Educational Institutions in Golden Age of Islam


The call of the Holy Prophet of Islam to 'seek knowledge even unto the distant China' awakened a love of knowledge among the nomadic Arabs, such as was hitherto unknown to the world. Such memorable words uttered by the Holy Prophet as 'The ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr' and 'He who leaves his home in search of knowledge walks into the path of God' had a salutary effect upon his followers and led to the growth of intense educational activity throughout the length and breadth of the tast Islamic domains. "Science and literature possessed no votaries" says Ameer Ali "But the words of the Prophet gave a new impulse to the awakened energies of the race. Even within his lifetime was formed the nucleus of an educational institution, which in after years grew into universities at Baghdad and Salerno, at Cairo and Cordova"

After the downfall of the Roman Empire chaos and intellectual stagnation held sway over the civilised world. The masterpieces of Greek philosophy, science and art lay buried under the dark vaults of the monasteries and might have disappeared altogether from the world, but for the Arab revival and patronage of ancient learning. "The Arabs" says Humboldt "were admirably suited to act the part of mediators, and to influence the nations from the Eupharates to Cuadalquivir and Mid-Africa. Their unexampled intellectual activity marks a distinct epoch in the history of the world".'

The educational and intellectual activity during the lifetime of the Prophet was started by the house of the Prophet itself. Hazrat Ali, who was brought up and educated under the direct supervision of the Prophet, acquired a high reputation in Islamic learning. He lectured on those branches of learning most suited to the wants of the infant State. Hazrat Ali and his cousin Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abbas rose to be the greatest intellectual figures of their age. The latter delivered public lectures on poetry, grammar, history and mathematics.

System of Education
During the early decades of Islam mosques formed the nerve centre of political, religious and educational activities in Islam. Even during the present time, mosques house maktabs and important institutions of religious education throughout the Islamic countries. Special quarters were attached to the mosques and shrines for the residence of teachers, students and travellers. This provision continues even to this day in Syria, Persia and several other Muslim countries. Madrassa mosque was an innovation of Persia, whose big congregational mosques had separate portions assigned for the important institutions which imparted education in all branches of learning.

The child's education at home began with Kalima and the teaching of prayers and the Quran. The primary education was imparted in maktabs and mosques, which were confined to elementary religious and linguistic teaching. The girls were allowed in the lower grades of the schools, but not in the higher ones. Memory work was specially emphasised. The wealthy children employed private tutors. The celebrated Caliph Harun-ar-Rashid gave these instructions to the tutor of his son Ameen, which throws light on the system of aristocratic education in those times: "Be not strict to the extent of stifliag his faculties or lenient to the point of making him enjoy idleness and accustom himself thereto. Straighten him as much as thou canst through kindness and gentleness, but fail not to resort to force and severity should he not respond"

Adult education was not as systematic as it is today. The curriculum revolved round religious education, which was the most important subject at this stage. The Muslim religion, as is well-known is not theocratic, rather it is dynamic and practical reflecting on diverse aspects of a robust practical life. Mosques served as educational centres and made provisions for lectures on Hadith and Quran. The wandering geographer Moqaddasi who visited the distant Sus and travelled through Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Faris found in those countries many circles and assemblies composed of faqih, legists, divines and litterateurs who had selected the mosques as the venue of their intellectual and educational activities. The Imam al-Shafii presided at such a circle (halqa) at the mosque of Amar at alFustat till his death in 820 A.D. Ibn Hauqal mentions similar assemblies in Sijistan. Not only religious but even linguistic, philosophical and literary subjects were taught in such assemblies. Such lectures in mosques which continued upto the 11th century A.D. were free for all Muslims.

University education in the real sense of the word started in the 11th century A.D. with the opening of Nizamiyah universities of Neshapur and Baghdad. The universities taught almost all sciences and arts, but mostly relied on theoretical teaching. Inspite of lacking modern scientific laboratories, these Islamic universities produced such eminent scientists as modern India and Pakistan have not produced so far. The higher grade teachers were much respected and granted a recognised certificate (Ijazat) to their pupils who completed particular course of study.

There are several good points in Islamic education which have existed for the last thirteen centuries. Islamic education was free, hence provided equal opportunities to the rich and the poor to acquire the highest education available in the Islamic universities of the world. Not only that, but students were provided with free boarding, lodging and even with stationery, books and pocket expenses.

The modem age in spite of its enormous resources cannot boast of such an elaborate system of free education. A university education can only be attained now-a-days, by wealthy students. It was because education was free, that from the lowest strata of society have risen some of the brightest intellectual luminaries of the Islamic world likeAl-Ghazali, Hazrat Abdul Qadir Jilani, Al-Beruni, Al-Razi and Al-Farabi. Memory was much emphasised in study and some of the renowned Muslim scholars and teachers possessed amazing memories. In those days there were no diaries and memoranda and retentive faculties were developed to a phenominal degree. Al-Ghazali, Ahmad Bin Hanbal and the famous traditionalist Al-Bukhari memorised numberless traditions with their chain of authorities (Isnad). The celebrated poet Mutanabbi, Tamman and AI-Maarvi possessed wonderful memories and never found it necessary to buy a book.

The use of the rod by teachers was common in oriental as well as in western education during mediaeval times. The learned professors used to lecture on different subjects and the pupils used to sit round them and take notes of their lectures. This was the popular method of teaching in higher institutions. The professors and teachers were much respected by their students and also were held in great esteem in the highest society. Even the sons of the caliphs and emperors paid great respects to their teachers. Once Mamun-ar-Rashid was beaten by his teacher Yezidi. Jaafar Bermaki, the grand vizier of the Abbasid Empire chanced to arrive there at that time and took Mamun with him. The next day Yezidi asked Mamun, if he had complained about him to the Prime Minister. Thereupon Mamun replied like a humble pupil, "No my respected sir, how can I complain against my teacher. I would not even inform the Caliph Harun with such matters rather than Jaafar."

