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Whether for good or ill, I have lived my life, travelling a long road fraught with struggles and quarrels, disputes and arguments, suffering and anxiety, and reached these advanced years to find myself at the end of my tether, tired of everything. I have realized the vanity and futility of my labors and the meanness of my existence. What shall I occupy myself with now and how shall I live out the rest of my days? I am puzzled that I can find no answer to this question.
Rule the people? No, the people are ungovernable. Let this burden be shouldered by someone who is willing to contract an incurable malady, or else by an ardent youth with a burning heart. But may Allah spare me this load which is beyond my powers! Shall I multiply the herds? No, I cannot do that. Let the young folk raise livestock if they need them. But I shall not darken the evening of my days by tending livestock to give joy to rogues, thieves and spongers.
Occupy myself with learning? But how shall I engage in scholarship when I have no one to exchange an intelligent word with? And then to whom shall I pass on the knowledge I will have amassed? Whom shall I ask what I do not know myself? What's the good of sitting on a desolate steppe with an arshin in hand trying to sell cloth? Too much knowledge becomes gall and wormwood that hastens old age if you have no one by your side to share your joys and sorrows.
Choose the path of the Sufi and dedicate myself to the service of religion? No, I'm afraid that won't do either. This vocation calls for serenity and complete peace of mind. But I have not known peace either in my soul or in my life—and what sort of piety can there be amongst these people, in this land!
Educate children, maybe? No, this, too, is beyond my powers. I could instruct children, true, but I don't know what I should teach them and how.
For what occupation, for what purpose and for what kind of community am I to educate them? How can I instruct them and direct their paths if I don't see where my pupils could usefully apply their learning? And so here, too, I have been unable to put myself to any good use.
Well, I have decided at length: henceforth, pen and paper shall be my only solace, and I shall set down mythoughts. Should anyone find something useful here, lethim copy it down or memorise it. And if no one has anyneed of my words, they will remain with me anyway.
And now I have no other concern than that.


In my childhood I used to hear the Kazakhs jeering at the Uzbeks:
«You Starts in wide skirts, you bring your rushes from afar to thatch your roofs! You bow and scrape when you meet someone, but you insult him behind his back. You are afraid of every bush; you rattle on without stopping, and that's why they call you Sart-Surts».
Encountering Nogais, the Kazakhs would ridicule and scold them, too: «The Nogai is afraid of the camel, he soon gets tired astride a horse and takes his rest walking. Runaways and soldiers and traders — all of them hail from the Nogais. Nokai is what you should be called, not Nogai!»
About the Russians they used to say:
«The red-headed Urus, once he spies an aul, gallops fit to break his neck towards it, permits himself to do whatever comes into his head, demands to hear all the rumours and gossip, and believes everything he is told.»
«My God!» I thought then with pride. «It turns out that the whole wide world has no worthier and nobler people than the Kazakhs!» Such talk rejoiced and entertained me. But this is what I see now: there is no plant that the Sarts cannot grow, no land that their merchants have not visited, and no such thing that their nimble fingers cannot contrive. Their laymen live in peace and seek no enmity. Before there were any Russian merchants around, the Sarts provided the Kazakhs with clothes for the living and burial robes for the dead, and they would buy up from the Kazakhs droves of cattle that father and son could not agree to divide between themselves. Now, under the Russians, the Sarts have adopted the innovations more quickly than others. Exalted beys and learnt mullahs, craftsmanship and luxury and courtesy—the Sarts have all these.
I look at the Nogais and see that they can make fine soldiers and that they bear deprivation stoically. They face death with humility, protect schools and honour religion — they know how to work hard and grow rich, and to dress up and have fun.
Not we Kazakhs, though: we labour for their beys for a crust of bread. They will not let our beys into their homes. «Hey, you Kazakhs,» they say, «our floor is not for your dirty boots to trample on.»
I will not speak of the Russians. We cannot hold a candle even to their servants. Where has all our erstwhile joyfulness gone?
Where is our merry laughter?


