Some Info.

The list of the oldest universities in the world varies, depending on how one defines a university. If a university is considered to be a degree granting institution, all of the world'soldest universities are located in Europe, where the practice of granting certification was widespread by the 1100s. However, many institutions of advanced learning in Asia and Africa are far older than European universities, and rightly belong on a list of the world's oldestuniversities when one thinks of them as institutions of learning.

Alas, many ancient centers of learning no longer exist. The University of Nalanda, for example, a seat of Buddhist learning in India, was founded in the fifth century BCE, but closed in the 1100s. For the purpose of this list, we are only counting continuously operating institutions of learning, some of which offered degrees later than others. In all instances, the exact date of foundation is sometimes difficult to establish, since many universities organized themselves slowly.


By continent, the oldest universities are headed up by the University of Nanjing, in China, founded around 258 BCE. It was only formally termed a “university” in 1888.

First Modern  University

Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, is generally considered to be the oldest universityin of  Modern  the world.* It was founded roughly the same time as the city of Cairo, in 969 AD. The first lecture was delivered in 975 AD. 
Like many centers of learning, Al-Azhar University was originally intended as a place of worship and religious instruction. The mosque at Al-Azhar is one of the most famous in the Muslim world, and is still considered the seat of Sunni Islamic study. 


The origins of higher education in Spain date back to Al-Andalus, the period of Islamic rule. Madrasahs, which were higher education institutions considered the predecessors of the university, were established in the Andalusian cities of Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Granada (Madrasah of Granada), Murcia, Almería, Valencia andCádiz during the Caliphate of Córdoba.[1]


In the Name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful

Andalusia When It Was...


Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe

The university pioneered systems of advanced academic instruction with its hierarchy of regular instructors and visiting professors. Its history follows the turbulent rise of the Islamic Empire, replete with political revolutions and competing religious philosophies. While Al-Azhar University has a storied history of religious instruction, it also boasts a robust secular curriculum, offering advanced degrees in engineering and medicine. 

As with all matters medieval, historical facts and figures are up to academic interpretation. Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, Morroco, has also laid claim to the title of oldest university in the world. 

Europe's oldest university was founded in 1088 in the northern Italian city of Bologna. The United States's oldest university, Harvard, opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1636, not long after the first English colonists arrived in the 
Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

It is also said that 
Nalanda University and Takshashila University, both ancient schools located in India, predate Al-Azhar University.


Islamic world



Madrasah (Arabic: مدرسة‎, madrasah pl. مدارس, madāris) is the Arabic word (of Semitic origin; viz Hebrew midrash) for anytype of educational institution, whether secular or religious (of any religion). It is variously transliterated as madrasah,madarasaa, medresa, madrassa, madraza, madarsa,medrese etc.

§                     Madrasah ʿāmmah (Arabic: مدرسة عامة‎) translates as "public school".

§                     Madrasah ḫāṣṣah (Arabic: مدرسة خاصة‎) translates as "private school".

§                     Madrasah dīniyyah (Arabic: مدرسة دينية‎) translates as "religious school".

§                     Madrasah ʾIslāmiyyah (Arabic: مدرسة إسلامية‎) translates as "Islamic school".

§                     Madrasah ǧāmiʿah (Arabic: مدرسة جامعة‎) translates as "university".



This section needs additional citations for verification. Please helpimprove this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2010)

Young madrasah pupils inMauritania. They learn parts of the Qur’ān from wooden tablets.

The word madrasah is derived from the triconsonantal Semitic root د-ر-س D-R-S'to learn, study', through the wazn (form/stem) (مفعل(ة mafʿal(ah), meaning a place where X is done. Therefore, madrasah literally means "a place where learning and studying are done". The word is also present as a loanword with the same innocuous meaning in many Arabic-influenced languages, such as: Urdu,Bengali, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, Azeri, Kurdish, Indonesian, Malay andBosnian.[1] In the Arabic language, the word مدرسة madrasah simply means the same as school does in the English language, whether that is private, public or parochial school, as well as for any primary or secondary school whether Muslim, non-Muslim, or secular. Unlike the understanding of the word school in British English, the word madrasah is like the term school in American English, in that it can refer to a university-level or post-graduate school as well. For example, in theOttoman Empire during the Early Modern Period, madrasahs had lower schools and specialized schools where the students became known as danişmends.[2]The usual Arabic word for a university, however, is simply جامعة (ǧāmiʿah). TheHebrew cognate midrasha also connotes the meaning of a place of learning; the related term midrash literally refers to study or learning, but has acquired mystical and religious connotations.

However, in English, the term madrasah usually refers to the specifically Islamic institutions. A typical Islamic school usually offers two courses of study: a ḥifẓcourse teaching memorization of the Qur'an (the person who commits the entire Qur'an to memory is called a ḥāfiẓ); and an ʿālim course leading the candidate to become an accepted scholar in the community. A regular curriculum includes courses in Arabic, tafsir (Qur'anic interpretation), šarīʿah (Islamic law), hadiths(recorded sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad), mantiq (logic), andMuslim history. In the Ottoman Empire, during the Early Modern Period, the study of hadiths was introduced by Süleyman I.[2] Depending on the educational demands, some madrasahs also offer additional advanced courses in Arabic literature, English and other foreign languages, as well as science and world history. Ottoman madrasahs along with religious teachings also taught "styles of writing, grammary, syntax, poetry, composition, natural sciences, political sciences, and etiquette."[2]

People of all ages attend, and many often move on to becoming imams. The certificate of an ‘ālim for example, requires approximately twelve years of study. A good number of the ḥuffāẓ (plural of ḥāfiẓ) are the product of the madrasahs. The madrasahs also resemble colleges, where people take evening classes and reside in dormitories. An important function of the madrasahs is to admit orphans and poor children in order to provide them with education and training. Madrasahs may enroll female students; however, they study separately from the men.