The teachers and learned professors in the great Islamic institutions were the incarnation of simple living and high thinking. They led an exemplary life and bore high character. The students copied the pious lives of their teachers. Though memory was much stressed and the practical side of the sciences was neglected, yet the education imparted to the students was substantial and creative. It really added to their knowledge and stands in great contrast to the superficial education of modern times.

There were three kinds of institutions:--(l) Those established and supported by the ruling class, (2) those founded by the wealthy class and supported by donations and endowments and (3) those founded by private lecturers. The finances of the institutions. specially of the higher ones were met by the State. Exchequer, donations and endowments. The teachers,. who were not highly paid, led a simple but respectable life. Their intellectual pursuits did not give them time to think about and participate in worldly pleasures, Donations poured into institutions which always kept their finances sound and had enough funds to make arrangements for the free education, lodging and boarding of a large number of students. In his treatise on pedagogy Zarnuji has recorded this saying of Hazrat All: "I am the slave of him who has taught me even one letter". Al-Zarnuji has written scores of Arabic treatises on education.

Educational Institutions in Hejaz
Mecca and Medina had been the most important intellectual and educational centres in the Islamic world before the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate. The famous mosque of the Prophet at Medina was graced by the presence of such intellectual giants, legists and divines as Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Abbas, Hazrat Jaafar Sadiq, Imam Malik and Imam Hanbal. Even during the glories of the Abbasid Caliphate, the celebrated Harun-ar-Rashid had sent his sons Amin and Mamun to Medina to obtain education in religion, traditions and language. The children of Fatimah believed in the pursuit of learning and produced some of the most eminent scholars that Islam has known. From the four corners of the vast Islamic world students flocked round Imam Jaafar Sadiq and Imam Malik in Medina in order to be enlightened by their scholarly discourses.

The Omayyads paid little attention to the development of education and advancement of learning. They were mostly occupied with the suppression of internal conflicts, the consolidation of their great empire and the persecution of the great sons of Islam. The eminent Muslim scholars specially those belonging to the House of the Prophet preferred to lead a secluded life at Medina. During the Omayyad rule, Medina, Kufa and Damascus were the greatest centres of Islamic education, which was mostly given in mosques by the celebrated scholars. The short rule of Hazrat Omar Bin Abdul Aziz and the intellectual pursuits of Khalid Bin Yazid provided the only real educational activities during the Omayyad Caliphate.

The Abbasid Caliphate provided the most congenial atmosphere for the advancement of learning and education. In fact, the reign of Mamun-ar-Rashid who has deservedly been called the 'Augustus of Arabs' formed the culmination of the intellectual achievements of the Muslims. He was followed by a brilliant succession of Caliphs who continued his work.

The Darul Hukama (House of Wisdom) founded by Mamun in 830 A.D. at Baghdad was the first institution of higher learning in the Islamic world. Besides being a translation bureau, this institution functioned as an academy and housed an up-to-date library as well as an observatory. The academy and observatory run by the Darul Hukama, served as training and teaching centres in various branches of sciences. "The glory of Muslim education was its university system, which fed the higher learning. The academy of Mamun at Baghdad and the Hall of Wisdom of Fatimids at Cairo were great institutions and are explained by their environments".

Mamun-ar-Rashid who was a great patron of learning and education founded important institutions in Baghdad, Rasrah, Kufa and Bukbara. According to Maulana Shibli Nomani, Mamun had built a big college in Khorasan which employed eminent scholars summoned from all parts of the empire. The Caliph Mutawakkil, a nephew of Marnun kept up the traditions of his great uncle. In Egypt the Fatimid Caliph, Al-Hakim, had founded in 995 A.D. at Cairo an institution similar to the House of Wisdom of Mamun called the 'Hall of Wisdom or science', which contained a library, an observatory, and a medical college. It also had a big boarding house for students attached to it. Another Egyptian Caliph Aziz Billah constructed big institutions and dwellings for teachers and students who were also paid salaries.