Where lies the cause of the estrange¬ment amongst the Kazakhs, of their hostility and ill will towards one another? Why are they insincere in their speech, so lazy, and possessed by a lust for power?
The wise of this world long ago observed: a sluggard is, as a rule, cowardly and weak-willed; a weak-willed man is cowardly and boastful; a braggart is cowardly, stupid and ignorant; an ignoramus has no inkling of honour, while a dishonourable person sponges on the sluggard — he is insatiable, unbridled and good-for-nothing; he bears no good will towards the people around him.
The source of these vices is our people's preoccupation with one thing alone: to own as much livestock as possible and thus gain honour and respect. Had they taken up arable farming or commerce, had they been interested in learning and art, this would never have come to pass.
Parents, having increased their own herds, will do their best to ensure that their children's herds grow ever fatter, so that the livestock can be left in the care of herdsmen and they can indulge in a life of idleness — gorge themselves on meat and koumiss, enjoy beauti ful women, and feast their eyes on fast horses.
Eventually, their winter pastures and grassland become too small and, using their influence or position, they will by hook or by crook buy up, wheedle or seize pastureland from a neighbour. That person, fleeced as he is, will in turn put pressure on another neighbour, or else will have to leave his native region. Now, can these people possibly wish one another well?
The more poor there are, the cheaper their labour. The more numerous the destitute, the more abundant the free winter pasturage. My neighbour is eager for my ruin, and I am eager for him to fall into penury. Little by little, our concealed animosity grows into an open and bitter enmity. We bear malice, we litigate, we split into cliques and bribe influential people for support, so as to gain an advantage over our opponents, and we scramble for the emoluments of rank.
A loser will not toil and sweat — he will seek affluence in other, devious ways; he will show no interest in either commerce or tilling the land — he will side now with one, now with another party, selling himself and existing in misery and disgrace. There is no end to pillage on the steppe. If there were unity amongst our people, they would never condone a thief who, making adroit use of the support of one group or another, continues his brazen robbery.
Honest sons of the steppes are the victims of criminal charges based on false accusations, and are subjected to humiliating interrogations. Witnesses are produced ready to swear to what they have never seen or heard. And all this in order smear an honest person and bar him from high office. If the persecuted man, to save himself, turns for aid to these same rascals, he will sacrifice his honour; if he refuses to bow to them, he is certain to be unjustly charged; he will suffer hardships and privations, unable to find a place and occupation worthy of him.
Having gained power by deceit and trickery, the head of the volost avoids honest and modest folk like the plague and seeks allies amongst people of his own kind, crafty and crooked, whom he is fearful of antagonising.
A new saying has gained currency now: It's the person, not the matter, that counts. In other words, success depends not on the Tightness of the matter in question, but on the cleverness of the person involved.
The volost chiefs are elected for a three-year term. They spend their first year in office listening to all kinds of grievances and complaints: «Don't forget that we elected you!» Their second year is given over to fighting possible future rivals, and the third year to their campaign for reelection.
What then is left?
Watching my people sink deeper and deeper into discord, I have come to the conclusion that the volost chiefsshould be elected from among men who have had at least some Russian education, however little. If there are none,or only persons whom people do not wish to nominate, then let the volost chiefs be appointed by the uyezd authorities and the military governor. This would be beneficial in several ways. First of all, ambitious Kazakhs wouldhave their children educated; secondly, the volost chiefswould no longer be dependent on the whims of local mag nates, but take their orders from the higher authorities. To avoid the inevitable objections and denunciations, an ap¬pointee should not be subjected to any local control and verification.
We have had occasion to see the futility of electing biys in each volost. Not everyone is capable of dispensing justice. In order to hold a council «on the top of Mount Kultobe», as we say, it is essential to know all the laws passed down from our forefathers: Kasym-khan's «Radiant Pathway «Esim-khan's «Ancient Pathway» and Az Tauke-khan's «Seven Canons». But even these laws have become outdated with the passage of time and require amendment and infallible interpreters, of whom there are few, if any, amongst our people.
People who know Kazakh ways well say: «When two biys get together, there is sure to be four disputes». The lack of a supreme judge and the even number of biys hearing a case only complicates the adjudication of disputes. Why increase the numbers of biys? Would it not be better to elect three educated and intelligent men in each volost for an unlimited term of office, only replacing those whose behaviour is unseemly?
Let legal disputes be settled by two arbiters, one chosen by each party, and an intermediary acceptable to both. Only if they failed to ascertain the truth and come to terms would the dispute be taken to one of the three permanent judges. Then lawsuits would not drag on so long.


Observant people long ago noted that foolish laughter resembles drunkenness. Now, drunkenness leads to misbehaviour; a conversation with a soak gives one a headache. Anyone who constantly indulges in senseless merriment ignores his conscience, neglects his affairs and commits unforgivable blunders, for which he can expect to be punished, if not in this world, then in the next.
He who is inclined to meditation is always prudent and reasonable in his actions in this world and in the face of death. Prudence in thought and deed is the keystone of well-being. But does this mean that we should always be downcast? Should our souls know only melancholy, no joy and mirth? Not at all. I am not saying that we should be sorrowful without cause, but that we should stop and think about our heedless, carefree ways and repent, forsaking them for some useful occupation. It is not senseless merriment that heals the soul, but beneficial and rational work.
Only the weak in spirit will withdraw into themselves, abandon themselves to bitter thoughts, without finding the least consolation.
If you laugh at the stupidities of a fool, do so not rejoicing in his foolishness, but with a feeling of righteous anger. Such laughter should not be indulged in too often, for it is bitter.
When you see someone who leads a good life, whose kind deeds are worthy of emulation, laugh with a glad heart, with sincere joy. A good example teaches humility and restraint, keeping one from wrong-doing and drunkenness.
Not all laughter deserves approbation. There is also a kind of laughter that does not come from the heart, that God-given vessel, but bursts out in hollow peals just for the sake of forced jollity.
Man comes crying into this world and departs it in sorrow. Between these two events, without fully comprehending the value and uniqueness of the life bestowed upon him, he will burn it up thoughtlessly, squander it in petty quarrels and miserable wrangles, and never know true happiness. He will pause to think only when the sands of life are running out. Only then will he realise that no treasure on earth can prolong his life even for a single day.
To live by lies, deceit and begging is the lot of good-for-nothing rogues. Put your faith in the Lord, and trust in your own powers and abilities. Even the hardest earth will yield good crops to honest and selfless toil.


Sorrow darkens the soul, chills the body, numbs the will, and then bursts forth in words or tears. I have seen people praying; «Oh, Allah, make me as carefree as a babe!» They imagine themselves to be sufferers, oppressed by cares and misfortunes, as though they had more sense than infants. As to their cares and concern, these can be judged from the proverbs: «If you will live no longer than noon, make provision for the whole day»; «Even his father becomes a stranger to a beggar»; «Cattle for the Kazakh is flesh of his flesh»; «A rich man has a countenance full of light, a poor man — as hard as stone»; «The dzighit and the wolf will find their food along the way»;
«The herds of exalted men are left to the care of others, except when such men have nothing better to do»; «The hand that takes also gives»; «He who has managed to get rich is always in the right»; «If you can't rely on the bey, don't count on God either»; «If you are famished, gallop to the place of a funeral feast»; «Beware of a lake with no shallows and of a people that knows no mercy». Such proverbs are legion.
Now, what do they tell us? It is not learning and knowledge, nor peace and justice, that the Kazakh holds dear — his sole concern is how to get rich. So he will twist and turn to cajole some of their riches from other people, and if he does not succeed, he will see the whole world as his enemy. He will have no scruples about fleecing even his own father. It is not customary among us to censure those who gain possession of livestock by trickery, lies, pillage or other crimes.
So, in what way does their mind differ from that of a child? Children are afraid of the blazing hearth, while adults have no fear even of the fires of hell. When they feel ashamed, children would like the earth to swallow them up, but adults know no shame at all. Is it this that makes them superior to children? If we will not give them what we own, if we refuse to let them ruin us and do not descend to their level, they will turn their back on us.
Is this the people whom we should love with all our heart?