In South Africa, the madrasahs also play a social and cultural role in giving after-school religious instruction to Muslim children who attend government or private non-religious schools. However, increasing numbers of more affluent Muslim children attend full-fledged private Islamic schools, which combine secular and religious education. Among Muslims of Indian origin, madrasahs also used to provide instruction in Urdu, although this is far less common today than it used to be.

[edit]Early history of Madrasahs

See also: Nizamiyya and List of oldest madrasahs in continuous operation

Second ruler Delhi Sultanate,Alauddin Khilji's Madrasa, Qutb complex, Delhi, India, built ca 1316 CE

Madrassa Osman ef. Redžović in Visoko, Bosnia was rebuilt shortly after the Bosnian war.

Madrasahs did not exist in the early beginnings of Islam. Their formation can probably be traced to the early Islamic custom of meeting in mosques to discuss religious issues. At this early stage, people seeking religious knowledge tended to gather around certain more knowledgeable Muslims. These informal teachers later became known as shaykhs; and these shaykhs began to hold regular religious education sessions called maǧālis 'sessions'.

Established in 859, Ǧāmiʿat al-Qarawiyyīn (located in al-QarawiyyīnMosque) in the city of Fas, Morocco, is considered the oldestmadrasah in the Muslim world. It was founded by Fāṭimah al-Fihrī, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Muḥammad al-Fihrī. This was later followed by what is now al-Azhar University, established in 959 inCairo, Egypt.

During the late ‘Abbāsid period, the Seljuk vizier Niẓām al-Mulkcreated one of the first major official academic institutions known in history as the Madrasah Niẓāmiyyah, based on the informal maǧālis (sessions of the shaykhs). Niẓām al-Mulk, who would later be murdered by the Assassins (Ḥaššāšīn), created a system of state madrasahs (in his time they were called the Niẓāmiyyahs, named after him) in various ‘Abbāsid cities at the end of the 11th century.

During the rule of the Fatimid[3] and Mamluk[4] dynasties and their successor states in the medieval Middle East, many of the ruling elite founded madrasahs through a religious endowment known as the waqf. Not only was the madrasah a potent symbol of status but it was an effective means of transmitting wealth and status to their descendants. Especially during the Mamlūk period, when only former slaves could assume power, the sons of the ruling Mamlūk elite were unable to inherit. Guaranteed positions within the new madrasahs thus allowed them to maintain status. Madrasahs built in this period include the Mosque-Madrasahof Sultan Ḥasan in Cairo.

Dimitri Gutas and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy consider the period between the 11th and 14th centuries to be the "Golden Age" of Arabic and Islamic philosophy, initiated by al-Ghazali's successfulintegration of logic into the madrasah curriculum and the subsequent rise of Avicennism.[5]

At the beginning of the Caliphate or Islamic Empire, the reliance on courts initially confined sponsorship and scholarly activities to major centers. Within several centuries, the development of Muslim educational institutionssuch as the madrasah and masjid eventually introduced such activities to provincial towns and dispersed them across the Islamic legal schools and Sufi orders. In addition to religious subjects, they also taught the "rational sciences," as varied as mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geography, alchemy, philosophy, magic, andoccultism, depending on the curriculum of the specific institution in question.[6] The madrasahs, however, were not centers of advanced scientific study; scientific advances in Islam were usually carried out by scholars working under the patronage of royal courts.[7] During this time,[when?] the Caliphate experienced a growth inliteracy, having the highest literacy rate of the Middle Ages, comparable to classical Athens' literacy in antiquitybut on a much larger scale.[8] The emergence of the maktab and madrasah institutions played a fundamental role in the relatively high literacy rates of the medieval Islamic world.[9]

The following excerpt provides a brief synopsis of the historical origins and starting points for the teachings that took place in the Ottoman madrasahs in the Early Modern Period:

"Taşköprülüzâde's concept of knowledge and his division of the sciences provides a starting point for a study of learning and medrese education in the Ottoman Empire. Taşköprülüzâde recognizes four stages of knowledge—spiritual, intellectual, oral and written. Thus all the sciences fall into one of these seven categories: calligraphic sciences, oral sciences, intellectual sciences, spiritual sciences, theoretical rational sciences, practical rational sciences. The first Ottoman medrese was created in İznik in 1331, when a converted Church building was assigned as a medrese to a famous scholar, Dâvûd of Kayseri. Suleyman made an important change in the hierarchy of Ottoman medreses. He established four general medreses and two more for specialized studies, one devoted to the ḥadīṯ and the other to medicine. He gave the highest ranking to these and thus established the hierarchy of the medreses which was to continue until the end of the empire."[2]