Nizamiyah Institutions
Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi, the talented Prime Minister of Malik Shah Saljuqi had the distinction of being one of the greatest patrons and sponsors of higher education in Islamic history and founded a chain of great institutions all over his vast dominions. The rise of the Saljuqis and their grand munificence towards scholarship and science rivalled that of the golden days of the Abbasid rule. The grand vazier Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi had collected round him a galaxy of talented scholars. He had founded Nizamiyah types of higher institutions in Neshapur, Baghdad, Khorasan, Iraq and Syria. The first great institution was the Nizamiyah University of Neshapur founded by Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi in 1066, which in fact, was the first University of the Islamic world. Imam-ul-Harmain, the teacher of Al-Ghazali was the principal of Neshapur University, while Ghazali was a student of this University. In a lecture hall in Neshapur University, there were 500 ink-stands. According to Allama Khalikan, Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi was the first person in Islamic history to lay the foundation of a regular educational institution. The State Exchequer was affected by the great munificence of Nizam-ul-Mulk toward the advancement of education. Malik Shah Saljuqi called his grand vazier Nizam-ul-Mulk and said "Dear Father--you can organise a big army with so much money. What great achievements do you expect from persons on whom you are showering your benevolence?" The wise minister replied, "My dear son, I have grown old, but you are a young Turk. If you are auctioned in the bazar, I doubt you will fetch more than 30 dinars. In spite of this God has made you the monarch of such a vast empire. Should you not be grateful to Him for the same? The arrows thrown by your archers will not fly far more than thirty yards, but even the vast shield of the sky cannot check the arrows of the prayers flung by the army which I have undertaken to produce". Malik Shah was struck with the wise reply of his talented vazier and cried out, "Excellent father--we must prepare such an army without the least delay". The example set by Nizam-ul-Mulk led to the opening of several high class institutions all over the Islamic world. The wealthier class of people and the members of the ruling class vied with each other in the building of educational institutions. During the sixth century A.H., there was hardly any corner of the Islamic world which did not contain such institutions. The big cities of Khorasan namely Merv, Neshapur, Herat and Balkh as well as Isfahan particularly benefitted from the patronage of Nizam-ul-Mulk and had a chain of Nizamiyah institutions of higher education. Yaqut Hamvi found a large number of institutions including Mustafia, Amidia, Khatunia and Nizamiyah besides several big libraries in Merv, when he visited this city in the 6th century A.H. Nizam-ul-Mulk not only founded great institutions all over his territories, but staffed them with the best talents of the age which immensely enhanced their reputation. Among them was Hujjat-ul-lslam Al-Ghazali, Principal of Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, Imam-ul-Hurmain, Principal of Nizamiyah University of Neshapur, AsShashi at Herat and Abu Ishaq Shirazi at Nizamiyah of Baghdad. Following the example of Nizam-ul-Mulk, another Saljuqi minister Tajuddaulah founded a college called 'Tajiyya' and other colleges too were opened at Samarqand, Balkh, Alleppo, Damascus and Ghazni.

Nizamiyah University of Baghdad
The greatest achievement of Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi in the educational sphere was the establishment of the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad in 1065--67, A.D. which stands as a landmark in the educational advancement of Muslims during mediaeval times. Nizamiyah of Baghdad served as a model institution in the world of Islam, and its great reputation and high standard of teaching attracted students and scholars from all over the known world. The greatest scholars of their age deemed it a great honour to be appointed a professor at this world famous University. "The Saljuqs, like the Buwayhids and other non-Arab sultans", says Hitti, "who usurped the sovereign power in Islam, vied with each other in patronising the arts and higher education, perhaps as a means of ingratiating themselves with the population".' There is much truth in the above statement. Nizamiyah was primarily a theological institution recognised by the State in which besides the teaching of philosophy, arts and sciences, the Quran and old poetry formed the backbone of the study of humanities. The lecturer was assisted by two or more repeaters, who repeated the lecture to the less gifted students, when the class was over. Ibn Jubair had once the occasion of attending the lecture of a learned professor in the afternoon. The students were sitting round him on stools and piled him with oral questions till the evening. Al-Ghazali, one of the greatest intellectuals of Islam had the distinction of being appointed the Principal of this University at an early age of 34, and occupied this post for four years (1091--95 A. D.). Nizamiyah survived the great calamity which had fallen on Baghdad in 1258 A. D. at the hands of Hulagu Khan the Mongol, and was at last merged with Mustansariya, two years after the conquest of Baghdad by Tamerlane in 1393 A. D. Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi, who was a great patron of education had set apart 1/1Oth of his entire income to be spent on his educational enterprises. He spent about 3 million rupees on the building of institutions all over his territories and spent more than a million rupees on the building of Nizamiyah of Baghdad alone as well as granting a regular sum of a lac rupees per annum for its expenses. According to Giblion, "Both rich and poor students had equal opportunities of receiving the highest education in this institution. The education was free and the entire expenses of the poor students were met by the University. The teachers were paid handsome salaries". Abu Ishaq Shirazi was appointed the first principal of this University. The well-known Persian poet Saadi Shirazi had been its student. Among its eminent principals were Al-Ghazali, Imam Tabari, Ibn Al-Khatib, Tabrizi and Abul Hasan Fasihi and among its outstanding professors were Bahal-al-Din, Abul Maali, Kutubuddin Shafaii and Kiya Harasi. Hardly ever was there appointed a lecturer in this institution during the two hundred years of its existence who was not the master of his subject. The University housed a big library, whose librarian was Allama Abu Zakariya Tabrizi. According to Ibn Athir, the Abbasid Caliph Nasiruddin added another library to the University in 589 A. H., to which a large number of books were transferred from the Imperial Library. According to Maulana Shibli Nomani, Nizamiyah was the first institution in the Islamic world in which regular scholarships were awarded to students.

Mustansariya University
It was rather a blot on the Abbasid Caliph that the well-known Nizamiyah University of Baghdad was built by a non-Abbasid, hence Al-Mustansir Billah, the Abbasid Caliph made amends by opening the Mustansariya University at Baghdad in 1234 A. D. This was the greatest university ever founded in the Islamic world. It took six years to build this majestic university on the bank of the river Tigris. A grand opening ceremony of this great institution was held, and on this auspicious day one hundred camel loads of rare manuscripts were transferred to the University from the Imperial Library. The building was stately and equipped with all the amenities available in those times. It contained a hospital, a big library, baths, kitchens, a water cooling plant and several spacious hostels for the residential students. The education in the University was free and the students were also provided with free boarding and lodging as well as a monthly scholarship of a gold sovereign each. Properties yielding an income of about half a million rupees per annum were given as endowment for the expenses of the University. Allama Zahbi has given details of the working of this institution in his well-known work Tarikh Dawalal-lslam (History of Islam). The building had a clock (of clepsydra type) at an entrance, whose dial was blue like that of the sky and a sun which constantly revolved across its surface, denoted the time. This clock was made by Ali Bin Saghlab Balbaki, the celebrated astronomer of his time. The Caliph had built the University as a seminary for the four orthodox rites, and all the four law schools were represented in it. A detailed description of the University building is available in the memoirs of Ibn Batuta who visited it in 1327 A. D. The ruins of the famous University are still visible and part of it has been taken over by the department of antiquities.