According to a Kazakh proverb: «The source of success is unity, and of well-being — life».
Yet what kind of people are they who live in unity and how do they achieve such accord? The Kazakhs are quite ignorant on this score. They think that unity resides in the common ownership of livestock, chattels and food. If this were so, then what use wealth and what harm in poverty? Would it be worthwhile working hard to grow rich without first getting rid of one's kith and kin? No, unity ought to be in people's minds and not in communal wealtm. It is possible to unite people of different origin, religion and views simply by giving them an abundance of livestock. But achieving unity at the price of cattle — that's the beginning of moral decay. Brothers ought to live in amity not because one is dependent on another, but by each relying on his own skills and powers, and his own destiny. Otherwise they will forget God and find no worthy occupation, but will scheme and plot against each other. They will sink to recrimination and slander, they will cheat and deceive. Then what kind of unity could there be?
«Life is the source of well-being...» What kind of life is meant here? Just existing in order to keep body and soul together? But even a dog is endowed with such an existence. He who treasures such a life, who is plagued by the fear of death, becomes an enemy to life everlasting. Fleeing for his life from the foe, he will be known as a coward; shirking work, he will pass for a ne'er-do-well, he will become an enemy of the good.
No, what the proverb refers to is another kind of life. One that keeps the soul alive and the mind clear. If your body is alive but your soul is dead, words of reason will not reach you, and you will be incapable of earning your living by honest work.

A loafer and a sycophant,
A hanger-on and an impudent fellow,
Valiant in his looks but craven in his heart,
Has no sense of shame...

If you are like that, do not imagine yourself to be alive. A righteous death will then be better than such an existence.


Born into this world, an infant inherits two essential needs. The first is for meat, drink and sleep. These are the requirements of the flesh, without which the body cannot be the house of the soul and will not grow in height and strength. The other is a craving for knowledge. A baby will grasp at brightly coloured objects, it will put them in its mouth, taste them and press them against its cheek. It will start at the sound of a pipe. Later, when a child hears the barking of a dog, the noises of animals, the laughter or weeping of people, it gets excited and asks about all that it sees and hears: «What's that? What's that for? Why is he doing that?» This is but the natural desire of the soul, the wish to see everything, hear everything and learn everything.
Without trying to fathom the mysteries of the universe, visible and invisible, without seeking an explanation for everything, one can never be what one should be — a human being. Otherwise, the spiritual life of a person will not differ from the existence of any other living creature.
From the very beginning God separated man from beast by breathing the soul into him. Why then, on growing up and gaining in wisdom, do we not seek to gratify our curiosity, which in childhood made us forget about food and sleep? Why do we not tread in the path of those vho seek knowledge?
It behoves us to strive to broaden our interests and Increase the wisdom that nourishes our souls. We should come to realise that spiritual virtues are far superior to bodily endowments, and so learn to subordinate our carnal desires to the dictates of our soul. But no, we have been loath to do that! Raving and croaking, we have not moved farther than the dunghill next to our village. Only in our childhood are we ruled by the soul. When we grew up and gained in strength, we rejected its dictates, we subjugated our soul to the body, and contemplated the things around us with our eyes, but not our minds; we do not trust the impulses of the soul. Satisfied with outward appearances, we make no attempt to uncover inner mysteries, in the vain belief that we shall lose nothing by such ignorance. To the counsel and advice of wise people, we reply: «You live by your own wits, mine are good enough for me.» Or: «We'd rather be poor in our own wits than rich in yours.» We are incapable of recognising their superiority and grasping the meaning of their words.
There is not a flicker of fire in our bosom nor any faith in our soul. In what way, then, do we differ from animals if we perceive things only with our eyes? It seems that we were better in our childhood. We were human then, for we sought to learn as much as possible. But today we are worse than the beasts. An animal knows nothing and has no aim in life. We know nothing, but will argue until we are hoarse; defending our obtusity, we try to pass off our ignorance as knowledge.


Will anyone heed our advice and listen to our counsels? One man may be a volost chief, another — a biy. If they had had the least desire to become wise and learn sense, would they have sought such posts? These people consider themselves quite clever enough and seek power so as to teach and give guidance to others, as if they themselves had attained the heights of perfection and had nothing further to do but instruct others. Are they the kind who would have the inclination or spare the time to listen to us? Their minds are filled with other concerns: not to offend their superiors inadvertently; not to provoke the anger of a thief, not to cause trouble and confusion among the people, and not to land on the losing end, but to gain some personal advantage. Besides, they must be always helping somebody, getting someone out of trouble. They are always too busy...
The rich? They want for nothing. Be it only for a day, they have wealth and they think they possess the treasures of well-nigh half the world, and they can pay in livestock for whatever they lack. They set their sights high and their ambitions even higher. Honour, conscience and sincerity are no dearer to them than their herds. They are certain that if they own livestock they will be able to bribe even the Most High. Their herds take the place of everything else to them — their native land, people, religion, family and learning. Why then should they listen to other people's advice? Some fellow might be inclined to lend an ear, but he has no time for that. He must feed and water his livestock, sell it at a premium, protect it from thieves and wolves, shelter it from the cold, and find someone to do these chores. No, this man is too busy to heed good counsel. When he has seen to all this, he will be boasting and bragging, so he has no time left for anything else.
As for thieves and scoundrels, they obviously would not listen anyway.
The poor, meek as sheep, are only concerned about getting their daily bread. What good is advice, wisdom and learning to them when even the rich do not want it? «Leave us alone, speak to those who are cleverer than we are», they say, as though knowledge were of no use to poor folk. They don't care about anybody, the poor. If they had what other people have, they would know no worries.