[edit]Elementary education

Main article: Maktab

In the medieval Islamic world, an elementary school was known as a maktab, which dates back to at least the 10th century. Like madrasahs (which referred to higher education), a maktab was often attached to an endowed mosque. In the 11th century, the famous Persian Islamic philosopher and teacher Ibn Sīnā (known as Avicennain the West), in one of his books, wrote a chapter about the maktab entitled "The Role of the Teacher in the Training and Upbringing of Children", as a guide to teachers working at maktab schools. He wrote that children can learn better if taught in classes instead of individual tuition from private tutors, and he gave a number of reasons for why this is the case, citing the value of competition and emulation among pupils as well as the usefulness of group discussions and debates. Ibn Sīnā described the curriculum of a maktab school in some detail, describing the curricula for two stages of education in a maktab school.[10]

[edit]Primary education

Ibn Sīnā wrote that children should be sent to a maktab school from the age of 6 and be taught primary education until they reach the age of 14. During which time, he wrote that they should be taught the Qur'an,Islamic metaphysics, language, literature, Islamic ethics, and manual skills (which could refer to a variety of practical skills).[10]

[edit]Secondary education

Ibn Sīnā refers to the secondary education stage of maktab schooling as a period of specialization when pupils should begin to acquire manual skills, regardless of their social status. He writes that children after the age of 14 should be allowed to choose and specialize in subjects they have an interest in, whether it was reading, manual skills, literature, preaching, medicine, geometry, trade and commerce, craftsmanship, or any other subject or profession they would be interested in pursuing for a future career. He wrote that this was a transitional stage and that there needs to be flexibility regarding the age in which pupils graduate, as the student's emotional development and chosen subjects need to be taken into account.[11]

[edit]Higher education

See also: Ijazah

During its formative period, the term "madrasah" referred to a higher education institution, whose curriculuminitially included only the "religious sciences", whilst philosophy and the secular sciences were often excluded.[12] The curriculum slowly began to diversify, with many later madrasahs teaching both the religious and the "secular sciences",[13] such as logic, mathematics and philosophy. Some madrasahs further extended their curriculum to history, politics, ethics, music, metaphysics, medicine, astronomy and chemistry.[14] The curriculum of a madrasah was usually set by its founder, but most generally taught both the religious sciences and the physical sciences. Madrasahs were established throughout the Islamic world, the most famous being the 10th century al-Azhar University and the 11th century Niẓāmiyyah, as well as 75 madrasahs in Cairo, 51 inDamascus and up to 44 in Aleppo between 1155 and 1260. Many more were also established in theAndalusian cities of Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Granada (Madrasah of Granada), Murcia, Almería, Valencia andCádiz during the Caliphate of Córdoba.[15]

In the Ottoman Empire during the early modern period, "Madrasahs were divided into lower and specialized levels, which reveals that there was a sense of elevation in school. Students who studied in the specialized schools after completing courses in the lower levels became known as danişmends."[2]

While "madrasah" can now refer to any type of school, the term "madrasah" was originally used to refer more specifically to a medieval Islamic centre of learning, mainly teaching Islamic law and theology, usually affiliated with a mosque, and funded by an early charitable trust known as waqf.[16]

[edit]Law school

See also: Sharia and Fiqh

Madrasahs were largely centered on the study of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). The ʾiǧāzat at-tadrīs wa-l-ʾiftāʾ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") in the medieval Islamic legal education system had its origins in the 9th century after the formation of the maḏāhib (schools of jurisprudence). George Makdisi considers the ʾiǧāzahto be the origin of the European doctorate.[17] However, in an earlier article, he considered the ʾiǧāzah to be of "fundamental difference" to the medieval doctorate, since the former was awarded by an individual teacher-scholar not obliged to follow any formal criteria, whereas the latter was conferred on the student by the collective authority of the faculty.[18] To obtain an ʾiǧāzah, a student "had to study in a guild school of law, usually four years for the basic undergraduate course" and ten or more years for a post-graduate course. The "doctorate was obtained after an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate's theses", and to test the student's "ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose." These were scholarly exercises practiced throughout the student's "career as a graduate student of law." After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded ijazas giving them the status of faqīh 'scholar of jurisprudence', muftī 'scholar competent in issuing fatwās', and mudarris 'teacher'.[17]

The Arabic term ʾiǧāzat at-tadrīs was awarded to Islamic scholars who were qualified to teach. According to Makdisi, the Latin title licentia docendi 'license to teach' in the European university may have been a translation of the Arabic,[17] but the underlying concept was very different.[18] A significant difference between the ʾiǧāzat at-tadrīs and the licentia docendi was that the former was awarded by the individual scholar-teacher, while the latter was awarded by the chief official of the university, who represented the collective faculty, rather than the individual scholar-teacher.[19]

Much of the study in the madrasah college centered on examining whether certain opinions of law were orthodox. This scholarly process of "determining orthodoxy began with a question which the Muslim layman, called in that capacity mustaftī, presented to a jurisconsult, called mufti, soliciting from him a response, calledfatwa, a legal opinion (the religious law of Islam covers civil as well as religious matters). The mufti (professor of legal opinions) took this question, studied it, researched it intensively in the sacred scriptures, in order to find a solution to it. This process of scholarly research was called iǧtihād, literally, the exertion of one's efforts to the utmost limit."[17]

[edit]Medical school

See also: Bimaristan

Though Islamic medicine was most often taught at the bimaristan teaching hospitals, there were also severalmedical madrasahs dedicated to the teaching of medicine. For example, of the 155 madrasah colleges in 15th century Damascus, three of them were medical schools.[20] No medical degrees were granted to students, as there was no faculty that could issue them. Therefore no system of examination and certification ever developed in the Islamic tradition, in contrast with medieval Europe.[21]

In the Early Modern Period in the Ottoman Empire, "Suleyman I added new curriculums to the Ottoman medreses of which one was medicine, which alongside studying of the ḥadīṯ was given highest rank."[2]

[edit]Madrasah and university

Note: The word ǧāmiʿah (Arabic: جامعة‎) simply means 'university'. For more information, see Islamic university (disambiguation).

