Term Paper: Education of Abbasid Today

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[. . .] These palace schools also prepared children of rulers for higher education. Like the later town and palace schools in Renaissance Europe, they also taught students the arts of formal speaking and conversation, history, tradition, and ethics. The teachers of these schools were called mu'addi, which means "one who refines manners."

Arab women studied, practiced and taught medicine, mysticism, poetry, teaching, and oratory and even took active roles in military conflicts. However, due to false Arab stereotypes, women do not receive much credit for their accomplishments and contributions to Arab history.

In these early mosques, teachers did not follow a specific format or curriculum. Instead, teachers were allowed to teach freely and use a variety of methods of instruction. Some teachers would teach from a text and answer questions later. Others would allow teaching assistants to read the instructor's lessons, while the teacher remained available for questions and comments. Many others taught their classes without ever opening a text.

One popular instructional methodology used was both didactic and discursive. The teacher first delivered a formal lecture, while the students gathered in a circle. The most advanced students and visiting guests sat closest to the teacher; women and children would sit at the outer circles if they wished to attend. Integration of community and school was expected. The lecture was delivered from a prepared manuscript. There were not many texts, so the students took notes and were expected to memorize a great deal of the content.

Three steps were used in the presentation: first, the teacher introduced the subject, avoiding details; second, the material was revised in greater depth; finally, the difficult points of the subject were fully explained.

The lecture was then followed by intense discussion during which questions were posed and answered, sometimes by the teacher, sometimes by the guests and advanced students. The debate would often grow heated and the teacher was expected not to lose control or become angry while in debate with the students and guests.

In 1066 A.D., a new type of school system was introduced. Nizam al-Mulk, a Seljuk vizier, founded the Nizamiyya Madrasa in Baghdad. The madrasa later become the leader in secondary and college-level education in the Arab empire. Before al-Mulk founded this school, madrasas did indeed exist. However, this man founded the school that led to the popularization of secondary education.

As a result of this discovery, various universities in the Arab empire were created and became the prototype of various early European universities. Students from many lands flocked to study at Muslim colleges and universities. The reputation of Muslim colleges and other centers of learning in Spain and Italy extended to Christians in Spain and across the Pyrenees to scholars in France, England and Italy.

One European clergyman of the ninth century, San Alvaro of Cordova, wrote about the access of his contemporaries to Muslim education: "Many of my co-religionists read the poems and stories of the Arabs, and studied the writings of Muhammadans, theologians and philosophers, not in order to refute them, but to learn to express themselves most elegantly and correctly in the Arabic tongue. Alas! All the young Christians who became notable for their talents know only the language and literature of the Arabs, read and study Arabic books with zeal and at enormous cost from great libraries, and everywhere proclaim aloud that their literature is worthy of admiration."

Founded in 969 A.D., AI-Azhar University in Cairo preceded other universities in Europe by two centuries. Even today, it attracts students from all over the world.

The word "madrasa" literally translates to "place for learning." These madrasas were the foundation of departmentalized schools where education was available to everybody. Like today's colleges, madrasa included student dormitories, which allowed students to live on the grounds of the school.

Each madrasa, depending on its location, followed a specific curriculum. The subjects taught were the religious sciences (including the study of the Qur'an, hadith, jurisprudence and grammar) and the intellectual sciences (including mathematics, astronomy, music and physics). As these schools began to attract distinguished teachers and specialists from throughout the Arab empire, the number of disciplines increased and secondary education became the norm.

Instructors of these madrasas were given generous salaries and students were given substantial scholarships and funding to pursue their education. Both government and private entities provided education funding. Because the government played an important role in promoting these institutions, the subject matter, choice of teachers and allocation of funds were closely supervised and regulated by government officials.

These madrasas evolved from the elementary and secondary schools that became popular in the Abbasid Empire, including the mosque schools and other traditional learning facilities, such as libraries, tutoring houses, palace schools, discussion groups in the homes of Muslim scholars, and the library salons in the palaces of wealthy men and courtiers who encouraged learning and scholarship.

In the Abbasid period, men of various social classes held majaits or meetings in their homes on a variety of subjects. Today, many Islamic cities are resurrecting this type of learning, in the spirit of reviving traditional Islam.

During the Abbasid Empire, men and women traveled to other cities to seek knowledge under the direction of various masters. These students traveled to places like Egypt, West Mrica and Spain, attending classes and discussing social, political, religious, philosophical and scientific matters. The custom was later carried on by Europe during the Renaissance.

Other less formal learning centers existed in Muslim society. The Suq al-Warraqin, which means "Market of the Papersellers," was a gathering place for booksellers, calligraphers, scholars, literary figures, notaries and bookbinders. Bookstores were similar to libraries, where browsers might find a book or meet an author or fellow scholar. There were a great deal of trades, skills, crafts and arts to be learned at these places.

The homes of scholars were other informal learning centers and were often visited by people seeking education. Private homes were used for regular literary salons, or gatherings with invited guests. In addition to learning, guests picked up the latest fashions in literature, manners, dress, food and decorative living.

Beginning with the Khalifah's salons, Muslim rulers held formal debates, discussions and exhibitions of scholarly talent regularly at their courts. The fasting month of Ramadan became a traditional time for holding scholarly gatherings at the courts of rulers and in private homes. This tradition has held up through time.

Public and private libraries-in homes, palaces, and specially constructed centers, were among the most important centers for education. Scholars traveled to research the latest in available knowledge. The wealthiest patrons of libraries gave visitors anything they needed, like copyists, writing supplies, servants, food, lodging and sometimes even money.

In the eighth century, academies began to emerge, serving as centers for the translation of earlier works and for innovative research. Each academy included many rooms, which were used for classes, meetings and readings. Books were collected from all over the world to create monumental libraries that housed volumes on medicine, philosophy, mathematics, science, alchemy, logic, astronomy and a variety of other subjects.

During this century, teachers used paper and textbooks and the concept of "teacher certification" was introduced. An instructor would give his permission to worthy students to teach from one or all of his textbooks. Because of this practice, an individual could be allowed to teach a subject although he himself was a student in another class. As a result, the distinction between teacher and student was often minimized.

Paper brought a series of changes in the Islamic civilization. However, this knowledge of papermaking was not retained in its own boundaries. It spread to Iraq, Egypt, North Africa and Spain. The role of Islam in papermaking is evident in the way we still count paper in units -- today they are units of 500 sheets -- called reams. That word comes from the Arabic rizmah, meaning a "bale or bundle."

Later, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, as Arab influence spread to Spain, Sicily and the rest of Europe, Europeans became increasingly aware of significant Arab advancements in many fields, especially education and science. Books were then translated from Arabic into Latin and, later, to vernacular languages. European schools, which had long limited learning to the "seven liberal arts," began to expand their curriculum according to Arab teachings.

For some five hundred years, Arab learning and scholarship, particularly during the Abbasid Empire, played a major role in the development of education in the West. The Arabs brought with them advanced techniques in translation and research and opened new doors in areas of medicine, the physical sciences and mathematics. Application of empiricism in all fields of study was rapidly incorporated into the learning system of those who became familiar with Arab methodology.

Abbasid Influence in Islam and Beyond The Abbasid period had an enormous effect on the Islamic education system. According to Medhi Nakosteen, the "Islamic culture was as cumulative as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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