I, too, am a Kazakh. But do I love the Kazakhs or not? If I did, I would have approved of their ways and would have found something, however slight, in their conduct to rejoice or console me, a reason to admire at least some of their qualities, I and keep alive a glimmer of hope. I But this is not so. Had I not loved them, I would not have spoken to them from the heart or taken counsel with them; I would have not mixed with them and taken an interest in their affairs, asking, «What are people doing there? What`s going on?» I would just have sat back quietly — or wandered off. I have no hope that they will mend their ways or that I may bring them to reason or reform them. So I feel neither of these emotions. But how come? I ought to have opted for one or the other.
Even though I live, I do not consider myself to be alive. I don't know why: maybe because I'm vexed with the people or dissatisfied with myself, or for some other reason. Outwardly alive but completely dead within, that's what I am. Outwardly irate, I feel no anger. Laughing, I am unable to rejoice. The words that I speak and the laughter that I utter seem not to be mine. Everything is alien.
In my younger days it never occurred to me that anyone could forsake his own people. I loved the Kazakhs with all my heart and believed in them. But as I came to know my people better and my hopes began to fade, I found that I lacked the strength to leave my native region and form kinship with strangers. This is why there is a void in my heart now. But then I think, perhaps it's for the better. When dying, I will not lament: «Alas, I have not tasted this or that joy!..»
Not torturing myself with regrets about earthly things, I shall find solace in the life to come.


People pray to God to send them a child. What does a man need a child for? They say that one ought to leave an heir, a son to provide for his parents in their old age and to pray for them after their death. Is that all?
Leaving an heir — what does it mean? Are you afraid there will be no one to look after your property? But why should you care about things you will leave behind? What, are you sorry to leave them to other people? What kind of treasures have you gained to regret them so much?
A good child is a joy, but a bad one is a burden. Who knows what kind of a child God will bestow on you? Or haven't you had enough of the humiliation you have had to swallow all your life? Or have you committed too few misdeeds? Why are you so eager to have a child, to rear yet another scoundrel and doom him to the selfsame humiliations?
You want your son to pray for you after your death. But if you have done good in your lifetime, who will not utter prayers for the repose of your soul? And if you have done only evil, what will be the use of your son's prayers? Will he perform good deeds in your stead — those you have failed to accomplish?
If you beg for a child who will experience the joys of the next world, it means that you wish him an early death. But if you want him to secure for yourself the joys of this world, then can a Kazakh beget a son who, on growing to manhood, will show care and concern for his parents and protect them from suffering? Can such a people and a father like you raise a worthy son of this kind?
You want him to feed and clothe you in your decrepit old age? A vain hope, too! First of all, will you live to reach your dotage? Second, will your son grow up so merciful as to care for you in your old age? If you happen to own livestock — there will always be someone ready to look after you. If you have none, who knows who will provide for you and how. And who knows whether your son will increase your wealth or squander what you have gained by your labour?
Well, supposing God has heard your prayers and given you a son. Will you manage to educate him well? No, you will not! Your own sins will be compounded by those of your son.
From the very outset of his life you will be telling him lies, promising him now this, now that. And you will be glad when you manage to deceive him. Then whom can you blame when your son grows up a liar? You will teach him bad language and terevile other people, you will condone his misdeeds: «Now, don't touch this obstinate lad!» and encourage his cheekiness. For his schooling, you choose a mullah whom you pay little, just to teach him to read and write; you teaching him to be cunning and underhand, you make him suspicious of his peers and graft on bad inclinations. Is that your upbringing? And you expect kindness from a son like that? In the same way, people pray to God for wealth. What does man need wealth for? You have prayed to God? Yes, you have, and God has given, but you won't take! He has endowed you with strength to work and prosper. But do you use this for honest labour? No! God granted you the power to learn, a mind capable of assimilating knowledge, but who knows what you used it for. Who will fail to prosper if he works hard, perseveres without tiring and makes good use ofhis mind? But you don't need that! You pray to get rich by intimidating, cheating and begging from other people. What kind of prayer is that? It is simply plunder and beggary on the part of a person who has lost his conscience and honour.
Supposing you have chosen this path and gained possession of livestock. Well, use it to get an education! If not for yourself, then for your son. There can be neither faith nor well-being without an education. Without learning, no prayers or fasts or pilgrimages will achieve their purpose. I have yet to see a person who, having acquired wealth by dishonest means, has put it to good use. Ill-gotten gains are likewise ill spent. And nothing remains of such wealth save the bitterness of disappointment, anger and anguish of the soul.
While he has wealth, he will boast and swagger. Having frittered it away, he will brag about his former affluence. Impoverished, he will stoop to begging.


How do our people make living? There are two ways. One is by stealing. A thief hopes to grow fat on what he has stolen, and a bey seeks to increase his herds by recovering what has been stolen from him and more besides. Those in authority will fleece both the bey and the thief by promising the former to help recover his stolen livestock and the latter to evade justice. Your average man will inform on the thief to the authorities, at the same time aiding and abetting him by buying up the stolen goods for a song. Then there is another way: ordinary people are persuaded by crooks to resort to tricks they would otherwise never have dreamt of. Do this or that, they say, and you'll be rich and famous, you will be regarded as invulnerable and your opponents will fear you. Fanning evil passions and setting people against one another, the swindlers hope to be of service to someone and profit by this.
That's the way they live: the grandee by aiding the bey and abetting the thief, and the poor man by sucking up to the powers that' be and backing them in disputes, siding now with one, now with another party, and selling dirt-cheap his honour, his wife, his children, and his kith and kin.
If there were no thieves and swindlers, our people would think carefully. They would be only too glad to work honestly and seek goodness and wisdom if the bey could make do with what he has, and the poor man, without losing hope and faith, could earn what he lacks.
Despite themselves, the common people get involved in dirty business. Who is strong enough to uproot this evil? Will honour and pledges, loyalty and conscience sink into oblivion?
There might be a force capable of taming the thief. But what about the bey who out of greed connives with the swindler — who will make him see reason and how?


