Interview with Ambassador Kanat Tumysh of Kazakhstan

Interview with Ambassador Kanat Tumysh of Kazakhstan

The City of Tshwane


This year international community, under the aegis of UNESCO, is celebrating 1150th birth anniversary of outstanding scientist, philosopher and educator of X Century, Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzlag Al-Farabi At-Turki, who is also known as Alpharabius (870 – 950), great medieval thinker with Turkic roots.

On this occasion, the “Diplomatic Informer Magazine – South Africa” on 29 June 2020 has interviewed H.E. Kanat Tumysh, Ambassador of Kazakhstan of South Africa.

The full text of this interview is available below.

Q-1: Your Excellency, Al-Farabi was known for many things. Please kindly provide us a snapshot of his life and legacy.

A-1: Al Farabi is most memorable today for his rich legacy as Scientist, Philosopher, Educator, Jurist, Cosmologist, Music Scholar, Translator, Political Theorist, Mathematician, Chemist, Historician, Psychologist, Metaphysician, Ethician, Logician, and in many other capacities. Al-Farabi was the author of around 100 scientific works and other masterpieces.

He was born in the ancient city of Farab/Otrar in the vast region of Central and South Asia (territory of modern Kazakhstan). He was a famous figure of the Medieval Eastern Renaissance and spent around 80 years of his nomadic life in many important scientific centres of his lifetime such as Damascus and Baghdad, and also on African soil, in Alexandria, located at the crossroads of different cultures.

Al-Farabi wrote his masterpieces in Arabic language. He influenced many prominent philosophers, scientists and physicians, like Avicenna who was one of the most significant scholars and writers of Islamic Golden Age, father of early modern medicine, as well as Maimonides who was the greatest Jewish religious philosopher of the Middle Ages. In philosophical tradition, Al-Farabi was often called “the Second Teacher of the World”, following Aristotle who was known as “the First Teacher”.

His renowned treatise on Virtuous state (which includes chapters on the world order, human being and its anatomy and genetics, as well as society and state) is describing how to achieve a perfect world and better future. He is teaching us that a just state should favour justice and the just, hate tyranny and injustice, and give them both their just deserts.

With that, he also states that the ruler of the excellent city cannot just be any man, because rulership requires two conditions: (a) he should be predisposed for it by his inborn nature, (b) he should have acquired the attitude and habit of will for rulership which will develop in a man whose inborn nature is predisposed for it.

Q-2: What can Africans take and benefit from his philosophical work and teachings?

Life story of this highly respected philosopher and scholar, who was born more than a millennium ago on Asian land, became an inspiration for the entire globe, including South Africa. His works and scientific legacy were repeatedly published in South African Journal of Philosophy and other publications, and discussed in universities in South Africa where they have been accepted by local academic society with great appreciation.

We think that after been acquainted with the Al-Farabi’s legacy, Africans should strive for the creation of perfect state in their countries. With that, they should promote rule of law and good governance; put an end to conflicts and violence; empower women; as well as intensify economic cooperation and integration. All these principles are in line with four priorities of the South African 2020 Presidency in the AU.

Besides, these days South Africa is celebrating youth month. And one of the important places in the Al-Farabi’s works and treatises is given to the idea of the Promotion of Youth. The Kazakh people say: if 3 is subtracted from 12 the result is 0. That is, if you take three spring months, that personify young people, from 12 months of the year, if you do not empower and develop young people, then the country has no future. Let me remind one of Al-Farabi’s famous quotes: ‘If you want to see the future of the country, look at its youth‘.

On the other hand, we believe that Africans should always remember and promote the legacy of their perfect rulers. Next month South Africa is celebrating the month of Madiba. Yet, we believe that H.E. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, First President of RSA, was the virtuous perfect leader, as described by Al-Farabi. We would therefore like to recall His Excellency’s famous quote: “The Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”.

Q-3: What could you add on today’s recognition of Al-Farabi’s?

A-3: Al-Farabi is recognized today vastly by the world’s scientific community, which is praising him as Great Scholar of the East. In particular, by international organizations of UNESCO, ISESCO, TWESCO (International Turkic Academy) and many others. His fame and recognition are only flourishing, thanks to joint efforts of the scholar’s homeland and native region, as well as support of above-mentioned organizations.

When Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, its leading academic establishment, Kazakh National University (165th place in the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings), was renamed in honour of the World’s Second Teacher.

On 14-15 May 2020, this entity arranged a solid International Virtual Conference on theme, “Al-Farabi’s Legacy”, devoted to his 1150th jubilee. Scholars from Asia and Africa, Europe and Americas contributed to the work of this forum. In their speeches, participants pointed to the truly connective nature of his works that unites continents.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, in his Address, stressed the international status of festivities praising the medieval thinker and highlighted the importance of promoting further spiritual legacy of Al-Farabi. According to the Head of State, this is especially important for processes of awakening public consciousness and promoting spiritual modernization, as well as formation of value guidelines for the younger generation.

“Teachings of Al-Farabi, without exaggeration, are comprising important part of the world’s treasury of humanity ideas. His prominent life is a truly inspiring story of a great man, connecting East and West”, summarized Kazakh President.

 Q-4: Apart from that, could you please also elaborate more on his ideas of humanism and dialogue among civilizations? How they are relevant in current realities of global pandemic?

A-4: Indeed, Al-Farabi was a real man of the world, who tirelessly promoted ideas of humanism and dialogue among civilizations. Apart from his brilliant knowing, practicing and promoting Islam, Al-Farabi was also well familiar with Christian theologies thought of ancient world. He mastered dozens of languages and translated many ancient treatises into Arabic from Greek and Latin. Moreover, he is credited with saving works of greatest philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and others from medieval oblivion. In turn, his works were translated from Arabic into Greek and Latin back in XII-XIII centuries. In the XX century, they became widely available in most UN languages.

Thuswise, he managed to preserve roots of European civilization by saving works of its neglected philosophers. And now his legacy is returning from West to East, thanks to preservation of Al-Farabi’s name in works of European intellectuals. In the XX century they inspired Kazakh patriots to start their struggle for recognition of Al-Farabi’s legacy. Consequently, Kazakhstani scientists managed to organize the First Worldwide Conference on Al-Farabi in 1970, which was dedicated to his 1100th birth anniversary.

As it was highlighted by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, the vast legacy of Al-Farabi, especially his ideas of humanism and dialogue among civilizations, nowadays should play a significant role in promoting interlinkages of communities, countries, and continents.

We think that during such horrible pandemic, like Covid-19 we are facing today, human beings should not give up spiritually. It is particularly important not to lose our faith, our belief, our trust, our hope, and our love. In this vein, those noble ideas could be efficiently used for the rapprochement of cultures, nations, and states, as well as for promoting tolerance.

Q-5: How does the embassy wish to commemorate and celebrate Al-Farabi here in South Africa?

A-5: Kazakhstan authorities are proposing to realize a joint cultural project with South Africa, on reciprocal basis. We suggest, that by its results, the name of Al-Farabi will be given to one of the streets in the City of Tshwane, preferably in Erasmia/Chistoburg. At the same time, name of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the First President of the Republic of South Africa, will be assigned to one the streets in Nur-Sultan, the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, for the first time in that part of the world – on the land of the ancient and vast region of Central Asia.

We are proposing Erasmia/Christoburg because the overwhelming majority of the residents of that area are composed by community, who have close relationship and share the same cultural and religious identity with the people of the vast region of Central and South Asia, inherited by the population of the modern day’s several countries of the said part of the world, including Kazakhstan. Many of them are supporting this idea.

The Embassy intends to organize a special solemn event to this end in December 2020, along with commemorating 29thAnniversary of Kazakhstan’s Independence.

Q-6: Your Excellency, you have mentioned about UNESCO earlier. How this global educational, scientific and cultural organization is supporting Al-Farabi’s jubilee?

A-6: The Jubilee will be marked further all over the globe and this autumn, festivities will continue in Paris, France, at the Headquarters of UNESCO. Its 40th General Conference endorsed the worldwide celebration of Al-Farabi’s birth anniversary by its General Resolution 68 of 25 November 2019. Subsequently, the Executive Board of UNESCO included it in its Calendars of Events for 2020, and kindly requested all the United Nations’ states to support it and contribute to this end.

ISSUED BY: Susan Novela, CEO & PUBLISHER, Diplomatic Informer Magazine – South Africa.