The commonly accepted view is that the Islamic mosque school was an institution distinct from the medieval university,[22][23][24] and that the university with all its facets, including the granting of academic degrees such asbachelor (Latin: baccalaureus), master (magister) and doctorate (licentia docendi), was a proper medieval European development unrelated to contemporaneous Islamic learning.[25][26][27][28] This view is indirectly supported by the entry on the "Madrasa" in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, which draws no parallels between Islamic and Christian medieval institutions of higher learning and does not refer to any transmission process either way.[29]

However, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, al-Qarawiyyīn University in Fez, Morocco is recognized by as the oldest degree-granting "university" in the world, having been founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri.[30] While the madrasah college could also issue degrees at all levels, the jāmi`ahs (such as al-Qarawiyyīnand al-Azhar University) differed in the sense that they were larger institutions, more universal in terms of their complete source of studies, had individual faculties for different subjects, and could house a number of mosques, madrasahs, and other institutions within them.[16] Such an institution has thus been described as an "Islamic university".[31]

Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in 975 by the Isma‘īlī Shī‘ī Fatimid dynasty as a ǧāmiʿah, had individual faculties[32] for a theological seminary, Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, early Islamic philosophy and logic in Islamic philosophy.[33] The postgraduate doctorate in law was only obtained after "an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate's theses", and to test the student's "ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose."[17] ‘Abd al-Laṭīf al-Baghdādī also delivered lectures on Islamic medicine at al-Azhar, while Maimonides delivered lectures on medicine and astronomy there during the time of Saladin.[34] Another early ǧāmiʿah was the Niẓāmīyah of Baghdād (founded 1091), which has been called the "largest university of the Medieval world".[35] Mustansiriya University, established by the ‘Abbāsid caliph al-Mustanṣir in 1233, in addition to teaching the religious subjects, offered courses dealing with philosophy, mathematics and the natural sciences.

However, the classification of madrasahs as "universities" is disputed on the question of understanding of each institution on its own terms. In madrasahs, the ijāzahs were only issued in one field, the Islamic religious law ofšarīʿah, and in no other field of learning.[36] Other academic subjects, including the natural sciences, philosophy and literary studies, were only treated "ancillary" to the study of the Sharia.[37] For example, a natural science like astronomy was only studied (if at all) to supply religious needs, like the time for prayer.[38] This is whyPtolemaic astronomy was considered adequate, and is still taught in some modern day madrasahs.[38] The Islamic law undergraduate degree from al-Azhar, the most prestigious madrasa, was traditionally granted without final examinations, but on the basis of the students' attentive attendance to courses.[39] In contrast to the medieval doctorate which was granted by the collective authority of the faculty, the Islamic degree was not granted by the teacher to the pupil based on any formal criteria, but remained a "personal matter, the sole prerogative of the person bestowing it; no one could force him to give one".[40]

Medievalist specialists who define the university as a legally autonomous corporation disagree with the term "university" for the Islamic madrasahs and jāmi‘ahs because the medieval university (from Latin universitas) was structurally different, being a legally autonomous corporation rather than a waqf institution like the madrasah and ǧāmiʿah.[41] Despite the many similarities, medieval specialists have coined the term "Islamic college" for madrasah and ǧāmiʿah to differentiated them from the legally autonomous corporations that the medieval European universities were. In a sense, the madrasah resembles a university college in that it has most of the features of a university, but lacks the corporate element. Toby Huff summarizes the difference as follows:

From a structural and legal point of view, the madrasa and the university were contrasting types. Whereas the madrasa was a pious endowment under the law of religious and charitable foundations (waqf), the universities of Europe were legally autonomous corporate entities that had many legal rights and privileges. These included the capacity to make their own internal rules and regulations, the right to buy and sell property, to have legal representation in various forums, to make contracts, to sue and be sued."[42]

While the organizational form of Western centers of higher learning allowed them to develop and flourish, "the Muslim ones remained constricted by the doctrine of waqf alone, with their physical plant often deteriorating hopelessly and their curricula narrowed by the exclusion of the non-traditional religious sciences like philosophy and natural science," since these were considered potential toe-holds for kufr, those people who reject Allah.[43]The madrasah of al-Qarawiyyīn, one of the two surviving madrasahs that predate the founding of the earliestmedieval universities and are thus claimed to be the "first universities" by some authors, has acquired official university status as late as 1947.[44] The other, al-Azhar, did acquire this status in name and essence only in the course of numerous reforms during the 19th and 20th century, notably the one of 1961 which introduced non-religious subjects to its curriculum, such as economics, engineering, medicine, and agriculture.[45] It should also be noted that many medieval universities were run for centuries as Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools prior to their formal establishment as universitas scholarium; evidence of these immediate forerunners of the university dates back to the 6th century AD,[46] thus well preceding the earliest madrasas. George Makdisi, who has published most extensively on the topic[47] concludes in his comparison between the two institutions:

Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the middle ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.[48]