When someone teaches the Word of God, whether he does it well or badly, we would sooner bite off our tongue than forbid his preaching, for there is nothing reprehensible in good intentions. He may lack sufficient enlightenment, but let him preach. However, this man ought to remember two essential conditions.
First of all, he must be certain in his faith; then, he must not be satisfied with what he knows, but continually improve his mind. He who abandons learning deprives himself of a divine blessing, and you will look in vain for any benefit from his teaching. Indeed, what good is it if he winds a turban around his head, keeps the fasts rigorously, offers up prayers and affects piety, but does not know where in a particular prayer is the right place to repeat or pause?
A person who is negligent, who is not strict in his ways and is not capable of compassion cannot be considered a believer: without self-discipline and consistency one can not keep iman, the faith, in one's soul.


Iman — this is the unshakeable faith in one, all-powerful Creator, about whose essence and existence it is ordained to us to learn from the revelations of His Prophet, may Allah bless his name.
There are two ways of believing. Some simply accept the faith, perceiving the vital need for it and its truth, and strengthen their belief by means of reasonable arguments. We call this yakini iman or true faith.
Others believe by drawing wisdom from books and from the words of the mullah. Such people need special dedication to the object of their faith and spiritual strength in order to withstand thousands of temptations and not waver even in the face of death. This is the taklidi iman or traditional faith.
To keep iman within one's self, a person must have a courageous heart, firm will and confidence in his powers. But what about those who lack the knowledge to be among the adherents of yakini iman, or those who have no firm belief, who too easily succumb to temptations and cajolery who for gain will call black white, and white black, who will perjure themselves by passing offlies as truth and so cannot be called taklidi iman believers? May Allah preserve us from such people! Each and every one of us should remember that there can be no other iman save these. Let apostates not reckon on infinite divine grace; they deserve neither Allah's forgiveness nor the Prophet's intercession. Cursed be the man who believes in the false proverbs: «The edge of the sword is sharper than an oath» and «There is no sin that Allah will not pardon».


Has man anything more precious than his heart? Calling someone a man of brave heart, people respect him as a batyr. They have but a poor idea of any other virtues of the human heart. Mercy, kindness, the capacity to treat a stranger as a dear brother and wish him all the blessings one would wish one's self — all these are the commands of the heart. And love likewise comes from the heart. The tongue that obeys the heart will tell no lie. Only hypocrites forget about the heart. Yet those «men of brave heart» often prove to be unworthy of praise. Unless they value courtesy and honour their vows, are averse to evil and lead lost souls along the straight and narrow path, not following the crowd like a miserable cur, unless they stand up in defence of a righteous cause in the face of all difficulties and not turn from the truth when this is so easy to do — then the heart that beats in the breast of those respected as batyrs is that of a wolf, not a human being.
Indeed, the Kazakh is also a child of mankind. Many of the Kazakhs stray from the path of truth not through any deficiency of reason but because they lack the courage and staunchness in their heart to accept and follow wise counsels. I do not believe many of those who argue that they have done evil through ignorance. No, they have enough knowledge, but their shameful weakness of will and laziness cause them to ignore it. Having stumbled once, few will be strong enough to mend their ways.
Those who are praised as stout dzhighits, brave and clever, will more often than not put each other up to dark, sordid deeds. Their blind aping of one another and daredevil capers are a frequent cause of misfortunes.
If a man who has indulged in evil and in unbridled bragging cannot stop and chasten himself, and does not attempt to cleanse himself before God or his own conscience—how can he be called a dzhighit? One may well question whether he can be called a man.


There is an essential difference, in my view, between intelligent and stupid people.
Coming into this world, man cannot live without being attracted and excited by the fascinating things around him. Those days of questioning and passionate interests remain in a person's memory as the brightest period of life.
A sensible man will interest himself in worthy and serious matters, he will steadfastly pursue his objectives, and even his recollections of his past struggles to attain them will be heard with pleasure and warm the hearts of his listeners. Such a person will not betray even a shadow of regret over the years he has lived.
A frivolous man dissipates his time in worthless, futile and absurd undertakings. When he comes to his senses, he realises that his best years have swiftly passed in vain, and his belated regrets bring no consolation. In his younger days he behaves as if youth were eternal, never doubting that even more captivating delights are in store for him. Yet all too soon, losing his former strength and agility, he becomes good for nothing.
Another temptation lurks in the path of passionate souls. Success — attained or within their grasp — intoxicates their senses and makes them dizzy. The flush of success clouds their reason and causes them to commit blunders; a man like this attracts attention even against his will, he becomes an object of gossip and a butt of ridicule.
Reasonable people keep their wits about them even in such critical moments; they will not lose their senses but rather show restraint and not expose their feelings to all and sundry.
But a stupid person is like a horseman galloping on a steed without a bridle: lifting his eyes to the sky as if crazy and having lost his cap in his frenzy, off he goes and does not see that the edge of his chapan covers the horse's rear...
This is what I have observed.
If you wish to be counted among the intelligent, then ask yourself once a day, once a week, or at least once a month: «How do I live? Have I done anything to improve my learning, my worldly life or my life hereafter? Will I have to swallow the bitter dregs of regret later on?»
Or perhaps you don't know or remember how you have lived and why?


The Kazakh does not worry whether his prayers please God or not. He does what other people do: he gets up and falls face to the ground in supplication. He treats God as though He were a merchant who has come to collect a debt: «That's all I have, take it if You will, but if You will not — don't ask me to get livestock out of nowhere!» The Kazakh will not take trouble to learn and purify his faith: «Well, that's all I know, I can't get any wiser at my age. It's enough that people cannot reproach me for not praying. And if my speech is uncouth, that doesn't matter in the least.»
But is his tongue made differently from other people's, I wonder?


