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Problems of Abai's philosophy

In this article, the main problems of the philosophy of the great Kazakh thinker Abai Kunanbaev are considered. A philosophical analysis of the main problems of the teaching was conducted: the problems of man, love, knowledge, the problem of faith, freedom and responsibility, the problem of the correlation of knowledge and wealth. The existential foundations of the philosopher's philosophy are revealed. The idea of characterizing the worldview of the philosopher as a Sufi one is substantiated. Two types of knowledge are distinguished: Naqlia as a traditional, known, written knowledge and Gaqlia understood as wisdom, philosophical truth, an open power of understanding the world, which has its own usefulness to benefit humanity. The idea iaccording to which for the first time in the Kazakh philosophy Abay formulated the concept of a perfect, a full-fledged mature human (Tolyq adam) is outlined.

Summing up a certain result of any stage of a person's life or the life of society, the state, we necessarily look back to understand whether we did everything right? Passing the 25-year-old line of Independence of Kazakhstan, again we try to understand all the richness of the spiritual heritage of our country. In this sense, ideas, views, problems of Abai's philosophy acquire a special relevance and sound. So one Kazakh researcher Nauanova K.M. noted in her article: «The Spanish philosopher and writer Unamuno said»: All Spanish philosophy is in the «Don Quixote» of Cervantes «and in the same manner it can be said that the entire Kazakh philosophy is in the Abai's «Book of Words» ... is also an appeal to our consciousness, our conscience, this is a reminder to us about how we live and how to live, so that in the bustle and cares of everyday life we do not forget about the main thing, about spirituality» [1].

Reflecting on the problem of the man, philosopher formulates a call: «Adam bol!» – «Be a human!» But what does it mean? According to Abai, unlike to the animal, which is only attracted by carnal desires (instincts), the human is also immanent in spiritual needs. They are main measures of the human. Therefore, the main enemy of the human is ignorance, because search for knowledge is exactly what drives a person, make them think, act, «... search for a pillar of existence...» [2; 174] in order to understand the meaning of life. Otherwise, limited only to the needs of food, drink, sleep, how the human is different from animal, how is him better than it? Same, if he only content with watching the world without trying to understand it, to see through it.

Another important idea of the thinker in the problem of cognition and knowledge is the development of the category of love. According to the Sufi worldview, the God created man with love. Man, being God's likeness, can only repay with love. Al-Ghazali in his work, «The Resurrection of the Sciences of Faith», writes that only one who is able of cognition can love, so trees and stones cannot love. Hence, love is closely associated with cognition. And in the whole universe, only man is endowed with cognitive ability. Full heartedly agreeing with these ideas, the philosopher deduces the following maxima: «Love is the humanity of man», i.e. here we are talking about the human self, an essence of human. It manifests through the mind of man, through what he cognizes.

Other reasons for the birth of love for knowledge depend on good parents, peers, and good teachers. According to Abai, the child can't independently find the knowledge, therefore, in the beginning it is necessary to attach the child to it. Initially, they are born with two needs: the needs of the body (food, sleep, etc.) and spiritual needs (this is the pursuit of knowledge). In the beginning, the spiritual needs are so strong, and master the whole being of the child that they often forget their another needs. However, while growing up a person, on the contrary, often forgets about the spiritual needs and devotes his life to satisfying only the needs of the body.

Abai asks in his Seventh Word: «But why do we lose this sublime desire to know the world while growing up? Why we do not forget about food and sleep when we meet with something unknown just like in childhood, why we do not follow those who create science and discover the unknown? We should've expand our horizons, multiply the treasures accumulated at the beginning of life ... But we failed to do it. We madeour souls mundane, stopped believing to our own feelings, we content ourselves with contemplation, without delving into the essence of phenomena. We justified it by the fact that with others who lived like us, nothing bad has happened yet. We reduced everything to the fact that everything is predetermined in life ... How are we better than animals, who see the world and do not understand it?» [3; 19]

So, it is in childhood that spiritual needs are stronger, that is why it is important to instill a love for knowledge from infancy and then they can be called a human. After all, the love for knowledge is the essence of man, as a microcosm, because there is a great pattern, the standard of humanity - God, as a macrocosm. And only then will knowledge of God, of oneself and of the world become possible. And only then can we hope that the child will not lose his humanity and will understand what is good and what is bad. The reason for the non-birth of love for knowledge is that the child's parents at early age do not teach him anything, and then, when they give him to the mullah, there is no use. For Abai such person is «half-mullah», «half-Muslim», «half-educated», «half-human».