Ayyubid Institutions
The patronage of learning and the deep interest taken by Nuruddin Mahmud Zangi and Sultan Salahuddin in public welfare activities, specially the advancement of education, once more reminded people of the days of Mamun-ar-Rashid and Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi. Nuruddin founded big institutions in Alleppo, Halab, Hams and Balbak. He built a great college in Damascus, his Capital city. Nuruddin had the distinction of establishing the first DarulHadith (House of Traditions). Allama Ibn Jubair, who visited Damascusin 578 A. H., found 20 big colleges there. It was proclaimed, whoever would build an institution, the entire expenditure would be met by the Imperial purse. A big piece of property including seven gardens, whose annual income was five hundred gold pieces was set aside for meeting the expenses of western students. Five hundred students were paid honorarium from the Imperial Treasury. Nuruddin himself, from his private property created a trust for institutions, whose annual income was more than nine thousand gold pieces.

Sultan Salahuddin, better known as Saladin in the west was also a great patron of learning and education. He had founded big educational institutions in Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalum and Damascus. According to Allama Ibn Jubair, "any student who resided in the hostels of Alexandria was paid his full expenses". In his State, teachers salaries paid out of the Imperial Treasury amounted to 1 1/2 million per annum. The patronage of education by Saladin, awakened a lively interest for learning among the general populace and it was considered a sort of humiliation that a rich person should die without leaving behind any institution. Malik al-Zahir, the gifted son of Saladin kept up the traditions of his father and founded two schools called Shafia and Darul Hadith (House of Traditions) in Alleppo, which made this city a centre of learning.

Education in Spain
Spain, during the regime of the Moorish caliphs, developed education to a high degree of perfection. According to Maulana Shibli Nomani education in Sapin both primary and higher (secondary) was mostly given in mosques. Al-Hakam, the celebrated Spanish monarch, himself a great scholar was a great patron of learning and granted munificent bounties to the scholars. He opened 27 free schools in Cordova and took a keen interest in the progress of Cordova University which was founded by Abdur Rahman lll in the principal mosque of the city. Under his patronage this institution rose to be one of the greatest universities of the world. According to Ibid, Cordova University, "preceded both Al-Azhar of Cairo and Nizamiyah of Baghdad and attracted students, Christians and Muslims, not only from Spain but from other parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Al-Hakam enlarged the mosque which housed the University, conducted water into its lead pipes and decorated it with mosaics brought by Byzantine artists spending on it 2,61,537 dinars". The famous historian Ibn Khalikan writes that Al-Hakam invited learned professors from all parts of the Muslim world who were paid handsome salaries. Among its professors was the historian Ibn al-qutiyah.

The imperial patronage of education, raised the standard of learning and literacy to a high level in Spain. The eminent Dutch scholar Dozy has dedared that "Nearly every one could read and write". "All this" says Philip K. Hitti, "whilst in Christian Europe only the rudiment of learning were known and that by the few, mostly clergy." Writing in The Moors in Spain Stanely Lane Poole observes about Cordova, "Beautiful as were the palaces and gardens of Cordova, her claims to administration in higher matters were no less strong. The mind was as lovely as the body. Her professors and teachers made her the centre of European culture; students would come from all parts of Europe to study under the famous doctors, and even the nun Horswitha far away in her Saxon convent of Gaudersheim, when she was told of the martyrdom of St. Eulogius, could not refrain from singing the praise of Cordova, 'The brightest splendour of the World'. Every branch of science was seriously studied there and medicine received more and greater additions by the discoveries of the doctors and surgeons of Andalusia than it had gained during all the centuries that had elapsed since the days of Galen. Astronomy, geography, chemistry and natural history were all studied with ardour at Cordova".

The subjects of higher education in universities and colleges were theology, philosophy, language and literature, lexicography, history, geography and sciences. Several principal cities of Spain including Cordova, Granada, Seville and Malaga possessed universities, colleges and institutions of higher education whose enrolment ran into thousands. The university of Cordova taught among other subjects jurisprudence, astronomy, philosophy, mathematics and medical science. The certificates and degrees granted by this university were much valued throughout Muslim countries especially in Spain.

The seventh Nasrid monarch, Yusuf Abdul Hajjaj (1333--54 A.D.) had founded the university of Granada, which became an important centre of Arabic studies in the Spain of those times. The university possessed a stately building whose portals were guarded by stone lions. Besides other subjects, jurisprudence, sciences, theology, medicine, astronomy and philosophy were studied in the university. Castilian and other Christian students studied in this university. The university organised public meetings, literary discussions and lectures delivered by the professors. An inscription on the portals of the university building ran as follows :-

"The world is supported by four things only: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the righteous and the valour of the brave."

A spirit of cordiality and brotherhood prevailed among the students of various nations and religions who had thronged to the institutions of Muslim Spain. According to Renan, "The taste for science and literature had, by the 16th century A. D., established in this privileged corner of the world, a toleration of which modern times hardly offer us an example. Christians, Jews and Musalmans spoke the same tongue, sang the same songs, participated in the same literary and scientific studies. All the barriers which separated the various peoples were effaced; all worked with an accord in the work of a common civilization. The mosques of Cordova, where the students could be counted by thousands, became the active centres of philosophical and scientific studies".

