13 October 2016



Chief features of Primary and Elementary Muslim Education in Medieval Period

(1)   Institution of primary education: Primary education was imparted through  the ‘Maktab’ which were attached with mosque or were independent of the mosque ‘Khanquahs’ of the saints also at some places served as centres of education. Several   learned men also taught students at their residences.

(2)   Financing of the Maktabs: Most of the Maktabs were either patronized by rulers or had endowment. They dependent on the charity of the philanthropists.

(3)   Management of the ‘Maktabs’: The ‘Maktabs’ were run under the guidance of the learned ‘Maulavis’. They were supposed to be very pious.

(4)   Curriculum: Curriculum varied from place to place but the teaching of Alphabets and the recitation of Quran was almost compulsory. The students learnt some portions of Quran by heart as this was considered essential to perform religious functions.

(5)   Language: Arabic and Persian languages were mostly compulsory. For getting high government posts, one had to learn these languages.
(6)   Fees: There were several village schools where the students were required to pay their instructions, not in cash but in kind.

(7)   Orphanages: The state set up some Orphanages where the children received education free of charge. Vast endowments were made for these orphanages.

(8)   Age of admission: At the age of four years, four months and four days, ‘Maktab’ ceremony or ‘Bismillah’ was performed to indicate the beginning of the child. This was considered as an auspicious moment for initiation or starting education. Good wishes were offered to the child.  ‘Surah-i-Iqra’ a chapter from the holy Quran was recited on this occasion.

(9)   Education of sons of Nobles and Rulers: The Muslims nobles as well as rulers engaged tutors to teach their children at home.

(10) ‘Wide- spread Maktabs’: Almost every village had at least, one ‘Maktab’. There were several ‘Maktabs’ in town and cities.

(11) Curriculum and Mode of Instruction:
(i)      During those days there were no printed books for the beginners. Wooden books (taktis) were used.
(ii)    The Quran : After alphabets, words were taught to students
(iii)   Stress on Calligraphy: beautiful and fine handwriting was an important element of instruction.
(iv)  Teaching of Grammar: Grammar was taught as it was considered very valuable in teaching the languages.
(v)    Religious Instruction: Instruction imparted in the ‘Maktabs’ was religious through and through.
(vi)  Books other than Quran: After the Quran, the ‘Gulistan’ and the ‘Bostan’ poems of poet Firdausi were taken up.
(vi) ‘Paharas’: Students also learned ‘Pahars’ (multiple of numbers). Students memorized these while uttering collective in a loud voice.

(12) Buildings: In general, the students sat on the ground in the rows under the shade of a tree and the teacher used mat or dear-skin to sit at. He also attended to the students while standing.

The Madrasahs or Madrasas
The ‘Madrasahs’ imparted secondary and higher education. Often these Madrasahs were attached to mosques. The term ‘Madrasahs’ is derived from Arabic word ‘dars’ (a lecture) and means a place where lecture is given. There was difference in principles between the Madrasa and other mosques. When a particular room was set apart in a mosque for the teaching purposes it was called a Madrasah. Sometimes it was quite close to a large mosque. It functioned as college of higher education where eminent scholars taught different subjects by using the lecture method supplemented by discussions. Management was usually private supported by state grants and endowments. The content of the curriculum was both religious and secular and covered a period from 10 to 12 years. Religious education comprised deep study of the Quran, Islamic law and Sufism. Literature, logic, history, geography, astronomy , astrology, arithmetic, agriculture and medicine were the secular subjects taught in madrasa. Some madrasa had hostels attached to them which provided free boarding and lodging.