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Madrasa

MADRASA

Arabic word for an Islamic college and, more specifically, a center for religious and legal studies.

The madrasa originated in Eastern Iran in the tenth century and spread to major urban centers throughout the Middle East by the late eleventh century. The architect of the madrasa as a state-sponsored institution of higher education was Nizam al-Mulk (died 1092 c.e.), the prime minister of the Seljuk empire. These residential colleges were designed by the ruling elite both as a training ground for state bureaucrats and as a Sunni Islam response to the propaganda of Ismaili Shiʿism w at al-Azhar, the theological learning center founded by the Fatimid dynasty in Cairo in 969 c.e. As part of a Sunni Muslim religio-political agenda, the madrasa spread throughout the Islamic world. The madrasa system augmented already extant mosque-centered training sites for the study of religion and law. Unlike these centers, the madrasa forged links between the ulama, the religious scholars who directed Islamic education, and the ruling government authorities whose financial support made their control of the madrasa possible.

The madrasa system of education was linked to the mosque, which traditionally had been the place of instruction for Muslims in the Qurʾan and in the Hadiththe traditions that preserved the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. The madrasa combined the site for education with student residences. Libraries and sometimes hospitals would adjoin the madrasa. Financial support for the educational institution was generated by the state in the form of a charitable endowment called waqf. The revenue on these endowments paid for the maintenance of the buildings, student stipends, and instructors' fees.

The course of instruction at a madrasa included the Qurʾan, tradition, Arabic language, theology, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and, often, medicine; however, the study of Islamic law (shariʿa) provided the core of the madrasa's rigorous curriculum. Initially, madrasas were founded to provide specialized instruction in one of the four Sunni legal schools. In time, legal instruction in one or more of the Sunni legal schools might be offered in a single madrasa.

The method of instruction relied heavily on memorizationof the Qurʾan and as many traditions as possible. Once these preliminaries were accomplished, students were trained in the technicalities of the law, divergent legal opinions, and the disputed questions that distinguished their law school from the other Sunni legal schools. After four or more years of study, an instructor determined whether an individual student could be licensed to teach law and given a diploma, a signed certificate called an ijaza. Any Muslim male could join a madrasa, but the number of students per teacher was usually limited to twenty. Only male students studied at madrasas; Muslim women were not allowed to study Islamic law. Major Sunni madrasas were founded at Medina, Cairo, Tunis, and Fez. Al-Azhar remains the most famous Sunni theological center in the Arab world; it underwent a series of curriculum reforms in the early twentieth century that made the director of that institution the prime link between the Egyptian government and the country's traditional religious elite. Shiʿite madrasas in Iran include those of Mashhad and Qom and, in Iraq, al-Najaf, and Karbala.

In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire founded schools influenced by European models to train their military officers, bureaucrats, and doctors. Similar professional schools were also created in Egypt and Tunisia during this period to offer instruction to those Muslims in government service forced to contend with the European colonial presence in the Middle East. These non-Islamic educational institutions created new urban nationalist elites. In the twentieth century, the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of Arab states hastened educational reform; secular schools of higher education undermined the madrasa system in the Sunni Muslim world. State-sponsored higher education throughout the Middle East promoted new secular avenues of social mobility and professional prestige for male and female Muslim students in areas such as medicine and engineering. Shiʿite madrasas flourish in Iran since the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Iranian Revolution of 1979 reestablished Islamic rule.

see also arabic; azhar, al-; hadith; iranian revolution (1979); mosque; qurʾan; shariʿa; shiʿism; sunni islam; ulama; waqf.


Bibliography


Husayn, Taha. The Stream of Days: A Student at the Azhar, 2d edition, translated by Hilary Wayment. London and New York: Longmans, Green, 1948.

Makdisi, George. The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981.

Mottahedeh, Roy. The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran. New York: Pantheon, 1986.

denise a. spellberg

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madrasa

madrasa, madrassa, madraseh, medresseh. Islamic theological and legal place of instruction, usually with a court with iwan, accommodation, and study-cells. The grandest madrasas resembled four-iwan mosque plans, with cells on two storeys ranged around the court (e.g. Madrasa al-Nuriya al-Kubra, Damascus, Syria (1171–2), and the Madrasas of Ulughbeg (1417–20), Samarkand, Uzbekistan). In some cases the open court was replaced by a smaller covered, domed space (e.g. the Inje Minare Madrasa, Konya, Turkey (c.1260–5), and in others they were part of much larger complexes (e.g. the Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey (1550–7), by Sinan. The Madrasa Madar-I-Shah, Isfahan, Iran (1706–14), was a late and very beautiful example of the fouriwan madrasa, complete with high, pointed domes, and two-storey arcades and a garden-court crossed by axial canals (the true paradise garden).

Bibliography

Blair & and Bloom (1994);
Hillenbrand (1994)

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Madrasa

Madrasa. Islamic school, for children, and for adult studies.

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madrasa

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