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There is an Arab saying that 'Knowledge and fire are the only two things which g

row by being spread'. [Tritton, Materials on Muslim Education in the Middle Ages
]
In the spirit of this proverb the Caliphs encouraged pious men to teach the Qura
n in the mosques, so as to spread knowledge and increase learning.
In the course of time, different types of teachers appeared.
There was, for instance, the Quran reader who explained the revelations to group
s in the mosques. There was the popular moral teacher or story teller, who illus
trated the discourses with tales from the Quran, similar to the ones in the Old
Testament, and with accounts of the heroes of early Islam. There was also the re
lator, able to quote Muslim traditions, Bedouin poems,elegies and proverbs, as w
ell as anecdotes about the Prophet and his companions.
Another kind of teacher was the tutor. When the illiterate Arabs conquered the k
ingdoms of the Middle East, the spols of war made their leaders so rich that the
y were obliged to train children to manage large estates. When, moreover, they l
eft their tents to live in ancient cities and new garrison towns, they had the a
dditional problems of fitting their sons for urban life. Accordingly, they engag
ed private teachers to give lessons to their boys. The tutor was expected to off
er all of the material used by the Quran reader, story teller and relator of ane
cdotes and traditions, as well as simple arithmetic and the art of polite conver
sation. His pupils also learned horsemanship, swimming and the use of weapons.
This interest in educating both needy pupils in the mosques and rich boys in the
ir homes encouraged enterprising teachers to start little schools, which were es
pecially necessary for the children of foreign converts, unacquainted with Arabi
c. Alhough to begin with the teachers merely helped the children to repeat the Q
uran parrot fashion, it was not long before they also taught their pupils to rea
d and write, enabling them to study the meaning of the verses as well as to memo
rise the words.
It was these humble beginnings which marked the first step in the development of
Muslim education. [Dodge, Muslim Education in Medieval Times, pp 2-3]
May God Almighty protect us from knowledge which does not bring benefit, and may
God have mercy and guide us all, ameen.
fi amanillah, assalam alaikum, f

From: brother_farrukh
Subject: Elementary education in early Islam
Assalam alaikum,
By the middle of the 8th century AD a popular system of elementary school educat
ion became generally adopted. Although the classes were sometimes held in a shop
or a private house, they were much more often attached to a mosque.
Between the ages of six and ten the children had little choice of subjects. The
pupil copied a passage of the Quran on his tablet. Then after memorizing the fir
st passage, he erased it so as to deal with a second one, continuing this proces
s until the Quran was completed. He also joined with his schoolmates in repeatin
g the verses in a sing-song way, so as to keep from forgetting them. It was not
uncommon for a boy ten years old to be paraded through the streets of the town a
s a reward for memorizing the enture Quran.
The pupil also used proverbs and verses of poetry as models for his penmanship a
nd as a rule was taught something about numbers and reckoning. Sometime, moreove
r, before he reached the age of adolescence he was obliged to learn the rules fo
r ritualisic ablution, the words and movements of prayer and the essential ordin
ances of Islam.
When a boy was at least ten years old and had completed the elementary school co
urse he was eligible to spend three additional years studying supplementary subj
ects. These included some vocabulary and penmanship, grammar, rhetoric and liter
ature, as well as the history of the period in which the Prophet lived.
One old book, Adab al Mutallimun of Ibn Sahnum, recorded that during the Abbasid
period in which the Prophet lived, children used to have reading half the morni
ng, and, except for some recreation, writing the remainder of the dat, the exerc
ises being based upon the Quran. On Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings the
boys corrected what they had written. Friday was a day of rest and there were a
lso holidays and feasts. The tuition fee paid to the teacher, either monthly or
annually, was determined by the court judges.
In theory the teacher was supposed to be a well educated married man,neither too
old nor too young. IN a school of some importance he could choose a special sub
ject such as the Arabic language, the Quran, or arithmetic required for applying
the laws of inheritance. Because of dealing with religious subjects, the elemen
tary school teacher was originally much respected, but he lost his prestige as t
he lower schools became overshadowed by higher education.
Although the early teachers felt it to be a pious duty to teach free of charge,
it was not long before the school masters came to expect gifts of food and money
, sometimes even allowing their work to become commercialised. At the end of the
Umayyad period, for instance, one school was said to have 3,500 pupuls, the mas
ter riding from one class to another on a donkey.
The teacher was accustomed to sit on a small stool, with 30 or 40 pupils on the
groun around him. As slate was not easy to procure the child wrote on a board, w
hich could be scrapped and washed in preperation for the next lesson.
[Dodge, Muslim Education in Medieval Times, pp 3-5]
May God Almighty have mercy and guide us all, ameen.
fi amanillah, assalam alaikum, f