Nevertheless, Makdisi has asserted that the European university borrowed many of its features from the Islamic madrasah, including the concepts of a degree and doctorate.[17] Makdisi and Hugh Goddard have also highlighted other terms and concepts now used in modern universities which most likely have Islamic origins, including "the fact that we still talk of professors holding the 'Chair' of their subject" being based on the "traditional Islamic pattern of teaching where the professor sits on a chair and the students sit around him", the term 'academic circles' being derived from the way in which Islamic students "sat in a circle around their professor", and terms such as "having 'fellows', 'reading' a subject, and obtaining 'degrees', can all be traced back" to the Islamic concepts of ʾaṣḥāb ("companions, as of the prophet Muhammad"), qirāʾah ("reading aloud the Qur'an") and {{transl|ar|DIN|ʾiǧāzah ("license to teach") respectively. Makdisi has listed eighteen such parallels in terminology which can be traced back to their roots in Islamic education. Some of the practices now common in modern universities which Makdisi and Goddard trace back to an Islamic root include "practices such as delivering inaugural lectures, wearing academic robes, obtaining doctorates by defending a thesis, and even the idea of academic freedom are also modelled on Islamic custom."[49] The Islamic scholarly system offatwā and ʾiǧmāʿ, meaning opinion and consensus respectively, formed the basis of the "scholarly system theWest has practised in university scholarship from the Middle Ages down to the present day."[50] According to Makdisi and Goddard, "the idea of academic freedom" in universities was also "modelled on Islamic custom" as practiced in the medieval Madrasah system from the 9th century. Islamic influence was "certainly discernible in the foundation of the first delibrately planned university" in Europe, the University of Naples Federico IIfounded by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor in 1224.[49]

However, all of these facets of medieval university life are considered by standard scholarship to be independent medieval European developments with no tracable Islamic influence.[51] Generally, some reviewers have pointed out the strong inclination of Makdisi of overstating his case by simply resting on "the accumulation of close parallels", but all the while failing to point to convincing channels of transmission between the Muslim and Christian world.[52] Norman Daniel points out that the Arab equivalent of the Latin disputation, the taliqa, was reserved for the ruler's court, not the madrasa, and that the actual differences between Islamicfiqh and medieval European civil law were profound.[52] The taliqa only reached Islamic Spain, the only likely point of transmission, after the establishment of the first medieval universities.[52] In fact, there is no Latin translation of the taliqa and, most importantly, no evidence of Latin scholars ever showing awareness of Arab influence on the Latin method of disputation, something they would have certainly found noteworthy.[52] Rather, it was the medieval reception of the Greek Organon which set the scholastic sic et non in motion.[24] Daniel concludes that resemblances in method had more to with the two religions having "common problems: to reconcile the conflicting statements of their own authorities, and to safeguard the data of revelation from the impact of Greek philosophy"; thus Christian scholasticism and similar Arab concepts should be viewed in terms of a parallel occurrence, not of the transmission of ideas from one to the other,[24] a view shared by Hugh Kennedy.[53]

Tony Huff, in a discussion of Makdisi's hypothesis, concludes:

It remains the case that no equivalent of the bachelor's degree, the licentia docendi, or higher degrees ever emerged in the medieval or early modern Islamic madrasas.[54]

[edit]Female education

See also: Islamic feminism, Women in Islam, and Women's literary salons and societies in the Arab World

From around 750, during the Abbasid Caliphate, women “became renowned for their brains as well as their beauty”.[55] In particular, many well known women of the time were trained from childhood in music, dancing andpoetry. Mahbuba was one of these. Another feminine figure to be remembered for her achievements was Tawaddud “a slave girl who was said to have been bought at great cost by Harūn ar-Rašīd because she had passed her examinations by the most eminent scholars in astronomy, medicine, law, philosophy, music, history,Arabic grammar, literature, theology and chess”.[56] Moreover, among the most prominent feminine figures was Shuhda who was known as “the Scholar” or “the Pride of Women” during the 12th century in Baghdad. Despite the recognition of women’s aptitudes during the Abbasid dynasty, all these came to an end in Iraq with the sack of Baghdad in 1258.[57]

Women played an important role in the foundations of many Islamic educational institutions, such as Fatima al-Fihri's founding of the University of Al Karaouine in 859. This continued through to the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries, when 160 mosques and madrasahs were established in Damascus, 26 of which were funded by women through the Waqf (charitable trust) system. Half of all the royal patrons for these institutions were also women.[58]

According to the Sunni scholar Ibn ʿAsākir in the 12th century, there were opportunities for female education in the medieval Islamic world, writing that women could study, earn ijazahs (academic degrees), and qualify asscholars and teachers. This was especially the case for learned and scholarly families, who wanted to ensure the highest possible education for both their sons and daughters.[59] Ibn Asakir had himself studied under 80 different female teachers in his time. Female education in the Islamic world was inspired by Muhammad's wives, such as Khadijah, a successful businesswoman. According to a hadith attributed to Muhammad, he praised the women of Medina because of their desire for religious knowledge:[60]

"How splendid were the women of the ansar; shame did not prevent them from becoming learned in the faith."