Al-Azhar, Cairo
Al-Azhar, the famous university of Cairo, which has already completed more than a thousand years' of its existence is at present the oldest and the second greatest university in the world. For centuries in the past and even during the present times, it has the reputation of being the biggest and the most important university of the Islamic world, with an enrolment of more than ten thousand students. The Al-Azhar mosque was built by Djawher al-Khatib al-Sikilli, a year after the occupation of Egypt by Fatimids. It was opened for service in July 972 A.D. Several Fatimid rulers made additions to it. AI-Aziz Billah (976--996 A.D.) added to it an academy, where higher education was imparted. Al-Hakim (996-1020 A.D.) made further additions to the building for teaching purposes as well as made endowments to meet its running expenses. Makrizi II gives an account of the adoption of Al-Azhar's name, which, according to him is derived from Al-Zahra, the origin of Fatimids.

During the Ayyubid regime certain changes and additions were made in the status of the institution. But it was Malik Al-Zahir Baibars who is credited with making Al-Azhar, a great seat of learning in the east. He made extensive additions to the building. The last great Mamluk ruler Kansuh al-Ghori (1500-1516 A.D.) built the two towered minarets. The later Khadivs also did much to maintain the high reputation of this university. The poor students received all sorts of financial help from the endowments and the State exchequer. The Mongol devastations had effaced all seats of learning and culture from Baghdad, Persia and Turkistan hence students flocked from all parts of the Muslim world to Al-Azhar, which was the only great Muslim institution left in the world. The university encouraged its students to earn a part of their expenses from other sources and carried on vocational training programmes.

Turkish Institutions
The Ottoman caliphs did not lag behind their predecessors in their efforts for the advancement of education in their territories. As the world had advanced, the Turkish educational institutions were superior to the old Islamic institutions and were more akin to the modern ones. All such educational institutions were controlled by the State, hence had better management. The system of Turkish education was rather more political and practical and aimed at producing good citizens and able servants of the State. The institutions were controlled by some university or Board of Education. The teachers were handsomely paid and the Turks were the first to grant pension to their teachers. Sultan Muhammad II was a great patron of education. During his regime every village had a school and in higher institutions as many as ten subjects including grammar, logic, language, literature, journalism, mathematics, astronomy and other sciences were taught. The students who passed out of these higher institutions were called Danishmand (learned).

Ar Khan was the first Turkish ruler who founded many schools. Muhammed the conqueror, established a big university in Constantinople in 865 A. H. which controlled eight big colleges having separate hostels attached to them. Sultan Bayazid who ascended the throne in 886 A. H. founded many big educational institutions. Sulaiman the magnificent, the greatest emperor in Turkish history, who was crowned in 982 A.H. besides building dozens of institutions all over his empire, founded four big educational institutions in Mecca. He awarded scholarships to 600 students.

Other Institutions
The patronage of educational institutions by Nizam-ul-Mulk Toosi, created a lasting interest for such institutions among the general populace. Founding of a Madrassa began to be considered a meritorious act. Ibn Jubair who visited Baghdad in 578 A.H. had counted 30 big colleges in Baghdad, 20 in Damascus, 6 in Mosul and one in Hams. These institutions possessed stately buildings.

Neshapur was only second to Baghdad as the educational centre in the Islamic world. When, in 556 A. H. it was destroyed by internal rebellion, 25 big institutions were also razed to the ground. Amir Nasr, brother of Sultan Mahmud, had built an institution called Sayidia. The inhabitants of Neshapur had invited professor Abu Bakr Khurakh. When he arrived, a big institution was raised for him out of the public subscription, which was the first of its kind in Islamic history.

The famous conqueror Mahmud Ghaznavi was a great patron of learning. His literary circles were attended by two of the greatest intellectual luminaries of their age--Beruni and Firdausi. He built a grand institution at Ghazni in 410 A.H., which also housed a big library. He set aside a big landed property to meet its running expenses. The Amirs of his court followed the example set by the Sultan and according to Frishta within a short time scores of educational institutions sprang up in Ghazni. Allama Husain Bin Ahmad Abul Fazl who died in 591 A.H. controlled 12 educational institutions in Yezd in which more than 15 hundred students were enrolled. The celebrated Imam Fakhruddin Razi who died in 606 A.H., was a professor in the principal college of Khwarizm. A French traveller visited more than 48 educational institutions in Isfahan during the Safawid rule.

Abdul Basit founded three good institutionsin Mecca. Malik Ashraf, a member of Chraska dynasty, who ascended the throne in 772 A.H., built a big college in Mecca, which had 72 rooms and a big hall in the centre whose roof was made of marble stone painted with gold.
Ibn al-Nasir Muhammad Ibn Kalaon built a grand college in Cairo, for whose construction he spent more than 20 thousand dirhams daily amounting to about 5 1/2 million rupees in total.

The noted colleges of Syria were Al-Rishiyya, Amania, Tarkhania, Khatunia and Safria. In Egypt during the Ayyubid rule, the colleges of Rambiyya, Nasariyya and Sulahiyya were founded.

Military Academy of Morocco
Abdul Momin, Sultan of Morocco, founded the first military academy in the world, details of which are given in the history of the dominion of Spain written by Kandi. The academy taught military science besides other sciences and arts. The Sultan was extremely interested in the running of the institution. He wanted this academy to produce good generals and administrators as well as scholars. It had three thousand students of the same age, whose daily lessons, physical exercises and military drill were attended by the Sultan himself. Archery exercises were held on alternate days, while swimming and naval warfare were taught to the trainees in a big tank once a week. The outstanding students were handsomely rewarded by the Sultan, who met the entire expenditure of the academy.

The Ottoman Turks paid great attention to the development of military science and built one of the finest military colleges of its time is Constantinople (Istanbul) .

