Tahir Efendi Huka’s 5 activity covers the two centuries6. His activity is very wide and original, which can really be noticed in his religious, pedagogical Albanian publications and in his pedagogically work in the mekteb founded by him in 1900/1318 H in Huke. For this reason he was included in the list of torches (great figures) of Albanian education in Kosova. Tahir Efendi Huka’s principle was that learning to read and write in the native language overpasses the backwardness and elevates the Albanian nation in the same level with other civilised countries
Tahir Efendi Huka completed his primary education in Skopie while the secondary and further education in Istanbul where he was distinguished for his excellent results. For this reason he was appointed muderis in the Islamic school of Fatih in Istanbul in which he worked nearly 10 years. His biographers testified that Tahir Efendi Huka collaborated with Hasan Tasini and other activists of national movement in Istanbul such as Jani Vreto. After the death of Hasan Tasini (1881), Tahir Efendi Huka returned in his birthplace (in the village Huke e Siperme) and founded an Albanian language mejtep.7
The Arabic alphabet was used in the mejtep for writing the Albanian language. Taking into consideration his publication in Albanian such as “Booklet regarding the moral” (“Risale-I ahlak”), “Mevludi”, the manuscript “Urata e besimtareve” (The benediction of believers) and others, together with the establishment of mejtep we may state that Tahir Efendi Huka gave a great contribution to the preservation of Albanian language.
He stressed out the value of the mother tongue especially the reading and writing process, which according to him will stop the backwardness of our nation and will place in it the same position with other civilised nations. “All the other nations do read and write their own languages by developing further in this way, while our nation is still in the point of stagnation.”8
Tahir Efendi Huka was known by the name “The little Tahir” since by the name “The great Tahir” was known Tahir Efendi Gjakova-boshnjaku. Tahir Efendi Huka had made efforts even before an adjustment of an Arabic alphabet to the Albanian language and he succeeded in doing so. He was fully convinced that Albanian language would have been learned very easily with the Arabic alphabet (It’s going to be really very easy”, “I’ve tried my best for the Albanian language”, “Everyone will be able to learn it easily”). Many other authors especially in Kosova used the Arabic alphabet for writing in Albanian. The Tahir Efendi Huka’s activity was considered as hostile from that time authority. When he travelled to Istanbul the government and fanatical circles accused him for his work.
His publishing activity together with other activities in the field of practical pedagogy has attracted the attention of many researchers such as Muhamed Piraku, Abdullah Hamiti etc. Tahir Efendi Huka died on the threshold of Manastir’s Congress.
Kadri Gjata10 is one of the outstanding figures of the Albanian national renaissance. He completed his primal and supplementary education in his birthplace Libohova. In Janina he finished his secondary education and later on settled there.11
In 1908 when independence was claimed Kadri Gjata was 43 years old and held the position of Janiana’s mufti. He had a good reputation among Albanian people of Janina. In the climate that existed after the coming of new Turks in power the patriotic club and his magazine “Zgjimi I Shqiperise” (“Awakening of Albania”) was established. The organisational part, which was an important aspect, was taken over by the patriot Bajo Topulli who was the chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of Manastir and the organisation of patriotic fighting units in south. In the meeting organised for the club’s establishment Kadri Gjata was elected member of chairmanship in the presence of 300 and after 20 months he was elected the chairman of the club. During this period he established strong relations with Vuçi Naçin who was the director of the “Awakening of Albania” magazine.
The club under the direction of Kadri Gjata was called “Bashkimi” (“The unity) and had a very ambitious curriculum. It aimed the security of national rights expansion of Albanian education, the publication of books and other materials etc.13
Kadri Gjata also established an Albanian school and the “Toskeria” (1910) literary circle. The activity of “Bashkimi” club was famous in Cameria. All these activities made the name of Kadri Gjata well known but on the other side enlarged the hatred of new Turks and Greek chauvinists. In 12 July 1912 the Greek chauvinists organised the assassination of Kadri Gjata. The fighting unit, which carried out his assassination, was composed of 22 persons and leaded by Jani Puteci, Gogua and Farmaku.
The Albanian press in all Albanian territories mourned the death of honourable mufti of Janina by calling him “The martyr of nation”, “The immortal patriot”, “The heart and soul of Albania in Janina” and “The son of Albania”.
(Kraje, 1849 – Shkoder, 1912)
Jusuf Kraja is on of the well-known social and religious personalities of Kraja origin a zone ethnically pure Albanian and famous as heather of distinguished Albanologist and islamic intellectuals.
Jusuf Kraja the son of Ali was born in Keshtenja village of Kraja. Encouraged by his cousin Abdullah Begu a commander in Osmanli Empire Guard or according to another source Minister of treasure, Jusuf Kraja finished successfully his theological studies in Istanbul. His long staying in Istanbul and his friends together with his tribal’s circle enabled him to know closely outstanding Albanian personalities working there.
After his return from Istanbul apart from bringing with him a very reach library, he was distinguished for his concrete help for the social and educational advancement of his compatriots regardless their age.
He worked as an imam and teacher in Kraja, Postribe, Venshate and Shkodra by participating actively in political, religious and social life of Shkodra. The schools of Kraja area such as the school of Ostrit te Vogel (opened in 1896), Arbnesh (1895) and Skie (1892) maintained continuous contacts with Krajane intellectuals in Shkodra. Mulla Jusuf Kraja played an important role in these contacts. He was a religious functionary in an army unit and at the same time worked as an imam in the city. He harmonized naturally his religious activity with the national one even to the extent he co-operated with clerics of other regions such as the catholic clerics of Nenshat. These co-operations expressed a friendship not only between the two theologians but even between believers of different religions. Jusuf Kraja also worked as a teacher of history since 1900 in Ruzhdie School of the city.