While it was not common for women to enroll as students in formal classes, it was common for women to attend informal lectures and study sessions at mosques, madrasahs and other public places. While there were no legal restrictions on female education, some men did not approve of this practice, such as Muhammad ibn al-Hajj (d. 1336) who was appalled at the behaviour of some women who informally audited lectures in his time:[61]

"[Consider] what some women do when people gather with a shaykh to hear [the recitation of] books. At that point women come, too, to hear the readings; the men sit in one place, the women facing them. It even happens at such times that some of the women are carried away by the situation; one will stand up, and sit down, and shout in a loud voice. [Moreover,] her 'awra will appear; in her house, their exposure would be forbidden — how can it be allowed in a mosque, in the presence of men?"

The term ʿawrah is often translated as "that which is indecent", which usually meant the exposure of anything other than a woman's face and hands, although scholarly interpretations of the ʿawrah and ḥiǧāb have always tended to vary, with some more or less strict than others.[61]

While women accounted for no more than one percent of Islamic scholars prior to the 12th century, there was a large increase of female scholars after this. In the 15th century, Al-Sakhawi devotes an entire volume of his 12-volume biographical dictionary aḍ-Ḍawʾ al-lamiʿ to female scholars, giving information on 1,075 of them.[62]More recently, the scholar Mohammad Akram Nadwi, currently a researcher from the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, has written 40 volumes on the "muḥaddiṯāt" (the women scholars of ḥadīṯ), and found at least 8000 of them.[63]

[edit]Madrasahs by region

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[edit]Madrasahs in the Ottoman Empire

"The first Ottoman Medrese was created in Iznik in 1331 and most Ottoman medreses followed the traditions ofsunni Islam."[2] "When an Ottoman sultan established a new medrese, he would invite scholars from the Islamic world—for example, Murad II brought scholars from Persia, such as Ala al-Din and Fakhr al-Din who helped enhance the reputation of the Ottoman medrese".[2] This reveals that the Islamic world was interconnected in theearly modern period as they traveled around to other Islamic states exchanging knowledge. This sense that the Ottoman Empire was becoming modernized through globalization is also recognized by Hamadeh who says: "Change in the eighteenth century as the beginning of a long and unilinear march toward westernization reflects the two centuries of reformation in sovereign identity."[64] Inalcik also mentions that while scholars from for example Persia, traveled to the Ottomans in order to share their knowledge, Ottomans traveled as well to receive education from scholars of these Islamic lands, such as Egypt, Persia and Turkestan.[2] Hence, this reveals that similar to today's modern world, individuals from the early modern society traveled abroad to receive education and share knowledge and that the world was more interconnected than it seems. Also, it reveals how the system of "schooling" was also similar to today's modern world where students travel abroad to different countries for studies. Examples of Ottoman madrasahs are the ones built by Mehmed the Conqueror. He built eight madrasahs that were built "on either side of the mosque where there were eight higher madrasahs for specialized studies and eight lower medreses, which prepared students for these."[2] The fact that they were built around, or near mosques reveals the religious impulses behind Madrasah building and it reveals the interconnectedness between institutions of learning and religion. The students who completed their education in the lower medreses became known as danismends[2] This reveals that similar to the education system today, the Ottomans had a similar kind of educational system in which there were different kinds of schools attached to different kinds of levels. For example, there were the lower madrasahs and then the specialized ones and for one to get into the specialized area meant that they had to complete the classes in the lower one in order to adequately prepare themselves for higher learning.[2]

This is the rank of Madrasahs in the Ottoman Empire from the highest ranking to the lowest: (From Inalcik, 167).[2]

1.      Semniye

2.      Darulhadis

3.      Madrasahs built by earlier sultans in Bursa.

4.      Madrasahs endowed by great men of state.

Although Ottoman Madrasahs had a number of different branches of study, such as calligraphic sciences, oral sciences, and intellectual sciences they primarily served the function of an Islamic center for spiritual learning. "The goal of all knowledge and in particular, of the spiritual sciences is knowledge of God."[2] Religion, for the most part, determines the significance and importance of each science. As Inalcik mentions: " Those which aid religion are good and sciences like astrology are bad."[2] However, even though mathematics, or studies in logic were part of the madrasah's curriculum, they were all centered around religion. Even mathematics had a religious impulse behind its teachings. "The Ulema of the Ottoman medreses held the view that hostility to logic and mathematics was futile since these accustomed the mind to correct thinking and thus helped to reveal divine truths"[2] – keyword being divine. Inalcik also mentions that even philosophy was only allowed to be studied so that it helped to confirm the doctrines of Islam."[2] Hence, madrasahs – schools were basically religious centers for religious teachings and learning in the Ottoman world. Although scholars such as Goffman have argued that the Ottomans were highly tolerant and lived in a pluralistic society, it seems that schools that were the main centers for learning were in fact heftily religious and were not religiously pluralistic, but centered around Islam. Similarly, in Europe "Jewish children learned the Hebrew letters and texts of basic prayers at home, and then attended a school organized by the synagogue to study the Torah."[65] Wiesner-Hanks also goes on to mention that Protestants also wanted to teach "proper religious values."[65] This goes on to show that in the early modern period, Ottomans and Europeans were similar in their ideas about how schools should be managed and what they should be primarily focused on. Thus, Ottoman madrasahs were very similar to present day schools in the sense that they offered a wide range of studies; however, the difference being that these studies, in its ultimate objective, aimed to further solidify and consolidate Islamic practices, and theories.


As is previously mentioned, religion dominated much of the knowledge and teachings that were endowed upon students. "Religious learning as the only true science, whose sole aim was the understanding of God's word."[2]Thus, it is important to keep this impulse in mind when going over the curriculum that was taught.