Medical School
Medical science was taught as a subject in several Islamic universities including Mustansariya, Cordova and Al-Azhar. Imam Zakariya Razi, the eminent physician of Islam taught medical science in his Bimaristan, an institution in which he dealt with both the practical and theoretical sides of the science. According to Gibbon, the first school of surgery in Europe was founded in Salerno, a city in Muslim Sicily.

The Haj or Annual pilgrimage to Mecca has also been of much educative value and people learnt a great deal from the learned scholars who resided in Mecca.

Thus Muslims were the torch-bearers of civilization, learning and education during mediaeval times and procured the necessary link between the ancient and the modern civilizations. "The oldest Christian Universities of Bologna, Paris, Montpellier and Oxford came into being in the 12th century", writes Legacy of Islam. "The first 'Arabian' University in Europe owed its origin to Muslim learning".


The human tendency of preserving the records of their achievements in various fields of life is very primitive and dates back to the beginning of civilization. Before the invention of paper, such records were laid down on stone slabs, clay tablets, parchments, leather and pieces of wood. The temples and State archives of Assyria and Babylon contained clay tablet libraries. The first library in Greece owes its existence to Pesistratus, who established it in Athens in 600 B.C. The largest library, before the advent of Islam was founded by Ptolemy in 287--84 B.C. at Alexandria, which is alleged to contain about a quarter of million books.

The birth of Islam provided great impetus to human pursuits of knowledge. The necessity of preserving the Quran and the Traditions (Hadith) awakened the spirit of collecting such writings in various forms, which paved the way for the establishment of the earliest libraries in the world Of Islam. The mosques which, during the early decades of Islam formed the nerve centres of all political, religious and educational activities, housed valuable libraries comprising books on religion, philosophy and science. Soon, however, Muslims who distinguished themselves as the greatest patrons of learning, established during the days of their glory some of the biggest libraries of mediaeval times. The great intellectuals of their age including Avicenna the encyclopaedist, Ibn Miskawayh the historian-philosopher, Al-Fadl-Ibn Naubakht and Humayun Ibn Ishaq the renowned translator were entrusted with the responsibility for the organisation and maintenance of libraries. The Caliphate Raashidah and that of the Omayyads were the periods of conquests, consolidation and organisation,

Khalid bin Yazid, a learned scientist of the Omayyad dynasty is credited with being the originator of libraries in Islam. But historical opinions differ on the point. The celebrated Tunisian Historian Ibn-Khaldun categorically denies the existence of any library during the time of Khalid bin Yazid, while Ibn Nadim in his well-known Fihrist ascribes the opening of the first library of Islam to Khalid. Hazrat Omar bin Abdul Aziz, the pious Omayyad Caliph had made available to the public the Royal library which he had inherited from his ancestors. This clearly shows that the foundation of the library was laid long before his time, probably by the learned Khalid bin Yazid. Thus during the Omayyad Caliphate the literary treasures were properly arranged, catalogued and preserved in a systematic way. Hisham Bin Abdul Malik collected a large. number of rare manuscripts on various subjects in eluding an illustrated copy of the ancient history of Persia. A large number of books on theology had been collected by Shahab-al-Zuhri, a well-known traditionalist of his age. Besides the above, Abu Qullabah, Abu Umrao bin al-Alla and Kreb bin Muslim had private libraries.

Under Mamun, the Muslims formed the vanguard of civilization. During the time of the early Abbasid caliphs, every part of the globe was ransacked by the agents of the caliphs for the hoarded wealth of antiquity. Mansur was the first Abbasid caliph who took an active interest in the pursuits and propagation of learning. He founded a translation department in which classical and scientific works were translated from various languages into Arabic. The philosophical, mathematical and scientific works of Greek masters, which otherwise would have remained buried in the dark recess of the Greek Imperial Palaces, were brought within reach of the common man bv translating them into Arabic. According to the celebrated Urdu historian Maulana Shibli Nomani, the Darul Hukama (House of Wisdom) founded by Harun-ar-Rashid which was divided into two sections one was concerned with the translation work and the other related to the collection of books and housed a big library. Yahya Barmeki, the famous grand vazier of Harun had summoned well-known scholars from ditsant lands, who adorned the literary gatherings of the great Caliph. Harun-ar-Rashid who had founded a big library at Baghdad had appointed Al-Fadl Ibn Naubakht, a renowned scholar and translator, as head of his library, The library contained a large number of books, which were efficiently arranged and catalogued. Harun had a good taste for books and even carried large number of books on his military and other expeditions. Once, when he had gone to Riqqah, he took eight boxes of books with him. His pleasure resort built on the bank of the Qatul canal, had a library containing about 1,060 books. The reign of Mamun-ar-Rashid, known as the Augustus of the Arabs. formed the most glorious period in the field of intellectual achievements of the Muslims. He was the moving spirit behind the House of Wisdom, which employed the best brains of the age and acquired astounding success is a short span of 20 years. The library attached to the House of Wisdom was immensely enlarged and was managed by Sahl bin Harun and Saeed bin Harun, the Persians. A large collection of books of the pre-Islamic- era were added to the library. The well-known book binder Ibn Abi-ul-Huraish was employed in the library for binding work. Humayun Ibn Ishaq, the chief of the translation department was also made the librarian of this famous library. Among the rare manuscripts preserved in the library were a document written on parchment by Abdul Mutallib bin Hashim (grand-father of the Prophet) and a few writings of Hazrat Ali and Imam Hasan. The interest taken by the Caliph in the accumulation of literary treasures created a taste for books not only in his associates but also among the common man. A number of ministers, officials and wealthy people established big libraries by spending large sums. Yahya Barmeki, grand vazier of Harun, owned a big library which contained a large collection of Persian and Greek manuscripts. Three copies of each book were kept in his library, which after the downfall of Barmekids were added to the Imperial library of Mamun. Fateh bin Khakan, the vazier of Mutawakkil Billah founded a grand library which contained rare books on astronomy. Muhammad bin Abdul Malik Ziyat, Prime Minister of Caliph Wasiq Billah established a private library on which he spent ten thousand rupees. A big library was owned by Allama al-Waqidi, which was alleged to have contained 600 camel loads of books mainly on historical subjects. The libraries gained so much popularity that by the close of the 11th century A. D. there existed a network of libraries throughout the vast Abbasid Empire, and before the Mongol invasion, Baghdad alone had 36 big libraries.