Will, Reason and Heart once asked Knowledge to settle their argument about who was the most important among them.
Said Will: «Hey, Knowledge, you ought to know that nothing can attain perfection without me: to know one's self, one has to persevere in learning, and this is impossible without me; only with my aid can a person serve the Most High and worship Him tirelessly, achieve wealth and skill, respect and a successful career. Do I not preserve people from unworthy passions and curb them? Do I not caution them against sin, envy and temptations? Do I not help them to hold back, at the last moment, from the edge of an abyss? How can these two argue with me?»
Said Reason: «I am the only one capable of discerning which of your words are useful and which harmful, whether in this life or the next. I alone can comprehend your language. Without me, no one can avoid evil, acquire knowledge or benefit himself. Why do these two argue with me? What use would they be without me?»
Said Heart: «I am the master of the human body. I am the source of its blood and the soul resides in me; life is inconceivable without me. Those who lie in soft beds I deprive of their slumber; I make them toss and turn, thinking about the destitute with no roof over their heads, famished and freezing. I bid the young to honour their elders and be tolerant to little ones. But people do not seek to keep me pure and therefore suffer. Were I pure, I would make no distinction among people. I admire virtue and rebel against malice and violence. Self-respect, conscience, mercy, kindness — all these proceed from me. What are these two worth without me? How dare they argue with me?
Having heard all the three out, Knowledge replied:
«What you say is right, Will, and you have many other virtues you haven't mentioned. Nothing can be achieved without your participation. Yet you also conceal cruelty equal to your strength. You are resolute in the service of good, but you can be just as resolute in serving evil. This is what is wrong in you.
«You, too, are right, Reason! One cannot do without you in this life either. Thanks to you people learn about the Creator, and are initiated into the mysteries of the two worlds. But this is not the limit of your possibilities. Cunning and wickedness also come from you. Both good and bad people rely on you, and you serve both faithfully. Therein lies your fault.
«My mission is to reconcile you. It would be good if Heart were the arbiter in this dispute of yours.
«You have many paths before your, Reason, but Heart cannot take all of them. It rejoices at your righteous undertakings and will gladly assist you in them, but it will not follow you if you plot mischief and evil; it will even turn from you in disgust.
«Now, Will! You have plenty of energy and courage, but you, too, can be restrained by Heart. It will not hinder you in a well-meaning deed, but it will bind your hand and foot if your goal is futile and wicked.
«You should join hands with Heart and obey it in everything! If all three of you live in peace within a man, the dust of his feet will open the eyes of the blind. If you two cannot reach accord, I shall give preference to Heart. Prize humanity above all! The Most High will judge us by this. So it is set down in the Holy Scriptures,» said Knowledge.


Man should dress modestly and keep himself clean and tidy. Only fops I spend more on their clothes than they can afford and worry too much over their appearance.
Fops show off in various ways. One will pay great attention to his face, cultivate his moustache and beard, pamper his body and swagger—now lifting an eyebrow languorously, now tapping his fingers or strutting with arms akimbo; another will adopt a studied carelessness in his foppery and, in an offhand way, affecting to be «a simple fellow», will drop hints in passing about his Arabian horse or his rich raiment: «Oh, it's nothing in particular!» He goes out of his way to attract the attention of his betters, arouses envy among his equals, and is regarded among his inferiors as the acme of refinement and luxury. They say about him: «What has he got to complain of with a such a horse and clothes like that!»
But this is absurd and shameful.
No one should get carried away by such nonsense, for otherwise he will find it hard to look like a normal human being again.
In the word kerbez [fop] I discern a relationship with the words ker [conceited] and kerden [haughty]—something that ought to warn people against a vice of this kind. A human being should distinguish himself by virtue of his reason, knowledge, will, conscience and goodness. Only a fool thinks he can gain distinction by other means.


A child is not born a reasonable being. It is only by listening and watching, examining everything by touching and tasting, that it learns what is good and what is bad. The more a child sees and hears, the more it knows. One may learn a good deal by listening to wise men. It is not enough to be endowed with a brain—only by hearing and memorising the teachings of the learnt and by avoiding vices one can grow up a complete person.
But if one listens to wise words either with excessive enthusiasm or, conversely, paying too little attention, without asking what may not be clear, trying to get to the heart of the matter or drawing one's own conclusions, even though one may feel the wisdom and justice of such good counsels— what is the use of listening?
What can you talk about with a man who does not know the value of words?
As one sage put it: better to teed a pig that recognises you…


All of us know: nothing can overrule fate. A feeling of satiety is characteristic man; it does not come of one's own volition, but is predestined by fate. Having once experienced satiety, one will no longer be able to get rid of it. Even if you do your utmost and manage to shake it off, it will pursue and overwhelm you nonetheless.
A good many things cause satiety and surfeit There is nothing more or less with which a man cannot be sated: food, amusements, fashion, feasts and parties, the desire to excel others, and women. Sooner or later, discovering the vanity and viciousness of all that, he will become disenchanted and indifferent. Like everything else in this world, man's life and his destiny are subject to change. No living creature on earth can remain quiescent. So where could the constancy of feelings come from?
Satiety is the lot even of clever people who seek perfection in life, who know the worth of many things, who are fastidious and can perceive the vanity of human existence. He who has realised the transitory nature of earthly joys will grow weary of life.
I think to myself blessed is he who is silly and carefree.


It is hard to avoid at least a small degree of self-satisfaction and complacency. I have identified two kinds: pride and boastfulness.
A proud man has a high estimation of his own worth. He will do his utmost to ensure that he is not regarded as an ignoramus and an unreliable person who doesn't keep his promises, as ill-mannered, arrogant and a shameless liar, a spiteful critic and a crook. Aware of the baseness of these vices, he will aspire to be above them. This quality is peculiar to a man of conscience, reasonable and high-minded. He dislikes to hear people singing his praises but, on the other hand, will allow no one to sully his name.
A braggart, on the other hand, does his best to be talked about as much as possible. Let everyone know that he is a batyr, rich and of noble of descent...! Yet what he overlooks is that people may also say things about him that he would not in the least like to hear. But, to the tell the truth, the other kind of fame—notoriety—doesn't much bother him. Such braggarts are usually of three types.
The first is eager to gain fame abroad, amongst strangers. This is an ignorant fellow, but he still retains some human virtues.
The second wants to be famous in his own tribe. This type is a complete ignoramus and scarcely human.
The third one shows off before his family or in his native village, for no outsider would ever approve of his boasting. This one is the most ignorant of all, no longer a man.
He who strives for praise among strangers will seek to distinguish himself amongst his own tribe. He who desires acclaim from his tribe will strive for plaudits from his nearest and dearest. And he who is after the praise of his family is sure he will get it by extolling and praising him¬self to the skies.