The following is taken from Inalcik.[2]

§        A) Calligraphic sciences—such as styles of writing.

§        B) Oral sciences—such as Arabic language, grammar and syntax.

§        C) Intellectual scienceslogic in Islamic philosophy.

§        D) Spiritual sciences—theoretical, such as Islamic theology and mathematics; and practical, such as Islamic ethics and politics.

[edit]Social life and the Medrese

As with any other country during the Early Modern Period, such as Italy and Spain in Europe, the Ottoman social life was also interconnected with the medrese. Medreses were built in as part of a Mosque Complex where many programs, such as aid to the poor through soup kitchens were held under the infrastructure of a mosque, which reveals the interconnectedness of religion and social life during this period. "The mosques to which medreses were attached, dominated the social life in Ottoman cities."[66] Social life was not dominated by religion only in the Muslim world of the Ottoman Empire; however, was also quite similar to the social life of Europe during this period. As Goffman says: "Just as mosques dominated social life for the Ottomans, churches and synagogues dominated life for the Christians and Jews as well."[66] Hence, social life and the medrese were closely linked, since medreses as is previously mentioned taught many curriculums, such as religion, which highly governed social life in terms of establishing orthodoxy. "They tried moving their developing state toward Islamic orthodoxy."[66] Overall, the fact that mosques contained medreses comes to show the relevance of education to religion in the sense that education took place within the framework of religion and religion established social life by trying to create a common religious orthodoxy. Hence, medreses were simply part of the social life of society as students came to learn the fundamentals of their societal values and beliefs.

[edit]Madrasahs in South Asia




Main article: Madrassas in Pakistan

The madaris rose as colleges of learning in the Islamic world in the 11th century, though there were institutions of learning earlier. They catered not only to the religious establishment, though that was the dominant influence over them, but also the secular one. To the latter they supplied physicians, administrative officials, judges and teachers.


This is a madarasaa of the Jamia Masjid mosque in Srirangapatna, India. This mosque dates back to the 1700s and is where Tipu Sultan used to pray.

In India, there are around 30,000 operating madrasahs.[67] The majority of these schools follow the Hanafi school of thought. The religious establishment forms part of the mainly two large divisions within the country, namely the Deobandis, who dominate in numbers (of whom the Darul Uloom Deoband constitutes one of the biggest madrasas) and the Barelvis, who also make up a sizeable portion (sufi-orientated). Some notable establishments include: Jamia Ashrafia, Mubarakpur, Manzar Islam Bareilly, Jamia Nizamdina New Delhi, Jamia Nayeemia Muradabad which is one the largest learning centres for the Barelvis. The HR[clarification needed] ministry of Government of India has recently[when?] declared that a Central Madrasa Board would be set up. This will enhance the education system of madrasas in India. Though the madrasas impart Quranic education mainly, efforts are on to include Mathematics, Computers and science in the curriculum.


·                                 Ancient higher-learning institutions which give learning an institutional framework date back to ancient times and can be found in many cultures. These ancient centres were typically institutions of philosophical education and religious instruction. They are to be distinguished from the modern Western-styleuniversity which is an organizational form originating inmedieval Europe and adopted in other world regions since the onset of modern times (see list of oldest universities in continuous operation).[1]




History of the Middle East


History of South America


Ancient Greece


The Platonic Academy (sometimes referred to as the University of Athens[2][3]), founded ca. 387 BC in Athens, Greece, by the philosopherPlato, lasted 916 years ( until 529 AD ) with interruptions.[4] It was emulated during the Renaissance by the Florentine Platonic Academywhose members saw themselves in Plato's tradition.

Around 335 BC, Plato's successor Aristotle founded the Peripatetic schoolwhose pupils met at the Lyceum gymnasium in Athens ( ceased to exist in 86 BC during famine/siege/sack of Athens by Sulla).[5]

In the Hellenistic period, the Museion in Alexandria ( suppressed/burned between 216 and 272 AD ) which included the world-famous Library of Alexandria ( destroyed between 272 and 391 AD ) became the leading research institute for science and technology from which many Greek innovations sprang. The engineerCtesibius (fl. 285–222 BC) may have been its first head.

The reputation of these Greek think tanks was such that three modern institutions derive their names from them: the academy, the lyceum and the museum.


South Asia

Taxila or Takshashila, in modern-day Pakistan, was an early Indian centre of learning. According to scattered references which were only fixed a millennium later,[12] it may have dated back to at least the 5th century BC.[13][page needed] Some scholars date Takshashila's existence back to the 6th century BC.[14]

Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jātaka tales, written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century AD.[15]

It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries before Christ, and continued to attract students until the destruction of the city in the 5th century AD. Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. Chanakya (or Kautilya),[16] the MauryaEmperor Chandragupta[17] and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila.[18]

Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science.[18]

Nalanda, ancient center of higher learning in Bihar,India[19][20] from 427 to 1197

Nalanda was established in the 5th century AD in Bihar, India.[21]. Founded in 427 in northeastern India, not far from what is today the southern border of Nepal, it survived until 1197. It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.[22].

The center had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, housing 10,000 students in the university’s heyday and providing accommodation for 2,000 professors. [23] Nalanda University attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.