Public Library
The first public library in Baghdad was opened by Sabur bin Ardeshair, the Prime Minister of the Buwayhid monarch Bahal al-Daulah. This was attached to the academy built by him in Baghdad in 991 A.D. Before the establishment of this library, all libraries were privately owned, and not open to the common man. This library of Sabur contained more than ten thousand books. This led to the opening of private libraries in the big cities of the Muslim countries including Baghdad, Cairo, Merv, Mosul and Tripolis.- The big colleges and universities of Baghdad, Neshapur, Merv, Cairo, Damascus, Isfahan and G-hazni including the world famous Nizamiyah and Mustansariya of Baghdad housed' splendid libraries. The principal mosques of the big cities-of the world of Islam, which served as teaching institutions, also had sections oflibraries attached to them.

The Rise of Cairo under al-Muiz-li-dinillah added a spirit of rivalry in the patronage of learning between the caliphs of the Houses of Abbas and Fatimah. Al-Muiz has been acclaimed as the Mamun of the west and the Maecenas of Muslim Africa. The Fatimid caliphs Aziz and Hakim Billah were also great patrons of learning. Aziz has the distinction of adding an academy of higher education to the famous Al-Azhar mosque which housed a big library containing valuable books on Muslim theology, jurisprudence and philosophy. Caliph Aziz is also credited with founding an imperial library, one of the biggest libraries ever opened in the world of Islam. Allama Maqrizi has given its details in his well-known work Kitab Al-Khatat-wal-Aasar. This library was housed in a part of the Imperial palace and comprised forty chambers. There has been difference of opinion among writers about the total number of books possessed by this library. According to the estimate of Ibn al-Tanvir it had 200,000 volumes, according to Ibn Ali Wasli it had 160,000 and according to Ibn Abi Tai it contained 600,000 volumes. This famous library contained 18,000 books on ancient philosophy and 24,000 copies of Holy Quran. Once there was a reference of Kitabul Ain in the durbar of the Caliph Aziz, which was sent for from the library and the librarian presented 30 different copies of the required book. One of these copies was written in the hand of Khalil bin Ahmad Basri the author of the book, This library possessed a globe made by Ptolemy which was 2,250 years old and another globe made by Abul Hasan Sufi for Azud-al-Daulah which was purchased for 15 thousand rupees. Among the rare manuscripts were specimens of the artistic writings of the renowned calligraphist Ibn Muqlah and an autographed copy of the history of Tabari. The Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim laid the foundation of Darul Ilum on the lines of Darul Hukama (House of Wisdom) of Mamun. It was rather a rival institution and was equipped with a splendid library on whose upkeep large sums were spent by its patron. Great scholars and scientists were attached to the library, which was open to the public. Students were encouraged in research work and special apartments were reserved for the purpose. They were supplied with stationery free of cost.

The Omayyad Caliphate of Spain attained a standard of civilization which was only rivalled by the Abbasids in the East. Their intellectual achievements reached its zenith in the reign of Al-Hakam, who himself being a renowned scholar patronised learning and granted munificent bounties to the scholars. He founded a library of first magnitude in his capital Cordova. According to Philip K, Hitti, "Al-Hakam was a bibliophile; his agents ransacked the book-shops of Alexandria, Damascus and Baghdad with a view to buying or copying manuscripts. The books thus gathered are said to have numbered400,000, their titles filling a catalogue of 44 volumes, in each one of which 20 sheets were devoted to poetical works alone" Al-Hakam, himself being an outstanding scholar, personally used a large number of these books and wrote marginal notes on most of the manuscripts which made them very valuable to later scholars. The celebrated Caliph paid extraordinary prices for the rare manuscripts and according to Ibn Khaldun he purchased the first copy of Aghani, written by al-Isfahani for a thousand dinars (four thousand rupees). According to Ibn al-Aabar, the poetical works of the library were catalogued in 880 pages. There were employed more than 5,000 calligraphists in the Royal library for copying the manuscripts. The books were most systematically arranged in the library. There were more than seventy libraries and one thousand institutions of higher education in Andalusia alone. Besides the Imperial and academic libraries there were libraries owned by scholars and nobles. It had become fashionable to own a library and the celebrated historian al-Maqqari has related a humorous story from Allama Hizri who was in search of a book. He found the book at a shop, but he could not purchase it as the price offered by another bidder was exhorbitant and was much above the actual price. The Allama questioned the rival bidder if he was much interested in the book. The reply given will sound strange these days. He said that he was not literate, but he wanted to buy the book for his library which he had established.

In the beginning of the 17th century A.D. Sharif Zaidan, Sultan of Morocco, who had to leave his capital,sent his library on a ship which was not delivered at the proper place, and on its way to Marseilles, fell into the hands of Spanish pirates. The booty comprising about four thousand volumes were placed by the order of Philip III, the Spanish Monarch, in the Escurial library which made this library the richest in Arabic manuscripts in the West.
Persia and Turkistan

The love for preserving and arranging books in the form of libraries had become universal in the vast Islamic domains. The possession of a good library was taken to be a great honour in those days.