I wonder whom amongst the Kazakhs of today I could possibly love or respect.
I would have respected a bey, but there are no true beys any more; even if there is one, he is not the master of his will and his wealth. At bitter enmity with some, he will, as a precaution, give away his livestock to others and eventually finds himself beholden to a good hundred people. He believes, in his stupidity, that he has shown generosity by responding to their humble requests, but in fact he becomes dependent on them. You would call him neither generous nor merciful. In his native land he struggles against his own people, squandering his wealth and currying favour with unworthy men. When the beys are at loggerheads, rogues of every kind appear, and they intimidate the beys and live at their expense.
I would have respected a myrza, but now you cannot find a truly generous one; as to those who give out their livestock right and left, they are as many of these as stray dogs. Some part with livestock of their own free will in a bid to gain some advantage, while others do it reluctantly — these often do so just to make a show to gain the reputation of a myrza, running around as if he had salt on his backside; yet, more often than not, they become the prey of wicked people.
I would have respected a volost chief and a biy, but on our steppe there is neither divine nor human justice. Power bought by servility or with money is not worth much. I could have respected a strong man, but I see that everyone among us has the strength to do evil deeds one cannot find anybody prepared to do good.
I wish I could find a clever man to honour. Yet there is none ready to use his intelligence to serve the cause of conscience and justice, while one and all will be quick to guile and perfidy.
I might have respected a feeble beggar, but he is not without sin either. It does not matter that he can't even climb on the back of a prostrate camel. If he had the strength, he would find the dexterity to pilfer a thing or two.
Who is there left? The cunning and grasping! There is no stopping these until they ruin others completely...
Whom, then, shall we love and pray for? The stinking volost chiefs and biys cannot be considered. There remains only the peaceable bey who, by virtue of his meekness, lives by the saying: «If you want to prosper, avoid discord!» Such a man incurs the displeasure of all and sundry, even though he may give away half of his wealth and tries, to no avail, to protect the other half from thieves and ruffians.
There is nothing to be done: him shall we pity and pray for.
As it is, I have found no one else.


There is but one joy and one consolation which, like a curse, hangs over the Kazakh.
He rejoices when he meets a wicked man or sees some wicked deed, saying, «May Allah preserve us from that! Even he considers himself a worthy man, and compared to him, others are as pure as babes.» But did Allah say that it is enough for him to be better than such-and-such a person? Or perhaps clever people promised he would not be counted among the wicked if he should find someone more ignorant and vicious than himself? But can you become better by comparing yourself with a scoundrel? Good is learnt from good people. In a race it is understandable to ask yourself how many runners are still ahead of you, not how many fast horses are behind. Does it make to a loser any happier whether there were five or ten Arab steeds behind him?
Now, in what does the Kazakh find consolation? Says he: «We are not the only ones like that, everybody does it. Better not to stand out from the crowd and to stick with the majority. A feast that you celebrate with everyone is the greatest feast.» But did Allah bid him to live only in the midst of a crowd? And has Allah no power over multitudes? Has the Most High not chains enough to fetter the throng? Can everyone attain the highest knowledge, or is it accessible to only a chosen few? Are all people equally endowed with genius, or just one in a thousand? Who says that the multitude cannot be humbled? If the people are stricken by disease, is it not good if half of them remain healthy? Don't you need someone with a good knowledge of the lie of the land when thousands who lack it are wandering in the wilderness? Which is better for a traveller: if all his horses starve to death all at once, or only half of them? Which is better: if all of the people suffer from dzhut or at least half of them survive? What consolation is it to a fool if there are thousands of other dolts around him? Will a suitor win his intended bride if he tells her that all his family suffers from bad breath? Will his betrothed be comforted by the thought that he is not the only one?


There are more than two thousand million people living on earth now, I they say. We, Kazakhs, number more than two million.
The Kazakhs are unlike any other people in their desire for wealth and in their quest for knowledge, in their appreciation of art, in showing their friendliness and strength, and in boasting or enmity.
We fight with each other, we ruin each other and spy on each other before our neighbour has time to blink.
The world has cities with a population above three million. There are people who have travelled three times round the world.
Shall we, indeed, continue to live like this, lying in wait for one another, remaining the meanest people on earth? Or shall we see happier days when people forget theft, deception, backbiting and enmity, and turn their minds to knowledge and crafts, when they learn to obtain their wealth in honest ways? I doubt if such days will ever come. Nowadays, two hundred people hanker after a hundred head of livestock. Will they live in peace before they have destroyed one another in this scramble?