It is appropriate to talk about the problem of responsibility, responsibility to descendants, according to Abai Who does not dream of having children? This is a sacred parental duty. But if the child is foolish, then your whole future life will turn into hell. A good child will be the treasure of your life. But is there a human who has not experienced hardship and deprivation? All life passes in search of daily bread, in the struggle for existence. There is always something missing, lacking, and he rushes around in search for the solution. But can you be sure that your child will avoid such a fate? Why would he then be born? Is it just in order to survive agonizing years, granted him by fate? Yes, this is something we must thoroughly reflect on. But there is no time for reflecting-children are born, and your parental problems begin. And nobody can avoid these problems. This is the law of life. There has always been conflict between fathers and children, at all times. In that case, you, the parent, should be prepared for this, since you oneself wanted to have a child.

Parents want to have a child, dreaming that he will pray for them after their death. This is one of the main provisions of the Sharia. But, in our opinion, reading the surah of the Koran in memory of the deceased is not only the privilege of a devout Muslim, but an inherent to all humans, tribute to the ancestors.

Abai expresses very deep thoughts on this matter. Are prayers of son really so needed? If you have acted good in life, then even without a son there will be enough people saddened by your death. But if you have done a lot of evil, then the prayers of your son are in vain anyway. And to dream of a son for the sake of glorifying you after death, is this not to wish the death of a son still in his youth? Can a son save you from death, from the circles of hell? A good person is honored in life, and loved after death, not only by close ones, but by all the clansmen. Therefore, the good that you failed to accomplish is unlikely to be completed by your heir.

And the last. You dream of a son to have a breadwinner in old age. These are empty words, as Abay notes, and confirms it with the following arguments: «We have to live to old age first, and it only depends on yourself. Also, will your son outlive you? And if, God forbid, he will be taken by an accidental death? This, in the first place. Secondly, it is good if the son will provide you. But what if he grows up selfish, greedy, cruel? Thirdly, who would refuse to take care of you, if you prosper? But even a loving son won't be able to feed you if he is poor himself. It's not written in stone, whether he will be prodigal spender, or grow up as a diligent master who knows how to earn daily bread».

Reasoning in this way, Abai comes to the conclusion that parents should use all their acquired fortune to teach their child to the sciences. Without education, there is neither death nor life, therefore every child must have a literacy, if he has parents who think about the future. In this Word Abai repeats his idea that the main meaning of life is not in wealth, but in education [4; 136, 137].

Such thoughts can be found in a lot of his poems. For example, in the following:

Foolishly learning, I missed the whole life

He noticed it, but too late. Here it is, stopline!

Half-witted, I thought myself wise

And waited arrogantly for rewards and praise [2; 75].

When old age comes and it will be time to sum up the life, to collect the fruits so to say, it may turn out that you have nothing to collect. Life has passed, but you have not learned anything, you are spiritually poor, you have lived in vain and you should be ashamed of yourself, for you were born without knowing anything, and you will die the same, having never acquired anything. You're empty, despite the rich clothes.

Furthermore, Abai analyzes the problem of the relationship between knowledge and wealth.

So, knowledge is one of the attributes of Allah. The love for knowledge is love for Allah. This is the truth. The love for knowledge is truth and humanity. Knowledge without faith leads to trouble, because through the love for wealth, social status, the truth of knowledge can never be found. This is a false path that will lead to the loss of humanity, since by bowing before wealth and position, a human will become their slave. From the poem «Acquisitor's soul is only glad to cattle», it can be argued that the mind and honesty, being truly human qualities, mean the actual human wealth in human himself. This is your spiritual wealth, which, if acquired, will never be lost, but only multiply, in contrast to material wealth, which you can lose irrevocably. But knowledge is not easily obtained. It is necessary to work hard to find «grains of gold» in the «dung heap» [2; 96].

Indeed, in fact, wealth, honor, position themselves are not essential human qualities, they are the result of the substantial internal growth of man. And if a person loves knowledge, then it opens itself to him (only loved things are revealed), and a person becomes a professional, an expert in any branch of knowledge, and wealth, honor, respect comes to him. In this case, they decorate a person.

Abai even believes that renouncing wealth can lead a person to an animal state. A noble way to achieve material wealth is hard work. Hence, a person must be rich in order not to lose his dignity, since only a human is able to work.

In the poem «The Suffice Decorates Life...» Abay notes that if a person does not have wealth, then he is not a free man, and he can not respect himself, because he lives with handouts from someone else's table. If you want to be independent, do not be lazy, do not refuse any work [4; 105].

«It is not easy for a hungry person to keep prudence and honor, and even more difficult to keep a constant striving for the sciences. Poverty leads a person to trouble: he is drawn to stealing, resorts to violence and cunning, gets used to cheating. Only when a person is free from caring for a piece of bread does he himself feel the need for knowledge and culture and instills this thirst for his children» [3; 48].