Abu Masr Sahl bin Murzaban had spent his entire wealth on his library and had undertaken several trips to Baghdad to purchase books. One of the best libraries of the period was one owned by Muhammad bin Husain of Baghdad. Allama Ibn Nadim Baghdadi pays high tribute to the taste of its founder. The library contained a copy of the Quran written by Khalid bin Ali Alhayaj, a companion of Hazrat Ali, besides the letters written by the Prophet and his family members. Aziz-al-Daulah (977--82 A.D.) a great monarch of Iran founded a splendid library named Khazinat-al-Kutub at Shiraz in which he endeavoured to place all books written since the birth of Islam till his own time. The library was specially known for its fine building and artistic equipments. There were 360 rooms in the building and each subject was alloted a separate room with its own catalogue. The books were neatly arranged in almarahs and the library employed a large supervisory staff. Another library known as the Home of books was founded by Minister Fazl bin Amir at Rayy, near modern Teheran. It was supervised by the famous writer Ibn Miskawayh. It contained 400 camel loads of books listed in a 10 volume catalogue and was frequently visited by the celebrated geographer Ibn Yaqut, who received great help from this library in compiling his world famous geographical enclyclopaedia. According toYaqut, Merv had ten big libraries, one which called Azizia had more than 12,000 books. Books were liberally issued to the readers and once Yaqut himself got 200 books issued in his name.

Mosques also functioned as repositories for books, says Philip K Hitti, Through gifts and bequests mosque libraries became specially rich in religious literature. The famous historian al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (1002-71A.D.) had willed his books as a waqf for Muslims, but those were placed in his friends home. Al-Mausil, before the middle of the 10th century had a library built by citizens in which paper was supplied to the student, who wanted to take notes from the books.

The Samanid King of Bukhara, Nub bin Mansur owned a magnificent library, which according to Ibn Khalikan possessed rare books on almost all subjects specially on philosophy. Ibn Sina(Avicenna), the re-known intellectual luminary of Islam was given access to this library as he had cured the king of a fatal disease. Later on, Avicenna was appointed its librarian and he was much indebted to this library for his encyclopaedic knowledge. The library was housed in a big building in which a room was allotted to each subject. The books were systematically arranged in boxes and shelves.

Saif-al-Daulah of Alleppo, the Hamadanid ruler had equal hold over the sword and the pen. He was a great patron of learning and had collected round him such intellectual giants as Abu Nasr Farabi, al Isfahani and Al-Mutanabbi. He ruled from 944 to 967 A.D. and founded a splendid library containing rare books on literature. The famous poet Muhammad bin Hashim and his brother were in charge of his library.

The great library of Tripolis (Syria) contained more than three million volumes, including 50,000 copies of the Holy Qur’an.

A number of special libraries had sprung up dealing with particular subjects. Cairo has the distinction of establishing the first hospital library containing a large number of books on medicine, which was attached to the hospital founded by Ibn Tulun. The Bimaristan, founded by the celebrated physician Zakariya

According to Nasir-ud-din Toosi, Hulagu Khan established a big library at Maragha with the books looted from Islamic countries. The library contained more than 400,000 books.

There were several causes for the decay of libraries in the world of Islam. With the downfall of the Abbasids, their vast empire was divided into small principalities, who for sometime kept up the tradition of their great predecessors. But their resources were limited. The greatest threat presented to the intellectual life of the Islamic world was the destruction wrought by the Mongol hordes. Changiz Khan, better known as the "Scourge of God" effaced all traces of Muslim civilization in Turkistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Asia Minor. He burnt remorselessly all the intellectual treasures of Bukhara, Merv, Isfahan, Shiraz, Ghazni and Rayy accumulated through centuries by the Muslims. The greatest single blow to Islamic civilization was struck by Hulagu Khan the Mongol, who destroyed Baghdad in 1258 A.D., and reduced to ashes the greatest literary treasures found in the Islamic world. It is said that millions of books were thrown in the River Tigris and its water turned dark.

The Muslim civilization had attained such a high standard that it served as a beacon light to the West. The Christian conquerors of Spain tried to efface all traces of Arab civilization from their sacred land. In 1499 all literary treasures of the Muslims were collected from different libraries of Spain and burned by Cardinal Ximens, Archbishop of Toledo. Writing in the Spirit of Islam, Ameer Ali says, that in Spain, "Christianity destroyed the intellectual life of the people. TheMuslims had turned Spain into a garden; the Christians converted it into a desert. The Muslims had covered the land with colleges and schools; the Christians tranformed them into churches for the worship of saints and images. The literary and scientific treasures amassed by the Muslim sovereigns were consigned to the flames"

It has been propagated by western historians that the Arabs destroyed the famous Alexandrian library. The latest historical researches have established beyond doubt that the said library was destroyed by the Romans themselves long before the advent of Islam. Writing in the Glimpses of World History, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru says: "There is a story that the Arabs burnt the famous library of Alexandria, but this is now believed to be false. The Arabs were too fond of books to behave in this barbarious manner. It is probable, however, that Emperor Theodosius of Constantinople was guilty of this destruction or part of it. A part of the library had been destroyed long before, during a siege at the time of Julius Caesar. Theodosius did not approve of the old pagan Greek books dealing with the Greek mythologies and philosophies.
He was too devout a Christian. it is said that he used books as fuel with which to heat his bath".

On the contrary, it was the Christian crusaders who burnt the great Muslim library of Tripolis (Syria) containing more than three million books.