Since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the advent of Islam, education is the one aspect of life that has been at the very forefront for the Muslims to acquire. As it is known all around that the first word of the holy Quran that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was in fact ‘Read’. According the last messenger Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it is mandatory for all Muslims to seek knowledge. With such a straight and direct command to acquire education and knowledge Muslims through the generations have greatly emphasised on education and have created in depth and professional education systems to meet this obligation. Throughout history, education has been a forte of the Muslims and they have excelled at it. In the old days, the greatest universities and learning centres of the world were established in Baghdad, Cordoba and Cairo. The Muslims where the first people to create learning schools of children and many prominent Muslims of the past were responsible for great advancements in mathematics and science. Even today in this digital age of the internet and computer, many Muslims across the world have established schools and online Quran academy and institutes where people can easily learn Quran with tajweed through online Quran reading.
Perception towards Education
In this world that we live in today, education is no longer a linear study and children are not limited to information. Today’s education includes the social, emotional and physical well-being of a student in addition to what he or she is supposed to learn. Islamic educational institutes and methods of the past were no different than they are today. All those centuries ago, the Syrian physician al-Shayzari wrote that during education children should not be treated harshly or made to do work that has no benefit to them. Al Ghazali wrote that preventing children from playing and constantly insisting on education and work deadens their hearts, blunts his sharpness of wits and burdens his life.
Today when a person wants to learn the Quran he or she can simply join an online Quran academy from anywhere in the world and learn Quran with tajweed or master their recitation through online Quran reading. However obviously this was not always the case and the very first institutes of the Muslims where the mosques where people would gather informally to trade information, hold conversations and learn. Scholars used to attend these meeting in the mosques and people from all around would come to them to learn how to write and read. Many of the greatest Islamic scholars in history learned this way.
Primary and Higher Education
Since at least the 900s, young students were taught in primary schools called maktab. These were most commonly attached directly with a mosque, where the resident imam and scholar would hold classes. These classes covered a wide range of topics such as basic Arabic reading, writing and Islamic laws. Most people achieved this education at some point in their life during those times and afterwards would either move into adult life finding occupations and marrying, or would continue their education in Madrasa, which is the Arabic word for school. Though the world today has become extremely biased towards them, these madrasas can be considered the first universities in the world. Students would focus their learning prowess on a particular subject and spend years learning about it. When students would complete their studies, they were issued an Ijaza, which was basically license acting as proof that they had complete their course and could now teach others. In today’s world these issue Ijaza can be compared to diplomas.
The focus on educating women throughout Islamic history has been prioritized. Though many are today quick to judge and criticize Islam and Muslims on the denial of education to women based on the actions of few and without researching or realizing what Islam really has to say on the subject, Women in Islamic tradition have never been thought incapable of attaining knowledge. The wife of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Hazrat Aisha (RA) was among the leading scholars of her time. Women have also played very important roles in Islamic History and education:
• The first formal madrasa of the Muslim world, the University of al-Karaouine in Fes was established in 859 by a wealthy merchant by the name of Fatima al-Fihri.
• The Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid’s wife, Zubayda, personally funded many construction projects for mosques, roads, and wells in the Hijaz, which greatly benefit the many students that travelled through these areas.
• The wife of Ottoman Sultan Suleyman, Hurrem Sultan, endowed numerous madrasas, in addition to other charitable works such as hospitals, public baths, and soup kitchens.
• During the Ayyubid period of Damascus (1174 to 1260) 26 religious endowments (including madrasas, mosques, and religious monuments) were built by women.