The existing wealth, according to Abai, needs to be used either for the purpose of acquiring knowledge, or for independence, or for the purpose of realizing the possibility of helping others.

But the most true wealth is art (0ner). In Word 25 we can read: «We need to master the Russian language. The Russian people have reason and wealth, developed science and a high culture. Studying the Russian language, studying in Russian schools, mastering Russian science will help us to adopt all the best qualities of this people, for it has unraveled the secrets of nature before others, and to avoid its vices. To know Russian means to open our eyes to the world ... Russian science and culture are the key to understanding the world, and by acquiring it, one can facilitate the life of our people» [3; 49, 50].

The aim of the thinker is to indicate the way to achieve perfection, to become a «complete man». Hence the problem of «tolyq adam».

According to Abai, the perfect man (Tolyq adam) possesses three qualities: knowledge or power (gylym - qudiret), mercy (rahim) and justice (ɑdilet). These qualities are inherent in prophets, saints, hakims or sages (philosophers) and a true Muslim. Consider the image of Hakim. Abay distinguishes two types of knowledgeable — Hakim and Galym. They correspond to each other as synonyms, for both have knowledge, but differ in the principle of cognition (gnosis). There are two types of knowledge. The first - naqlιa - traditional knowledge, already known, written. The holders of this knowledge are, according to Abayu, scientists (galym). And those people who are not content with ready-made knowledge, but search for the cause and principles of the universe, call the Hakims. Each Hakim can be a galym, but not every galym can be a Hakim.

In that instance Abai's views are close to M. Heidegger, according to which, science does not think. But in fact, this is not a flaw for science, but its merit, because if a scientist thought about every molecule, then science would not reach those heights that it has reached. Hakim is engaged in comprehension.

Naqlia is what is transmitted. It is some amount of knowledge. And those things that Hakim creates at the cost of his own comprehension, remaining one on one with the world, are called gaqlia - the second kind of knowledge.

Gaqlia - there is wisdom, philosophical knowledge. It is what benefits humanity.

But modern mullahs bear hostility belong to the Hakims. After studying languages, they imagined themselves to be experts, although they themselves are ignorant at the same time [3; 96-100].

The philosopher points out three qualities that lead to the death of man and mankind, humiliate his dignity. This ignorance, laziness and villainy. According to Abai, ignorance is the abscence of knowledge. Inthe world nothing can be comprehended without knowledge. A man without knowledge, how is he different from the animal?

Laziness is the enemy of all creativity in the world. Inertness, lack of will, dishonesty, poverty - all this is a product of laziness. Crime is antihuman. He who is obsessed with doing evil to people, loses his human essence and turns into a wild beast.It is possible to resist these vices and root them out with the love for your native people, the desire for universal prosperity, the strength of spirit and knowledge that will help you achieve justice [3; 106]. In a word, we come to the already designated maximas of the thinker: «Love is the humanity of man». It is the essence of a real human.

But back to the image of Hakim. One of his attributes is rational thinking. But Abai does not stop there. E. Garifolla interprets the meaning of Abai's lines: «A sharp mind is pure, like an ice sheet ...». Abai spoke a lot about his mind.

Using the terminology of Western European philosophy, one can say that the Abai's rationalism has deep roots, that it is very informative. Comparison of the mind to the ice sheet is not accidental. A sharp mind must be cold. Reason is inherent only in man, and it is not necessary to argue about it. The human is measured by it, for comprehension is the lot of a person. And Abai makes special emphasis on this function of the mind. There is no single branch of science, education that would exist without mind. The power of man is in the comprehension of truth through reason. Allah has endowed man with reason, and the right to develop, perfect this gift. This is his appointment his mission on earth. A reasonable person has knowledge, is able to perceive and to feel. There were many people of bright minds in the world, they exist even now, they will remain in the future. Historically, their number increases. This is due to the onset of civilization. But this idea is not new, many thinkers talked about this. Abay goes further in his reasoning. He puts the problem wider. Saying «Sharp mind is pure, like an ice sheet», in the second line creates an unexpected opposite image of the heart: «and a warm heart will warm you». The question arises: why do we add a hot heart to the icy mind?

For science, for research, the result, the moment of truth, is also important, for this is the main goal. But the researcher with cold mind doesn't care for these sentiments. In this case, his mind is a danger to humanity. That's why Abai believes that the cold mind must necessarily side with the hot heart, which gives light to the mind and directs it to the path of good deeds.

Abay, affirming the unity of mind and heart, continues to develop the topic further. Cold mind and a warm heart, according to the poet's deep conviction, «need rationality, balance, patience, which come from the will».

Many foreign researchers call Abay an existential thinker. Indeed, the Abai's forty-five reflections in prose constitute a philosophy of existence. Hence the existential problems.