Professor, doctor Hajrullah Koliqi in his monograph “Kraja through ages” writes: “Another Shkodran with Kraja origin was Jusuf Kraja. He was one of the most outstanding activists of National Renaissance in Shkodra and of Albanian education at the same time. Jusuf Kraja besides Luigj Gurakuqi, Musa Mejdes, Gasper Jakoves-Merturit, Shtejfen Gjecovit and other was one of the most distinguished Shkodran patriots”. 14
The absence of an organised state in Albanian lands had open the way to raids not only towards the individuals but even towards districts and villages by different robers. In the sermons Jusuf Kraja delivered he treated the actual problems of the jemah (people) especially in the villages where he openly suggested the organisation of defending their homes, wealth and honour by the raiders. Disliking the passivity he organised a form of defence which allowed no raiders to step on the village. Being unable to enter the village the bandits decided to raid a number of sheep in the village Mulla Jusuf worked. Hearing the dogs yelping Jusuf realised the danger and tried to signal with lights but was shot by the bandits. Then he signaled the other villagers by his gun and the entire village was mobilised and drove out the bandits.
After the death of Jusuf Kraja in 1912, in Kraja area two of his nephews continued the educational and religious activities. For the son of Jusuf’s sister Tahir Kandaqi, it is said “ there are tens of inhabitants and intellectuals of the area who are grateful to him for his work, the inspiration for many youngsters. His reach library in his house was often transformed into meeting place. He knew by heart 2000 verses of Naim and use to recite them to the youngsters. He talked to about the motherland, freedom, native language and encouraged them as a scholar, teacher and patriot.”15
Its inhabitants transform the grave of Tahir Kandaqi in Kraja into a tyrbe. It is aesthetically surrounded by marble and it constitutes a proper meditative place.
Mulla Hysen from Keshtenja is another nephew of Jusuf Kraja. Being the son of Jusuf’s brother he is also known as a devoted imam, educator and brave. His braveness is expressed in his protection of the persecuted by Yugoslav’s regime including here even the respect for the dead which were paid in contradiction with what the regime ordered.
The deficit of intellectual capabilities of Jusuf’s wife (for well known reasons of that period’s women) opened the way to the other to take a big number of Jusuf’s rare and precious books, his only treasure. After his death his books were scattered in the hands of different individuals who may had no potential at all for using or preserving them.
One of the distinguished figures of National Renesissance is Hafiz Ali Riza Ulqinaku, an activist of the Albanian Unity of Prizren. According to L. Skendos Ali Ulqinaku belong to the literary and scientific Islamic Albanian tradition known as bejtexhinj.
He was born in Ulqin in 1953 where he finished his elementary school. Later on he continued his education in Shkodra and Istanbul. At the beginning he worked as an imam and mufti in Ulqin. Since in a young age he engaged himself translating and adjusting in Albanian literary, ethnical and teaching works.
He had left a considerable number of published works, manuscripts and translations. In 1884 he published a collection of three specific works” The Albanian translation of Turkish work “Huda Rabbim”, “Mewludin which was composed of four chapters, a total of 634 verses and a religious manual composed of 804 verses”. 16 While his manuscripts are composed of one Albanian primer and three dictionaries. The first dictionary is written in verses a method very successful and practical for learning foreign languages by elementary school children. The second is a Albanian-Turkish dictionary while the third one is a Turkish – Albanian dictionary. The “Mevludi Sherif” was translated in 1873. He brought its manuscripts when moving in Shkodra 1879. It was published in 1885/86 according to the author himself. This Mevlud was distributed rapidly in all the North Albanian Muslim lands. The Mevlud was copied and memorised. A didactic and patriotic flavour was added to it by the Ali Ulqinaku’s introduction (poetic in style). He wrote in the introductory part about the necessity of using the pure Albanian language.
Because of this reason he was expelled from Ulqin and was forced by the occupiers to settle in Shkodra and later on in Lexha.
Ali Ulqinaku engaged himself in literary, philosophy and pedagogical activities prompted not only from the religious duty but also from the need for education, culture and science, which existed among people. Another factor, which prompted Ulqinaku activities, was his love for Albanian language and its preservation.
He completed an Albanian alphabet based on Arabic letters aiming in this way the further spreading of Albanian language together with its preservation.
His literary work strongly influenced the men of letters later on. His influence can be seen easily in a generalisation of writers educated in different medrese in the period between two World Wars. He died in 1913. 18
The teacher of Gostivari and Struga
At the beginning of 20th century the youth hafiz from Strebleva of Golloborda was appointed teacher of French language in Gostivar after his graduation in Istanbul. The talented youngster was Hafiz Hariz Lila who later on was appointed the headmaster of”Idadije” school in Dibra and a mufti after a period of time. He was distinguished for his numerous religious and patriotic activities. Hariz Lila brought with him many Albanian books and distributed them secretly, propagandised the patriotic ideals and worked heavily for the spreading of Albanian alphabet. He opposed the Serbia propaganda and their attempts for invasion of Albanian lands.
His patriotic and anti-Slavic activity was discovered by Serbian army officers who arrested and executed him in the place called “Gezden te Stebleves” on 7th June 1915. Hafiz Hariz Lila is one of the martyrs of Albanian language and education.