Further centers include Odantapuri, in Bihar (circa 550 - 1040), Somapura, in Bangladesh (from the Gupta period to the Muslim conquest), Jagaddala, in Bengal (from the Pala period to the Muslim conquest),Nagarjunakonda, in Andhra Pradesh, Vikramaśīla, in Bihar (circa 800-1040), Sharada Peeth, in modern dayPakistan Administered Kashmir, Valabhi, in Gujarat (from the Maitrak period to the Arab raids), Varanasi inUttar Pradesh (8th century to modern times), Kanchipuram, in Tamil Nadu, Manyakheta, in Karnataka,Puspagiri, in Orissa and Ratnagiri, in Orissa. In Sri Lanka, Sunethradevi Pirivena, a centre of Buddhist learning in Sri Lanka, founded circa 1415 AD.

In China, the ancient imperial university known as Taixue was established in Han Dynasty at 124 BC. It was inherited by later dynasties until Qing, in some of which the name was changed to Guozixue or Guozijian. Peking University (Imperial University of Peking) established in 1898 is regarded as the replacement of Taixue (or Guozijian). In Korea, Taehak was founded in 372 and Gukhak was established in 682. The Seonggyungwanwas founded by the Joseon Dynasty in 1398 to offer prayers and memorials to Confucius and his disciples, and to promote the study of the Confucian canon. It was the successor to Gukjagam from the Goryeo Dynasty (AD 992). It was reopened as a private Western-style university in 1946. In Japan, Daigakuryo was founded in 671 and Ashikaga Gakko was founded in 9th century and restored in 1432. In Vietnam, the Quoc Tu Giam (國子監, literally "National University") functioned for more than 700 years, from 1076 to 1779.


In Persia (Iran), the Academy of Gundishapur was an important medical centre of the 6th and 7th centuries AD. Gundishapur or Jundishapur, however, was the most prominent example of higher education model in pre-Islam Iran. 'The most ancient institution, which was similar to universities today, was set up in a city called Jundishapur about six and a half centuries after Plato’s academy, that is, in 271 AD'[24] . It was established four centuries before the advent of Islam in Jundishapur in third century AD under the rule of Sassanid kings and continued its scientific activities up to four centuries after Islam came to Iran. It is considered as one of the world’s oldest higher educational institutes. When Athenian school was closed in 529 AD, its scholars went to Jundishahpur. At Jundishapur University, research and scientific circles were of utmost importance and Iranian scientists along with their Indian, Greek and Roman counterparts conducted research and scientific studies. Historians in the field of education maintain that it took positive aspects of higher education in Greece and India, which were recognized as the new methods of education and research; as a result, it was the cradle of medicine, philosophy, astrology, and mathematics up to the fifth century AH. Therefore, as it is invoked, Jundishapur University had basically had a transnational scientific-cultural approach[25] .


Christian Europe

See also: Byzantine higher education, Cathedral school, and Monastic school

The Pandidakterion of Constantinople, founded as an institution of higher learning in 425 and reorganized as a corporation of students in 849 by the regent Bardas of emperor Michael III, is considered by some to be the earliest institution of higher learning with some of the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence, et cetera). If a university is defined as "an institution of higher learning" then it is preceded by several others, including the Academy that it was founded to compete with and eventually replaced. If the original meaning of the word is considered "a corporation of students" then this could be the first example of such an institution.[6]

In early medieval Europe, bishops sponsored cathedral schools and monasteries sponsored monastic schools, chiefly dedicated to the education of clergy. The earliest evidence of a European episcopal school is that established in Visigothic Spain at the Second Council of Toledo in 527.[7] These early episcopal schools, with a focus on an apprenticeship in religious learning under a scholarly bishop, have been identified in Spain and in about twenty towns in Gaul during the 6th and 7th centuries.[8]

In addition to these episcopal schools, there were monastic schools which educated monks and nuns, as well as future bishops, at a more advanced level.[9] Around the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, some of them developed into autonomous universities. A notable example is when the University of Paris grew out of the schools associated with the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Monastery of Ste. Geneviève, and the Abbey of St. Victor.[10][11]

The first higher education institution in medieval Europe was the University of Salerno (9th century). The Preslav Literary School and Ohrid Literary School were the two major literary schools of the First Bulgarian 


Asian History

Islam in Spain

This is an interactive Quran online with text in Arabic and translation with more than eight languages and also audio recitation.

Original source: 


Islamic Commission of Spain



Muslim Council for Cooperation in Europe


History of Spain




Western Europe



History of the United Kingdom


Social history of England






History of the Americas

History of Canada


History of Russia



"OIC" redirects here. For other uses, see OIC (disambiguation).

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation          [show]

Flag of the OIC

Logo of the OIC



  Member States

  Observer States

  Blocked States

Administrative center

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Official languages

Arabic, English, French


57 member states




Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu



OIC Charter signed

September 25, 1969 




1.6 billion (2011) 


The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC; Arabic: منظمة التعاون الاسلامي‎;French: Organisation de la Coopération Islamique (OCI))[a 1] is an international organisation consisting of 57 member states. The organisation attempts to be the collective voice of the Muslim world (Ummah) and attempts to safeguard the interests and ensure the progress and well-being of Muslims.

The OIC has a permanent delegation to the United Nations, and is the largest international organisation outside of the United Nations.[1] The official languages of the OIC are Arabic, English, and French. It changed its name on 28 June 2011 from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (Arabic: منظمة المؤتمر الإسلامي‎;French: Organisation de la Conférence Islamique) to its current name.[2]


What is the OIC doing for the Muslim communities in Russia, India and China?