Kierkegaard and Abai are brought together by the very sources of their philosophical aspirations. In the First Word, Abai says that he was exhausted, convinced of the futility of his good intentions, in the vanity and frailty of human life. «I discovered the frailty and futility of my actions in the humiliation of my being», says Abay, and Kierkegaard asserts in one of his works: «The world disgusts me, it is tasteless, bleak, and meaningless».

Such a statement of vanity and futility of world and human life leads both Abai and Kierkegaard to the same fundamental issue. Abai is tormented by the thought: «What to do now, how to live the rest of your life? Puzzling that I do not find an answer to my question» (Word 1). And Kierkegaard frankly argues in his «Diary» in August 1835: «In business, I lack clarity with myself ... I must discover the truth for myself, find an idea for which I could live and die».

Like Kierkegaard, Abai calls his contemporaries to cheer up and, according to the requirements of the era, make a moral leap. It is necessary to find the true meaning of existence, genuine values, and not to waste your life in a frenzied pursuit of false values. In this sense, his following ideas are exposing: «A man is born into the world crying and passes with grief. In the interval between these two events, he thoughtlessly burns it in humiliating quarrels and unworthy disputes, without real happiness, not recognizing to the end the value and uniqueness of the life given to him. We understand when life is already running out. And only then does he begin to understand that it is impossible to extend it even for a day with any treasure of the world» (Word 4); «... when a person pursues self-serving and low aims, he loses his human form» (Word 38).

Only moral transformation will allow to avoid such a society in which rivalry and internal strife prevail, where A man is a wolf to another man, instead of becoming a friend for everyone else: «Man is a friend to man. Because everything in life ... is the same, we all are mortal ...». «All people visit each other, the humanhimself is a guest in this life, so is it worth to curse each other, antagonising because of wealth, envying someone else's happiness, glancing at each other for trifles?» (Word 34).

This idea of an inevitable friendship that closely connects all living beings in this world, leads Abai to the assertion of absolute responsibility: «Man is the child of his time. If he is bad, then his contemporaries are to blame» (Word 37). Immediately the concept of absolute responsibility, developed by Sartre in the book «Being and Nothing» comes to mind, but this time in a different context, where the embodiment of hell are other people. However, if Sartre develops atheistic existentialism, then Abai and Kierkegaard also brought together by their respect for faith. Thus, Abai develops the problem of faith.

In conclusion, we emphasize the thought expressed by Abay in Word 6: «existence, life is the basis of prosperity». Asking about the meaning of the concept of «life», Abai replies: «... this is a life when the soul is alive and the mind is clear».

Abay testifies to the birth of that idea of life and existence, the forerunner of which was Kierkegaard, and which, emerging in the XIX century, continued to develop in the next century. Abai was a man of his era, a thinker who challenged centuries, and that's why today we call ourselves Abay's disciples, remembering the idea that «a teacher without a disciple is futile and useless» (Word 37), and thus recognizing his philosophical teaching. We can say that Abai has many followers [5; 74-77].

Chingiz Aitmatov wrote: «The image of Abai, behind which lies the fate of a whole nation, turned out to be a key one not only in the plot-ideological sense, but also in the philosophical prediction of the coming epoch. Abai was an eye in the world, his soul perceived distant flashes of the future renewal of the world with that high sensitivity of the romantic and at the same time with desperation that a thunderstorm can bypass his land, with great compassion for human destinies, to which only a poet is capable, only an enlightened mind, hungering for changes in the life of the people as the main and difficult social being. And so he speaks, because of his potentiality, as a steppe brother-humanist of many outstanding natures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as Goethe and Tolstoy» [6; 96].



  1. Nauanova, K.M. (2013). «Kniha slov» Abai kak proiavlenie samosoznaniia kazakhskoi dukhovnoi kultury [«Book of Words» of Abai as manifestation of self-awareness of Kazakh spiritual culture]. e-historu.kz. Retrieved from http://e- historu.kz/ru/contents/view/1652 [in Russian].
  2. Stepanova, L, & Berger, G. (1995). Abai. Stikhi. Perevody russkikh poetov [Abai. Poems. Translations of Russian poets]. Almaty: Hylym [in Russian].
  3. Abay. (2005). Slova nazidaniy [Words of edification]. Almaty: Oner [in Russian].
  4. Esimov, G. (1995). Hakim Abai [Abai the Hakim]. Almaty: Bilim [in Russian].
  5. Madanova, M, & Mahekova, A.K. (2004). Mir Abaia [World of Abai]. Almaty [in Russian].
  6. Korabaev, S. (1994). Slovo ob Abae [Words about Abai]. Almaty: Oner [in Russian].

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