It would be good if Kazakh children could get an education. To begin with, it would be enough to teach them Turkic letters. Yet such is our irreligious land that before we send our children to school, we have to acquire wealth; besides, they ought to learn the Persian and the Arabic languages. But can those who are hungry keep a clear mind, care about honour and show diligence in learning? Poverty and quarrels within tribes and families breed thievery, violence and greed. If you have livestock, your belly will be full. A craving for knowledge and a craft will come next. Then people will start thinking about getting an education and teaching their children at least something.
One should learn to read and write Russian. The Russian language is a key to spiritual riches and knowledge, the arts and many other treasures. If we wish to avoid the vices of the Russians while adopting their achievements, we should learn their language and study their scholarship and science, for it was by learning foreign tongues and assimilating world culture that the Russians have become what they are. Russian opens our eyes to the world. By studying the language and culture of other nations, a person becomes their equal and will not need to make humble requests. Enlightenment is useful for religion as well.
He who lives his life fawning and cringing will be ready to sell his mother and father; he will sell his family, his faith and conscience for the sake of a condescending pat on the back from a superior. Some fellow will bow and scrape, not caring that he shows his bare behind, and all to win an approving smile from some official.
Russian learning and culture are a key to the world heritage. He who owns this key will acquire the rest without too much effort.
Some of the Kazakhs who have their children taught in Russian schools will do so just so they can use their children's literacy as a proof of their own superiority when quarrelling with their kinsfolk. This should not be your motivation. Seek to teach your children to earn their bread by honest and purposeful work, and let other people follow your example; then we shall not endure the arbitrary ways of Russian grandees, for they have no law that applies equally to all. We ought to educate ourselves, learn what other people know so as to become their equals and be a shield and a pillar for our people. As yet no outstanding individuals have appeared among the young people who have received a Russian education, but this is because their parents and kin spoil them and lead them astray. Even so, they are far better that those who have received no education at all. Yet it is a pity that all their learning goes no further than interpreting other people's words. Well-to-do folks rarely send their children to school: they would rather send the children of paupers to be chastised and humiliated by Russian teachers. But what can these unfortunate ones learn there?
Quarrelling with their kinsfolk, some will exclaim, 'Rather than suffer your insults, I'd send my son off as a recruit and let my hair and beard grow!' Such people have no fear of divine punishment or sense of shame. What will the offspring of such a person achieve even if he attends school? Will he derive much benefit from it? Will he go further than others? He doesn't give a rap for learning: he goes to school, sits for a while and then he goes away. Not a sign of eagerness or diligence! His father hardly agrees to his son getting an education unless someone else foots the bill. Will such a man part with his wealth for his child's schooling?
Here's a piece of advice for you: you don't have to get a wife for your son or leave him ample wealth, but you must give him a Russian education without fail, even if you have to part with all have earned. This is worth any sacrifice.
If you honour God and have any shame, if you want your son to be a real man, send him to school! Don't begrudge the expense!
For if he remains an unlettered scoundrel, who will benefit? Will he be a solace to you? Will he be happy himself? And will he be able to do any good for his own people?


The Kazakh is elated if his horse wins a race, if a wrestler on whom he has wagered wins a bout, or if his hound or falcon does well in the chase. I wonder if there is anything in life that gives him greater joy? I doubt it!
But what great pleasure is there in seeing one creature excel another in agility 6v speed, or one wrestler flinging another to the ground? It is not the man himself, nor even his son for that matter, who has been successful! By going into raptures for the most trifling cause, he wants to annoy his neighbour and make him envious. Truly, the Kazakh has no worse enemy than another Kazakh!
It is common knowledge that to provoke envy on purpose is contrary to the Shariah laws, one's own interests and sound reason. What comfort has the Kazakh from stirring up other people's animosity? Why does he enjoy it? And why are people so vexed at the success of the more fortunate, considering themselves humiliated?
Fast racehorses are found now in this village, now in that; a good falcon or hunting dog comes into the hands of now one man, now another. And the strongest men don't all hail from the same aul either. All these qualities are not man's handiwork. Those who have once come first and once triumphed, will not remain the fastest and strongest forever. Why then, knowing that, are people as vexed as if some dark scheme or vile deed of theirs had come to light? Why do they suffer as though they had been brought low?
The reason is not hard to find: ignorant people will rejoice over any trivial, foolish thing. Out of their minds and intoxicated with delight, they don't what they are saying or doing. They feel ashamed of what is not in the least shameful, but behave in the most scandalous fashion without blushing.
These are the marks of ignorance and recklessness. If you say that to a Kazakh, he will listen and assent: «Yes, that's true!» But you should not be taken in by his words—he is just like the majority. Though he sees and understands all that, he is like a stubborn creature who cannot give up his wicked ways. And no one will be able to dissuade and check him, or bring him to his senses. Having made misdeeds his law, he will never renounce them. Only great fear or death can wean him from his bad habits.
You will not encounter a man here who, admitting his errors, will try to curb himself.


Here are the words of the great Socrates about serving the omnipotent Creator, spoken in conversation with his pupil, the scholar Aristodemos, who frequently ridculed believers.
«Well, Aristodemos, do you think there are people in the world whose creations are worthy of admiration?»
«There are many of them, master,» replied Aristodemos.
«Name at least one of them.»
«I admire Homer and his epic poems, the tragedies of Sophocles, the ability of some people to be reincarnated in other forms; I also admire the paintings of Zeuxis.» (Here Aristodemos cited several other great names.)
«Who, do you think, is more worthy of admiration: one who creates a lifeless image of man, or the Most High, who created man en¬dowed with reason and a living soul?»
«The latter, certainly. But only if his creations are the product of reason, not pure chance.»
«The world has many useful things. The purpose of some is obvious, while the purpose of others cannot be divined by their outward form. What do you think: which of them have been wrought by reason and which by chance?»
«Certainly, the things of which the purpose is obvious are created by reason,» replied Aristodemos.
«Good. Creating man, the Most High endowed him with five senses, knowing they would be necessary for man. He gave him eyes to see and enjoy the beauty of the world. He provided eyelids to open and close the eyes, lashes to protect the eyes from wind arid dust, and eyebrows to divert the sweat trickling down from the forehead.
«Without ears,» Socrates went on, «we would have been unable to hear either harsh or sweet sounds, and we would have been unable to enjoy singing and music. Without a nose, we would have been incapable of distinguishing different smells, we would have never been attracted by sweet fragrances and repelled by foul odours. Lacking a tongue and the roof of the mouth, we would have never been able to tell what is sweet from what is bitter, what is soft from what is hard.
«Is it not for a good purpose that all this has been granted us?
«Our eyes and our nose lie close to the mouth to enable us to see and smell what we are eating. The other essential, but repugnant orifices lie far from the noble organs that are found on the head.
«Does it not attest that God has created us with thought?
Pondering for a while, Aristodemos acknowledged that the Creator was truly omnipotent, and He wrought His works with great love.
«Then tell me,» said Socrates, «why does every living creature have a tender love for its progeny, why does it hate death and endeavour to live as long as possible, and why is it concerned to perpetuate its kind? All living beings are created for the purpose of life and its continuation. Was it not out of love that God has made them capable of loving life and giving life?
«How can you believe, Aristodemos, that none save yourself, a man, can possess reason?» Socrates continued, «Does not the human body resemble the earth on which man treads? Is not the water of your body a drop of the earthly water? Where does your reason come from? What - ever its orig