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EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (1)


The call of the Holy Prophet of Islam to 'seek knowledge even unto the distant China' awakened a love of knowledge among the nomadic Arabs, such as was hitherto unknown to the world. Such memorable words uttered by the Holy Prophet as 'The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr' and 'He who leaves his home in search of knowledge walks into the path of God' had a salutary effect upon his followers and led to the growth of intense educational activity throughout the length and breadth of the tast Islamic domains. "Science and literature possessed no votaries" says Ameer Ali "But the words of the Prophet gave a new impulse to the awakened energies of the race. Even within his lifetime was formed the nucleus of an educational institution, which in after years grew into universities at Baghdad and Salerno, at Cairo and Cordova"

After the downfall of the Roman Empire chaos and intellectual stagnation held sway over the civilised world. The masterpieces of Greek philosophy, science and art lay buried under the dark vaults of the monasteries and might have disappeared altogether from the world, but for the Arab revival and patronage of ancient learning. "The Arabs" says Humboldt "were admirably suited to act the part of mediators, and to influence the nations from the Eupharates to Cuadalquivir and Mid-Africa. Their unexampled intellectual activity marks a distinct epoch in the history of the world".'

The educational and intellectual activity during the lifetime of the Prophet was started by the house of the Prophet itself. Hazrat Ali, who was brought up and educated under the direct supervision of the Prophet, acquired a high reputation in Islamic learning. He lectured on those branches of learning most suited to the wants of the infant State. Hazrat Ali and his cousin Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abbas rose to be the greatest intellectual figures of their age. The latter delivered public lectures on poetry, grammar, history and mathematics.


System of Education
During the early decades of Islam mosques formed the nerve centre of political, religious and educational activities in Islam. Even during the present time, mosques house maktabs and important institutions of religious education throughout the Islamic countries. Special quarters were attached to the mosques and shrines for the residence of teachers, students and travellers. This provision continues even to this day in Syria, Persia and several other Muslim countries. Madrassa mosque was an innovation of Persia, whose big congregational mosques had separate portions assigned for the important institutions which imparted education in all branches of learning.

The child's education at home began with Kalima and the teaching of prayers and the Quran. The primary education was imparted in maktabs and mosques, which were confined to elementary religious and linguistic teaching. The girls were allowed in the lower grades of the schools, but not in the higher ones. Memory work was specially emphasised. The wealthy children employed private tutors. The celebrated Caliph Harun-ar-Rashid gave these instructions to the tutor of his son Ameen, which throws light on the system of aristocratic education in those times: "Be not strict to the extent of stifliag his faculties or lenient to the point of making him enjoy idleness and accustom himself thereto. Straighten him as much as thou canst through kindness and gentleness, but fail not to resort to force and severity should he not respond"

Adult education was not as systematic as it is today. The curriculum revolved round religious education, which was the most important subject at this stage. The Muslim religion, as is well-known is not theocratic, rather it is dynamic and practical reflecting on diverse aspects of a robust practical life. Mosques served as educational centres and made provisions for lectures on Hadith and Quran. The wandering geographer Moqaddasi who visited the distant Sus and travelled through Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Faris found in those countries many circles and assemblies composed of faqih, legists, divines and litterateurs who had selected the mosques as the venue of their intellectual and educational activities. The Imam al-Shafii presided at such a circle (halqa) at the mosque of Amar at alFustat till his death in 820 A.D. Ibn Hauqal mentions similar assemblies in Sijistan. Not only religious but even linguistic, philosophical and literary subjects were taught in such assemblies. Such lectures in mosques which continued upto the 11th century A.D. were free for all Muslims.

University education in the real sense of the word started in the 11th century A.D. with the opening of Nizamiyah universities of Neshapur and Baghdad. The universities taught almost all sciences and arts, but mostly relied on theoretical teaching. Inspite of lacking modern scientific laboratories, these Islamic universities produced such eminent scientists as modern India and Pakistan have not produced so far. The higher grade teachers were much respected and granted a recognised certificate (Ijazat) to their pupils who completed particular course of study.

There are several good points in Islamic education which have existed for the last thirteen centuries. Islamic education was free, hence provided equal opportunities to the rich and the poor to acquire the highest education available in the Islamic universities of the world. Not only that, but students were provided with free boarding, lodging and even with stationery, books and pocket expenses.

The modem age in spite of its enormous resources cannot boast of such an elaborate system of free education. A university education can only be attained now-a-days, by wealthy students. It was because education was free, that from the lowest strata of society have risen some of the brightest intellectual luminaries of the Islamic world likeAl-Ghazali, Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani, Al-Beruni, Al-Razi and Al-Farabi. Memory was much emphasised in study and some of the renowned Muslim scholars and teachers possessed amazing memories. In those days there were no diaries and memoranda and retentive faculties were developed to a phenominal degree. Al-Ghazali, Ahmad Bin Hanbal and the famous traditionalist Al-Bukhari memorised numberless traditions with their chain of authorities (Isnad). The celebrated poet Mutanabbi, Tamman and AI-Maarvi possessed wonderful memories and never found it necessary to buy a book.

The use of the rod by teachers was common in oriental as well as in western education during mediaeval times. The learned professors used to lecture on different subjects and the pupils used to sit round them and take notes of their lectures. This was the popular method of teaching in higher institutions. The professors and teachers were much respected by their students and also were held in great esteem in the highest society. Even the sons of the caliphs and emperors paid great respects to their teachers. Once Mamun-ar-Rashid was beaten by his teacher Yezidi. Jaafar Bermaki, the grand vizier of the Abbasid Empire chanced to arrive there at that time and took Mamun with him. The next day Yezidi asked Mamun, if he had complained about him to the Prime Minister. Thereupon Mamun replied like a humble pupil, "No my respected sir, how can I complain against my teacher. I would not even inform the Caliph Harun with such matters rather than Jaafar."

The teachers and learned professors in the great Islamic institutions were the incarnation of simple living and high thinking. They led an exemplary life and bore high character. The students copied the pious lives of their teachers. Though memory was much stressed and the practical side of the sciences was neglected, yet the education imparted to the students was substantial and creative. It really added to their knowledge and stands in great contrast to the superficial education of modern times.

There were three kinds of institutions:--(l) Those established and supported by the ruling class, (2) those founded by the wealthy class and supported by donations and endowments and (3) those founded by private lecturers. The finances of the institutions. specially of the higher ones were met by the State. Exchequer, donations and endowments. The teachers,. who were not highly paid, led a simple but respectable life. Their intellectual pursuits did not give them time to think about and participate in worldly pleasures, Donations poured into institutions which always kept their finances sound and had enough funds to make arrangements for the free education, lodging and boarding of a large number of students. In his treatise on pedagogy Zarnuji has recorded this saying of Hazrat All: "I am the slave of him who has taught me even one letter". Al-Zarnuji has written scores of Arabic treatises on education.

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