that defining essence of humanity; what constitutes it. This is a long term search, one that may never be finalized. For good reason: The search itself is the infinitely dynamic voyage, and the results attained along the way are markers, if you will, of the evolving measures. If the humanity does not continually refine itself, than we run the risk of allowing the horrors and inhumanities experienced in the past to take over once again.

A free society cannot survive without the educated and active participation of its members. In order to participate as a responsible citizen, individuals must be prepared. Preparation includes the ability to comprehend and analyze information, which one learns through a liberal arts education. Familiarity with the society's goals and principles, as necessary as familiarity with ones' own, is attained through the study of societies in their entirety. A liberal arts education provides people with a broad foundation. Anything less than a whole education, that is Liberal Arts education, will eventually lead to a society which is not free. Without such a base, a democratic society will give way to the sway of an attractive rhetoric or personality, as has been demonstrated several times even in the 20th century.

This text was produced and installed by Lynn H. Nelson